I received an amusing email the other day. I don't usually copy emails onto my blog (it's an unreasonable thing to do, and it tends to stop people communicating with you!). But, as you can see, this one specifically requests recipients to circulate it widely. So here it is - followed by my reply.
> Will You Help Me Become A Hero Of Free Speech?
> Until this year I'd always imagined that Free Speech had something to do
> with telling uncomfortable truths in defiance of the powerful, that it was
> courageous because the state or those in authority might try to silence
> But what a naive fool I was! Turns out it's much simpler than that.
> Evidently true Free Speech requires little more than drawing a shoddy
> cartoon poking a bit of harmless racist fun at an unpopular ethnic
> minority - and Bob's Your Uncle, you too can immediately be transformed
> into a Hero of Enlightenment Values and Western Culture*.
> (*Remember, All Cultures Are Equal But Some Are More Equal Than Others!)
> So - here's my plea. I have drawn, on the back of a notepad here, a stick
> figure of a disabled Australian man, and written 'NOB!' across it in big
> letters. You might think it lacks a certain artistic merit - nevertheless
> it is Expressing An Opinion and as such, I invoke the Voltaire Doctrine
> and demand that you fight to the death for my right to have it posted and
> re-posted on the internet.
> And I'm urging all comrades to join my campaign. If you come across a
> major media outlet that has not yet reproduced my cartoon, deluge them
> with complaints at their spineless PC pandering, demand that they show
> courage in defence of Our Values by printing it proudly on their front
> page - preferably along with an editorial explaining how we have of course
> nothing against the vast majority of moderate Ozzie Crips, but how
> nevertheless we must not shirk from defying AustralioDisabiliFascism.
> I'd also urge you to forward this plea to all your friends and contacts.
> No pressure, but do bear in mind, if you don't you are As Bad As Hitler
> Basically. Thanks for listening.
At first, I simply chuckled at your email and thought little more of it. However, some disturbing news has now come to my attention. Apparently, a small group of fundamentalist disabled Australians have been touring the Australia and Pacific region trying to whip up hysteria against you. Not only are they showing your cartoon around, but they have added several more to it, purporting that you drew those too - including one of the disabled Australian man portrayed as a pig, one of the same man as a child-molester, and one of an Australian being buggered by a dog.
Further, it turns out that the character you drew was in fact the Great Oz, a prophet widely revered by people who consider it sacrilege to look upon his image.
Once these stirrers rally enough support, they intend to storm the embassy of the country you live in, burn its flag, boycott goods produced there, and threaten a brutal death to anyone who insults the Great Oz. You may plan to defend yourself on the grounds that the email is "satirical", but I fear that this will not wash with the fundamentalists. It is highly likely that you will have to go into hiding in fear of your life.
At which point, yes, I will happily defend your right to free speech, and will distribute your e-mail - and even the offending cartoon - as widely as possible.
Even if it is as crap as it sounds.