The above image is one example of the many death threats I’ve received from radical Islamists after I posted two videos to Youtube where I burned the Islamic State’s flag (Part 1 and Part 2). I’m not worried about these death threats; I actually find it quite humorous that there are people that insecure that they need to resort to threats of violence. Even if I were worried, I would not take these videos down. I’m a huge supporter of free speech and expression. These are of the most sacrosanct rights of all. If I were to self-censor myself I would be abandoning my right to free speech. If we sacrifice free speech for security we have only the illusion of security.
But not everyone agrees with me. I’ve had some beg for my self-censorship. Today I received the following text message from a friend. I’ve edited out some parts that are personal and might identify the sender. But the main gist is intact.
Hey I saw your post from last night. Honestly, i think encouraging this obvious terrorist who is “researching” you and knows about your sister is fine for your entertainment but reckless for [redacted]. Not cool.
Later I received another message from her, this time over Facebook.
Also- with all this international unrest I think it’s reckless and dangerous to joke around with any potential terrorist of any kind … Again- seriously not cool.
It’s obvious that this friend is concerned. But this concern is misplaced. The man in the image above knows about my sister because I made a Youtube video about her death. That is the extent of his ability to “research.” Furthermore, she appears to believe terrorists would conduct a costly mission to track me down and go after people I know. Islamic terrorists don’t generally work that way. But even if ISIS cared about me so much that they’d spend a shit ton of resources to find me, so what?!
I must reiterate: The only benefit from sacrificing our free speech is the illusion of security.
If we don’t openly criticize ISIS and other Islamic radicals, then we are — by our omission — condoning their message and their methods. If we self-censor ourselves because we are afraid that they will harm us, then we are essentially giving them a green light to actually harm us (and thousands of men, women, children, and elderly people in the Levant). Who cares if they send rather meaningless — or even actual — death threats? They need to know the extent of our disdain for their behavior. We cannot let them bully us into silence. And we must ignore all requests from our loved ones to be silent.
While our friends and family might have genuine fear about ISIS seeking us out in retaliation for criticizing them, our freedom of speech is too invaluable a right to sacrifice for appeasement. And self-censorship doesn’t stop ISIS or any other terror group from carrying out terror missions. And ISIS needs to know unequivocally how much we disagree with them. Don’t be silent. Be loud.