Journalism Dean: “There are limits to free speech”

January 21, 2015
"Free speech means the freedom to offend."

“Free speech means the freedom to offend.”

It’s a measure of how craven and corrupt our political culture has become that even the Dean of a journalism school in a nation founded on free speech and freedom of the press should say “there are limits, however:”

Charlie Hebdo has gone too far.

In its first publication following the Jan. 7 attack on its Paris office, in which two Muslim gunmen massacred 12 people, the once little-known French satirical news weekly crossed the line that separates free speech from toxic talk.

Charlie Hebdo’s latest depiction of the prophet Mohammed — a repeat of the very action that is thought to have sparked the murderous attack on its office — predictably has given rise to widespread violence in nations with large Muslim populations. Its irreverence of Mohammed once moved the French tabloid to portray him naked in a pornographic pose. In another caricature, it showed Mohammed being beheaded by a member of the Islamic State.

While free speech is one of democracy’s most important pillars, it has its limits.

So says DeWayne Wickham, Dean of the School of Global Journalism and Communication at Wayne State University. In a very limited sense, he’s right: I cannot go yelling “fire!” in a crowded theater (1), for example (2). Nor can I incite to violence by, for example, standing before a crowd and telling them to go now and beat up a certain person or persons.

But that’s it. All other political speech is within bounds, regardless of whom it offends. You cannot have a free society unless the it includes the right to freely criticize those in authority — and not just criticize, but to satirize and mock, too. If I as a Catholic want to question Original Sin and the need for Divine Grace, or that Jesus was not Divine until adopted by God, then the Church might well denounce me as a heretic and excommunicate me, but the law cannot punish me for my beliefs, nor should I fear physical violence. If I want to be truly outrageous and place the Crucifix in a beaker of urine, I would be a jackass, but I still should not have to fear either legal sanction nor physical violence.

And the same is true of any religion. If I want to question Muhammad’s status as a prophet, or even if he existed at all; if I want to argue that his earliest biography shows he was a bandit, a warlord, and a torturer; and if I want to criticize Sharia, Islam’s divine law, for calling for the execution of homosexuals, that is my right as a free man — even if I want to draw questionably funny satirical cartoons.

This is the right of any human being and well-within the “limits” of free speech.

Let’s be honest. It’s not a regard for the proper limits of free speech that motivates Mr. Wickham. If he or one of his students offended some Amish who then complained, I’m willing to bet he’d be on his soapbox screaming about “free speech” and “freedom of the press.”

And that leads us to the truth. Amish might shun you. Catholics won’t invite you to Bingo Night. A Buddhist would probably just decide you’re an annoying illusion and don’t really exist.

But all too many Muslims would be quite willing to kill you for insulting their Muhammad. Just ask the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo, or Theo van Gogh.

The limit to Dean Wickham’s freedom of speech is his fear of punishment, and thus he is not free at all.

via Michael Walsh

Footnote:
(1) Popehat points out the serious flaws with that particular justification for censorship.
(2) When it’s not true, that is.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


God Bless Australia

January 16, 2015
David Leonyhjelm

David Leonyhjelm

It seems some politically correct Australian nanny-stater was upset over Senator David Leyonhjelm’s criticisms of multiculturalism and his defense of the natural right of all humans to voice those criticisms. An “activist” wrote to demand he stop, because multiculturalism was the law, so… shut up!

This was the senator’s reply (below the fold for language): Read the rest of this entry »


Do not mention the dread words “bacon” or “pork,” for you may offend “you know who!”

January 14, 2015
bacon

“Bacon! Bacon! Bacon!” Offended yet?

 

Once there was this neat thing called “Western Civilization,” which gave the world such wonderful ideas as human liberty, the worth of the individual, and the freedom to speak, write, and publish without the fear of being punished for what we say.

That was then, this is now:

The largest university press in the world has warned its authors not to mention pigs or pork in their books to avoid offending Muslims and Jews.

Oxford University Press (OUP) explained that their books must take into consideration other cultures of the world and must avoid mentioning pigs or “anything else which could be perceived as pork,” the International Business Times reported.

The move was revealed during a discussion on free speech during BBC Radio 4’s “Today,” following last week’s terror attacks in Paris.

“I’ve got a letter here that was sent out by OUP to an author doing something for young people.” Presenter Jim Naughtie said. “Among the things prohibited in the text that was commissioned by OUP was the following: Pigs plus sausages, or anything else which could be perceived as pork.

“Now, if a respectable publisher, tied to an academic institution, is saying you’ve got to write a book in which you cannot mention pigs because some people might be offended, it’s just ludicrous. It is just a joke,” he said.

