"Piss Christ" is not an entirely apposite example, for it prompted no threats of violence or calls for suppression. It was an issue not of free speech but of subsidized speech; people objected to their tax dollars' bankrolling Serrano via the National Endowment for the Arts. But it isn't hard to think of other examples in which speech that is offensive to large numbers of people has occasioned censorship or violence or the threats thereof.I'm glad to see Taranto do what I was challenging my commenters to do. (I said: "If you don't think the 'Piss Christ' or the American flag hypos are sufficiently on point, then make a better hypo. That's my challenge. Make a hypo that is the same but without the Muslim element, and seriously test your thinking on the subject.") Taranto:
Until 1989, it was a crime in some states to burn the American flag as a political statement. In Texas v. Johnson the U.S. Supreme Court held that this is protected symbolic speech. In ensuing years members of Congress repeatedly tried to propose a constitutional amendment permitting the criminalization of flag burning. It is the view of this column that flag burning is and should remain protected speech. We deplore it nonetheless, and we think holding an "Everybody Burn the Flag Day" would be stupid, obnoxious and counterproductive if one seeks to persuade others that flag burning should be tolerated.In my comments, Jason (the commenter) had posed the flag hypo — sarcastically: "If burning an American flag were illegal and there was a 'Burning an American Flag' Day, you can bet I'd be out there burning an American flag, because I believe the right to burn an American flag is what America is all about." Back to Taranto:
"Hate speech"--for example, shouting racial slurs, positing theories of racial supremacy or denying the Holocaust--is illegal in Canada and many European countries. In the U.S. it is protected by the First Amendment--but it has been known to provoke a violent reaction....
This column is also of the opinion that hate-speech laws are pernicious and that the First Amendment does and should protect the expression of even ugly and false ideas. But we would not endorse or participate in an "Everybody Shout a Racial Slur Day" or an "Everybody Deny the Holocaust Day" to make the point."Everybody Draw Mohammed Day" seems different to people, Taranto says:
Because the taboo against depictions of Muhammad is not a part of America's common culture. The taboos against flag burning, racial slurs and Holocaust denial are. The problem with the "in-your-face message" of "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day" is not just that it is inconsiderate of the sensibilities of others, but that it defines those others--Muslims--as being outside of our culture, unworthy of the courtesy we readily accord to insiders. It is an unwise message to send, assuming that one does not wish to make an enemy of the entire Muslim world.Okay, all you readers who drove the comments up over 400 trying to push me back. I have Taranto! What say you now?!
I'm still searching for the perfect hypo that involves upsetting Christians. How about a proposal to protest the sexual abuse scandals of the Catholic church with "Everybody Suck on a Crucifix" day?