Friday Firesmith – Freedom of Expression

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Recently I have written about the escapades of a young woman, a self-described “dumbass” and apparently by the reactions given to the essay there are some conclusions to be drawn:

1. There are those who believe any sort of expression ought to be free regardless of the emotional damage which it might inflict upon others.
2. This freedom of expression is limited only in the case of someone articulating objection and then the objection is objectionable.
3. Objection to someone’s objection is also freedom of expression.

In summary: You can say or do any damn thing you want. Anyone who says anything about it is wrong. It’s okay to point out it’s wrong.


Let me give you an example of what we’re actually talking about here.

It’s perfectly legal for me to tell a woman I am in love with her even when I am not. If I know she’ll sleep with me if I pretend to be interested in her then that is also legal. This happens each and every day, with other men and women, not with me mind you, and I would hope we could agree this sort of behavior isn’t to be encouraged.

Now, should we make it illegal? No, that would be a quagmire. But it’s enough to have some cultural recognition on accepted behavior. This doesn’t always work. When I had long hair I was harassed by a lot of the older people because they thought long hair was offensive. Now long hair is acceptable in other men in women, not for me because my hair leapt from my head, suicidally bent as it were, to escape what it saw inside.

I’m a writer. Don’t presume to lecture me on freedom of speech. I know full well the trail of bodies that have been left behind by those who would kill the printed word if they could only kill enough writers. It has been tried before, it’s going on right now, and in the future it will happen again. Don’t accuse me of trying to suppress someone else’s opinion because I voiced my own. I take exception to that.

Now, in case you think the Constitution sprang from a writer’s head onto a piece of parchment and freedom rang forth, you’re delusional. A war was going on and if the writer had been caught he would have been hung, if he was lucky. But there were men willing to fight, kill, and die, to keep that from happening.

I write what I want to write because wars have been fought, people have been killed, and nations have been born, in order than I might have that right.

My gratitude for that right extends to honoring the dead for what they, and their families gave.

What happened at Arlington pissed me off and I do not give a damn who I offend by saying so out loud, in print, and if need be, again.

But let me reveal a few things here, please. You are reading this not because I wrote it only, but because Jon chose to publish it. He could have decided not to and I would not have the right to demand otherwise. You have right to comment here only at his pleasure. You and I willingly submit ourselves to the rules and regulations here, and by being here, you have accepted that.

You have chosen to be censored for the right to be here, as have I. Yet in a broader sense, there are those who accuse me of censorship or suppression or over reaction because of something I wrote.

The word has formed in your mind. There is no need for me to write it, is there?

In 1869 John Stuart Mill published “On Liberty” I suggest you read it.

The subject of this Essay is not the so-called Liberty of the Will, so unfortunately opposed to the misnamed doctrine of Philosophical Necessity; but Civil, or Social Liberty: the nature and limits of the power which can be legitimately exercised by society over the individual.-John Stuart Mill

I do not think those who support the actions at Arlington are either stupid or disloyal, as has been suggested by others, but I sure as hell think it’s misguided.

Take Care,



Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit

Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.

37 thoughts on “Friday Firesmith – Freedom of Expression”

  1. While I still respect your opinion on this matter Mike, I also still believe that a lot of people were still over-reacting (in this wonderful age of “political correctness”) over the ill-conceived actions of an idiot.
    I am NOT politically correct, yet I do feel I have a pretty good sense of what would be considered “appropriate” and what wouldn’t. If I think something is funny (and my sense of humor has been catagorized somewhere between “sick” and “twisted”), I will go for the laugh. I have kept myself from making a humorous comment about something when the little warning light goes off in my head that boundaries are about to be over stepped, but more often than not, I’ll still go for the laugh. If people are bothered by it, I may or may not apologize. But that is my right. Just as it’s well within your right (and others’) to be upset by what that woman did in Arlingon.
    Political correctness has but a serious crimp in the open playing field of the 1st Amendment. People found themselves having to be careful not to offend others over such innocuous things like sports teams and cheers, names of newspapers, street names and the like. Suddenly, it was alright to become offended by such long-standing “inconsideration” like the tomahawk chop (OMG! I am SO offended by that!) (no, not really).
    What it boils down to (IMO) is that people are way too sensitive these days about every little thing (and I guess it’s their right to be), but I still think that it’s a right every citizen has, in this country; but there has to be a certain way of just taking into consideration that sometimes, an idiot will do an idiotic thing. Cluck your tongue and them, wiggle your finger at them and tell them “that wasn’t nice”, and move on.
    That’s it for me – I need another cup of coffee…

    • George Takei
      “Let me try to clear something up. “Freedom of speech” does not mean you get to say whatever you want without consequences. It simply means the government can’t stop you from saying it. It also means OTHERS get to say what THEY think about your words.