Let me state for the record that I agree with Labour MP Khalid Mahmood, himself a Muslim, that this decision is ridiculous; Oxford deserves to be roundly mocked for their sniveling cowardice.

However, it’s not as if they haven’t been given reason for this. Not only have we had repeated examples of Muslims rioting and killing for perceived slights against Muhammad, but (to name just one incident) a fast food chain in Britain was threatened with “jihad” over a dessert on which the lid maybe vaguely resembled Muhammad’s name in Arabic. (1)

With all that, one can almost sympathize with Oxford’s preemptive self-castration. (2)

Almost.

There was a time when we had confidence in our civilization, its values, and its accomplishments, a time when we would cheerily tell those who would try to tell us what we’re allowed to say to take a flying leap.

Apparently that time has passed at one of the oldest centers of learning in the Western world, whose publishing house rushes to censor itself before anyone even complains.

Grow a pair, Oxford.

UPDATE: Charles Cooke writes:

This is nothing more or less than an institution’s permitting the violent threats of the illiberal to impose thought control on the free. Worse, perhaps: this is forbiddance of the most petty, minor, craven sort. If those utilizing the publishing house of Britain’s oldest university cannot mention a basic food product for fear of offending the inordinately silly, how on earth are they supposed to tackle the larger questions of race, religion, love, poverty, sex, war, and politics? What chance do they have investigating belief systems and ideas? How might they go about debating subjects that really matter? All told, the popular claim “I’m offended” represents nothing more than a meaningless piece of cowardly self-indulgence. That Oxford University is so much as considering entertaining it is a disgrace.

Amen.

UPDATE II: The people of Paris show themselves far more brave than the craven editors of OUP.

Footnote:
(1) “Offend Jews?” Since when has any official body in Britain worried about that?
(2) They claim they just wanted to reach the broadest market. Yeah, right.


Sensitivity 101: how to react during an Islamic massacre

January 9, 2015

(In light of recent events in France, I thought this appropriate to re-post. )

Andrew Klavan brings us another in his series of public-service educational videos, this time to let us know how we should behave when Muslims go nuts over a perceived slight and kill a bunch of people — how do we stop it and keep it from happening again?

The answer is simple, my friends: we give up our principles. Enjoy the lesson.


#JeSuisCharlie — the massacre in Paris and freedom of speech

January 7, 2015
Fatwa this!

Fatwa this!

You’ve probably heard the awful news from France this morning:

Shouting “God is great” in Arabic, masked gunmen stormed the offices of a French satirical magazine Wednesday, killing 12 people including the magazine’s editor, his bodyguard and a prominent cartoonist.

Police said two or three hooded attackers armed with at least one Kalashnikov rifle and pump-action shotgun infiltrated the building near the Bastille monument around 11:40 a.m. local time and opened fire on a staff meeting at the magazine Charlie Hebdo. The weekly publication has published controversial depictions of the Islamic prophet Muhammad that angered Muslims around the world.

The gunmen went to the second- and third-floor editorial offices and attacked journalists and then fled, authorities said. The men were reported to have spoken earlier in fluent, unaccented French as they entered the building.

Let’s be clear, Charlie Hebdo‘s only “crime” was to publish satirical pictures of Islam’s founder, Muhammad. For this exercise of the natural right of all human beings to speak their mind, a dozen civilians and two cops had to die, murdered by brave knights of Allah sociopathic jihadi scumbags waging jihad fi sabil Allah. This mass-murder was terrorism pure and simple. It was meant not only to punish Charlie Hebdo and its employees, but to tell the rest of us to shut up — or else.

It was an attack not just on freedom of speech, but the very idea of human liberty and the worth of the individual by religious fanatics determined that we should all be slaves to Allah and second-class citizens under Islam’s totalitarian and degrading Sharia law.

This was another atrocity in the war of barbarism against civilization. Not a “clash of civilizations,” Islamic versus Western, because there is nothing civilized about life under Sharia, which is inseparable from Islam. Under Sharia, to mock Muhammad is blasphemy, and blasphemy is punishable by death. Just as Muhammad had the poet Ka’b bin al-Ashraf assassinated for mocking him, and as Muhammad’s deeds stand as a shining example for all mankind for all time (al-insan al-kamil  see 1.C), so the jihadis felt justified by religious duty to massacre a bunch of satirists and office workers.

Over some cartoons.

This is my reply:

muhammad jyllandsposten_censor2

…and…

Muhammad jyllandsposten_virgins2

…and…

Muhammad jyllandsposten_crescent

Images courtesy of Zombie, at whose gallery you can see more. And yes, death threats were made over these, too.

