Guardian columnist calls for banning “hate speech”

The UK is well on its way to legalizing censorship of offensive views, either by deplatforming those whose speech is politically inconvenient, by constructing proscribed lists of speakers (Britain’s National Union of Students), or by the government simply not allowing rabble-rousers into the country to give talks. Pushing the censorship along, Nesrine Malik, a Guardian columnist of Sudanese descent, has a new article “Hate speech leads to violence. Why would liberals defend it?

Right off the bat you can ask two questions. “What does Malik define as hate speech?” and “Does hate speech really lead to violence?”

She answers neither question, but gives examples of the kind of speakers she thinks should be banned. These include Lutz Bachmann, a right-wing German nativist who was denied entry to the UK for intending to address a “free speech rally” at London’s Hyde Park—a traditional sanctuary for all speech.  She also mentions the provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos as well as Martin Sellner, an Austrian “white supremacist” who was trying to enter the country but was refused entry; Tommy Robinson—apparently someone else who also doesn’t deserve hearing—gave Sellner’s talk for him.

Clearly, Malik doesn’t feel that extreme right-wingers should be giving talks; that is, Malik has appointed herself The Decider. Yet these people are still worth listening to. For one thing, you don’t know what somebody believes until they open their mouths. For another, if you can’t defend yourself against the people you wish to censor, you don’t deserve speech yourself. Odious speech is one way to examine, hone, and refine your own views. Finally, those who practice “hate speech” may say things useful to hear. In the U.S., for example, restrictions on immigration, which are clearly needed in some form, are espoused mainly by the Right; if you listen to the Left, you might think that they want completely open borders, something that simply isn’t sustainable. I, for one, constantly listen to views on immigration from all political sides, as some reforms are needed but it’s hard to decide which ones.

Those who have been said to practice “hate speech” in the UK don’t fall within Malik’s definition, either. Maryam Namazie, who campaigns for Muslim reform, has been repeatedly deplatformed and even denounced by feminist organizations, all for trying to oppose sharia law and other forms of Muslim illiberalism. Others on the Left who have been deplatformed or censored include  Kate Smurthwaite (Goldsmith’s College), Germaine Greer  (the University of Cambridge, considered a “hater” of transgender rights), and gay rights activist Peter Tatchell.

One could argue that the words of all of these people could in principle cause remote violence, as could video games, books, or movies. But, at least in the U.S., the kind of speech that incites violence is illegal only if it incites it on the spot, posing a “clear and present danger” to listeners and others in the area. Otherwise, the violence is not the fault of the speaker, but those who commit it. Those who criticize Islamic doctrine, such as Namazie, are particularly susceptible to the “inciting violence” canard, as Islamism has made violence, or the threat of it, a useful tool for shutting up (and shutting down) their critics.

Malik makes several mistakes in her piece. One is saying that right-wing people are not serious practitioners of free speech, but merely “grifters” seeking to get attention.  Well, I’m not sure if there’s a distinction between wanting to espouse your ideas and wanting to get attention, but saying that we should ban those who “exploit” free speech in this way is deeply misguided. Malik:

Characters such as Bachmann are no innocents practising their freedom of speech: they are cynical exploiters of it. They’re little better than loiterers waiting round the corner to jump on your windshield, pretending to be hurt, shaking you down for money. It’s a scam, trading notoriety and worse for attention. Why do we fall for it?

By “why should we fall for it?”, I presume that Malik means “we shouldn’t allow these people to speak freely.” Further, she asserts, wrongly, that claiming freedom of speech is identical to claiming that someone deserves a platform:

Most freedom of speech debates now start on the false premise that denying someone a platform is censorship. So we must begin with the correct one, which is that freedom of speech is freedom from punishment. If you are not being convicted and penalised by the state for speaking, then you have freedom of speech.

Well, that might be the legal definition in the UK, if they even have “free speech” in the law (someone enlighten me), but it’s not in the U.S. In the U.S., being denied a platform can be grounds for a violation of the First Amendment. If a public university, for example, regularly allows Left-wing speakers a venue but not those from the Right, or allows speakers to criticize Christianity but not Islam, those are grounds for a lawsuit. Right now the Freedom from Religion Foundation has a suit in federal court arguing that allowing religious people to deliver invocations in Congress, but not a secularist like Dan Barker, violates the First Amendment.

