I’ve been trying for weeks to develop an answer to the “free speech” dilemma. And everything I come up with is, essentially, a re-hash of a short piece I wrote three months ago. It’s here or somewhere down the page if you’re interested.
Now with presentation of the award which recently brought the question into view — as if it had ever disappeared — I can add a codicil to my earlier post. The PEN committee and its defenders argued that those who opposed the award were unfamiliar with the French style of satire, and therefore were not competent to criticize it.
To accept that argument, one has to ignore what seems to me a far more important aspect of satire than its country of origin. Those most affected by and most liable to be distressed by satire — which is to say, its victims — are the primary aspect, and it their reaction which ought first to be considered.
So again, murder is not acceptable as response to satire. But to defend, to explain, satire’s impact without regard to its targets is simply to avoid an obvious truth.