      So if someone makes an ass of himself, don’t cry “freedom of speech” when others condemn him. It only highlights your general ignorance.”

      • Mike, I still stand by my statements from the original post (re: the woman at Arlington) that (paraphrased):

        Although I am a veteran of the US military, and I don’t approve of the photo posted of her, I wasn’t offended to the point where I felt she needed to be publicly condemned for said photo. I didnt’ get my panties in a twist over it. I saw the photo, thought to myself “what an idiot”, and moved on. It didn’t affect my life, one way or another. Now, if she continued taking such photos in other revered places, then it might be time to write “that’s enough of that…”, but as far as I can tell, it was one photo that blew things completely out of proportion. Is it her fault that things got so out-of-hand? No. I don’t think so. It’s the people who keep bringing it up that are to blame.
        It’s a lot like when “The Last Temptation of The Christ” came out. All sorts of people said they were offended by it, and protested against it, telling people not to see it. Guess what? More people went to see it than before the protests! If something offends you, you don’t shine a light on it and tell people not to look. People aren’t like that. The same applies with this woman’s photo. It shouldn’t be given more importance than it deserves – it’s one stupid person’s record of a moment of stupidity. Just let it go already.

        • That last temptation is actually a pretty good example to use in this case, Eyeball, to make your point. I was totally indifferent to the movie. I could not have care less what the whole deal and went to see the movie just to see if all the weird stories about the audience was true.

          Oh yeah.

          At the same time, those who were affected by the movie were certainly within their rights to…express themselves.

          That was a really good example. I like that.

      • I read this sentence in a comment on a link you posted on FB, Mike. I thought it was brilliant, and real food for thought:

        “That this is even being discussed is proof of how intellectually limiting political correctness is.”

  2. And this from Rep. Hank Johnson, D-GA: “We need a constitutional amendment to allow the legislature to control the so-called free speech rights of corporations.” He is the same wingnut who thought that Guam might tip over if we deployed too many troops there. He is part of the dumbass trio that includes Maxine Waters, D-CA and Sheila Jackson Lee, D-TX.

    • Richard how about the people that reelected a Sheriff that is charged with 32 felonies gotta love those idiots in Clayton,Im sure all of America is laughing at us

      • There are so many wingnuts scattered throughout Congress that Hank Johnson blends in. Check out Corrine Brown, D-FL, Alan Grayson, D-FL, Alcie Hastings, D-FL, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-FL, Pete Stark, D-CA, Sheila Jackson Lee, D-TX, William Jefferson, D-LA and my favorite, Maxine Waters, D-CA. These are just some of the progressives, but there are many conservatives that should be added to the list starting with my Congressman (unfortunately), Paul Broun, R-GA.

  3. You think she’s misguided? I think she’s stupid and disloyal.
    –Just exercising my GOD given right to have an opinion!
    Would I have this woman in my life? – NOT
    But I’ll die defending her right to be stupid and disloyal.

  4. “So if someone makes an ass of himself, don’t cry “freedom of speech” when others condemn him. It only highlights your general ignorance.”

    What? Why not? Freedom of speech for all, Mike, on both sides, everyone, et al.

    I think people are offended not by what’s in the picture, but what’s not in the picture, adding their own context to be pissed about. I disagree with that, and them.
    That doesn’t make me, or them, right or wrong, it just means we disagree.

    How in hell did we get to the point where someone deserves to be pillared, if they don’t agree about something? I see a lot of this shit going on, especially this election year, where anyone who has a different opinion is the enemy, isn’t an upstanding American, and deserves to be hunted down with torches and pitchforks.
    That’s crazy. That’s exactly the opposite of what we claim to the world that America is all about. I think it’s also opposite of what the founding fathers had in mind.

    But that’s just my opinion, you can disagree… really, you can, I won’t hate you.

    • I would hate you but you send me far too much really cool stuff in email, even if some of it might get me fired.

      I hear what you’re saying but she brought this on herself, and admittedly so.

  5. It takes quite a bit to offend me, it really does, that dumb twat and her even dumber picture offended me, just so you know Mike.

  6. “You may give a speech on any topic that you like, except for politics or religion.”
    — adjunct professor, speech 101, circa 2004

    That being stated, I tread forward…

    I like that Mike thinks this way:

    “Now, in case you think the Constitution sprang from a writer’s head onto a piece of parchment and freedom rang forth, you’re delusional. A war was going on and if the writer had been caught he would have been hung, if he was lucky. But there were men willing to fight, kill, and die, to keep that from happening.

