A Response to Kathleen Parker

by Catherine Tuilerie, Mountain Finch Post Staff

On May 12, 2015 Kathleen Parker, a syndicated columnist for the Washington Post, published a column entitled ‘Abusing Freedom of Speech Rights’. This column was carried in many newspapers, local and national.
I respond to this column.
The recent spectacle of Pamela Geller, the erstwhile journalist who organized a provocative Prophet Muhammad cartoon-drawing contest in Texas, gives pause to even the most passionate defenders of the First Amendment.

Response: Miss Parker, your claws are showing. The highlighted words are designed to place Ms. Geller in the diminutive. These words place you in a judgement position.
Not since Westboro Baptist Church’s “God Hates Fags” message – and Florida’s Quran-burning pastor Terry Jones – has the principle of free speech been so sullied and abused.
Response: Really Miss Parker, couldn’t you choose more relevant examples? The Christian cross in urine as art or an image of Jesus smeared with human feces at least have the religious link. No one got out of a vehicle with guns to protest this anti-Christian art.
Waging a one-woman crusade against the Muslim world, Geller says she wanted to draw a line in the sand and demonstrate to terrorists that when it comes to free speech, America bows to no one. OK, we get your point. It’s an American point, actually.
Response: Miss Parker, do you really think you get her point? While you may disagree with Ms. Geller, you can’t have it both ways: free speech that you approve of and actual free speech.
And Geller’s contribution to these protections and our unwavering dedication to its preservation are, exactly, what? A taunt. Shouldn’t one at least aspire to some originality? It’s been done. And each time, the result is the same. You haul out a picture of Muhammad; “they” haul out a fatwa. Cat puts out cheese; mouse gets eaten. What does one expect?
Response: Ms. Geller had every right under the American Constitution and lots of legal precedent to expect a peaceful display of Mohamed cartoons. That’s what all American can expect under our system of laws. So why do you make fun of this fact? What are you afraid of?
Indeed, two would-be terrorists presented themselves at the exhibit and were quickly dispatched to their just rewards.
Well, that’s two down, I suppose.
Response: Whew! Would-be? Two men step out of a vehicle and begin shooting at a police marksman and they are ‘would-be’. What would it take for you to classify them as terrorists? Do they need to attack your home? Your employment? These men were Muslim bullies and yes, the police response was appropriate.
This is certainly the way Geller thinks, as her comments confirm. She has declined to apologize for instigating this unnecessary clash – remember when we preferred to take the fight to the terrorists over there? She even claims to have saved lives by luring two terrorists to their deaths. Geller baited the field, in other words.
Response: Miss Parker, your opinion here is so far out that I hardly know where to begin. Are you a mind reader? This incident shows that there is a fight here, yes here in the United States of America. So what if Ms. Geller baited the field? She did save lives, at least from these two Muslim nut jobs. But you make fun of this and ask her to apologize. Shame on you for encouraging terrorists. You have a right to your words, but you incentivize violence.
As an operating principle, mightn’t we try less incendiary means of problem-solving? I don’t know, maybe something less likely to lead to violence?
Response: Nice try. Less incendiary?? So free speech cannot be incendiary? Free speech is incendiary at times. I am reminded of the Hamilton-Burr duel. This was brought on by letters published in the newspaper. Hamilton and Burr made individual decisions to violence. Have you ever seen the political cartoons about Abraham Lincoln? Go looking. Those cartoons are way beyond anything about Mohamed. Again, you encourage Sharia Law.
I take a back seat to no one when it comes to defending free speech – even that of the worst sorts. We let neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan march and protest because the true test of free speech is that unpopular speech is tolerated.
Response: Miss Parker, I can only interpret this comment and those previous that you are swept up in the Stockholm Syndrome. Remember, this is when the kidnap victim identifies with the kidnappers. An example is Patty Hearst. Remember? Are you afraid of Muslim terrorists? Have you ever confronted a bully? Have you ever felt bullied?
That said, we needn’t embrace or celebrate people like Geller, who intentionally try to provoke a confrontation. She’s welcome to sponsor a cartoon contest, but we don’t have to attend. If Geller wants to stand on street corners and shout her views, no one has to listen.
Response: I agree with you on this. If you don’t like it, don’t patronize it. Boycotts are non-violent and appropriate.
Sometimes the messenger really is the problem. And oftentimes, the medium is, too.
Response: Nope. I just agreed with you and then you make a statement like this. The messenger and the medium are almost never the problem, certainly not in the case of Ms. Geller. Those that responded with violence, the Muslim terrorists, remember, were and are the problem. As a woman do you really believe you can make friends with Muslim terrorists?
It is more or less consistently true that First Amendment warriors are forced to defend not only undesirable sorts but also really bad art. When a Danish cartoonist was forced into hiding following an earlier Prophet-cartoon challenge, I raced to the front lines in his defense. But I was painfully aware that most of the cartoons were amateurish and witless.
A good cartoon isn’t just a drawing but offers layers of meaning that illuminate in subtly humorous ways. The best ones are often wordless and artfully combine more than one thought or event. This seems rarely the case with Prophet caricatures.
Response: So what if it’s a bad cartoon? Don’t patronize it. You don’t get it. You are whipsawed between your politically correct attitudes and secular free speech. Shame.
Even so, the protection of free speech isn’t only for the genius mind but for all equally. And though it takes little talent to draw attention to oneself these days, it is sad when someone flaunts America’s first principle as an accessory to ambition or violence.

Response: Good luck with this parting shot. Ms. Geller is not an accessory to anything. She exercised her right to free speech. Others, including you, made individual decisions in contravention of that right.
My parting advice to you, Miss Parker, is to go the ACLU website:
There you find a thoughtful and accurate discussion of what Freedom of Speech really means. I’ve copied something from the ACLU site that will get you started.
1. It’s the foundation of self-fulfillment. The right to express one’s thoughts and to communicate freely with others affirms the dignity and worth of each and every member of society, and allows each individual to realize his or her full human potential. Thus, freedom of expression is an end in itself — and as such, deserves society’s greatest protection.
2. It’s vital to the attainment and advancement of knowledge, and the search for the truth. The eminent 19th-century writer and civil libertarian, John Stuart Mill, contended that enlightened judgment is possible only if one considers all facts and ideas, from whatever source, and tests one’s own conclusions against opposing views. Therefore, all points of view — even those that are “bad” or socially harmful — should be represented in society’s “marketplace of ideas.”
3. It’s necessary to our system of self-government and gives the American people a “checking function” against government excess and corruption. If the American people are to be the masters of their fate and of their elected government, they must be well-informed and have access to all information, ideas and points of view. Mass ignorance is a breeding ground for oppression and tyranny.

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