Why does only the US “Get” Free Speech?

When it comes to freedom of expression, only one country in the entire world stands up as its champion. The United States. The US has a lot of flaws. Lots of things I don’t like about it. But this is one aspect they have absolutely nailed. Anyone can say anything. Even a man who said he wanted to kill Obama was let off by the court because he was clearly not capable of doing so. Even a threat was not enough. It has to be a valid physical threat. In the US, religions are insulted with impunity. Shows like South Park  are broadcast showing defecation on crosses and Jesus. And the US is a predominantly Christian country. All of this depiction is allowed and perfectly legal.

Why dont' we see this in the US?

Why dont’ we see this in the US?

And yet…it works. Contrary to expectations, the US is a pretty civilized place. Just because freedom exists doesn’t mean that people are jerks. Social rules work quite well in keeping people respectful and decent. Coming from India where free speech is regularly restricted, I can tell you that people in the US are far more polite than back home. Morever, there are no riots. No horde shouting “we were offended”. No damage to property and no violence.

But how can this be? The foremost argument that Arab countries and places like India make for restricting free speech is that it preserves “harmony”. That it saves lives. And yet…and yet…where is the disharmony and violence and riots in the US? I’ve never heard of one. No Christian mob goes on a rampage burning cars even though most Americans are deeply religious. No Islamic mob goes on a rampage either. The latest “Innocence of Muslims” film can be watched by all American Muslims. Are they offended? Yes. But are they expressing their offence in violence? No.

A huge “anti Muslim” ad appeared in New York city in subway stations. Everyone could see it. And most Muslims were offended. But what were their reactions? Did they tear it down? Did they run off killing people? No. Here was the reaction of one Muslim:

“It’s not right, but it’s freedom of speech. To put it on a poster is just not right. But it caught my attention and I support freedom of speech, so you got to live with it.”

“You have to live with it”. Magic words. So what’s up with the rest of the world? Why can’t the rest of the world “Live with it?”.

There are some people who blame human nature. They say that the human mind can be deeply offended and that this kind of offence constitutes real harm. As serious as physical harm. That is bull. But let’s take them at their word. Say that emotional harm is every bit as important as physical harm (which it isn’t). So what about they people in the US? Are they unhappy? Are they depressed by going around everyday feeling hurt and outraged? No. What gives?

They can conclude that people in the US are not “real humans” after all [funny :)], or that their genetic makeup is different. But that doesn’t explain how immigrants coming to the US can adapt so easily to the US culture. So the only explanation is that they’re mature. It’s not genes. It’s not “human nature”. It’s maturity. The US population is proof that “offense” is in the eye of the beholder. No one gets offended and then automatically runs off to pick up a gun. Getting offended and letting it ruin your day and feeling deeply emotionally hurt over it is a choice.

Let me repeat that. It’s an important lessson that is tested by experiment. Suffering irreparable harm by something you see is a choice. Your choice.

Don’t blame other people for your choices. People in the US see offensive things every day. Even Muslims. They don’t let it affect them. No one can argue that every single person in the US is somehow superior. That’s preposterous. It’s just that they’re mature when it comes to this aspect of their life.

The US by its very existence demolishes what the Arab countries and places like India claim. There are laws against physical violence. That’s all you need. You don’t require policing of content. Most people in the US are polite and decent. Not because the law forces them to be that way, but because they feel like being that way. And when they see something that offends them, they just walk away or use their own free speech against it.

This proves that going wild when something offends you is not “human nature”. There is no “irreparable harm”. No “wound” that needs addressing. It’s not “inevitable”. It’s a choice. And when you excercise your choice to be deeply outraged, you have only yourself to blame.

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Comments

  1. The one thing that the united states can call itself a champion is pushing the world into the horrible dangers of nuclear warfare. The cowardly bombings of hiroshima and nagasaki and the proxy vietnam war is the evidence of the double standards america has. It is the only country ever to use nuclear weapons against innocent civilians.

    As for riots and riot related violence and deaths, you can better take a look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_incidents_of_civil_unrest_in_the_United_States

    It is a chronological list of riots all around the united states ranging from reasons as bizarre as a sports team losing a match and riots as a result of racial attack rumors. There were numerous riots during protests against the vietnam war. The famous boxer Mohammed Ali was imprisoned and sentenced 5 yrs in jail just because he refused to participate in the vietnam war. He was later released after pleading to the court. So I don’t know what you are talking about when you say that riots don’t happen in the united states.

    Reply

    • In reply to V Dez

      The very fact that you can put all the riots on a single web page demonstrates the difference. Try doing the same for India.

      8 riots in all of 2010? This is your proof? 22 riots in 10 years? Wow! Lawlessness!

      Also note how rioters are penalized. In India, they go scott free.

