Wednesday, 22 February 2006

Free speech can be confusing

Free speech is an awfully confusing bird for some, especially if their thinking apparatus is left un-used for too long. There's been some awfully instructive cases in recent times. Chronologies have been amended to make the point clearer:
  • Danes post anti-Muslim cartoons. "Yay, free speech," say Danish editors and commentators. "Onya!" says a world full of bloggers.
  • Muslims protest cartoons and threaten beheadings. "Whoops," say cartoonists, who head into hiding. "Cartoons are so offensive that muslim threats justified," revise the commentators. "Free speech, but..." say Western Governments.
  • London-based Muslim cleric implicated in terrorism, but jailed for "hate speech." People cheer. London-based libertarians say "Free this prisoner of conscience!" Other libertarians says, "No! Jail him for his real crimes." London-based libertarians accused of being "less than idiots." Other libertarians accused of supporting hate-speech laws.
  • Austrians jail grandstanding holocaust-denier, David Irving. Burning Irving's books was not mentioned, but the Simon Wiesenthal Centre happy at the jailing. "Allowing free speech would be fascist," a spokesman for the Wiesenthal Centre almost said.
  • Wiesenthal Centre happy that Irving is jailed, but unhappy that former Nazi war criminals are still at liberty in Austria. Austrian Government happy that Irving is jailed for Nazi sympathies, and doesn't give a shit about former Nazis still at liberty in Austria. Totalitarian implications of jailing Irving ignored.
  • Helen Clark unhappy that Irving is jailed on a free speech issue in Austria. "Going too far," she says. Proclaims unfettered right to free speech.
  • Helen Clark bans Irving from entering New Zealand a few years before. Following desecration of Jewish graves, Madam Helen proclaims unarguable need to limit unfettered right to free speech by preparing to implement hate speech laws. Law for fetters on speech drawn up by Clark Government.
  • Helen Clark, unhappy that CanWest to air Southpark's 'Bloody Mary' episode, helps out ratings by declaring it "revolting," and calls for respect for other religions. Catholics agree, and plan boycott. No fatwahs. No calls for beheading. No embassies burnt to the ground.
  • Helen Clark then attacks Exclusive Brethren again -- they're a "a weird cult" she says. Comment from members of the cult is respectfully declined.
Free speech is a poor misunderstood bird. It sure does make for some strange bedfellows sometimes, and it's sure as hell clear that understanding of what it means is far, far, far less widespread than it might be, and really should be.

See how many you got right. If you scored eight correct propositions, then I agree with you. Please post your working below. Marks will be awarded for sound argument.


  1. Who would ever have thought that in the 21st century stupid humans would still be having religious wars! Or that any religion would still be capable, (in the name of an invisible god), of bringing back laws of heresy, apostasy, or blasphemy? I can understand muslims, as a backward people still in the thrall of superstition, being terrified that it may be proven they have lost their culture and history to a pack of Arab marauders, but western Europe had the Renaissance, the Reformation (and the Spanish Inquisition) to teach them the value of freedom. The State should stay right out of all and any religious furore, its only task to be to uphold freedoms so hard won and to bringing in the troops to make sure those freedoms remain.

  2. That's why I like these kind of discussions PC - you never know who you are going to end up in bed with. Much more interesting than lining up along the usual divisions.

    BTW, I think you're comments about the Wiesenthal Centre are unfair - see my comments on the Holocaust Denial thread about the history of anti-Semitism in Germany.


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