Americans have 'right to be stupid'

2013-02-26 17:04

Berlin - US Secretary of State John Kerry offered a defence of freedom of speech, religion and thought in the United States on Tuesday, telling German students that in America "you have a right to be stupid if you want to be”.

"As a country, as a society, we live and breathe the idea of religious freedom and religious tolerance, whatever the religion, and political freedom and political tolerance, whatever the point of view," Kerry told the students in Berlin, the second stop on his inaugural trip as secretary of state.

"People have sometimes wondered about why our Supreme Court allows one group or another to march in a parade even though it's the most provocative thing in the world and they carry signs that are an insult to one group or another," he added.

"The reason is, that's freedom, freedom of speech. In American you have a right to be stupid - if you want to be," he said, prompting laughter.

"And you have a right to be disconnected to somebody else if you want to be.

"And we tolerate it. We somehow make it through that. Now, I think that's a virtue. I think that's something worth fighting for," he added.

"The important thing is to have the tolerance to say, you know, you can have a different point of view."

Kerry made the comments on his first foreign trip since becoming secretary of state on 1 February. After one-night stops in London and Berlin, he visits Paris, Rome, Ankara, Cairo, Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Doha before returning to Washington on 6 March.

While speaking to the students and earlier to US diplomats, Kerry reminisced about the time he spent in Berlin in the 1950s as the intrepid son of an American diplomat and retold a story of sneaking across to East Berlin with his bike.

"I used to have great adventures. My bicycle and I were best friends. And I biked all around this city. I remember biking down Kurfuerstendamm and seeing nothing but rubble. This was in 1954... the war was very much still on people's minds," he told the diplomats, referring to West Berlin's main shopping avenue.

"One day, using my diplomatic passport, I biked through the checkpoint right into the east sector and noticed very quickly how dark and unpopulated [it was] and sort of unhappy people looked," he added, saying it left an impression "that hit this 12-year-old kid”.

"I kind of felt a foreboding about it and I didn't spend much time. I kind of skedaddled and got back out of there and went home and proudly announced to my parents what I had done and was promptly grounded and had my passport pulled," he added.

"As a 12-year-old, I saw the difference between East and West," he later told the students.

"I never made another trip like that. But I have never forgotten it. And now, it's vanished, vanished."

  • tania.duplessis.169 - 2013-02-26 17:09

    And that 'right' is exercised without fail!

      Liam Dafydd - 2013-02-26 17:16

      Well actually. The Americans abuse that 'right'

      Amdyn - 2013-02-26 17:19

      When laws are passed, or taxes are paid to allow people to be stupid - that's not a good thing.

      john.h.viljoen - 2013-02-26 18:08

      and there are some truly stupid americans

      sheamus.drager - 2013-02-26 18:30

      There are greater number of stupid people, than clever people, American or otherwise.

      Flippncool - 2013-02-27 02:06

      It's quite funny (in a sad way) because all those rights are being stripped from the average American by the current government (originating a few presidents back), and their constitution is being squashed into oblivion by secrecy acts, anti terrorism (against their own people, laughable) and attempts to tighten up the gun laws etc. SA heading the same way of course - but worse because a largely uneducated population doesn't have a leg to stand on as far as fighting it or even knowing what it means.

  • ari.potah - 2013-02-26 18:02

    America is a fascist country where the president can order the killing of US citizens on a whim. They can even kill a US citizen without having to disclose why. The TSA at every airport protecting US citizens against "terrorist" activity and feeling up every human being about to board an airplane. . . Read "The deliberate dumbing down of America" by Charlotte Iserbyt is an eye opener of note!

      Flippncool - 2013-02-27 02:08

      I don't take to conspiracy theories, but those laws are recent and real.

  • Shalin Singh - 2013-02-26 18:11

    He obviously exercised his right

  • Traygon - 2013-02-26 18:19

    You say they have the right, I say they have a natural talent... Thankfully not all the yanks are dumb ass idiots.

      Flippncool - 2013-02-27 02:09

      One of my closest friends is a yank and if he's anything to go by, well you can't believe all the anti-generalisations - same for Muslims. I think it's largely media fueled.

      AllcoveredinNinjas - 2013-02-27 08:31

      If peoples image of the collective American is fat and ignorant , imagine what peoples image of the collective South African is.

  • Jimmy Millionwatts - 2013-02-26 18:43

    No wonder.

  • Musa KamaShobane - 2013-02-26 18:48

    In South Africa only the majority have a right to everything according the president of the ruling party, does that not sound stupid to say the least

  • drew.delmo7 - 2013-02-26 19:14

    Stupid people make generalisations like some on this forum

      zvezdan.pranic - 2013-02-26 22:17

      I agree nothing intelligent to say

  • AnthonyfromAfrica - 2013-02-26 19:27

    . Is it not amazing, that the USA, has one of the strictest border controls in the world, PREVENTING one to GET IN !!!!!!!!1!! Other countries with strict border control, are China and Iran but there it is to prevent their population getting OUT !!!!! If it would be possible, 3/4 of the worlds population would move to the USA , including 90 % of Africa's population !!! .

