Oh do bugger off matey

The US has made a fetish of first amendment rights. We should follow France\’s example in restricting bigotry\’s free expression

I\’m afraid it\’s the same old argument. I practice free speech, you are homophobic/racist/genderist/misogynist, they are spouting hate speech.

I\’m perfectly happy with the restrictions of libel (although perhaps not the specific English laws about it) and immediate incitement to violence.

Other than that free speech is free speech. It has to be for me as well as thee, otherwise it\’s just not free speech.

Scary stuff for an American. Here, we\’re taught from an early age to be absolutist in our defense of free speech. But increasingly, the first amendment of the US constitution is looking a lot like the second amendment: an American exception so broad and so holy that it prevents us even from thinking about how to prevent harm.

The EU, Canada, Australia, and almost every other mature democracy recognize that words can be a weapon. But we don\’t regulate weapons of any variety in this country, and our kneejerk response to even the slightest intimation of limits to speech is a Voltaire-style refusal even to consider them.

Quite, it\’s one of the great things about the US, that it is indeed absolutist about free speech.

We keep thinking that the solution to bad speech is more speech. But even in the widest and most robust network, common sense and liberal-democratic moderation are not going to win the day, and it\’s foolhardy to imagine that, say, homophobic tweets are best mitigated with gay-friendly ones.

Digital speech is new territory, and it calls for fresh thinking, not the mindless reapplication of centuries-out-of-date principles that equate a smartphone to a Gutenberg press.

Homophobia should be banned: gay friendly is just great.

What the ignorant little fool doesn\’t realise is that 70 years ago exactly the sort of laws that he\’s proposing would have worked the other way around. A law that said \”you may not say what society disagrees with\” would have banned pro-gay speech and allowed all the homophobia. Because that\’s the way society was back then.

It\’s exactly that there was indeed free speech which has allowed people, over the decades, to make their case that perhaps banning consensual gay acts, or miscegenation (still illegal in parts of the US into the 1960s), or anti-war sentiments, or …..well, you get it. We\’re actually in a world where it is even possible to decry homophobia precisely because earlier generations had free speech and used it.

20 comments on “Oh do bugger off matey

  1. The Guardian article Tim links to makes liberal use of the word “hate”, as is normal in Guardian articles. Out of the hundreds of occasions on which I’ve seen Guardian journalists attribute “hate” to people they disagree with, I’ve never once see so much as an attempt to prove the accusation. I.e. the accusation is simply a eumphemism for “I’m a thicko leftie windbag who can’t think of cogent arguments against idea X, so I’ll accuse those backing the idea of “hatred”.

    Contrary to the claims of said windbags, the fact of wanting drastic cuts in immigration does not prove “hatred” of foreigners (xenophobia) any more than not wanting daffodils in your garden proves hatred of daffodils.

    And what about the hundreds of cartoons in the Guardian depicting Cameron with a condom over his head, or depicting George Bush as a monkey. The relevant cartoonists should be arrested for “hatred”.

  2. “The relevant cartoonists should be arrested for “hatred”.”

    Well, mostly they should be arrested for crimes against art…

  3. …. it’s foolhardy to imagine that, say, homophobic tweets are best mitigated with gay-friendly ones…..

    Why does every statement by a knuckle dragger have to be given so much importance.

    These are just people who don’t want to hear any opinion that they disagree with and are willing to use violence (of the state) to enforce it.

    Now that is what I call hate.

  4. Laws against incitement to violence already exist. If these laws don’t work because they are badly drafted, the solution is not to add another law.

    You can’t stop people having opinions, and many people have some pretty revolting opinions. No government has the judicial resources to prosecute opinions it doesn’t like, not even (thank God) the French.

  5. …..No government has the judicial resources to prosecute opinions it doesn’t like……

    The Turkish government is doing its best though, bless them.

  6. Tim please fix the first paragraph to make it appear as a quote which it is, otherwise it looks like YOU are saying that. I understand that you don’t but I was about to link to this article and some of the intended recipients of that link (all censorship-inclined to be converted) might misunderstand!

  7. Don’t they remember the lessons of Nick Griffin on QT?

    The Guardianistas and other assorted lefties wanted him banned. Those of who beleived in free speech argued that he should be allowed on because he will do more harm to himself than any ban would achieve.

