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Free Speech is Good, Except When It's Bad

According to a recent Rasmussen survey, 88% of Americans "strongly guard their right to free speech, but only a slight majority (53%) "say the United States should refrain from banning so-called 'hate speech.'" The article continues:

"Twenty-eight percent (28%) think it is a good idea to ban hate speech, which is loosely defined as comments intended to put down or incite violence against people on the basis of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation and other legally protected categories."

In other words, 28% of Americans think that free speech is fine, but that the government should restrict that speech to protect the feelings of others. Inciting and provoking violence is one thing, but "provoking racial hatred?" That's exactly what French actress Brigitte Bardot was recently convicted of in Europe, where liberty takes a back seat to equality. For saying the following, Bardot was fined $23,000:

"I've had enough of being led by the nose by this whole population [Muslim immigrants] which is destroying us, destroying our country by imposing their ways."

Last week, the New York Times noted that America is now the exception to the free speech rule. In an article titled "Unlike Others, U.S. Defends Freedom to Offend in Speech," America is compared to Canada, where hate speech laws have already taken hold, and where an article written by Mark Steyn which appeared in Maclean's Magazine has violated a "hate speech law." The magazine was published with the headline "Why the Future Belongs to Islam."

The Canadian Islamic Congress is arguing that the magazine should be "forbidden from publishing such things, forced to rebut the original article and compensate Muslims for hurting their 'dignity, feelings and self-respect.'" And how should they be "compensated?" A donation to the terror-backing CAIR? Just a check with their names on it and a written apology? Should Steyn and other authors be sentenced to jail?

Luckily, there is still some hope. According to the survey, "Asked specifically about the Canadian and Bardot cases, 75% say U.S. law should not be changed to outlaw comments like the ones at issue."

Sadly, that means 25% are either in favor of limiting speech or are undecided. We are creeping into a universe in which freedom is no longer valued. Americans don't want to be free. Oh sure, they want to be free to choose who will win American Idol, what kind of cell phone to purchase, and where to go for Summer vacation. But speech, property, defense, taxation, savings, retirement, health? These are things for the government to worry about.

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