Monday, 3 February 2014
SOCIETY: FREEDOM OF SPEECH (THE CONDENSED VERSION)
I'm a regular reader of Spiked, a libertarian left online magazine of political and in the very broadest sense) cultural comment. It's a direct descendant of the print magazine Living Marxism/ Marxism Today, which was unjustly sued into non-existence, and publishes a number of their writers. While I don't agree with everything they write about, being on the libertarian left (if you have to label it) I'm generally on their wavelength.
Recently they've begun a campaign about the importance and meaning of freedom of speech or free speech in contemporary society and I'm firmly behind their way of thinking on the subject. This then is basically a rehash of their ideas filtered through my own perceptions on the matter so I make no claims to an attempt at originality and I apologise if I've subconsciously (I haven't re-read anything on the subject) plagiarised stuff. I shouldn't have because I don't pretend to be as articulate on the subject as Spiked's columnists and I've got a terrible memory.
So here we go.
I'm having a conversation with someone. It might be my next door neighbour, or a teacher or a rabbi, or a nurse, or you.
They say, "I'm all in favour of freedom of speech, but..."
At which point I metaphorically punch them/you in the face for being a hypocrite and an arsehole.
I'll put it like this: there is no but in freedom of speech.
I'll say it again. Louder.
There is no but in freedom of speech.
If you put a but in there then you aren't advocating freedom of speech, you are advocating only freedom for those views you can tolerate, not those you can't.
Freedom of speech means freedom of speech for everyone and that includes those whose views you find poisonous.
Simply on that basis:
I defend the right of the BNP to spout its racist poison.
I defend the right of radical Muslims to spout their hatred of western values.
I defend the right of people to advocate female circumcision (while personally wanting to impose a worldwide ban on it).
I defend the right of homophobes and fundamentalist Christians/Muslims whatever to deplore homosexuality as a sin (sad little inadequate bastards that they are, probably with something to hide).
And so much more.
Oh yes, including my right to express how much contempt I have for the values of all these people.
Why? Two reasons.
First, the simple face that freedom of speech is indivisible: it is for everyone, not just those with views that society as a whole deems acceptable. If it isn't, it's not freedom of speech.
Second, it is only by having these views placed in the public forum that they can be challenged and found wanting, where they can be shown up for the repressive anti-humanitarian values that they are, that they are the views of the past.
And -and here you really aren't going to like this- then if you disagree with me then you're one of them too, you nice cosy little liberal you.