    And lo, it came to pass – he made a right *rse of himself. I’m wiling to bet (but haven’t got time to research) that the BNPs standing took a huge dip in the polls after his performance.

  8. Tim, the problem with your last two paragraphs, true though they are, is that these people aren’t in the least concerned with the right to make a case for change, that is exactly what they fear. They believe they have won or are well on the way to winning and they intend to keep it that way, the hate speech stuff is just an excuse although some of them are daft enough to believe their own propaganda.

  9. Ralph Musgrave-

    I’ve never once see so much as an attempt to prove the accusation. I.e. the accusation is simply a eumphemism for “I’m a thicko leftie windbag who can’t think of cogent arguments against idea X, so I’ll accuse those backing the idea of “hatred”.

    It’s Post-Marxist jargon. It doesn’t mean the emotion “hate”. It means something like, “words or actions motivated by hegemonic class oppression”.

    In the marxist scheme, for example, heterosexuals are hegemonic (oppressor) class and gays are the oppressed class. So “hate” speech can only flow in the direction from straight to gay. Under this particular definition of “hate”, any criticism of gays by straights is “hate” since it articulates and reinforces the system of oppression, whereas, due to being the oppressed class, gays cannot “hate” straight people, even if at the emotional level they happen to.

    It is usual these days for activists etc to use this jargonistic “hate” in contexts which imply the emotional hate, but they really do mean quite different things.

  10. I’ve always been fascinated by the contrast between the ban on the Federal government (and later the State governments) restricting speech, and the fact that Americans have been much less free in their speech in everyday lifethan Britons or Aussies, for example, during most of my lifetime. In the UK, Australia and NZ I’ve seen American visitors reel when they’ve heard what people deem sayable.

  11. “Guardianistas and other assorted lefties want Griffin banned”. What’s hilarious here is that Guardianistas foam at the mount at the mention of UK far right parties. But when it comes to the ULTRA FAR RIGHT, i.e. Islam, Guardianistas leap to the defence of said ultra far right people with brown faces.

    E.g. Muslims believe in killing the authors and cartoonists they don’t like. The BNP doesn’t. About 20% of young Muslims in the UK think anyone leaving their movement should be killed. I doubt single member of any political party, far right or not, believes that. A significant proportion of Muslims believe in treating women like dirt. The BNP doesn’t.

    I believe in gassing Jews and invading Poland. But I just put some artificial sun tan lotion on, so that makes my beliefs OK.

  12. hahaha I was shocked at that then dragged the cursor of the link.

    “non plus ca change”

  13. “You can’t stop people having opinions”

    Um, there is a very large section of the population, many of whom are in positions of power or influence, who would disagree with that and are working towards a practical application of it.

  14. The usual test applies- would the guardian be happy with restrictions on free speech if they were imposed by persons disagreeing with the guardian.

  15. would the guardian be happy with restrictions on free speech if they were imposed by persons disagreeing with the guardian.

    Most of the leftist CiF commentators would seem to be outrageously happy with the death penalty for anybody disagreeing with any of the ‘so-called-evidence’ presented in even the most lunatic left CiF articles.

  16. We’re actually in a world where it is even possible to decry homophobia precisely because earlier generations had free speech and used it.

    Yeah but that is the point isn’t it? They won. They want to keep it that way. Thus it is time to draw up the ladder on which they climbed to the top. It shows that they are afraid that their arguments can’t win on their own merits and so they want to suppress the competition.

    There is nothing unusual about this at all.

  17. Pingback: This is how you defend free speech « Nation of Beancounters

  18. “and it’s foolhardy to imagine that, say, homophobic tweets are best mitigated with gay-friendly ones.”

    F*ck me but the man’s a moron. That’s not how it works at all. A homophobic tweet is best challenged. Full stop. That’s what free speech allows, because 70 years ago you couldn’t challenge it.

    Or rather, a homophobic tweet is best forwarded on and repeated to all and sundry with a note below saying “look at the intolerant tosspot who says this kind of thing. If I were you, I wouldn’t have anything to do with him”.

    A guarantee on the freedom of speech guarantees the ability to fight offensive stuff directly, not simply to offer an alternative opinion.

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