Ban Offensive Speech?

David Olvera-Sanchez

(October 17, 2012) — This past month, both U.S. and U.S.-allied consulates around the globe experienced violent riots leading to many deaths, including some of the American officials stationed there. Why? Because of a collective outrage over the morally-repugnant movie Innocence of Muslims , a low-grade film that is very offensive towards Muslims. The movie Innocence of Muslims is a film that was written and produced by a man named Nakoula Basseley. In the film, Basseley depicts the Muslim prophet Muhammed, which is forbidden by Islam, and his followers as barbarians, child abusers and thieves. Released on YouTube in July of 2012, the 14-minute video trailer sparked outrage among many Muslims, culminating in bloody riots in over 10 countries. With a death toll of about 75 people, including four Americans, it leaves one to wonder if this hateful speech should just be banned altogether to avoid further conflicts. While I do abhor the film’s contents, I don’t feel that it should be banned or taken down from YouTube. To me, one of the greatest parts of the Internet is the ability to find differing perspectives on a myriad of political and social issues. Even if I might totally disagree with some of these viewpoints, who am I to silence them? The world is full of different religions, beliefs, governments and political views. Banning or silencing these views would lead down the slippery slope of morality versus fundamental rights. As a result of this video’s release, many countries have opted to censor the controversial video to prevent further religious conflict. Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Libya and Egypt are among the countries that have blocked the video from YouTube. Recently, the Obama administration asked YouTube to consider removing the clip from their website. YouTube did not agree to remove the clip because they did not agree that the video fell into its guidelines of “hate speech” because the video attacked Islam ideology, but not all Muslim people. While I do admire the Obama’s administration attempt to assuage the conflicts by proposing the offensive video’s removal, it’s not just to completely ban something only solely for its offensiveness. In this scenario, the extremely violent protesters are to blame, not the film. Sure the film is prejudiced, offensive, and a horrible film; however, violence is never the answer. If these violent protests were instead done peacefully, many more people – including myself – would have supported their protests. In an effort to show their objection to the film, their violent means detract from their true cause. Do they honestly feel that Americans are going to look at the news coverage of the murderous riots and go, “Wow. Those protesters sure are right.” On the other hand, I think that it is important to note that these protesters mostly come from countries where it is extremely taboo to defy a religion. However, varying viewpoints are a result of the Internet as more of the world is entering the technological age. The world is going to have to adapt to the fact that some people don’t share the same views. After all, if you don’t like what someone has to say, its matter of existence doesn’t mean that you have to subscribe to that belief. Personally, I find all forms of prejudice absolutely horrible. However, as the philosopher Voltaire said, “I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it..”