Sunday, April 26, 2015

Assault On Free Speech In Britain

   Reason on SJWs and the new push for censorship from the left.
   Of course some (but not all) of the relevant speech is idiotic...but that shouldn't matter.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Jimmy Doyle said...

(i) Brendan O'Neill is a notorious troll.

(ii) I myself signed the petition calling for Katie Hopkins' dismissal. She referred to migrants -- large groups of people including a large proportion of children, many of them fleeing infernal war-zones in Libya and Syria, and dying by the thousand in the Mediterranean -- as 'cockroaches', as if in deliberate echo of Rwanda's Radio Mille Collines. We don't have the first amendment in Britain. Magna Carta had nothing to do with free speech as we understand it (nor did 'the Levellers'). Free speech absolutism just isn't a Thing over there in the way that it very much is in the US. This is just what one would expect from distinct but overlapping political cultures, particularly if one has its origins in secession from the other. I'm not espousing any deep form of relativism here, but ideals of free speech in Britain have always been traded off against concerns about sedition and relatedly (more recently, especially) race relations, in a way that would be vehemently condemned in the US -- for reasons that have to do with why the Founders rebelled against the Crown in the first place! It would be chauvinistic, I think, for a US-ian to dismiss out of hand the idea that someone in *another* country should be prevented from calling groups of people, singled out in this way, 'cockroaches', in a *very* widely-read newspaper column, for reasons having to do with the common good and more specifically the prevention of incitement. You also have to bear in mind that Hopkins' poisonous nonsense is being propagated against the background of a much more widespread but lower-level hum of hatred and bigotry against the same people constantly generated by other elements of the tabloid press.

Hopkins and others have been denounced for hate speech by the UN High Commissioner; I applaud this:

http://mobile.nytimes.com/aponline/2015/04/24/world/europe/ap-eu-britain-un-immigrants.html?referrer

See also this:

http://www.space-invaders.eu/2012/11/mayor-of-lampedusa-death-of-undocumented-immigrants-in-the-eu-is-a-massacre-that-has-the-numbers-of-a-true-war/

1:27 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Et tu, Jimmy?
I haven't had a chance to read your links yet--but I will! And it's not that I think that anything you say is incontrovertibly wrong... I do, for example, recognize that reasonable people can think that there's a kind of trade-off in such cases...

And, of course, I'm going to take it for granted that everyone will agree that the 'cockroach' woman is an asshole of epic proportions...

But the far left's jihad against "free speech absolutism" has always struck me as dangerous and telling...and, though I do see your points, there is something disconcerting about seeing this happening in the place that is the paradigm Mother Country in American consciousness...

I mean...denounce away! Sign petitions! Cockroach lady should be on the receiving end of all the formidable, withering power of British ridicule... It's the fact that the cops were--and can be--involved that makes me go to red alert...

But it goes without saying that I take your points on this seriously... Though a fairly hard-core commitment to free speech was baked into me at an early age... Perhaps I just can't view the matter with sufficient objectivity...

10:24 AM  
Anonymous Jimmy Doyle said...

Ha! Hail, Caesar! I certainly take your points seriously too, Winst. But...

'Paradigm Mother Country' -- do I sense some sentimental lip service? I mean -- why did you guys secede? Presumably for reasons encoded in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights -- among which freedom of speech is pretty conspicuous. 'Twas ever thus, Winst: trade-offs of this kind are business as usual in the UK. And in the end, it's just a matter of degree -- sure, Nazis can march through Skokie, but they'd better not yell 'Fire!' in a crowded theatre. US-ians tend to think that any encroachment on free speech is the thin end of a totalitarian wedge, but Germany (W Germany as was) is not (remotely) a dictatorship even though since the war it has been a serious criminal offence to deny the holocaust. History is obviously important in that case. I was in a cd store in Canada in the 80s and saw a black rectangle (clearly legally required) over the breasts of the woman on the cover of Roger Waters' Pros & Cons of Hitchhiking (now there's a recording that could have been usefully suppressed) -- I had already been living in the US for a few years and this struck me as absurd (especially since the impetus was clearly coming from feminists, not (or not officially) from protestant prudes) -- and it still strikes me as absurd; but a big part of me thinks -- well, it's their culture -- yes I know it's a line that's been discredited and debased, but it still has a legitimate use -- and the main point is: Canada isn't a dictatorship either, not by a very long way. The US was supposed to be an experiment -- remember? -- not a blueprint to be imposed on all the nations.

I think the 'cockroach' stuff very clearly falls under the heading of incitement to hatred and only slightly less clearly under incitement to violence. Believe me, I'm aware, in a way that only someone who's no longer young can be, that governments and cops are just more people and the standard selection routes for them will make a lot of them worse than most, but they're still better than marauding gangs of cannibal killers, and I think that suppressing this kind of thing can legitimately fall within their remit, relative to political-cultural background. I know it sounds intolerably PC, and I don't mean it the way they do, but free-speech absolutism can be a form of cultural chauvinism.

11:41 AM  
Anonymous Jimmy Doyle said...

PS As far as the general phenomenon of the 'far left's jihad against "free speech absolutism"' is concerned, I'm pretty sure we see largely eye to eye.

11:45 AM  

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