Too dumb to be free?

Last night I watched “Team America” and laughed my butt off. They make fun of Osama BinLaden, Kim Il Sung, Hollywood and America. They depict Michael Moore as a suicide bomber who blows up Team America’s headquarters. They don’t depict, or poke fun at, the Prophet Mohammad (pbuh). Maybe that’s because Islam’s holy prophet is not very funny. Especially not as funny as Michael Moore. Or North Korea’s weird, pathetic, scary leader. Or America’s obsession with bombing the Middle East into freedom. The movie is done entirely with marionettes and it features elaborate backgrounds and really awful music. It’s quite artful and has great production value. But the movie is offensive in many ways: it’s violent, crude, tasteless, oh-so-politically-incorrect. But it’s very, very funny.

In Europe and America the right to say whatever the fuck is on your mind is widely cherished, if under appreciated. Freedom of speech means the government cannot tell you to shut up just because it does not like what you say. I can say about our so-called president whatever the hell I want. But I cannot go around falsely accusing ANYONE of anything. And, of course, I have the RIGHT to wear a “Harleys suck” T-shirt to that biker bar down the road. But some of those upstanding, flag-wearing patrons there are going to see it as their patriotic duty to shove my first amendment rights up my … constipation avenue.

So, should a Danish newspaper have the RIGHT to piss off roughly a Billion Muslims? Sure. Should they act surprised when the Muslims protest? Hell, no! Should the Danes be surprised that radical Arab nationalists exploit this incident and incite major turmoil? Well, not really. Do the Arab radicals care that they look like fools to the Danes when they burn Danish embassies over a cartoon? Does the First Amendment guarantee my right to endlessly ask stupid questions only to answer them myself? Oh, whatever …

All I am saying is this: if you exercise your Freedom of Speech to sow hatred, hatred and violence you’ll reap. The well-camouflaged point of this rant is that the whole brouhaha over the Mohammad cartoons is NOT about freedom versus religion. It’s really about the culture war between the reasonable, liberal people on this planet and the few idiots, in Denmark, Pakistan or wherever, who think they can force their way-of-life down other people’s throats. Freedom is not the right to bite your thumb at anyone who crosses your path. Freedom is an ideal that requires great care and respect, especially for your brother who has a different point of view than you do. That does not mean you cannot criticize Islam or poke fun at religion. But it means you have to be very conscious of the social context of what you say and understand the potential consequences.

Humor is an important part of free speech, because a good joke can be so much more powerful than a sermon or a lecture. But you better know what your talking about, or that punchline is going to blow up in your face. In Europe, jokes about Muslims generally are about as funny as a baseball bat bearing down on a dark-skinned face. So, those who chose to use their freedom to make racist jokes and poke fun at things they don’t understand, or care about, are squandering a precious privilege. These fools don’t see that the freedom to speak also sometimes requires the wisdom to shut up. Freedom is wasted on the hypocrites. And they are not funny, either.

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