      Reply

      • In reply to bhagwad

        Penalized or not; more or less; the truth is riots happen in the united states on the most stupid reasons as they happen in any other part of the world. And so your claim that people don’t riot in united states falls flat on its face. And I gave you the proof. You can try to console yourself by arguing about the numbers or punishment but that doesn’t erase the truth.

        Reply

      • In reply to V Dez

        Ho! This is not about black/white. It’s a question of scale. Of course you have to look at the numbers!

        Reply

  2. A US court ruled that it was okay for a boss to fire his assistant just because he felt his marriage was being threatened by her presence. The ruling was a clear 7-0 verdict.

    http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/iowa-court-oks-firing-female-worker-irresistibly-attractive-article-1.1226068

    Once again goes to show the extent of hypocrisy the US practices. I hope this would make you think before harping on things like the freedom of expression and emotional harm vs physical harm.

    Reply

    • In reply to K T

      I heard about this.

      I’m sorry, but I don’t see how this is relevant to free speech in the US…

      Reply

      • In reply to bhagwad

        Please read my comment once again. I wrote “freedom of expression” and NOT ‘free speech’. The above example was given to show how a person is discriminated against and fired for expressing herself in her appearance by looking attractive. And about the court ruling in favor of emotional harm rather than physical harm.

        And talking of free speech, I would like to know your take on the recent series of derogatory comments by Indian politicians against rape victims and women in general. Do you think they have the right to express themselves through their speech or should they be asked to shut up and be penalized and be sacked for exercising their ‘right to free speech’?

        http://indianhomemaker.wordpress.com/2012/12/28/what-do-dented-painted-women-and-disco-going-protesters-understand-about-a-rape-victims-loss-of-honor

        http://indianhomemaker.wordpress.com/2012/12/28/just-how-disgusting-can-they-get

        Reply

      • In reply to K T

        To answer your two questions:

        1. Free speech or freedom of expression offer protection from the government. If the woman in question was a government employee then yes, this would very much be a violation of her freedoms.

        2. Yes. No matter how abhorrent a person’s speech is, they have the right to express themselves. Indian politicians very much have the right to insult any and all women if they so choose. Of course, nothing is free and they pay the price via social scorn, contempt and possibly losing elections if the people want.

        But no government imposed consequences. That is what freedom of expression is all about. Social consequences are ok. Government consequences are not.

        Reply

  3. A legislator in Hyderabad (India) called Akbar Owaisi was arrested for his communal hate speech. On the basis of the information available, he was addressing a limited gathering of people who were not forced to listen to him. Do you think his arrest should be justified ? Or is it his right to freedom of speech and he should not be held responsible for any consequence of his speech ?

    Reply

    • In reply to Manish

      I think it’s his right to freedom of speech and he’s not responsible for anything.

      Reply

      • In reply to bhagwad

        So now will you say that united states was absolutely wrong in going halfway across the world to hunt down osama ? According to your logic, should he be held responsible for whatever views he had against united states ?

        Reply

      • In reply to Manish

        Huh? They went after Osama for taking down the twin towers. Not because of anything he said!

        Reply

      • In reply to bhagwad

        Of course. But if one thinks as per your logic, he only brainwashed and prepared terrorists to attack. He didn’t even set foot inside united states boundaries. All he did was to tell them to take down the twin towers. Something similar what Owaisi was trying to do to prepare certain people for violence towards another community. So if Owaisi shouldn’t be held responsible for what he said, why not the same for osama ?

        Reply

      • In reply to Manish

        Owaisi didn’t give specific plans. There was no real danger at all. He was just an idiot saying something that he couldn’t possibly fulfill.

        Making threats doesn’t mean anything unless there’s actual danger of it being implemented. Tomorrow if I write on my blog that I will destroy the universe people will just laugh at me. But if I say “At 6:00 pm I will go to this building, use these explosives that I bought yesterday, kill such and such guard and blow it up”, that is an example of a real threat.

        Or if I provide funding for a real threat. Like Bin Laden. He planned and funded a specific attack. Not at all the same thing as fools like Owaisi who actually present no danger.

        Reply

      • In reply to bhagwad

        I guess you don’t know how communal violence works in India. It was only through inciting speeches of such fools which resulted in the Mosque demolition in 1992. There were no specific plans. Only hate speeches and propaganda. Communal hate speeches are the starting points of most communal riots in India. Knowing the presence of religious fanatics in all communities, how can such speeches be considered to be of no danger at all ? Fools like Owaisi would present no danger if only the world wouldn’t have greater fools to follow his words and turn violent. And he wasn’t just speaking his mind to unsuspecting random audience. He was actually inciting a target audience for violence.