Further, there’s the spirit of free speech that needs to be defended along with its legal use. Even if a private college doesn’t have to allow someone to speak, they are doing their students a disservice by banning speakers who say things that aren’t politically fashionable, as Brandeis did with Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Really, would it be useful for a university to prevent her from speaking to students, even if that university had the right to do so? Should they also ban discussions of how to deal with transgender people, affirmative action, abortion, Zionism, and other touchy subjects? I don’t think so.

Finally, Malik gives not a single example of the assertion in her title: “Hate speech leads to violence.” I suppose she could have argued that Charlie Hebdo was an example of “hate speech” that led to violence—except it wasn’t hate speech, and no humanist I know of would claim that the French magazine should have been banned because it offended Muslims who can retaliate with murder.  Trying to shut down all speech that is said to provoke violence merely enables people like Antifa or Islamists to threaten violence as a way of silencing views they don’t like. It’s clear that in the UK the government is afraid of reprisal when Islam is criticized, but not Christianity.

I’ve said all this before, and am growing weary of saying it again. I’ll finish with the claim that Malik fails to identify The Decider beyond herself, and ends her piece with the bizarre claim that she—a Guardian columnist with a regular public platform—doesn’t have her speech defended:

Useful liberals have swallowed two freedom of speech myths whole: the redefinition of the term to encompass not only freedom from persecution but the right to a platform; and the delusion that freedom of speech is a neutral principle uncontaminated by history or social bias. There are hard choices here. Too often, those who should know better argue for the wrong ones. They fight to their deaths to defend the rights of Bachmann, Sellner and the other peddlers of hate – but not mine.

Wrong. Any liberal would fight just as hard to defend Malik’s speech as that of the people she names. Try me! It’s just that censorship these days seems to come more often from the Left than the Right. When it does come from the Right, as when Donald Trump threatens the press, we’ll be up in arms calling him out. It’s just that Trump hasn’t done anything about this beyond yammering—unlike Britain’s National Union of Students, which has indeed prevented people from speaking.

96 Comments

  1. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    I am grateful for PCC(E) finding these articles – I would be worn out doing so. Something I took for granted – Free Speech – has only become more important as a consequence.

    My latest thought on Free Speech was… ummm…. let me try to compose it now:

    I suppose it was along the lines of the Pooh Bear quote from a few weeks ago, with a big difference, that is obvious, but anyway : the individual members of the group that listen to the speaker can not only witness and evaluate the speaker’s thoughts/ideas, as the speaker might or might not do, but in a way the individual that listens can be given a sense of what the members of the group that is listening think of it all as well…

    In a slogan, perhaps “Free Speech is not a one-way street”…?

    Apologize for rambling, I wasn’t to careful, but I think that’s the gist.

    • Liz
      Posted March 24, 2018 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

      I am grateful also and appreciate your comment. I would have to say that I took it for granted because I never thought about it in this much depth. It keeps coming back for me that if we had blasphemy laws in this country I would not only be in jail (or be re-programmed or an attempt would be there), but I would fight it and keep going back. I have challenged random religious people alone in dangerous places and I know how angry I can make them. I just keep going back to that.

  2. Posted March 24, 2018 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    You say Germaine Greer was de-platformed. There was a call to do so, but Cardiff University did NOT give in to it: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/nov/18/transgender-activists-protest-germaine-greer-lecture-cardiff-university

    Scottish legislation against sectarian hate speech at football matches has led to absurdities and is being repealed.

    • Posted March 24, 2018 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

      I mentioned Cambridge, but it appears that she did lecture there but there were calls for her to not be invited back (I got the information about her deplatforming from a source that must have been wrong). As for Cardiff, there’s a Spectator article that said the following, implying that she didn’t speak because of opposition, though that must have been another time, and at any rate, withdrawal for fear of controversy is NOT censorship:

      I mention her controversial opinions on transgender issues because they are what prompted Cardiff University Women’s Society to try to have Greer disinvited from speaking. (She has now pulled out anyway, saying she is “too old” at 76 to face protesters*.) She joins a small but growing list of feminists deemed unacceptable to address students: the NUS has an official policy of no-platform against Julie Bindel because she “is vile”. Neither of these women has advocated or incited violence, which used to be the old rationale for “no platform”. Their words are the problem.

