Tags: Exclusive Interviews | MidPoint | War on Terrorism | free | speech | paris | attacks

Joe Concha: Free Speech Even Better When Factual

By    |   Wednesday, 14 January 2015 06:05 PM

Freedom of speech by nature is a "double-edged sword," risky to both speaker and audience, and that makes informed speech doubly important — but not so important that we over-regulate or criminalize ugly or unpopular commentary arising from last week’s attacks in Paris, Mediaite television and culture columnist Joe Concha told Newsmax TV on Wednesday.

In a visit with "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner, Concha discussed France’s official crackdown on hate speech in the wake of a killing spree blamed on militant Islamists, and the revival of Charlie Hebdo magazine — which returned to newsstands one week after gunmen slaughtered its top editors and cartoonists in retaliation for mockery of the Prophet Muhammad.

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Concha said that as difficult as it is, celebrating new life for Charlie Hebdo also means putting up with the unsavory remarks of people such as Dieudonne, a controversial French comedian who has popularized what critics call a variation of the Nazi salute.

Dieudonne was arrested in the French roundup for a Facebook post in which he compared himself to both Charlie Hebdo and Amedy Coulibaly, the Paris gunmen who shot and killed a police officer as well as four people at a kosher grocery store in last week’s wave of violence.

"So we champion Charlie Hebdo, which I've done, obviously. … They put out a cover today with Muhammad on it, saying ‘I am Charlie and all is forgiven,’ " said Concha. "I would say that was one of the most courageous things I've ever seen in journalism."

And then there’s the "free speech that we don’t necessarily agree with," he said, including "anybody making a Nazi salute or doing anything that seems sympathetic towards the monsters that carried this [attack] out."

"Unfortunately, it’s a double edged sword," said Concha. "If you’re going to allow one mocking Muhammad or mocking Christianity, then you have to allow this."

The question, he said, is how carefully the authorities, anxious to prevent another attack, distinguish between hateful utterances and actual attempts to incite violence.

"So yes, everybody is for free speech, but our freedom will be limited in the process as we try to sift out who was just making a joke and who actually may be serious in carrying out another attack like that," said Concha.

He also addressed the uproar over a Fox News contributor’s remarks about alleged Muslim control of European cities.

The commentator, security expert Steve Emerson, has apologized for labeling Birmingham, England a "totally Muslim" enclave where Sharia law holds sway and non-Muslims dare not go – a claim that prompted British Prime Minister David Cameron to call Emerson "a complete idiot" on Monday.

The Internet and Twitter likewise had great fun at Emerson’s expense — and that should be a lesson to anybody stepping in front of a camera or a microphone to discuss current events in the age of social media, said Concha.

"Guests go on the air and they just say [to themselves], ‘I'm going to wing it,’ and they don't bother to check their facts, and they don't realize that every word they're saying is being scrutinized," said Concha.

A single Tweeter with access to Google can fact-check any talking head’s assertions in seconds, and go viral with a takedown of those claims, said Concha.

"And you see what happened with Steve Emerson and Fox," said Concha. "And, by the way, the host, Ms. [Jeanine] Pirro, didn't even correct him at all because it's a narrative that she wanted to hear."

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Freedom of speech by nature is a "double-edged sword," risky to both speaker and audience, and that makes informed speech doubly important – but not so important that we over-regulate or criminalize...
free, speech, paris, attacks
Wednesday, 14 January 2015 06:05 PM
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