Thursday, November 11, 2010

Food for thought on free speech

One topic has been all over Twitter and Facebook since yesterday: Online retailer is under fire and threat of boycott by many parents and child safety advocates because they have allowed a book called "The Pedophile's Guide to Love and Pleasure" to be put up for sale in their e-book section.  Recent reports have said that the book has been taken down, but the sudden backlash was huge.
The Stir put up a wonderfully thoughtful article about the reaction to the book and free speech, one which I'm really glad was put out.  As soon as I saw the news covering my Twitter feed I groaned and thought exactly what this article so eloquently says: calling for Amazon to remove the book because the public disagreed with the subject matter amounted to the promotion of censorship.

My own opinions about pedophiles vary and were mostly influenced by this fabulous letter and response from Seattle's favorite love and sex columnist, Dan Savage.  Anyone who touches a child with the intent to harm them should be punished swiftly and justly.  However, the urges in the mind of a non-offender should be treated because the person is suffering from them.

These people don't choose to have the attraction to children and there should be more sympathy for the plight of those who suffer because they can't have a normal and healthy sex life because of a distracting and inappropriate fetish.  If they loose control and harm a child, they should be punished, but if they actively work to avoid situations which would cause them to do so, they should be given proper treatment and therapy and helped to form normal and healthy adult relationships.

While the subject matter contained in the book in question is morally wrong and there is no excuse for sexualizing or harming children, careful consideration needs to be paid to the fundamental rights which the United States was built upon, namely that of free speech.  As long as no child is or was harmed, there is no crime in writing and publishing this book.  There is only a crime if someone follows what is said in it and does turn to hurting a child.  If they do, they need to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and given serious psychological help.

My belief is that while I might not agree with what someone says, I will fight for their right to be able to say it.  After all, that's a foundational principle of America and what we all should be working toward.  Censorship leads to totalitarian dictatorships such as Iran and is a slippery slope to the violation of human rights.

You have the right to boycott what you wish for whatever reason you wish, but consider the impact of what you're really saying before you do so.

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