Fireside Chat #18 (Spring ’06)

FREE SPEECH TRUMPS DISCRETION

A couple of years ago, a documentary called “Super-Size Me” shocked the world with the news that McDonalds makes food that is bad for you. Morgan Spurlock, the filmmaker responsible for the life-changing film, recently spoke in Philadelphia at Hatboro-Horsham High School’s health fair.

In the speech, Spurlock flexed his public speaking muscles by implementing not one, but all three of the official Tricks to Make Teenagers Think You Are Cool: he swore, made fun of retarded kids and joked about teachers smoking pot. Suffice to say, his street cred went through the roof. He got a standing ovation and was mobbed for autographs after the lecture.

But the administration, as they do whenever anything cool happens at a public school, shut Spurlock down and cancelled the lecture he was to give later that evening.

Spurlock didn’t let the man get him down. "The greatest lesson those kids learned today was the importance of free speech," he said. Amen, brother.

Free speech is the sweetest part of the first and greatest amendment (in close competition with the 21st amendment). It’s a well-known fact that anyone who defends free speech is automatically an American hero, though some of these heroes you might not expect.

The Free Speech Coalition is a watchdog/lobbyist group with a surprisingly legitimate-looking website, considering it is run by the adult film industry. Who’d have thought that the porn producers, responsible for robbing so many lonely men of their souls and healthy sex lives, was actually defending our liberties? Really, the acts cancel each other out.

I won’t be surprised if one day we’re celebrating Howard Stern Day or Larry Flint Day, or just combined them into Perverts That Defended Our Liberties Day.

Then you’ve got bigoted comedians defending free speech. Sure Larry the Cable Guy can set our nation’s equality back decades in one joke ("There'll be a new show out next week called Black Eye on the Queer Guy"), but somebody’s got to encourage hate crimes now and then.

Sure, I’ll admit that when Spurlock makes fun of the mentally handicapped, he’s hurting a few feelings. But can we really stop to wipe the tears from a few sensitive faces when by all of our racist, misogynistic or otherwise prejudiced comments, we’re protecting the world from those who would steal our freedoms?

That’s the real danger here, folks. If the world was kind and decent and everyone made a point be respectful of one another, Congress could quietly pass a law saying, “No swearing” and then pretty soon the government’s got a camera in your living room and you’re trying desperately to keep from committing a thoughtcrime. That’s where your kindness will get you.

This is my challenge to the entertainment industry: shock the world. You don’t need a cause worthy of attention; shock for its own sake. Be as outlandish and profane as possible, especially in situations where you’ll offend. If your mom or priest or conscience tells you that what you’re saying is wrong, say, “Don’t censor me! I’m just keeping it real.”

Free speech isn’t just about freedom from censorship—it’s freedom from being political correct, freedom from restraint and freedom from decency. And it’s fun!

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