It’s difficult when values conflict. There are certain moments when there is no common ground. I am a pragmatist for most issues. I look for where we can agree. But every once in a while there is something where the value in question is something I defend to my core. It is something I want to fight for and that principle is more important than agreeing. These moments are hard for both sides because there is no “win-win” situation. Someone is wrong and someone is right. On a side note I don’t understand people who engage in these debates every day (especially writers) because it is tiring. I rather write or put these opinions creatively (in non-preachy way) into a story. But when free speech is on the table, I am all in and I’m ready to take my stand.
I strongly disagree with the 6 authors who felt they needed to take a stand against “cultural intolerance” by ignoring free speech and what should be a celebrating of ‘fallen brothers and sisters’. While I agree cultural intolerance is for the most part a worldview of ignorance, artists of all types need to protect people criticizing culture especially when “the culture” is detrimental to a global society. That is satire’s job and greatest value to the art world. It is not about winning great literary awards, it is the grunt work of functioning free societies that value free speech. You don’t have to like it, but a healthy social contract involves not answering offense with violence.
The 6 authors protesting show the example of when good intent eschews the great issue of Free Speech facing us now. Ironically, I am seeing a cultural intolerance against free speech. Whether small like someone saying something dumb on Twitter to works of art (many times satire) being crucified for being offensive and insensitive. While someone getting harassed on Twitter is something I won’t waste time writing a blogpost about, I will defend satirical artists who are killed for making their art.
What’s tragic is there are artists using a public venue that celebrate free speech by showing cultural intolerance to free speech, they feel is culturally intolerant. This is the conundrum. There is not much of a grey area. And for artists who tend to be idealistic, this forces us to have more of a pragmatic and conservative (in the Burkean sense, not today’s definition) outlook on what is the lesser evil. What is more important: free speech or cultural intolerance? Who do we support: those who are intolerant and offensive or those who criticize free speech?
Where is the line of free speech and cultural insensitivity? These are big boy and girl questions and people have a right to choose either. I know where I stand and I won’t change this view. I am going to side with free speech and I will criticize those who find it less important than condemning cultural insensitivity.
I believe there are those smarter than me that can point to some compromise between the two values. I just don’t see it coming soon and until then I will fight for free speech, honor those who died for it, and criticize those who don’t value its importance.
Christoph Paul is an author 6 books of humor, satire, bizarro, non-fiction, and poetry. His next book will be a “A Fair & Balanced Fuck Fest”