This is a very challenging, nuanced, and sensitive dilemma to ponder, in my opinion. In my view it cannot simply be arbitrated through a context of
absolutes or decided summarily as a comparative argument between right and wrong. The implications of either extreme in this case are potentially
grave, in every sense of the word. In my opinion we should not be so quick to covet the role of philosophical arbiter or legal armchair scholar at
this moment in history, because their task is not one that I envy. We are talking about weighing one of our most cherished freedoms - the freedom of
speech - against the implications of the possible impact speech can have on others. This is not something we can decide with the wave of a hand (or
the jerk of a knee) in my view.
On the one hand, setting aside my own political views (which is necessary in this case above all, because personally I ardently disagree with much of
what Palin supports - just as, it should be noted, I disagree with much of what President Obama supports; this is not a left/right issue for me,) I
must first and foremost express my opinion that a free society without free expression, particularly in political discourse, cannot long remain free.
No matter how much one disagrees with another’s words, or the method and tact (or lack thereof) with which one feels they are delivered, the freedom
to express one’s ideas, words, and feeling is - in my opinion - absolutely central to the preservation of liberty.
On the other hand however, to pretend that anything happens in a vacuum or that indirect responsibility does not exist is also, in my opinion, a
recipe for irresponsibility preceeding potential disaster. Regardless of whether one feels another person should be held
responsible (or, more
) for the actions of another person, in my opinion it is simply a facet of our nature as human beings living in a society
connected by multiple streams of information, that we are at least affected
by others’ words and deeds.
So what, then, shall I choose to believe or feel about this?
Do I believe that Palin or anyone else should be authoritatively prevented
from expressing themselves in the manner they choose? No. I do
Do I believe that people like the perpetrator of this crime should be somehow screened summarily (when posting on websites like ATS for instance) for
mental instability and forced
to receive psychiatric evaluation or help, before
ever demonstrating an intent and propensity toward
violence? No. I do not.
Do I wish
for and hope
that politicians - in all areas of the political spectrum; left, right, top, bottom, inside and out - would
exercise greater responsibility
in their words? Absolutely.
Do I wish
for and hope
that they will also see this - unstable though I believe this individual was - and finally realize how acerbic,
combative, divisive, and ultimately in my opinion dangerous
the political atmosphere they have, intentionally or unintentionally contributed
to, has become? Most definitely.
Do I wish
for and hope
that people on websites such as ATS would take greater responsibility with respect to people like the perpetrator
of this crime, who may or may not have posted here, and when they
feel it is prudent, prevent their establishments online from becoming
for the patterns of thought that - apparently - led to this tragedy? Yes. I do.
Do I believe they should be forced to do so, or that such responsibility should be institutional or mandatory? No. I do not.
In my opinion, in order for freedom to remain free, we must be on the honor system - that is to say, we must be free to make mistakes, but honorable
enough to try to avoid them - and we must act responsibly. So I say, in conclusion, let us be honorable, and let us be responsible. But I do not
advocate doing so being made mandatory or institutional.
Which is why I say I wish
for better from our leaders and from
ourselves - both in politics, and, frankly, online - because I do not feel it is right to force them. If we force them, they can force us. But
choosing not to be honorable and responsible, clearly - in my view at least - has tragic consequences.
Just my two cents.
edit on 1/9/2011 by AceWombat04 because: typos
edit on 1/9/2011 by AceWombat04 because: (no reason