Keeping speech free

Reaction to crude film speaks volumes on state of human freedom

  • Follow Editorials

Scientists disagree on the path, but not so much on the math: Either through evolution or revolution, mankind really got it going about 50,000 years ago when we started acting like the modern human.

It’s notable, though, that it’s only been in the past 236 years or so, when the race finally began throwing off authoritarian rule, that we began to understand our God-given rights – chief among them being the freedom to speak as we wish.

And in 2012, it’s truly amazing how few places on Earth that freedom is respected.

Various sites on the Internet claim that free speech has spread to most countries today. While perhaps true on paper, in practice things are much different. Even in Western Europe, the cradle of modern civilization, you can still get criminally prosecuted for stating politically incorrect beliefs (Dutch politician Geert Wilders and French actress Brigitte Bardot are but two examples).

It’s hard to quantify freedom of speech in the world, but several groups try, albeit using different nomenclature.

The international advocacy group Reporters Without Borders’ “Press Freedom Index” for 2011-12 ranks 179 countries for their press freedom, from best to worst. Finland, Norway and Estonia top the list; Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea round out the bottom.

The United States ranks 47th. doesn’t look at freedom of speech, per se, but “freedom of expression” – which a spokeswoman says includes speech. They include freedom of expression in ranking countries for their “Freedom in the World” score.

“The political uprisings that swept across the Arab world over the past year represent the most significant challenge to authoritarian rule since the collapse of Soviet communism,” the report says. “In a region that had seemed immune to democratic change, coalitions of activist reformers and ordinary citizens succeeded in removing dictators who had spent decades entrenching themselves in power.”

Unfortunately, the report notes, crackdowns in other Mideast countries, such as Yemen, Bahrain and Syria, offset much of the gains elsewhere.

And even in those “Arab spring” countries, it’s clear after the reaction to the anti-Muhammad video on YouTube that the populations are no more ready for free speech than many governments.

Recent developments in the U.S. were just a shade less ominous, as the government seemed to be spoiling to punish the anti-Muhammad filmmaker – on whatever pretense could be found.

We don’t support what this man did. We’ve seen the excerpts, and the video is unnecessarily inflammatory (if also quite juvenile in execution). Reports also

indicate the filmmaker, who has a checkered past, may have hoodwinked the actors into believing they were performing in a movie about a guy named “George” – apparently only dubbing the name “Muhammad” in post-production.

It also must be said that such a video, which purports to stand up for Christians, is patently un-Christian in its mocking of another religion.

But whatever else it is, it is also legitimate speech. And, in this country at least, it is protected by the First Amendment.

As violent as the apparent reaction to the video has been in the Muslim world, the real issue isn’t the video – but how the world has reacted to it. And what that reaction says about human freedom in 2012.

It says we still have an awfully long way to go to get out of the shadows of our 50,000-year-old ancestors.

Comments (10) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
carcraft 09/23/12 - 06:24 am
The "art" known by its

The "art" known by its medical definition as "Urination Christ" is coming back to the US. It will be interesting , for either viewing consistency or hypocrisy from the White House, wither Obama condemns this trash labeled art, or does Obama only find things offensive to Muslims as offensive? After all this offensive piece of work got money from the US tax payers (the artist would have starved otherwise) through national endowment for the arts.

omnomnom 09/23/12 - 08:44 am
first off

i dont believe for a moment that some crackpot youtube video was behind the initial attacks on the embassies.

"It’s notable, though, that it’s only been in the past 236 years or so, when the race finally began throwing off authoritarian rule"

someone needs to read wikipedia. America certainly was not the first nation to revolt against its faraway absent leaders.

Also, senators from both kool-aid colors, red and blue seem heck bent on growing a paternalistic authoritative government within our country.

Let's worry about what happens within our own borders. We've neglected it for entertainment and a surfeit of food.

Bread and circuses.

and maybe ballparks.

dstewartsr 09/23/12 - 09:18 am
"... we still have

... an awfully long way to go to get out of the shadows of our 50,000-year-old ancestors."

No WE, don't. Unless you're speaking in the royal "we." most of us in the west accept differences. We protest through forums like this, and gather peacefully and non-violently. Peaceful protest worked in the west and the US precisely because our morality has moved forward; the gains of the sixties civil rights movement were made by legislatures comprised of whites who recognized their moral obligations.

The furor and acts of mindless violence that occur in islamic countries and in Europe are those of religious driven intolerance of one 'peaceful' faith. We can learn nothing from them except to isolate them until a genuine islamic civilization evolves.

freeradical 09/23/12 - 09:40 am
There is a reason why one of

There is a reason why one of the most anti-god nations , and now

one of the most capitalistic as well is never targeted.

Romney has been mocked for being stuck in the past calling

the russian bear our greatest enemy.

Whilst our current occupant of the white house pledges to give Putin

a lap dance when re-elected with amazing " flexability ".

Hate makes strange bedfellows.

The common link between Russia and the bloodthirsty Islamists they

support is the seething ancient demonic rage for the Jew.

America is the only haven in the world for the Jew and as such they

are targeted as much as Israel.

This is also the common link between hard-core leftists and Islamists

in this country .