  3. Posted March 24, 2018 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    Your list of people deplatformed in the UK includes Kate Smurthwaite, Maryam Namazie and Peter Tatchell. Now there’s a group I’d like to invite to dinner. I have met all three on the atheist circuit here and been impressed with their arguments and erudition. Deplatformers don’t know what they’re missing!

    • Richard Sanderson
      Posted March 24, 2018 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

      I always hear an argument from the regressives and New Racists that Tatchell was never “deplatformed”.

      What actually happened was that when Tatchell was invited onto to a debate, a fellow potential panellist kicked up a fuss about Tatchell’s supposed “racism”, and claimed he would refuse to debate him. This was aired publicly, IMHO, to pressure the organisers to “deplatform” Tatchell.

      It didn’t work.

      This incident is similar to a situation that did work at deplatforming someone. On Sky News, Owen Jones and Douglas Murray were invited on for debate. When Jones said he would not debate with Murray, Sky News dropped Murray. In these circumstances, Jones should have recused HIMSELF, and not pressured Sky News into dropping Murray. You could say this was an abuse of “privilege”. Lol.

  4. glen1davidson
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    They fight to their deaths to defend the rights of Bachmann, Sellner and the other peddlers of hate – but not mine.

    You mean because you’re too privileged to have your speech threatened by anyone? Yes, oddly, the ones whose speech is being censored are the ones for whom one fights, not for some fatuous columnist blathering away about how some need to be censored. Although I don’t know that anyone fights to the death to protect others’ speech.

    I have yet to see how free speech leads to violence in established democracies, unless one counts the violence of those trying to shut down free speech. That isn’t actually a pro-censorship argument. Censorship certainly often leads to violence, since when you can’t discuss issues, you have little else to do but fight, or submit.

    Glen Davidson

    • Kiwi Dave
      Posted March 24, 2018 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

      Yes; she means hate speech leads to violence in the same way that unattended houses lead to burglary, so let’s ban empty houses.

      For a different take on hate speech, here’s another Malik, whose opinions on any topic are worth reading:

      https://kenanmalik.wordpress.com/2012/04/19/why-hate-speech-should-not-be-banned/

      • Posted March 24, 2018 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

        Don’t forget how blacks lead to racism and gays lead to homophobia! 😉

    • phil
      Posted March 24, 2018 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

      Can you actually cite and instance where censorship has lead to violence?

      In “Australia’s Second Chance”, Ch4 “Cracking the Code: the settlement of Melbourne”, George Megalogenis has this to say:

      “Melbourne’s burgeoning Irish community comprised both Protestants and Catholics. On one mad winter’s afternoon in 1846 they almost broke the half-century-long truce between Protestant and Catholic in Australia. Significantly, the resolution of their dispute, imposed by the colonial government in Sydney, extended the policy of egalitarianism to the religions themselves.”

      [On the 13th of July there was a ruckus between Orangemen and Catholics. Shots were fired but fortunately nobody was very seriously wounded.]

      “The importance of this encounter was in the response of the New South Wales authorities(1), who immediately introduced legislation banning any further gatherings that might incite religious hatred. This effectively enshrined equal treatment of Protestant and Catholic across the colonies… The Party Processions Bill banned street parades and all other gatherings that celebrated or commemorated ‘any festival, anniversary, or political event, relating to or connected withany religion or other distinctions or differences between any class of Her Majesty’s subjects’. No one could carry firearms or other offensive weapons, or publicly display ‘any banner, emblem, flag, or symbol’ which might ‘provoke animosity between her (sic) Majesty’s subjects of different religios persuasions’. The playing in public of religious music was also prohibited.

      “It is impossible to imagine a similar piece of legislation being contemplated in the United States, where religious freedom in every sense is a (sic) considered a birth right. In later decades, the Americans would witness their own Orange Riots, with much deadlier consequences. In New York in 1870 and again in 1871 more than seventy people were killed in clashes between Irish Protestants and Catholics.

