Larry Flynt Speaks Out on 'Charlie Hebdo' and Free Speech (Guest Column)

Frank W. Ockenfels 3
Larry Flynt

"We pay a price for everything, and the price we pay to live in a free society is toleration," the 'Hustler' founder writes.

It's disheartening to see that most members of the national press have demonstrated their spinelessness by refusing to defend Charlie Hebdo and not publishing the cartoons that led to the senseless tragedy in Paris. Freedom is not free! We pay a price for everything, and the price we pay to live in a free society is toleration. That means we have to tolerate the things we don't like, not just the ones we do.

Freedom of speech is not freedom for the thought you love; it's freedom for the thought you hate the most. When cartoonists like Gary Trudeau, and cartoons like Doonesbury, lampoon politicians, they often inflict emotional distress. That's when defending freedom of speech is most important — when it is offensive. If you're not going to offend anyone, you don't need protection of the First Amendment. I wonder what the Founding Fathers would have to say to The New York Times and the major networks who have shied away from their ultimate responsibility to inform the public. I don't understand why the press should be a party to selling out one of the most important freedoms enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.

For 35 years, I have been paralyzed in a wheelchair. I was shot by a man who didn't like what I published in Hustler magazine. Since that time, I have devoted my whole life to expanding the parameters of free speech. My most famous legal action involved a dispute between me and the Rev. Jerry Falwell of The Moral Majority. He didn't find humor in the cartoons, parodies and satire we were publishing about him. The case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and, in a landmark unanimous decision, parody and satire were ruled protected speech for the first time in the history of our country.

The good news is that our courts are firmly on the side of the First Amendment. What I want to know is, what happened to the media conglomerates that have exposed themselves as nothing short of cowards?

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