Terrorists Win: Media Self-Censoring to Avoid Offense

Having seen publishers killed, the media is now caving into terrorist demands by self-censoring.


The First Amendment promises that speech will not be restrained or abridged by the government, but when criminals threaten you then it is assumed that the government’s job is to protect you from harm and thus protect your freedom of speech from others.

What this means is that, when someone’s speech is attacked the government has a choice: either vigorously protect the speaker/publisher from the aggressor; blame the speaker/publisher for stirring up trouble.

Since the aggressor is harder to deal with, governments will often try to stifle freedom of speech in order to keep the peace. For instance, a certain pastor who wanted to burn Korans receive this kind of treatment from his government. Now we have a case where people who worked on a satirical magazine in France have been murdered.

At Reason.com’s blog, Scott Shackford observed about the statement the White house released in response to the crime:

Nothing particularly outrageous about the response, but there is a notable lack of defense of free speech and free expression beyond an extremely vague gesture at “universal values.” It’s a statement that murdering people is bad and freedom is good.

He goes on to point out that, back when the same weekly newspaper was firebombed, the White House actually criticized the satire.

Some media outlets are noting today that the White House was critical of Charlie Hebdo back then. That’s true, but at least the administration did state the value of upholding freedom of expression. There’s actually nothing about freedom of speech in the president’s current response.

While governments have to choose between defending speech or placating people who are offended, people also have to decide whether or not to speak the truth or to hide it in order to escape violence. Already yesterday there was evidence that the media had no courage. Inforwars.com reports,

News outlets are censoring photos of Charlie Hebdo’s Muhammad cartoons in their reporting of the Paris shooting, prompting outrage from readers who are calling the decision cowardly.

It does no good to have freedom of expression acknowledged by government if you are too afraid to actually express anything because you are afraid of what offended people might do to you.