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Sep 17, 2012

Freedom of speech saves, not costs lives

Image: 'Islamic Rage Boy'

YouTube deserves accolades, not condemnation over its refusal to remove The Innocence of Muslims trailer from the site. The whole pretext for blaming it for the 9/11 protests is absurd given that it was first uploaded in early July where it remained virtually unnoticed until an Arabic version was played in Egypt to ‘coincide’ with the Twin Towers anniversary. There was nothing coincidental about it; this was an orchestrated move.

Quadrant Online has published an article by Philippa Martyr, explaining how free speech saves lives and restrictions on it are counterproductive. (The second link in the original article is out of date and the conjecture that there was Jewish involvement has been proven false. The real identity of Sam [or Im to the rest of us] Bacile is still evolving).

Martyr begins by pointing out the difference in reaction in America and the Islamic countries. In the West, it played once to an empty theater and disappeared. In the Middle East with its lack of literacy, absence of freedom of speech, authoritarian state and religion, results in a population unable to articulate disagreement in any rational way. The result is when offended they resort to violence:

The problem is also not the West in general. Look at the images - if you can bear it - of those men dragging Ambassador Stevens to death. They’re all wearing Western clothes, and the man dragging him has his mobile phone clasped in his mouth. There may be Western clothes in Libya, but what there isn’t is a history of free speech.

Free speech is pacifying. Yes, it allows you to spread vileness - but it also allows vileness to be countered with argument, amendment, correction, and apology if necessary. It may whip up strong feelings, but it also disseminates them equally effectively.

A case in point: in the 1980s, the British National Party vote fell to an all-time low because Margaret Thatcher allowed and encouraged an open discussion about immigration to the UK. Her government listened to the electorate, took action and slowed down the immigration rate. However, once the Blair government increased immigration rates but clamped down on the immigration debate, up went the BNP vote.

We have suffered in a similar way in Australia, where a refusal to talk about immigration because such talk was deemed “racist” created One Nation, which was neither one nor national. Refusing to have this debate in an adult and intelligent way at a national level also helped fuel incidents like the Cronulla riots. (Note: “an adult and intelligent way” does not mean the ABC tells us what to think, and we obey without question.)

Lock down the debate on any red-button issue, and feelings and beliefs which would shrink to manageable proportions if given a good airing will instead make their way out in more destructive forms. If this means our politicians, rugby stars and top models have to grow a thicker skin, then that’s perhaps a good thing.
Quadrant Online is an Australian online opinion journal, containing contributions from some of the best rational thinkers in the nation. It is well worth bookmarking.

Philippa Martyr blogs at Transverse City

1 comment:

  1. Nobody has a right not to be offended. Oppression of free speech can only foster hatred and resentment.