Oct. 1st, 2012

liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
Somebody on Twitter linked to a really pointed Al Jazeera article: The freedom to criticise free speech. It concisely articulates something I've thought for a long time, but haven't quite been able to state without waffling a lot. tl;dr version: freedom of speech – Muslims have it too.

This is my big bone of contention with large swathes of the New Atheist / Skeptic / Rational movement(s): they seem to be very shouty about the right, mostly exercised by people who are (entirely coincidentally I don't think) white, middle-class men living in powerful, rich countries, to publish utterly vile, ignorant, hateful stuff about Muslims and Islam. But as soon as any Muslim raises the slightest objection to this, it's an attack on free speech and the very foundations of democracy. Yes, it's important to protect freedom of speech you don't agree with, but I don't see much knee-jerk Voltaire quoting when it's Muslims exercising that right.

Even in the most repressive regimes, powerful, influential, well-connected people can pretty much say what they like, there's nothing especially notable about that. The point of enshrining freedom of speech as a right is that it applies to people of subaltern status. Immigrants, members of minority religions or ethnic groups, these days people living formerly colonized countries. If it's important to you to have or protect the right to express prejudices, then you should care at least equally much about the right of oppressed or relatively less powerful to point out that bigotry is bigotry. They also have the right to refuse to give money or attention to people publishing bigoted stuff, that's not an attack on free speech, that's exercising their democratic, free market right to give their business to people whose views they agree with. And yes, some of them are wrong, they see things as offensive or attacking when they're actually true and harmless. So? They still have the right to hold and express their opinions, that's the whole point about freedom of speech.


Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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