By Jeffrey Melvin Hutchins, May 12 2015
Here’s the thing about rights: You have them, even if you don’t use them.
Twenty years ago, I learned several things about trademarks. One of the most important things is that if a company owns a trademark and does not protect it, then the trademark will be lost. Companies must be vigilant in policing the use of their trademarks. That’s why you sometimes see big companies come down hard on little companies that infringe a trademark even in a very small way. The big company really does not have a choice. A trademark not used or protected is surrendered.
That’s not the case with civil rights, especially those enshrined in law.
Many people seem to feel that if you have a right to do something stupid, then you must do it. They will acknowledge that what they are doing is stupid… intentionally so. They do it to prove that they have the right to do it. Think of flag burners.
It is, of course, everyone’s right to act in a stupid manner, but they conflate “A right (i.e. legally protected action)” and “THE right (i.e. correct thing to do).” It’s really too bad we use the word “right” in ways that encourage people to mistake one for the other.
If we used the word “correct,” it might become clear that the editors of Charlie Hebdo should not be honored or celebrated. Yes, they are allowed to be colossally stupid and knowingly offensive, but that kind of behavior should be castigated, not revered.
And then there’s Pamela Geller and her idiotic American Freedom Defense Initiative. People like her deserve a special place in Hell.
She believes that free speech is in danger in America, and that if she does not offend Muslims, then the terrorists win.
That’s exactly like saying that if you don’t run into a crowded theatre and shout “fire,” then the arsonists win… even though there is no fire and there is no arsonist anywhere about.
I get that we must not let fear of a negative reaction prevent us from saying those things we wish to say, even when we know they will offend. Ideas should never be stifled due to fear. I am writing these words even though I fear that Internet trolls will attack me in print and conservative nut jobs will attack me in person.
But Ms. Geller did not express an idea. Her recent exhibition of drawings of the prophet Muhammad was not about sharing an idea, but about provoking an attack. You may have the right to poke a bear with a stick, but that does not make it wise or clever.
Islamic militants are horrible people. They believe they have a moral right, as proven by the Koran, and they are willing to hurt others who do not believe as they do. We do well to condemn them, to imprison them, and, if necessary, to stop them with force. People who live in countries that are overrun by Islamic militants are understandably afraid of them. We do not live in such a country. We live in a country that is overrun by idiots like Pamela Geller. I will defend with my life her right to be an offensive asshat. I will also defend with my life my right to call her the dangerous lunatic that she is.