    I write what I want to write because wars have been fought, people have been killed, and nations have been born, in order than I might have that right.

    My gratitude for that right extends to honoring the dead for what they, and their families gave.”

    For this reason, I was not allowed, as a teenager, to own or wear a Union Jack shirt, as my heroes in the band Def Leppard did in the 80’s. As an adult, I more clearly understand why. Much blood was shed for what that flag (or any other) symbolizes. With liberty comes great responsibility. The girl, dumbass or not, obviously made a mistake in judgement in publishing a photo, joke or not, that negatively incited the emotions of many people to whom Arlington Cemetary symbolically means so much.

    Life’s too short. Give her a spankin’ and move on. We’re all human. Nobody is perfect. Jesus Christ instructed to turn the other cheek, and encouraged anyone who was without sin to cast the first stone.

    Thus concludes my constitutional right.

  7. A lot of the people claiming (and claimed regarding last weeks column) that she’s merely exercising her First Amendment rights, are many of the very same people who feel offended and threatened to the point of needing to sue someone when they see a menorah or a Christmas tree in a park. Don’t let a cashier smile and say “Have a Merry Christmas” unless you want to meet their lawyer. Public school Christmas concerts have been reduced to “holiday” concerts—no wait: they discovered the etymology of the word “holiday”. They now put on “winter solstice” concerts, where the whole show is songs about sleds, snow, snowmen, and snowflakes. Which I would hope would offend people in Florida and SoCal.

    • Well DJ, since you pointed it out…
      I’m not a Christian, and I don’t mind people saying “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Hanukkah” to me; I don’t mind seeing a manger or menorah scene in parks or on town greens. I do object, however, to the commercialization of Christmas, and how it’s all about buying this and that (oh, how I loathe Black Fridays!). I even like some Christmas songs (just don’t tell anybody!) I just want to say that – either we understand that people are going to do something BEYOND OUR CONTROL and do (or say) something stupid or personally offensive to us, and just don’t let it bother you…or, you can be overly sensitive about certain little things that (as I’ve said in the original post) really don’t matter in the whole scheme of things.
      People love to complain. They love to have the ability to say that something that really offends them or just plain hurts their feelings.
      I don’t see the point in kvetching about something like this.

      • At first you could find some really good things on so called “black friday”. But now it’s just an opportunity to push inventory you no longer want, because it is obsolete or undesirable, and an opportunity to make more sales on luxury items ordinarily marked up to 500-1000% and now marked down to “just” 125% of retail value. There is no longer any meaning to participating in it unless you are attempting to obtain remaining inventory of goods no longer stocked. For the majority of merchandisers and customers, it is just a frenzied rat race with no actual gains made by consumers. What a horrendous lie we live in.

  8. Do you really think so, DJ? I’m more of a do what ever the hell you want as long as you don’t knock me/my beer over, or scratch my car.
    I think a lot of us who didn’t get our panties in a bunch over her being stupid, just see so much of stupid every day, we figure nobody got hurt, move on.

    • Bruce, I try not to get offended by most things… but one thing that irks me is lack of respect, and yeah, I get irked a lot these days. There are certain places where showing respect is just the right thing to do. Yeah, I probably do or say some stupid stuff too, but I’m in a field where I have to occasionally work in hospitals, hospices, nursing homes, churches, synagogues, funeral homes, etc. I’m not religious or spiritual, but I would never think of doing something offensive in any of those places, because I respect the people who need them for whatever reasons. I consciously try to dial it back a notch. It’s not required, but once in a while it doesn’t hurt to show a little bit of class, especially in that place.

    • Well said, Bruce, and DJ. There is no shortage of people on this planet that strain out the gnats, then swallow camels.

  9. That was too much to read, so I hope not repeating too much.

    People read whatever they want into publications such as the bible, koran, US Constitution.

    e.g.”Right to Bear Arms”, was not meant to give every citizen the right to have a Uzi and carry it openly anywhere. The Bible is full of contradictions, etc. etc.

    Everyone rationalizes their actions. The price of freedom is that the nut cases have to me tolerated.

    Would it be a better world if the price of committing ANY crime was death?
    Think about it.

  10. any contradictions in a Bible is because it is a liberal version of it or it comes from a liberal Pastor and yes we have both of those

  11. Are people still offended by something stupid one person did? Almighty Allah, you sound worse than a bunch of terrorists. At least the terrorists never pretended like freedom was a good thing. And yet we criticize “those other people” for getting so offended when some cartoonist draws “Allah” as a cartoon character or so upset that some idiot minister supposedly burned a Koran.

