Tonight in Auckland students debate whether religious symbols should be banned in public. On Saturday night in Adelaide, SPIKED's Brendan O'Neill kicked off a two-week speaking tour of Australia with this speech to a packed hall:
My view is this: there should be no legislation at all pertaining to freedom of speech. And I include in that human-rights legislation that claims to grant us freedom of speech. I am against this too, because it turns freedom of speech into a gift that the authorities give to us, and which, logically, they might just as easily take away…
We should insist that freedom of speech is not something that officialdom gives to us. It is something that we have. It is not a gift of government, but a central part of everyday human life. It is not something given to individuals — it is the means through which we become individuals. It is the means through which we develop our intellectual muscles, train our minds, become aware and alive and part of the moral world. It is in the exercise of freedom of speech that we become free, and become fully human in fact. No one can give us our humanness; we do it, we realise it, ourselves...
Freedom of speech is not a human right. It is far more important than that. And we should use it. And right now, we should use it to challenge every single curb on free expression, whether that expression is good and interesting or wicked and hateful. Because freedom of speech is either enjoyed by everyone or by no one.
Hate-speech legislation disarms us — us ordinary, non-hateful, anti-racist citizens. It prevents us from being able to see and challenge backward ideas.
The right to offend is something we all share. It is a right, and because it is, it must be defended.Get along tonight and ensure that at least somebody does. (The closing cook between Susan Devoy and Lindsay Perigo should itself be worth the price of admission – which, by the way, is free.)
NB: “But what about Islam,” I hear some barbarians cry. We must ban their speech to protect western values, they say. Which not only misses the point, it misses what free speech is for. Take the example of an email currently doing the rounds:
Jiggs McDonald, NHL Hall of Fame broadcaster speaking in Ontario, says: "I am truly perplexed that so many of my friends are against another mosque being built in Toronto. I think it should be the goal of every Canadian to be tolerant regardless of their religious beliefs. Thus the mosque should be allowed, in an effort to promote tolerance.
"Quite right. I also propose that two nightclubs be opened next door to the mosque; thereby promoting tolerance from within the mosque. We could call one of the clubs, which would be gay, The Turban Cowboy, and the other, a topless bar, would be called You Mecca Me Hot.
"Nearby could be a butcher shop that offers pork, and adjacent to that an open-pit pork barbecue restaurant, called Iraq of Ribs.
“Across the street there could be a lingerie store called Victoria Keeps Nothing Secret, with sexy mannequins in the window modeling the goods, and on the other side a liquor store called Morehammered.
"All of this would encourage Muslims to demonstrate the tolerance they rightfully expect of us.”
Yes we should promote tolerance, and you can do your part by passing this on. And if you are not laughing or smiling at this point... It is past your bedtime.
Get the point? “Evil ideas are dangerous only by default of men advocating better ideas.” Let’s not make it illegal to advocate for nonsense, nor make it illegal to point out nonsense is nonsense. Should both be banned, or either, our days as non-barbarians are numbered.