Scott Tibbs
February 8th, 2006

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Freedom of speech is not freedom from criticism.

Mike Leonard repeats a common error in his column "Tough times for cartoonists". Leonard writes of a recent editorial cartoon, drawn by Tom Toles, that depicts an American soldier with all four limbs missing and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld listing him as "battle hardened". Leonard and cartoonist Joel Pett claim that the Bush administration's criticism of the cartoon as "an attack on free expression and open political discourse".

No, Mike, it wasn't. Responding to an editorial cartoon in a public forum is "free expression and open political discourse". When people like Leonard and Pett whine about loss of free speech rights when criticism comes their way, they are seeking to stifle dialogue by painting critics as censors.

In a free society, you have the right to speak your mind on political and social issues of the day. You do not have the right to expect that no criticism will come your way when you do, because those who disagree with you also have the right to free speech.

Leonard's comparison of the criticism directed at Tom Toles to the hysterical and violent reactions of Islamists to cartoons depicting the "prophet" Mohammed is foolish. Toles is not being censored and there are no riots calling for war on him and other left-wing cartoonists. The controversy over Toles's cartoon is playing out exactly as it should: in the arena of ideas.