From The Huffington Post
Free Speech and Charlie Hebdo
This week in Paris, Muslim extremists murdered 12 innocent people at Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical publication that has come under past attacks for their depictions of the prophet Muhammad. Journalists, cartoonists and others around the world responded with an outpouring of grief, support, and solidarity, eager to battle terrorism through freedom of expression.
In the Huffington Post Politics Blog, Clay Calvert wrote thoughtful and wise words about the tragedy, noting how important it is for free speech to be protected, even if that speech is deemed unpopular or offensive:
In the United States, parody and satire are protected. The U.S. Supreme Court made that clear in 1988 in HUSTLER Magazine v. Falwell when it protected pornographer Larry Flynt’s right to make fun of the Reverend Jerry Falwell. Flynt famously suggested that Falwell, who was the head of the Moral Majority, got drunk before preaching and that he lost his virginity to his mother in a fly-infested outhouse. In safeguarding this speech, a unanimous court openly acknowledged:
“The appeal of the political cartoon or caricature is often based on exploitation of unfortunate physical traits or politically embarrassing events — an exploitation often calculated to injure the feelings of the subject of the portrayal. The art of the cartoonist is often not reasoned or evenhanded, but slashing and one-sided.”
But Court added that “the fact that society may find speech offensive is not a sufficient reason for suppressing it. Indeed, if it is the speaker’s opinion that gives offense, that consequence is a reason for according it constitutional protection.”
Just like Charlie Hebdo, HUSTLER has a long tradition of running parodies, satirical images, and political cartoons. Tragedies like the one in Paris further underscore the importance of free speech and freedom of expression – including satire – and the duty citizens have to fight ideas with ideas, rather than violence. Our thoughts today are with those at Charlie Hebdo.
For Calvert’s full piece in The Huffington Post, click here.