I might not agree, but I support your right to say it

So on my drive in this morning, I was listening to NPR’s coverage of the Phelps case that goes before the Supreme Court today. And for the second time this year, I find myself having to side with someone I dislike and don’t approve of.

The case, for those who might not be aware, is about the Westboro Baptist Church protest at a funeral for a soldier who was killed in Iraq. The details of the case are here.

Now I’d like to make something clear: I do not like Phelps. I don’t agree with his protests. I don’t think he should be doing this in the first place. It’s distasteful, it’s pandering to the media, and it’s disrespectful.

As I said, this is the SECOND time this year that I’ve had to stand with free speech over something I find distasteful. The other was the “crush video” decision. Do I agree with the people doing it, watching it, or producing it? No. HELL no.

Do I support their right to post their content on the internet? I HAVE to. Why?

Just because someone disagrees with me doesn’t mean that I have the right to prevent them from speaking. And if I’m afraid my children will see something they’re not supposed to, it doesn’t mean I should ban that content. It means I should do a better job AS A PARENT in monitoring what they have access to, as well as teaching them to make the right decisions.

And it pains me to support Phelps. It does. I think, personally, he’s a fucktard who needs to get over it already and STFU. I don’t want to support ANYTHING to do with this guy.

But I have to, because I believe in your right, and my right, to say what we want, how we want, when and where we want[1]. Even when it’s disagreeable, distasteful, or downright unpleasant for me.

Because if I don’t defend your right to free speech, or Phelp’s right to free speech, who will defend MY right to free speech?

But nobody says I have to LIKE it.

[1] With the usual caveats as illustrated in Brandenburg vs. Ohio and related rulings.

About Kevin Sonney

Kevin Sonney - who, contrary to popular opinion was NOT raised by wolves - grew up in central North Carolina. He fell into the technology field by accident in 1991, when he gave up the wild and crazy lifestyle of an on-air AM radio DJ to become a mundane technical support monkey. The technology industry has never really recovered from this. Kevin has worked for such names as IBM, Red Hat, webslingerZ, and Lulu Technologies (we won't mention the ones that didn't survive the experience). He currently works as a Linux Administrator for Apptio. In his spare time he rescues stray animals and plays video games with his two sons. His wife, we're sad to say, helps him get past the really hard bits. Kevin is still not very mundane, he just got better at hiding it.
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5 Responses to I might not agree, but I support your right to say it

  1. drzarron says:

    I’ll lean a little more the other way. I’m a HUGE believer in personal rights. You have the right to burn the flag, just don’t do it in the range of my fist.

    Free speech is one of our greatest rights. But, as in the case of yelling “FIRE” in a crowed room when there isn’t a fire, the right to free speech ends when what you are saying it demonstrably harmful. Now, does what Phelps and his inbred puppies do cause harm? That’s the big question.

    Also, turning a jaundice eye at the situation. Imagine the clamor to shut them down if you removed the word “FAG” from their signs and inserted the word “NIGGER”. The rush to protect a group is always in proportion to how generally accepted that group is.

    Over all, it is a very sad commentary about our world.

    They real answer to Phelp and his irk is to actually ignore them. Don’t respond, especially don’t put them on TV on in the newspaper. They would wither and die like all good media whores.

  2. Mark Turner says:

    I think the Phelps are dirtbags, and yet I honor their right to prove it everybody.

  3. jess says:

    Hi Kevin!

    I’m a huge fan of Ursula’s, and I bumbled onto your blog from the podcast (you guys are hilarious.)

    I hope it’s ok if I comment a little late, and this may be tangential.

    Crush videos aren’t actually an issue of free speech. They are an issue of “hey, I want to kill something.”
    By allowing people who make those videos to cloak their actions in the rhetoric of free expression, you are allowing them to dodge the real issue, which is that they torture living creatures for fun. Why is anyone even talking about whether those sick fuck’s can post their video? Any time or attention paid to crush video people should be in the form of hunting them down and crushing their… er, I mean… um, bringing them to lawful justice! In a non-violent and legal way! With policemen who respect civil rights! Yes!

    (I try really hard to be a good liberal, but my inner-monkey has a vengeful streak. I’m sorry.)

    And with respect to Phelps-yeah, he absolutely has the right to loudly say whatever ignorant crap he chooses. But there needs to be some sort of Civilty Clause to freedom of speech, I think. You know. It’s perfectly ok to protest business practices or government practices, but I think going to a funeral with a protest sign and insulting the bereaved isn’t really something that should be protected.

    My rights end where yours begin, and navigating that line is probably the hardest thing any culture does.

    Again, I’m sorry if it’s annoying I’m posting this so late, but I couldn’t contain myself. =)

  4. Kevin Sonney says:

    Oh, I agree it’s wrong to make them. I agree that it’s wrong to show them. However, if you read both the decision and the law in question, the phrasing was WAY too broad. For example, films like “Earthlings” or films that are used for whislteblowers are illegal. Blazing Sadles, under the original law, could be considered illegal.

    Fortunately, Congress and HSUS have been working on a law that should meet not only the First Amendment requirements, but also finish the ban on the practice in general.

    Now my other thought on this is, since the practice itself IS illegal, these people are being IDIOTS for posting in the first place, since it’s a FANTASTIC way to track them down and use the films against them in court.

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