Hard - Core haters that would not only love to banish any

mention of God & the Jew from their convention , but from this

land altogether.

Hard-core leftists that speak of closing Gitmo , and bringing all the

murdering snakes to New York for show trials where jurors of leftist

bent can set them free and write their books.

So while Romney Identifies the real terrorist links and threat in the

world calling out the Russian connection to Syria killers , Iran killers ,

Hamas killers , who are ultimately our ambassadors killers ,

This puddin head of a president claims a second rate you tube

video is the real culprit.

This chump is still no where near ready fore prime time.

Bizkit 09/23/12 - 09:50 am
The movie was just a

The movie was just a political ruse by the Obama administration for purely political reasoning to blame somebody. See nothing is ever Obama's fault he blames someone else, because basically he believes he can't be wrong. He is an egomaniac (I have a brother just like him) so he is always correct, knows the most, and will lecture you and let you know about it.I am sure you have a family member or friend who acts similarly. He can't admit he is wrong even if everyone knows to the contrary. When it became obvious Obama couldn't hoodwink the American populace as before with his "lies" or "promises", he finally backed down. It should be obvious the emperor has no clothes. Obama will apologize first rather than support US. He should have made no apologies for the freedom that Americans have and explained what freedom is all about, but obviously he doesn't know-no more than who are our enemies and friends. It would have been a great time for him to lecture on the merits of freedom, but he didn't do that did he-which reflects his mindse. He's nuts. He hates freedom obvious by his penchant to assassinate american citizens without legal process. Humans aren't classified as intelligent but intuitive. If we were intelligent then Obama wouldn't be leading in the polls. It is the animal we are unfortunately. Studies have demonstrated the "gut" feeling many americans use in selecting our president. Ignorance isn't bliss from the outcome. Sadly many would pick Kim Kardashian if she were running because she is even kooler than he and heck of a lot better looking.

rmwhitley 09/23/12 - 09:58 am
It's election

season. The lefties have to have some excuse for their cowardice.

seenitB4 09/23/12 - 11:51 am
stewart you are so right when you said..

We can learn nothing from them except to isolate them until a genuine islamic civilization evolves.

JohnRandolphHardisonCain 09/23/12 - 12:52 pm
This editorial a testiment to

This editorial is a testament to the degree to which the public is utterly brain-washed by the media that great numbers of the citizenry in the U.S. would believe that the riots are about a lousy, poorly edited video tape when everyone knows full well that we have been engaged in a multi-front war across the middle east for over two decades now!

Conservative Man
Conservative Man 09/23/12 - 12:58 pm
Other cultures...

....seemingly, do not understand the uniquely American concept of freedom of speech..

I agree with those who say the movie was an excuse, not a reason, to riot.

We must also be reminded that many Muslim nations were aligned with Nazi Germany during WWII and seem to be hell bent on destroying any culture that does not agree with their brand of "civilization".

Including, but not limited to, ours...

Before anyone says, "but not ALL Muslims feel this way"....To that I concur..But will those Muslims stand up and say so without risking death at the hands of Jihadist's? Very rarely.... Even our own government, at least those in power now, seem to be reticent to use the word "terrorism" until prodded.

Someone mentioned the piece of "art" that desecrated the image of Christ earlier. And the lack of rioting in the streets afterwards. This to me is a perfect illustration of the difference in cultures....And illustrates better than anything that the concept of American Exceptionalism should be embraced more and more for there to be any sense of safety and security in the world....

Off my soapbox now.....

omnomnom 09/23/12 - 01:24 pm
. “In a region that had

. “In a region that had seemed immune to democratic change, coalitions of activist reformers and ordinary citizens succeeded in removing dictators who had spent decades entrenching themselves in power.”
this little section caught my eye upon rereading it. Think that could happen here in America / Augusta in November or have monied interests beat us to it?

wayne2410 09/23/12 - 04:49 pm
If liberals had their way we

If liberals had their way we would toss Christians in prison for speaking ill of Muslims and apologize to Muslims for being in the way of their bullets when they kill us. They are some strange folks man, please let us vote Obama out

whyme 09/24/12 - 12:18 pm
pick and choose

It's interesting that in some cases, it's terribly offensive when a particular religion, race, or cultural group is mocked or portrayed in a derogatory manner. People may get up in arms, the civil rights folks show up and protest, and the media reminds us to go beyond tolerance. Respect should be shown to all but when the Catholics attempt to seek that same respect, it doesn't happen. It's perfectly fine to lampoon the Church, its relics, its rituals, and heaven forbid (pun maybe intended) someone speaks up. Where's the support then? Miniscule if at all. And though I am not a member, don't forget the Mormons or Jehovah's Witnesses who really get hit from all sides. Shouldn't we be so strong in our own faith that we would want to take a risk at humiliation and share it, no matter what their doctrines teach. Whether it happens locally or at a global level, if we're going to expect tolerance for some, expect if for all.

Back to Top
Search Augusta jobs
Top headlines
Early voting in Augusta-area shows increase
Area early voting numbers are dwarfing turnout four years ago, particularly in Republican-leaning Columbia County, and forecast apossible record voting year for the Augusta area.