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November 29, 2007



I'll have to think some of this over more, but since I had no idea what a "bong hit" is or was, and am still not sure, I haven't much to say about it.


I agree wholeheartedly. We have to be very careful about restricting any free speech in public. I agree also about letting youth try out ideas. Often they just want to see what the reaction will be. One case where I draw the line on free speech though is the Fred Phelps group that protests at funerals. I think in that case, the funeral is a private event, (although taking place in a public arena) and therefore should be protected from loonies trying to disrupt it.


Oh ugh. Those funeral "demonstrations" are another story entirely, and bring up the impossible question of what is and is not speech. But funerals are considered to be private affairs and are, in most states, protected by a buffer zone.

I cannot imagine a god who would be pleased by their cruelty. Maybe I have a limited imagination.


I may not agree with what you say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it.

(And Phelps is a repulsive ball of slime. Jesus wept, indeed.)


It's interesting to me that when I write about allowing young people--specifically, minors--to have considerable leeway in their speech, two of my most liberal commenters bring up Phelps.

First, he is not a minor. By now he should know better.

Second, the hardest cases test our commitment the most. I am NOT saying that I in any way approve of what he's doing, or even that I think it should be protected. I actually think he might be violating a couple of laws, and he's certainly violating public mores in a big way. His actions are, I think, as offensive as any can be without spilling blood. But the point of free speech is that even the most repulsive slimeballs are free to reveal their repulsiveness to us all. Can we regulate how and where they reveal it? I think so, to at least some degree.

But the First Amendment is not just about kind or even silly speech. It's also about cruel, stupid, and hate-filled speech.

One of my points, however, is that by allowing young people the largest possible scope for their speech we are also giving ourselves--rational, thoughtful adults--the opportunity to respond to that speech. When they say something we find offensive, we should call them on it, explain why it's offensive or why they're factually wrong or whatever. The point is that they should speak and think, not that they should be allowed to run off at the mouth with never any push back.

I just think the push back is more effective if it is explanatory rather than punitive when someone is first learning the power of speech. Sometimes, those pushing back might even learn a thing or two themselves.


This brings to mind the matter of school children deciding to name a teddy bear "Mohammad". Today crowds are rioting to make the penalty of this offense death for the teacher who permitted it. The argument for free speech in the U.S. looks very strong to me in the light of such happenings in another country.


I only mentioned Phelps because he came up upstream from my comment. I loathe him, but if he wants to spew his slime on public property, that's his right. (And I love the bikers that flock to those occasions to shield the families-- rock on with their bad selves!)

I think that without our younger generations pushing us, we'd be nowhere. Respect authority, yes. Question authority, always.

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