      Flippncool - 2013-02-27 02:24

      Your comment rings true.

      AllcoveredinNinjas - 2013-02-27 08:03

      People vote with their feet .

  • Vincent VinSaint - 2013-02-26 20:20

    If Bush Snr and Bush Jnr were stupid...then all in U.S. have a right to be fools of non-discription...Where the Bushes stupid?#wondering...those ppl calculated their moves.

      Flippncool - 2013-02-27 02:26

      Well Bush certainly presented himself as stupid, but having come from a big business background with close business ties to the Middle East I'd say he did a great job of acting stupid, but being a ruthless businessman. At the expense of the American people of course.

  • Kurt Kassen - 2013-02-26 20:39


      zvezdan.pranic - 2013-02-26 22:07

      Go back to school,

  • Abner M. Mophethe - 2013-02-26 20:58

    well said mr Kerry,i rest my case

  • Ditoa-re Gypsy - 2013-02-26 20:59

    They own stupidity

      Flippncool - 2013-02-27 02:27

      What country invented the computer you used to type that comment, and the internet protocols you're using to communicate with again? Sorry, I can't hear you, speak up.

      PeggySven - 2013-02-27 07:55

      @ Flippen Cool, actually it was the UK that invented the computer and an Englishman that invented the Internet. If it had been an American the Internet would have been Patented and would cost a fortune to use. The PC was invented in America that is a fact, which allowed every he to afford one due to mass production. Another interesting fact is that the cputer

      PeggySven - 2013-02-27 07:59

      Sorry phone sent before finishing. The interesting fact is that the computer industry is the only industry that becomes cheaper as it gets better and faster. A paradox that should be copied by other industries.

      fidel.uncensored - 2013-02-27 08:12

      Peggy, you'd be suprised of the number of European patents stolen by US corporations, especially after WW11!

      AllcoveredinNinjas - 2013-02-27 08:21

      Peggy- what we use now as the internet finds its roots in the US DoD . You can see this in naming rights where the US does not have a .US at the end of their addresses. Depending on your definition of computer , you could argue about it but Alan Turing (Brit) is the father of modern computer science.

  • Michael Miller - 2013-02-26 21:39

    Its a well known fact.... John Kerry is a moron

  • Russophillia - 2013-02-26 21:52

    That helps explain how Obama got re-elected.

      zvezdan.pranic - 2013-02-26 22:15

      Same our dumb asses got Zuma re elected

      Flippncool - 2013-02-27 02:28

      Sniped by zvezdan.pranic

  • fidel.uncensored - 2013-02-27 05:57

    That is what happens when you give people TVs instead of funding public education. The US has the highest percentage of arrogant and brainwashed people in the world. Now add 40 years to arrogance and brainwashed and you get an overwhelming culture of stupidity. When you have 200 millions of such poor souls, they constitutes an infinite supply of ready-made fools So when you feel tempted to condemn Americans for their stupidity, I think you should feel pity first. They have undergone the most extensive campaign of media brainwashing of any people in history. It's been going on for 40 years, non-stop, at a cost of hundreds of billions of advertising dollars. The country, immersed in the greatest wealth of information, contains the most ignorant and stupid people in the universe.

  • AllcoveredinNinjas - 2013-02-27 09:12

    John Kerry is going to be a nightmare . If his defence of free speech to German students is " the right to be stupid" then we are all in big trouble .This when Europe needs to defend free speech more than ever and diverse political discourse is required . Kerry's first trip and he insults his citizens , presents a inarticulate and vacous form of their values , as well as anecdotal story of his youth to describe his perception on the ideological chasm of east/west Germany in the 50s . Its going to be a long 4 yrs with these clowns.

      fidel.uncensored - 2013-02-27 09:28

      Clowning around seems to be a cherished virtue among the US political class!

  • JenniferMoller13 - 2013-02-27 12:29

    I disagree 100%. No one has the right to be stupid. You shouldn't have the 'right' to bandy about your stupid, poorly-thought-out argument just because you're free to do so. I HATE the ridiculous sense of entitlement that everyone seems to have these days, and the thought that the individual is more important than the community. Just because social media allows everyone to have an option these days doesn't mean that everyone SHOULD have an option. You have a responsibility to be educated, civil-minded and well-read. You have a responsibility to be mindful of the hurt that words cause. You have a responsibility to contribute to your society in a positive way. No one should have the right to be stupid. My generation's biggest problem is that we've convinced ourselves that our little opinions should matter, regardless of how ill-informed or 'stupid' they are. Piffle!

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