        Reply

      • In reply to Manish

        As far as I know, there was quite a bit of detail in the speeches made by the leaders when the Babri Masji was demolished. Here’s the Wikipedia entry on it.

        Reply

  4. Another school shootout in the US! Not even a month since at least 20 little kids were murdered in their school.

    “I can tell you that people in the US are far more polite than back home. No damage to property and no violence.”
    “the US is a pretty civilized place.”
    “where is the disharmony and violence and riots in the US? I’ve never heard of one.”
    “No one gets offended and then automatically runs off to pick up a gun.”

    I hope you open up your eyes, ears and mind to what exactly is happening in the US. Where people are pushed to their death on a train track just because they belong to a particular community. Shootouts at religious gatherings. Hate crimes. Is sex or money the reason behind any of such crimes? The development, maintenance and escalation of hatred cannot be without being offended.

    The only difference between the Arab countries and the US is that there is a restriction of free speech in Arab countries which if offended results in violent mobs, whereas in the US there is freedom of speech and individuals have the freedom to pick up a gun and run off to shoot down anyone and everyone in their fits of hate filled rage. There is no country in the world which doesn’t have psychos running around killing people. Some countries have mobs, others have individuals.

    Reply

    • In reply to Nik

      Wow – no one has ever suggested that the shooters had any problems with being offended about what someone said. The problem is easy access to guns.

      That has nothing to do with freedom of expression.

      Reply

      • In reply to bhagwad

        I was NOT referring to the freedom of expression when I stated the examples of violence above. Please read the last part of what I wrote. I was referring to your observations about the lack of violence in the US. It is not about what someone said. In fact, if the crime is unprovoked by a person’s actions/expressions, and instead is a result of a person being from a community that he is, it is even more pathetic and condemnable. There is still a lot of hate violence. And one cannot hate someone without being offended. And if one can hate someone without being offended, then there is something seriously wrong with one’s brain no matter how polite or decent one is.

        Reply

      • In reply to Nik

        My post only talks about violence connected to freedom of expression. Please refer to the title of this blog post. Perhaps you can find a more relevant discussion forum about anything else you want to talk about with regard to the US somewhere else on the web?

        Reply

      • In reply to bhagwad

        I expressed my views only after reading your glorification of the US regarding violence as a result of being offended. My only point was that just because the US provides freedom of speech, it doesn’t really lead to people not being violent, which was written by you.

        “Just because freedom exists doesn’t mean that people are jerks.”
        “Say that emotional harm is every bit as important as physical harm (which it isn’t). So what about they people in the US? Are they unhappy? Are they depressed by going around everyday feeling hurt and outraged? No. What gives?”

        I wanted to convey that violence in the US, except those for sex and money, are based on emotions. Hate crimes against communities being a significant example. Nowhere am I disagreeing with you regarding violence due to freedom of speech. I am only disagreeing on your suggestion how people of the US are different or polite or non-violent. Obviously, all those individuals who carry out shootings and hate related killings have severe emotional issues. And so, people in the US are not immune to emotional harm however illogical it may be.

        Still if you feel that my words do not relate to the content of this blog, please remove my above statements if it helps your cause.

        Reply

  5. What do you have to say about the introduction of a bill in North Carolina which bans women to expose their nipples failing which they can even be jailed? I hope you already know that North Carolina is a state in the US. :D Irrespective of whether or not the bill goes on to become a law, your claims about American people can be seen going to the trash can. :)

    Reply

    • In reply to Xing

      I said America is the best out of all the countries. I didn’t say it’s perfect.

      Reply

      • In reply to bhagwad

        And what are your criteria to decide which is the best country? :) If you wish to form your own personal criteria then you are welcome to do so. :D

        Reply

      • In reply to Xing

        In the context for freedom of expression (which this post is about), whichever county has the greatest free speech protections is the best.

        Obviously.

        Reply

      • In reply to bhagwad

        My question was about what criteria do you use to assess whichever country has the greatest free speech protection. Since you choose to answer with an “Obviously”, it is evident that there is no specific criteria to assess the same except for your own opinion because when you answer something with an “Obviously”, there is nothing to back your views except for your belief. But since it is your opinion, you are welcome to cling on to it. If someone wishes to believe in his delusions, that should be perfectly fine. :)

        Reply

      • In reply to Xing

        Your opinion might have been relevant if you had instead giving your own choice of country or your own criteria. As it happens, you did not and so your observation is moot.

        As for explaining my own…please for god’s sake read the post first before commenting. All your reasons are given there.

        Reply

  6. Purple Cloud says:

    “Social rules work quite well in keeping people respectful and decent. Coming from India where free speech is regularly restricted, I can tell you that people in the US are far more polite than back home.”

    Oh yeah.. yeah.. right! The politeness of the people in the US is all too evident in your post against tipping waiters.

    Reply

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