It’s rather strange that in a week, where free speech is such a hot topic that we’ve had the “I’m with Stupid” t-shirt incident, people arguing that the anti-vaccination campaigner, Sherri Tenpenny shouldn’t be allowed into the country, and Rupert Murdoch’s tweet.
Personally, I’m all for Rupert tweeting. Generally, he shows himself to be the ignorant, old fool that he is. (Apologies to anyone ignorant, old or foolish reading this but you really need to distance yourself from Murdoch or I’ll consider you responsible for everything he does!) When he asserts that “Egyptians are white” or when he tweets “Enemies many different agendas, but worst old toffs and right wingers who still want last century’s status quo with their monopolies.” (sic), it shows exactly how out of touch with reality the man really is – not to mention spelling – as well as going a long way towards explaining Fox News.
And, of course, his idea that even if “Most Moslems are peaceful” but still accountable for the actions of the others strikes me as absurd when you apply it to any other group. I can’t imagine anyone writing “Maybe most Americans are peaceful, but until they recognise and destroy their growing number of gun criminals, they must all be held responsible…” And should all Christians be held responsible for the Westboro Baptist Church? Or does Father Rod Bower cancel them out? Am I responsible for other Collingwood supporters?
Now, we’ll undoubtedly have people arguing that to protect our free speech we need to ban certain people from saying certain things and to give our government greater powers. And I’m sure we’ll have many articles telling us that Islam is the problem. Not violence, or vigilante actions. We’ll have many articles telling us that political correctness is the problem. And without reading him, I suspect Andrew Bolt has probably already complained again that he’s prevented from writing about Islamic immigration, while writing about Islamic immigration. (Paul Sheehan complained that Islam has made certain places in the Middle East unsafe to travel. Afghanistan, for example. And Iraq. Mm, I’m wondering when Afghanistan was a safe place to travel given it was invaded by the Soviets in 1979 leading to a war which lasted nine years! Iraq, on the other hand, used to be very safe while the Americans were in charge. Certainly, inside the green zone anyway.)
Most people have some sort of belief in the concept of human rights; the only point of disagreement is what are they and who has them. The dilemma of free speech, of course, is how we deal with competing rights. Few reading this would say that I don’t have a right to express my views in this piece of writing, but may object if express my views through a loudhailer on the street (or outside their window at 6a.m. on a Sunday morning). Yes, there are laws against noise, as well as libel and fraud. But when my views are “merely” offensive to you, at what point do you have the right to object to me expressing them at all?
Voltaire’s famous: “I disagree with what you say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it” sounds all very nice and politically correct, but the fact is I’m not always comfortable with it. I won’t defend a racist’s right to incite hatred, nor a liar’s right to spread misinformation to give two examples that have nothing to do with any high profile case in Australia’s recent past.
Neither will I endorse Larry Pickering’s views.
Yes, there are views and statements which I don’t think that people should be allowed to make because they trample on other people’s rights.
But is this hypocritical of me? Is free speech a matter of open slather and allowing people to judge for themselves with offensive views being drowned out by the chorus of disapproval? If I say, “Je suis Charlie” must I also say “Je suis Rupert” or “Je suis Larry”?
These are the hard questions. The easy question is do people have a right to use violence as a solution to being offended? And I suspect the quote attributed to Ghandi is probably most appropriate.
“An eye for an eye will leave everyone blind.”
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