There is a reason why freedom of speech is "number 1" on the Bill of Rights hit parade. The freedom to express oneself and the free exchange of ideas are vital ingredients of any democracy. But freedom depends on an embrace of the idea of trust, the same kind of trust that other liberal systems, like government by the people, require. If we cannot trust our the people to choose their own leaders, then freedom is not possible. The same is true of freedom of speech. It requires an ability to trust in the will of the people to sift through the cacaphony of voices out there and choose among them wisely. That kind of freedom isn't free, it requires vigilance because words do more than simply express ideas, they also goad people into action, they frame discourse and that discourse leads to events and consequences. In Rwanda in 1994, for example, Hutu extremists used the radio to whip crowds into a genocidal frenzy against their Tutsi neighbors resulting in a holocaust of death. On a lesser scale today, self-appointed "shock jocks" like Michael Savage spew hate speech against Muslims and the Islamic faith, advocating that we "kill 100 million" Muslims and that the US ban Muslim immigration and the building of mosques.
When he does that, Savage crosses the line. It is not simply that his bigotry is an outrage to any civilized human being, Certainly it is that. But Savage's words go beyond simply being offensive. Though he hides behind the banner of free speech, what Savage is doing isn't free, it is an assault on the liberty of everyone of us and a on the very idea of freedom. Free speech becomes hate speech when it advocates violence against another group of people simply because of their race, or gender or nationality or, in this case, their religion. Savage isn't just a citizen expressing ideas that might make the less savage among us uncomfortable, he is using the airwaves to incite his listeners to violence and the denial of the religious and civil rights of our Muslim fellow Americans.
Savage's misuse of the airwaves is not an expression of our cherished freedom, it is the kind of misuse equivalent to yelling "fire!" in a crowded theater and it is time that people of faith and good conscience exercise our own freedom of expression to pull the plug on Savage. You can help by going to http://nosavage.org. By logging on at this site you will not only get a first hand taste of Savage's hate speech, you will be raising money for the work of The Interfaith Alliance and you will find out which companies are sponsoring Savage's radio rant. Help us let them know that we have rights too- the right to support companies that don't sponsor hate. The only rights we really have, are those we are willing to stand up and protect. Our fellow Americans are being singled out by this man's misuse of the airwaves, they need us to stand with them and fight this savagery. Its the right thing to do.