The wrong idea on “free speech”

Ed Brayton is criticizing Borders and Waldenbooks for refusing to carry the magazines that reprint the Mohammed cartoons. He says this is the wrong way to go about handling the issue of free speech. Instead, he says,

The solution is not to refuse to publish the caricatures, it is to publish them everywhere so there’s no one to target.

I disagree. They were lame cartoons, nearly all playing off of Muslim stereotypes to make their point. No one should have to publish tripe to illustrate the principle of “free speech.” Even if you do believe in universal free speech (few do), the point is for everyone to speak their own opinion, not to parrot the opinions of others. I don’t need to reprint Nazi propaganda, for example, to illustrate the point of free speech. If a newspaper printed Nazi propaganda, my response would be to criticize the newspaper, not reprint the same lies on my blog or anywhere else.

That said, I don’t think Borders and Waldenbooks are making any sort of political statement with their stance — not when they continue to sell crap like The O’Reilly Factor for Soccer Moms, or whatever the latest anti-evolution screed is. They’re looking after their bottom line — something they have every right to do.

And of course I think the anti-Denmark protests across the Islamic world were way off base. Don’t burn the Danish embassy for supporting free speech. They were crappy cartoons, so criticize the newspaper for publishing them, and the cartoonists who drew them, but not Denmark or the principle of free speech.

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