Thursday, January 15, 2015

Freedom of Expression Debate

The recent Charlie Hebdo killings have brought the issue of balancing free speech and cultural sensitivities into sharp focus.

This somewhat long debate (about an hour and a half) at Intelligence Squared US from almost a decade ago touches upon a number of pertinent issues including comics and Islam. In many ways, it is directly related to the tragedy of common sense morality that was the subject of the last blog post.

Clearly freedom of speech is not unbounded; we don't tolerate some yelling fire in a cinema theater, hate speech,  and verbal sexual harassment in the workplace.

But we ought to be able to discuss and make fun of a lot of things, some of which may be offensive to segments of the population.

I would hate to live in a politically over-correct society, in which people suppressed speech for fear of offending others. Building bridges between different tribes or cultures requires more dialogue; limiting free speech runs in the opposite direction.

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