RELATED: More from the scene via Claire Berlinski. From John Schindler: Parisian Terror: Will Europe Finally Wake Up?


The death of free speech in Scotland: “Cultures rot from the bottom up”

January 4, 2015

liberal tolerance

That’s the assessment of Charles Cooke, who also saw that “Big Brother” tweet from Police Scotland about which I wrote a few days ago. He notes that, while the police statement was offensive enough, the fact that 20,000 Scots signed a petition demanding a columnist be investigated for her annoying comments was downright disturbing. In Cooke’s view, it’s a sign of serious rot in the culture of liberty, itself:

In situations such as these, it is easy and tempting to blame the police for their excesses, and to contend with irritation that they should know better. And so, of course, they should. It is easy, too, to slam the British parliament for continuing to permit such behavior. And, of course, it should be so slammed. Nevertheless, the ugly truth here is that, like the Canadians and the Australians and the New Zealanders and pretty much every people in the world apart from the Americans, there is a significant contingent within the British electorate that believes that the state should punish people who utter words and sentiments that the majority dislikes. Of course the police are looking into the rude and the eccentric. Their employers want them to do exactly that, and there are no constitutional prohibitions to prevent them from doing so.

Cultures rot from the bottom up. In a democracy, the authorities come to reflect societal trends — both good and ill. How sad to see Adam Smith’s body decaying in the streets.

(Emphasis added)

Cooke is right to remark on the difference between the political culture of the United States and its Anglospheric cousins when it comes to free speech, and it’s a fair observation to say we almost fetishize it. But alone among the UK and the it descendants, we assume that the right to speak one’s mind is a natural, unalienable right that is inherent in humans and preexists government. In that regard, we went beyond the 1689 English Bill of Rights, which grants rights via statute, and declared “life, liberty, and happiness,” to be rights superior to the law; that laws, indeed, are instituted to protect those rights. In Scotland and in the UK overall, the beliefs that gave rise to these rights seem to be fading in favor of a “right not to be offended.” (See also Australia, where a lesser commitment to free speech lead the prior government to try to use punitive fines to silence critics of a carbon tax.)

But I think Charles is too sanguine when he writes:

…like the Canadians and the Australians and the New Zealanders and pretty much every people in the world apart from the Americans, there is a significant contingent within the British electorate that believes that the state should punish people who utter words and sentiments that the majority dislikes.

Sadly, we have Speech Police, too; they generally, but not wholly, reside on the political Left. And it’s true that here, especially in an age of alternative media, they experience serious push-back from from defenders of the right to free speech. But they regularly try to punish “wrong” thought and words. Recall, for example the howling mob that went after Brendan Eich, then head of Mozilla, just because, years before, he had exercised his right to free speech to quietly donate to a group supporting traditional heterosexual marriage. Or the feminist banshees who attacked an astrophysicist for wearing a slightly tacky shirt, until he had to issue a tearful apology for his wardrobe.

“Ah,” you say. “It’s true their behavior was reprehensible, but surely the authorities wouldn’t themselves stoop to the level of the Scottish police!” Oh, no? Well, consider this:

Dig around, and you’ll find plenty more.

Our politicians would have been far less likely to attempt these and other speech-suppressing measures, if they didn’t think there was a significant number of people in favor of such things.

It may not be as advanced as in the UK, but the “cultural rot” Cooke wrote of is a danger here, too, and we need to always be on guard against it.

RELATED: Mark Steyn on the death of free speech. Jazz Shaw on how the UK is now less free than the US.

Footnote:
(1) Remember when I said it was “mostly” on the Left?


Free to speak your mind in Scotland, as long as the police approve

December 30, 2014

This from the land of Adam Smith and the Scottish Enlightenment, which informed so much of our own political thinking, from before the Revolution to the present day:

Most of the replies were what one would expect from stiff-necked Scotsmen, along the lines of “Go bugger yourself!” Quite apart from the police having almost no business monitoring what anyone says on the Internet, one has to wonder at the resources being diverted from solving real crimes — you know, against life and property.

Of course, this isn’t the first instance of criminalizing thought in the UK in recent years. Just last year, a minor politician was arrested for reading from a work by Winston Churchill, on the grounds it might have been offensive to Muslims. Before that, another man was hauled in for posting online a couple of mildly tasteless jokes about Nelson Mandela when the former South African president was dying. Do some searching and you’ll quickly find more.

Freedom of thought and speech isn’t quite dead in the nation that gave birth to it, but it’s clearly on life support.

PS: In case they pull the tweet, here’s a graphic:

Scotland police

Carry on, Citizen.

 


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