    • Yet we the offended are offering no punishment or hatred for her, Sander. We aren’t threatening her in any way, and in point of fact, this isn’t about her at all, but is about if indeed those of us who were and are offended have the right to say so.

      We do.

      The same argument against for voicing my opinion can be used against you for voicing yours.

      • Wrong. First off, I’m not offended by your opinion or actions. I’m not so butt hurt about your “reaction” that I actually wasted TWO week’s worth of my column bitching about it.

        Like I said before, welcome to the pussification of America. Where not only do we feel that we have the right to be offended, we feel that others than should acknowledge and cater to our hurt feelings. And if not, we’re gonna keep bitching about it till everyone agrees.

        Can’t wait for next week’s column titled, “The Sand In My Vagina Is Still Bothering Me.”

  12. Discussions like this and contentions on this subject ultimately make me subconsciously internalize the criticism meant for others onto myself, because I am frequently criticized for having opinions, thoughts, and feelings. Not that I dissent with the majority here on this specific topic. I wonder if the desire to criticize and censor comes with a prevalence of us vs them thinking, the in-group phenomena, even one ever so subconscious and ephemeral. This person, Lindsey Stone.. To accord her with attention of this level is to show her respect and consideration. If we truly resent her actions we should shun them. To not have done so, is indicative that we have lost our way, that we truly have become a nation of celebrities where the most outrageous and offending actions legally permissible and morally inoffensive are worshiped and treated as a role model for behavior. I think this is the underlying theme of the “You’re being more PC than us” argument. Inherently we dislike discussing this event and so we derail into trying to find a reason to discuss it.

    • That’s what I said last week, Josh – this woman, and her actions, aren’t worth getting upset about it. Alright – so she chose the wrong place and the wrong way to try to illustrate how “out there” she is. People got upset, but…move on! And Sander makes a valid point, too: it’s ok to be upset about something, but to keep going on about it brings you one step closer to the level of zealots who want to kill someone for drawing a cartoon of Muhammad. Everybody here has a right to their opinion, and they have a right to be upset, but really – get the hell over it. This is the “pussification of America” – where kids’ sports teams don’t keep score so there are no winners or losers (and nobody feels bad about themselves); everybody is told they are special, but if you call someone “special”, you get people protesting outside your house. “Retarded” can no longer mean shunted or slow mental development, because it’s a “bad word”…etc, etc. Suck it up, ladies. It’s a big, bad world out there, and not everything is going to go your way. It’s called “life”. No use whining about something that upsets you – we’ve all got to get thru this.

      • Again, you derail into a dissertation to culminate in the viewpoint that we need less political correctness, and that is simply not true. America is not being “pussified”. It is being socialized. We are becoming more mature as a civilization and are re-evaluating our values and our beliefs. It is important that we accept socialization and adapt it to our universe before it adapts us instead. We need new ways to quantify how and why something is offensive, not new ways to quantify what we are and are not allowed to do about it. When people can no longer arbitrarily claim offense on personal grounds, then we will not deal with political correctness as arbitrage.
        $rant on$

        We are a horribly immature civilization in all aspects- we should not get into wars,
        we should not promote the behaviors we tolerate, and we should not allow the financial
        manipulation that we allow. But we are so big, so powerful, so fat that it is impossible for any one of us to have a significant and lasting impact on that monster that is america. And we all bicker on just what is wrong and just how to fix it. I say we
        should shut down the internet- make every html site a static page that can be globally cached and only updates once a day. No dynamic or secretive content. No online sales pages or scripts. No emails either. No teenagers uploading photos or writing tens of thousands of stupid comments on facebook, fourchan, reddit, youtube, and the like. No more memorials filled with the irrational, spreading viruses that are bad thought and bad word. If we do that, people will be forced to discuss their values with others around them and establish group, community consent. We won’t have girls like stone when they can’t do whatever they want “online” because there will not be an online to do it with. We wont have companies exporting online work such as virtual assistants because there will be no infrastructure to enable their global network to facilitate logistics and information distribution.
        With no internet, there will be greatly reduced software and media piracy- consumers will do the voting with their dollars, not the media industry with it’s threats.
        There will be no more wikileaks, and in some regards that is a good thing.
        There will be no more hackers getting into our military networks, and that is a good thing. There will be no more celebrity 24/7 updates, no more viruses, no more spam.
        True, more paper will be printed. And eventually, you will receive your daily emails on a flash drive in the mail. Everything will be personal again. Life will go back to being sane.
        $end rant$

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