News item: Sony suspends release of “The Interview”.
By all accounts this film is a satirical comedy targeting one of Hollywood’s favorite demographics: teenage boys. It is probably lame and stupid and crude. So is this important news, this response to threats presumably originating in North Korea?
Well, yes, I think so, for this reason: Of all the freedoms we have in our western democracies, the one we should prize the most is our freedom to poke fun at, to satirize, to lampoon, (and to seriously criticize) our leaders and our deities. It is by this freedom that all the others are protected. And so it is this freedom that deserves the most vociferous protection, the most careful vigilance, the strongest defense. It is this freedom that every would-be dictator first erodes (e.g. Russia, Turkey), and it is this freedom that allows us to become more than vassals, serfs, slaves, and supplicants.
I think we instinctively know this. For when we can laugh at our Queen, our President, our Prime Minister, our Religious Leaders, and especially when we see they are smiling with us, we know we need not fear them.
The freedom to lampoon and satirize may be even more important than the freedom to seriously criticize, for satire is surely the most effective way to burst the bubble of tyranny, of autocracy, and of stupid fables masquerading as truth.
We need George Carlin parsing the ten commandments. We need Charlie Chaplin lampooning Adolf Hitler. We need Seth Rogen making fun of The Supreme Beloved Leader. We need Danish cartoons of Allah. We need “The Life of Brian”. We need our cartoons of mayors and premiers and prime ministers doing stupid things. This is the freedom of expression that guards all other freedoms and protects us from our own cowardice, stupidity and vanity. And more importantly, it protects us from the nefarious ambitions of those among us who love to tell everybody else how to live.