The Threats to Free Speech

The threat to free speech from Muslim extremists in and out of this country and tacitly supported by so-called liberal politicians and some liberal columnists is very real. And the threat isn’t confined to religious issues. That Pamela Geller, organizer of the “draw a Muhammed cartoon” did it to antagonize Muslims is irrelevant. That both of the would-be murderers were themselves shot and killed is irrelevant.

Murder, or attempted murder, as a response to an insult is not recognized by law in the United States, nor most anywhere. It is in Sharia Law, and Sharia Law does not belong in a free and open society nor do supporters of that response. Accepting that Geller and her supporters would deserve what they almost got is to accept a clamp on free speech and open the door to anarchy. There are more just causes out there than the Muslim religion.

I don’t recall widespread support for those who murdered people performing abortions even though the rationale for the murderers (and bombing and arsons) was that they were stopping murder. Many people have been upset about the actions of the Westboro Baptist Church group and the “Piss Christ” art exhibit in New York, or the proposed statue of Satan at a courthouse in Oklahoma. Christians are mocked in this country often, and Jesus is the subject of many a cartoon. If one sect decided that Jesus was as untouchable as Muhammed, would violence and intimidation be valid?

To be certain, mocking someone else’s religion, color, ethnicity or exposing yourself to obvious dangers doesn’t make a lot of sense. However, it doesn’t mean that violent responses are justified.

To accept that premise is to put a clamp on free speech and all its broadest applications. Our society requires open and free debate however unpleasant.

Unfortunately, our society has become so politically correct that free speech in itself is dangerous. Universities, those bastions of open and free debate, often set up “zones” for free speech. All other areas are subject to university-controlled speech. Conservative speakers are not only booed, but threatened on some campuses. In another case, a hotel owner that caters to a gay clientele was threatened with a boycott because he talked with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a man- woman-only marriage advocate.

When we get to the point that citizens of this country cannot speak out without fear of death or intimidation personally or fear loss of business or jobs, we descend to mob rule. The mob, or mobs, supporting the cause du jour. It’s only a matter of time before the target is you.


Somethin’ On My Mind is an opinion column written by Bill Northrop. It does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Gabber publishers, staff or advertisers.


  1. Incidentally, your email listing B_Northrop@the doesn’t work. Just thought you should know.
    Dear Bill,
    I enjoyed reading your Gabber article on the loss of our right to free speech as it relates to an open discussion of the Muslim belief system.
    As I read, I couldn’t help but think of the freedoms we Americans surrender voluntarily. We give them away, small ones at first. Giving so many small ones away, after a time we wonder why it is suddenly illegal to do so many things we did as a matter of course growing up.
    For example, Edward Snowden sought political asylum, his offense–exposing the unconstitutional gathering of every email, tracing every phone call of every American without a court order. The very reason Snowden sought asylum is what he did is illegal. The tragedy is that the country granting him asylum is the very one we castigate for its deplorable human rights record. In Snowden’s case, conscience is as outmoded as the 4th Amendment.
    This case is tragic for another, vastly more important reason. The holocaust happened not because Hitler did such despicable things but because he passed laws that made those despicable things legal. One said Jews could not own property, the next, everyone must carry a registration card (on which “J” was included, if Jewish). Hitler and his SS then simply enforced the law. Everything Hitler did was perfectly legal; the holocaust was perfectly legal.
    As a pre-Snowden American, I suppose I knew my emails were “monitored.” I naively assumed that phone calls were likewise “monitored” if law enforcement proved to a judge somewhere that I was possibly doing something wrong. What surprised me was the extent to which we have learned nothing from history.
    Keep up the good work, Bill. Enjoy your work!
    Joe Lane

    • Thank you, Joe! We’ll get the email sorted. Your letter also appeared in this week’s issue [May 21] on page 38.

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