Saturday, February 21, 2009

Freedom of Speech

The NAACP wants the New York Post to fire the cartoonist who drew the chimpanzee cartoon — I don't really have to explain which cartoon I'm talking about, do I?

The group also wants the cartoonist's editor to be fired.

Whatever happened to freedom of speech?

Freedom of the press isn't quite dead yet. And, even if the day comes when major cities have no daily newspaper, freedom of speech will still exist in America, won't it? It will just take a different shape.

But there are several newspapers still serving New York City. It's one of the few cities left where people can choose which local newspaper they want to read. And, if you don't like the views that are expressed — or the views you may think are being expressed — by a columnist or a cartoonist, don't buy that paper. In New York, you have other options.

But don't fire a cartoonist because he expresses an opinion. That's what a cartoonist — and a columnist, for that matter — is hired to do. It's your right to disagree with that opinion, just as it is the cartoonist's right to express that opinion.

To preserve freedom of speech, sometimes it is necessary to allow unpopular opinions to be expressed, whether that opinion comes from a cartoonist or a radio talk show host.


Anonymous said...

The way I see it, if its offensive, it shouldn't be viwed as freedom of speech. There was once a time when Bush was president, and anything said about him was unpatriotic. Ah well...

David said...

Well, there are limitations on anything. But we get into a gray area when we say something is offensive. Freedom of expression has been protected to the extent that the Ku Klux Klan has been permitted to march in parades and other groups have been allowed to burn American flags. When something is said to be offensive, I want to know, "offensive to whom? And why?"

The cartoonist may be guilty of bad taste. Or he may be guilty of an unfortunate linking of two news events to make a point (which has been a common tactic for newspaper cartoonists for decades).

But you have to give careful thought to restricting freedom of speech. Once you start, where do you draw the line?