Image: OMG, has it happened already?
It is easy to be an advocate of free speech when it applies to the rights of those with whom one is in agreement. But the crucial test concerns controversial speech – statements which we may consider vicious and nasty and which may, in fact, even be vicious and nasty. – Walter Block; “Defending the Undefendable.”
One such vicious and nasty form of speech is to call for your death. A couple of days ago, Graeme Bird issued such a call on John Humphreys, who can be irritating, but has changed to the point where the writer has not felt like choking the living shit out of him for a couple of years. The following though, goes too far:
“He must die. John Humphreys must die so that this country can live. He has betrayed this country too many times and he must no longer live … This is too important a subject to let John Humphreys live. Where does the lying end. I’m convinced that it only ends when John Humphreys is cold and stiff … HE MUST DIE, FOR THE LYING TO END. AND THIS IS A LIFE OR DEATH MATTER … I am accusing Humphreys of being a knowing traitor … SO MY NEW CLAIM IS THAT HUMPHREYS WILL NEVER STOP LYING. THAT HE WILL NEVER BE A SAFE PAIR OF HANDS. THAT HE WILL ALWAYS BE A TRAITOR. WHILE HE YET LIVES.”This is not unusual for Graeme; he often has difficulty disengaging his caps lock. His main beef is that John supports fractional reserve banking, but even Ron Paul would not go this far. He has since pulled the post, only leaving three Humphreys ones up, “The Moron John Humphreys Screed … Followed By The Censored Responses,” “The Deeply Disturbing John Humphreys Story,” and, “Comments Soon To Be Wiped By Quisling John.”
John has been gracious in reply:
My conclusion, once again, is that death threats such as above should be allowed as free speech.Go here for the full post.
The moral reason to allow the above sort of rants is that Graeme hasn’t actually directly hurt anybody with his rant, nor has he tried to coerce anybody (by saying “do XYZ, or else”), and so he should be left alone. He has simply stated that he wants me dead. If somebody were to act on Graeme’s death wish, then in my opinion the responsible person is the killer, and not Graeme.
We are surrounded with advertising every time we turn on the TV or go outside. We are more subtly being influenced every time we read a newspaper or book or website, or when we talk with our friends. We are even being influenced when we simply watch strangers on the streets. But ultimately, I believe that each person needs to be held responsible for their own actions, and that responsibility can not be passed on to the people who have influenced the actor. If I say that a book is good, and you go and buy the book… then it is you (not I) who is responsible for your actions. Likewise, if grumpy-Graeme says he wants me dead, and mad-Doug (another freak with an unhealthy fixation on me) actually comes and kills me… then it is mad-Doug (not grumpy-Graeme) who is responsible for the murder.
The idea that advertisers or influential people are responsible for the actions of others undermines individual responsibility, and it sets a dangerous precedent for controlling who is allowed to say what to whom. And once we start controlling speech to only “good speech” we get into dangerous territory. …