Wednesday, February 08, 2006

In Support of Offense Equality

Often times I read posts that tax my brain so much I have to read them slowly and more than once to fully understand the complex reasoning involved. This is fine if I have interest in the subject. If I don't, sorry, but I'm not into taxing my brain without good reason!

However, this Eugene Volokh post discussing the problems with both opposing Muslim offense over the Mohammed cartoons and supporting flag burning bans is quite interesting. I don't know if Volokh is completely right about this, since I don't know of anyone who burned down a building because someone else burned a flag(and I think that many of those currently rioting will always been looking for something over which to riot)- but the logical conclusions seem quite sound. Here is a sample section:
One risk, then, is that banning the desecration of one symbol will help lead to bans on desecration of the other -- allowing flagburning bans will change swing voters' views about freedom of offensive speech, or will trigger their concerns about equality, and will lead to bans on desecration of religious symbols.

Of course, it's quite possible that this slippage will be resisted -- that even if there's not much of a good logical distinction between flagburning bans and bans on insults to religious symbols and figures, American politics will lead to the adoption of the former but rejection of the latter. But that itself, I think, will be harmful: Right now, when American Muslims are deeply offended by pejorative depictions of Mohammed, we can tell them: "Yes, you must endure this speech that you find so offensive, but others must endure offensive speech, too. Many Americans are deeply offended flagburning, much as you are deeply offended by depictions of Mohammed, but the Constitution says we all have to live with being offended: We must fight the speech we hate through argument, not through suppression."

But really, I encourage you to tax your brain and read the whole thing.