At what point does a person take the freedom of speech too far? Most people cite the example of shouting "fire" or "bomb" in a crowded theater, which could cause extreme physical injuries including trampling deaths. Most of us recognize the prudence of safeguards against such actions. We accept certain limitations on speech when it comes to probable public endangerment. Other people cite the Presidential Death Threat as an example. We're not allowed to proclaim, "I will kill the President of the United States," unless we want the Secret Service kicking down our door. That too, most of us understand. But what about the murky areas between obvious extremes? What if endangerment is subtle and erosive rather than overt and explosive?
At what point does someone incite a riot rather than passionately express her views to the public? At what point does condemnation of a nation's administration turn into aid and comfort to the enemy? When is art too obscene to display? The answers to these questions are constantly negotiated, decisions are renewed or overturned with each new court battle, regulation, or arrest. Each nation's enforcement of these issues differs. Any criticism of Chinese government will get you imprisoned. Not here in the U.S. Chuck Norris can say states are on the road to secession, which he will support, and he is free to go about his business. That may or may not be because he is Chuck Norris. The Japanese, who are apparently allowed to inflict psychological trauma as a television prank, will censor mild gore--which seems to be the complete opposite of here.
America has more freedom of speech than any other nation. We can say or create just about anything without fear of being arrested for it. We no longer ban books as even the United Kingdom, our English-speaking cousins, still do. The only films denied American distribution are those whose content supposedly break laws; and then we have the court system to challenge unjust enforcement. Unfettered freedom of speech, more than any other reason, is why I love America. The law of the land protects us from unreasonable government interference in our daily lives. We are not only able to say what we think, we are encouraged to do so. Our founding fathers made federal laws to ensure no one could take away our right to open dissent.
There comes a price with such freedom. For instance, we have to put up with the KKK and Neo-Nazis and worse. Then there is that subtle, erosive danger I talked about. In the cloudy, less fanatical area between activism and public endangerment exists Jenny McCarthy, a woman hellbent on spreading a contradictory message of support and encouragement that undoubtedly causes harm. Her mission is to spread the word that vaccinations cause autism. She has hit the talk show circuits, public speaking events, published articles, and visited families to get the word out. She also does all that after she's been proven wrong.
Time Magazine explained why Jenny McCarthy is wrong and even considered a national health risk. Jenny McCarthy fired back with an article that accuses 22 studies, Time Magazine, research experts, the CDC, and all pediatricians of not only being wrong, but operating in lock-step to a diabolical money-making conspiracy. No matter how much evidence is stacked in front of her, not even when she's been presented with the evidence that she is helping cause a resurgence in horrible diseases once controlled by vaccinations, she will not back down. She has invested her reputation and so much of her time and effort into this crusade that she can't turn back, not even when confronted with proof of her folly.
She's not alone in this crusade, of course. Otherwise, she'd just be a lunatic howling at the moon. She has support from parents of autistic children, suffering from heartbreak and searching for a tangible target, who want nothing more than to blame someone for the horrible affliction. Parents got their first opportunity to blame someone when a preliminary study was released in Britain linking Autism to an MMR Vaccine with mercury in it (since abandoned). Britain halted MMR vaccines and measles came back. The study was contradicted by more thorough research and the original findings were retracted. But it was too late. Mania had gripped too many celebrities, who then proceeded to accuse the American government of administering unsafe vaccinations. It's comical, but true: Americans listen to celebrities more than scientists. Now, after billions of dollars in research revealing definitive proof that vaccines don't cause autism, celebrities like Jenny McCarthy still won't shut up.
What may actually be worse, Jenny McCarthy encourages parents to seek out untested alternative treatment. These parents dish out several thousands of dollars to quacks and gurus based on a false hope of their children recovering from an (as yet) irreversible disease. Now, she's not only helping expose the nation to previously contained diseases, she's also helping put parents into financial trouble during a recession.
This situation causes me to ask myself, when does campaigning for a cause turn into child endangerment? Jenny McCarthy has become a health risk. Unless she refuses to save the life of her child by getting immunizations, I don't think the government should restrain her from saying what she feels, but nor is this a situation where the rest of us can "agree to disagree." Her opinion should not be respected. She should be booed from her soapbox. Objections should be raised every time she utters a word about vaccination. Fighting someone like Jenny McCarthy is difficult because she appeals to people's emotions. Emotions are easily manipulated and often override intellect. Just ask Nikola Tesla. What McCarthy is saying is perfectly false, but it isn't stopping people from listening. Maybe a more direct emotional appeal will help the truth sink into the unconvinced minds: Jenny McCarthy will kill your children.