Freedom of speech and the right to be offended

19th September 2012

Today I find myself in a world where I dare not say anything against the state of Israel, for fear of being called anti-Semitic. I dare not say anything that shatters the myth of Mohammed, for fear of causing riots hundreds of miles away. And if I were to say anything derogatory about homosexual people – well, I am homophobic at best, if not the worst example of fundamentalist Christianity. And I must not, on pain of being deemed a social pariah, say anything that could be construed as racist. If I were a person in the public eye, say a politician, I would be drummed out of office, even if these terrible blasphemies were uttered in private.

Perhaps, the extremist talk that encourages people to riot, plant bombs, kill, should be banned – that which can be caught up in the umbrella of incitement to hate. But ordinary intellectual discourse or the expression of deeply held beliefs, should they too be banned? And if so, then who decides what is to be allowed and where?

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