A few weeks ago, Carrie Prejean (aka Miss California) got some heat mainly from two things. The first is seen below:
Now, were people offended? I’m sure they were. And because of this offensiveness, people wanted Miss California to relinquish her crown.
Example number 2: Wanda Sykes at the White House Correspondence Dinner. She made a joke that you can see below:
People were really offended by that and said that Sykes went too far.
So what’s the story behind this? They both practiced freedom of speech and when it comes to that, I can’t help but think of what John Stuart Mill said about freedom of speech and harm. He said:
If the arguments of the present chapter are of any validity, there ought to exist the fullest liberty of professing and discussing, as a matter of ethical conviction, any doctrine, however immoral it may be considered.
So at what point can we restrict your freedom? Mill states again:
the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.
To be clear, offense does not mean harm. Were people offended by their speeches? I’m sure they were. Were they harmed? It seems hard to prove that.
(On a personal note, I never understood offense. However, it takes a lot to offend me. Perhaps I just admire Mill so much that I’ve taken his work to be a good measuring stick of society’s standards. So if someone makes a speech which is deemed “offensive,” I seem to be the only one that has the mentality not of, “I’m offended,” but rather, “that person is expressing his or her opinion, and nothing more.”)
With Prejean, she got to keep her crown and rightfully so, I think. As for Wanda Sykes, the media kept asking was this joke going too far. Here’s my question back to the media: did she harm anyone? Did people die? Did people needed to get psychiatric help? Did these people need counseling from this joke? It seems not. At most, people were mad and offended. So did Wanda Sykes and Carrie Prejean go to far? The answer is simply no. They expressed their opinion (and notice that it’s an opinion, which means you don’t have to agree with them or not). Therefore, they didn’t go “too far.”