Hello friends. Today I bring sad tidings from the Interwebs, and the blogotron.
A “friend” of mine has just been banned from the “Everybody draw Mohammed” facebook group. His crime? Criticising Israel, and pointing out that the people arrested on the Gaza aid flotilla were not terrorists, but journalists, politicians, intellectuals and charity workers.
A Heinous act indeed! Not only is it all true but it is deeply offensive to the apparently radically pro-Israel members of the group.
You can find the silly group here.
The actions of the group betray a fundamental flaw in the thought processes of a large percentage of people. They openly believe that something only counts as freedom of speech if it agrees with their personal thoughts on a certain subject, and that if someone says something that they disagree with then they are justified in telling them to shut up.
I don’t want to keep harping on about Rush Limbaugh and Fox News because they are easy targets. While it is true that Rush and many of Fox’s anchors and personalities regularly demand that their critics and opponents “shut up” there is a danger in only finding flaws in groups we don’t like.
We ALL fall into this trap from time to time. We ALL occasionally wish that some person or group that we dislike would just stop talking. But when we do this we become something worse than them, for we begin to work against Free Speech itself.
If you want an example of someone who does it right then you should go into the works of Noam Chomsky. He has worked tirelessly his whole life battling for human rights of oppressed people and equal rights for all. And yet despite this he believes that the Ku Klux Klan has the right to practise freedom of speech.
Now many people will have a strong reaction against the idea that racist groups should be given a voice. Ironically the more liberal a person is the more likely they are to say that groups like the KKK do not have a right to freedom of speech. They often say that “hate speech” should not be protected.
But I disagree with this idea. Remember my rule is very simple: everybody should be allowed to do whatever they want as long as they don’t hurt anyone else. So if you can show that the speech of a certain person (Osama Bin Laden springs readily to mind) will lead directly to violence then that person’s freedom of speech should be curtailed.
This puts groups like the KKK in a large grey area (ironic, I know) where the more effective their speech becomes the more likely it is to be morally wrong, and the more powerless the group becomes the more we are able to safely indulge their rantings.
But I’m getting off topic. My point is simply that only defending freedom of speech when the speech being defended is your own, is an act of moral cowardice, and a completely empty gesture. Someone (I forget who) said that all dictators believe in freedom of speech, but only for themselves. This is exactly the kind of self-serving stupidity that the Everybody Draw Mohammed group is indulging in. They believe in freedom of speech, but only so far as it attacks their enemies, and serves their own interests.
It reduces them to something just as undemocratic as the violent fundamentalists they despise. For they are not working to promote any ideals, not really. They are working against Free Speech itself.
“If we don’t believe in freedom of speech for those we despise then
we don’t believe in it at all”
[Standard Disclaimer: this post was entirely my own opinion and was not paid for in any way, directly or otherwise, by anyone or anything that stands to gain in any way from the ideas expressed herein.]