Sunday, July 22, 2007

Shouting 'Theatre!' in a crowded fire

"Goebbels was in favor of free speech for views he liked. So was Stalin. If you're really in favor of free speech, then you're in favor of freedom of speech for precisely those views you despise. Otherwise, you're not in favor of free speech."
~Noam Chomsky in Manufacturing Consent

It's been freedom of speech week on the blogs.

BigCityLib has been following the panic over at the odious Free Dominion as one of their members is currently being investigated by the Canadian Human Rights Commission for his incendiary posts about Muslims, although to my mind his gay-bashing posts are equally as bad.

It's instructive to remember that the impetus behind Canada's hate speech law was primarily to protect the gay lesbian transgender community from harrasment and worse from fundie nutters.

Hairy Fish Nuts posts about a human rights hearing in Alberta, at which a letter written by one Reverend Boissoin comparing gays to pedophiles and calling for action against the movement for homosexual rights was said to have "fostered the hate" that led to an alleged assault two weeks later on a gay man.

EGALE (Equality for Gays and Lesbians Everywhere) disagrees :
"Rev. Boissoin has a right to express his opinions in public, even though the group vehemently disagrees with them.
"It is far better that Boissoin expose his views than have them pushed underground," the group said in 2005.
"Under the glaring light of public scrutiny, his ideas will most likely wither and die."

There are those whose support for free speech extends only to those they agree with, and others who use it to promolgate hate literature. There are still others for whom any government interference is so heinous that they are automatically against any infringement on freedom of speech, and there are free speech purists like Chomsky and EGALE.

Personally I think if a sufficient proportion of the population are not able to counter hate speech with argument and reason, then we are admitting we are no better able to handle free speech than children.

Meanwhile, over on this side of the ideological pond, an altogether different free speech issue has arisen.
Canadian Cynic directed an intemperate post towards a woman who had just lost her son in battle and was conflating support for the war with support for the troops. CC was vehemently condemned round the blogosphere for picking on a grieving mom. Dire threats against CC ensued.

But then something interesting happened. The grieving mom's cousin turned up in CC's comments, castigating him for his insensitivity but allowing that she understood his point about conflating troop support with mission support. CC apologized to her for going off on her cousin and offered her space on his blog to post on any subject she desired. She has asked for a topic and she's thinking about it.

Interesting resolution, don't you think? Quite grown up in fact.


West End Bob said...

As Rodney King said: "Why can't we all just get along?"

Open dialogue is the starting point for "getting along". We've got to begin talking to each other to have a chance at resolving differences . . . .

Q said...

Shouting theatre in a crowded fire would bring you a charge of inciting enlightenment.

CC said...

When you're dealing with the wingnut-o-sphere, free speech really does have its limits:

"R G Skelding says:

This guy should be put in jail for treason.

I'm guessing that that qualifies as censorship of a sort.

Alison said...

WEB : I'm not at all convinced that "resolving differences" with this bunch is possible. I'm more concerned with defending their right to expose themselves so they don't attract more adherents than necessary.

Q : Blogging for Buddha - that's me! :-)

CC : Jail would be censorship but Skelling merely recommending it at National Citizens Coalition is not. It's just dumbass like most of the comments there including this one directly below the one referring to you:

"Remember not all Muslems are terrorist but all terrorist are Muslems."

Yeah - none dare call it reason.

And note that several comments down you have a defender who explains why you are right - right there on the NCC messageboard!
Eat it , Steve, former head of NCC.

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