Praesidium

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Cartoons

It seems everyone wants to add their two pence worth to the furore over these offensive cartoons (for example, here and here). I haven't got much to add to these eminently sensible comments.

Free speech means the newspapers can say what they like. It may be wrong to say something offensive, but it's still your right. Some people I saw interviewed on the news suggested free speech must always be within seemingly quite narrow limits of not offending people. Since some people will be offended by almost anything - and you can't please all the people all the time (to adapt a phrase) - this seems to me like saying 'you have complete freedom of movement, provided you don't leave your house'. The importance of free speech means we must be free to offend people who don't share our views (although appealing to something like the doctrine of double effect, I'd say offence should be a tolerable side-effect but not the intention).

Of course, anyone offended has the right to express this - that's their freedom of speech - and they can condemn or even boycott the newspapers in question (as many Liverpool fans still boycott The Sun, for example). Needless to say, burning embassies does not fall within the scope of reasonable protest.

(For an example of relatively benign - if in my opinion slightly prudish - newspaper cartoon editing/censorship, see here)

UPDATE: Further thoughts from Index on Censorship, here and here.

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