What do you believe? Who do you believe? And what is the foundation for your beliefs? Those questions were overwhelmed in the noise but were underlined by the rage in the public square this week, on issues from sequestration to the Onionís infamous tweet during the Academy Awards.
Defended as free speech and satire, whose firestorm of response by many was evidence of its success, the Onionís 140-character post was never covered by the cover it claimed, of being the occasional moment in a society that cherishes free speech, when a good intent to poke fun goes awry.
It was, instead, the perfect example of irresponsible speech, an imitated form of liarís rage, a flawed imitation of the disdain that has marked the political language of Republicans, especially, and dominates the airwaves and the internet. This mock and real rage is often packed with lies, to avoid responsibility and to deny its purpose by claiming: look, itís absurd. This liarís rage is engaged in; denigrating the President and others, often not for their views, but simply because hate is seen as a constitutionally protected act. The Onion poster falls into using liarís rage as a mock model. So itís okay to call a nine-year old a sexually explicit name. No different than other daily online fare. As long as itís just words, and they are not used to incite, the Bill of Rights says speech is free, and restrictions canít be imposed.
The folk who make that argument miss the point: the outrage about the Onion post wasnít over a narrow legal view of whether it violated free speech or whether it was misinterpreted, or as I suggest, itís evidence of a cultural faux pas, or whether the rest of us didnít get it. The reaction was a collective, strong-willed assertion that the comment was wrong. Not all free speech is right, and the right to speak or tweet freely doesnít guarantee that what is said will have an equal place in the public square, which also has the right to shout it down...