liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
[personal profile] liv
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.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-01 08:58 pm (UTC)
ceb: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ceb
As far as I can see, the way the "free speech" argument works in the US is:

Person A does something unpleasant/bigoted/discriminatory.
Person B tries to get them to stop.
Person A says "you're treading all over my right to free speech!"

See also efforts of parts of the US white Christian right to convince people that white Christian right-wingers are a beleagured minority.

I am seriously confused as to why you think this is something the "New Atheist / Skeptic / Rational movement(s)" are doing; I've only seen them being Person B over arguments like whether evolution should be taught in schools. Am I missing something?

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-01 10:45 pm (UTC)
jack: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jack
Can you remember who did those cartoons? I was talking about this somewhere else, and I remembered the avalanche starting with some really gratuitously not-artisticly-redeeming disgusting cartoons, which I thought did make a big difference, and I thought should not be published. But when I googled it, I seemed to only get a later iteration of the furore of people drawing Mohammad only to push the freedom of speech angle.

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Date: 2012-10-01 10:54 pm (UTC)
ceb: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ceb
Sam Harris> Good grief (having just read his wp page), what a nutter... especially about Muslims, it's like he's not talking about people any more but about some weird sub-human things. I do not understand a lot of US attitudes to things, I can only hope that your average athiest-on-the-street thinks he's a dangerous embarrassment.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-01 11:06 pm (UTC)
jack: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jack
There was an awesome essay on less wrong explaining why we should not be deliberately offensive to people about things that they were very, very sensitive to (such as obscene depictions of Mohammad), but it was disturbing that people couldn't see in advance why they shouldn't do that...

Most people I know don't have any connection to the Muslims-are-evil meme, whether tied to religion or not, but I've heard "Islam is an especially bad example of religion" ideas from a couple of places in the atheist blogosphere. I don't know how widespread the idea is.

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Date: 2012-10-01 11:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pw201.livejournal.com
I largely agree with Harris, though I don't find that he completely conflates criticism with violence or that he thinks Muslims should not protest. The closest I can get to that is the line "And where they do not immediately resort to violence in their protests, they threaten it", but it's not clear whether the reference is to "some percentage of Muslims" or to everyone who protests. If it's the latter, he's certainly wrong.

Harris is much more strident (you missed "shrill", "fundamentalist" and "militant": see the fake convert Harris (http://www.samharris.org/site/full_text/edge-discussion-of-jerry-coynes-seeing-and-believing)) about the right of people to make bad art because it's that right that's under threat.

and they have the right to use strong language, they don't have to be measured and polite in their reactions to protect the freedom of speech of the racists.

I think Harris is right to criticise people who hold signs threatening other people with beheading, personally.

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Date: 2012-10-01 11:09 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pw201.livejournal.com
I largely agree with Harris

Actually, I agree with Blackford more: http://blog.talkingphilosophy.com/?p=5969 for that.

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Date: 2012-10-01 11:58 pm (UTC)
redbird: closeup of me drinking tea (Default)
From: [personal profile] redbird
On the other hand, the first place I read about Harris being unreasonable was at PZ Myers's Pharyngula, an atheist blog that is not exactly devoted to moderation, sweetness, and light: but Myers is pretty clear that we can say both "this person is saying horrible things, and we're not going to allow them in our space" and "this person is saying horrible things, and he has the right to do so in his own space."

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Date: 2012-10-01 09:03 pm (UTC)
ceb: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ceb
(And the other people being mad in that article are the French government, who are at best confused about the whole religion issue.)

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-01 10:58 pm (UTC)
ceb: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ceb
It's so obviously wrong it's quite surreal; state-sponsored victim blaming. Hello France! banning religious expression is not the way to create a harmonious multi-cultural society.

1 != 2

Date: 2012-10-02 02:18 am (UTC)
siderea: (Default)
From: [personal profile] siderea
Um. I thought the article was terrible, because it claims an equivalency between holding a kiss-in and murdering people.

From the article: "In America, a nation was divided by a sandwich. Across the world, people are dying because of a Z-grade film trailer."

Shooting people is not free speech. The correct analogue to what happened in Benghazi wasn't gay people boycotting chicken sandwiches, it was Salvi hosing my gynecologist's office with automatic weapons fire and Tiller being killed by a sniper for the Christian god.

I am 100% in favor of offended people expressing their severe displeasure. With words. Pictures are also okay. No bullets. No nooses. No fires. Allow me to suggest boycots and marches.
Edited Date: 2012-10-02 02:20 am (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-03 02:46 am (UTC)
siderea: (Default)
From: [personal profile] siderea
You read the Al Jazeera article as conflating speech with violent actions

Not only am I reading the Al Jazeera article as conflating speech with violent actions, I'm reading you as conflating speech with violent actions.

You are making statements like "Atheists have the right to draw pictures of Mohammed, and Muslims have the right to call for the blaspheming infidels who do that to be beheaded." Worse, you then turn around and say, "(as well as being an actual murder which just about nobody is in favour of)". Excuse me, there are people marching in the street saying they're in favor of murder. That is precisely what calling for beheadings is. What say we take them at their word.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-02 09:59 am (UTC)
naath: (Default)
From: [personal profile] naath
Well, quite. You have the free-speech right to call me nasty names and I have the free-speech right to call you a nasty-name-caller...

It's quite amazing how many people will pull out the "OMG FREE SPEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEECH" crap whenever anyone tells them their speech is nasty and hurtful.

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Date: 2012-10-02 10:37 am (UTC)
ptc24: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ptc24
In particular, whenever an American mentions the First Amendment, I always think: "do they know it starts with 'Congress shall make no law...'?" - there was a case of that in the article.

Looking at the article, there's "the politicians who argued against allowing Chick-fil-A in their cities may have overreached" and I agree this is overreach; it's one thing to let private citizens organize a boycott, it's another thing to get the state to join in.

I suppose a big messy grey area would be where you had marchers with placards calling for state censorship - I'm not sure whether or not thing is something that has gone on (I think so, but my memory for specifics is hazy - the title of the article suggests so), and if so, to what extent. On the one hand, on general principles, it seems to fit nicely in the category of things that should be considered "legal but wrong". On the other hand, there are legitimate debates as to the boundaries of free speech; see libel, privacy, confidentiality, harassment, threats, incitement, shouting "fire" in a crowded theatre, etc... (deciding on precise definitions of these things is a debate in itself). and to a certain extent, people who are incapable or unwilling to make those fine distinctions might still have something to contribute to such discussions.

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From: [personal profile] redbird - Date: 2012-10-02 12:10 pm (UTC) - Expand

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Date: 2012-10-02 05:19 pm (UTC)
cjwatson: (Default)
From: [personal profile] cjwatson

shouting "fire" in a crowded theatre

I don't remember where I ran into this recently, so apologies if it was e.g. you, but Three Generations of a Hackneyed Apologia for Censorship Are Enough has an interesting pile of US legal history about this which I didn't previously know.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-05 08:37 am (UTC)
sunflowerinrain: Singing at the National Railway Museum (Default)
From: [personal profile] sunflowerinrain
[Error: Irreparable invalid markup ('<fx:>') in entry. Owner must fix manually. Raw contents below.]

<fx: climbs on roof to wave banner>
HEAR, HEAR!

I had a similar argument about the owners of church halls refusing to allow certain activities. Far too many friends became rather shrill about the freedom to practise yoga or whatever, utterly disregarding the freedom of others to decide what goes on in their own property. The trouble with freedom is that it doesn't really exist. Any freedoms are likely to impinge on someone else's life.

Those cartoons and video and articles are just *rude*. As for the malicious spreading of them...

Soundbite

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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