The newest hero of the YouTube generation is Jacob Isom, a Texas skateboarder who “saved” a Koran from being burnt. For those unfamiliar with the situation, a bigot, racist, homophobic preacher in Texas named David Grisham soaked a Koran in kerosene with the intent to light it aflame. Well Isom didn’t like that so he stole the Koran.
We must remember that their is a huge difference between supporting someone’s actions and supporting their right to perform an action. As libertarians, we must make that point abundantly clear, particularly if we are in the public eye.
It really comes down to property rights and that book was the property of Grisham. He should be free to read that book, let it sit on a shelf un-read, burn it as a heat source, burn it for pleasure or use it to prop up a table, it is his property. The same applies to all property, whether it is a holy book like the Bible or a valuable possession like the Blue Heart Diamond.
To support theft of the Koran in this case is to send the message that it is okay to steal from anyone that is believed to be morally wrong. If you don’t think someone should smoke cigarettes, it is now okay to steal the cigarettes. If you don’t think someone should read “The Turner Diaries” just steal it from them. If you disagree with what someone is saying in a public place steal their megaphone.
As horribly misguided and morally wrong (in at least my opinion) Grisham is, he did not violate anyone’s rights and as such, Isom had no right to steal his property. Grisham is an extremist moron and most people recognize that, but Isom is no hero. Force should not be used against someone who is exercising their freedom of speech. Our liberties do not only protect those we agree with.
H.L. Mencken summed up the problem that many libertarians have with our public appearance:
the trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one’s time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.
Defending liberty is a dirty business and often times we are grouped with the worst in society simply because we think that freedom should apply to them as well. The suppression of free speech, no matter how controversial, has “Defending the Undefendable” as the anarcho-capitalist author Walter Block put it). If we wait until the state and society decides to use violence upon “good” people there will be nobody left to fight for liberty and all that will remain is a tyrannical homogenized society where a dissenting opinion is met with violence.