      “In Australia, it was the absence of mass killings that vindicated the ban on processions…”

      • Posted March 25, 2018 at 5:37 am | Permalink

        In Bulgaria, censorship on expression of Muslim’s views led to violence in the early 1970s and then in mid-1980s.

        • Tim Harris
          Posted March 25, 2018 at 8:51 am | Permalink

          How were the Muslims censored, and why?

          • Posted March 25, 2018 at 9:04 am | Permalink

            Their names were forcibly changed to non-Muslim ones, and they were not allowed to say what they thought about this. Those who protested were fired, expelled from universities or jailed (the most notorious Communist concentration camp after decades of hiatus was reopened in 1984). Police and pro-government volunteers reported people who listened to Turkish radio broadcasts or were overheard speaking Turkish. A few parents were punished for the circumcision of their sons.

            • Tim Harris
              Posted March 25, 2018 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

              That is surely more a policy of deliberate cultural suppression, not just one of people’s views being censored: good for those who stood up for it. (And good, also, for people like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, as well as other less pacific people, who stood up to endemic racism in the USA.) I am not surprised that such suppression led to violence. Usually, of course, the violence tends to be all on the suppressing side, as when in the sixties the Indonesian government, with the connivance of the good old US of A, Great Britain & Australia, organised massacres of supposed ‘leftists’ (extended to anyone who was of Chinese extraction, whatever their politics)that resulted in many thousands of people being murdered.

              • Tim Harris
                Posted March 25, 2018 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

                ‘stood up TO it’; not ‘FOR it’

              • Posted March 26, 2018 at 11:52 am | Permalink

                The Muslims – and those who supported them – were not allowed to say publicly their opinion; this exacerbated the oppressive and divisive effect of the assimilation policy and – I think – made it possible in the first place. When in late 1989 the Muslims were allowed to rally and to voice their demands, they immediately felt relieved, even before they got their names back.

                Most violence was of course by government. From the oppressed community, there were local riots in the early 1970s that killed several soldiers and policemen, and a small terrorist group founded in the 1980s bombed trains and railway stations.

        • Tim Harris
          Posted March 26, 2018 at 4:57 am | Permalink

          Incidentally, mayamarkov, did you approve of this ‘censorship’, as you call it?

  5. Posted March 24, 2018 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    You could add another to your list of reasons why we should let all people speak: their ideas may change over time. Such speakers can be most effective. Former gang members speaking about how they’ve seen the light, for example.

  6. Posted March 24, 2018 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    I believe the First Amendment is only about government suppression of speech. Of course, we are talking hear about free speech as a more general right. I’ve seen some posts and comments that pecksniff (can it also be a verb?) at the edges of this distinction.

    • Posted March 24, 2018 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

      State schools are considered branches of the U.S. government, and that includes public universities. I thought I made clear that the principle of free speech, as separate from the legal right of free speech, should also be upheld.

      • Posted March 24, 2018 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

        I was not trying to pick holes in YOUR post. Just pointing out to all that with virtually every mention of “free speech” we have to figure out if the reference is to general free speech or 1st Amendment free speech. I find it is one source of confusion in these free speech discussions.

        • phil
          Posted March 24, 2018 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

          I’m inclined to agree that “free speech” is usually ill-defined. People in the US, UK, and Australia (for example) are not free to defame anyone. Well, they are free to defame but they are not protected by law. Furthermore there are some things protected by law from publication (e.g. state secrets, born secrets). Do free speech advocates defend Chelsea Manning? If they have I haven’t heard or read them.

          In reality we are arguing about what you are allowed to say freely in public. When free speech advocates speak or write about it they frequently ask “Who is to decide what is allowed and what is not?” In the case of defamation courts decide, and also in free speech cases, so we already have an arbiter.

          Generally speaking I am against censorship and in favour of free speech, and I am especially against prohibition of blasphemy. But anything taken to extremes can be unhealthy, including rights and privileges, as amply demonstrated by “the right to bear arms”. Malik makes this point with a quote from John Stuart Mill: All that makes existence valuable to anyone depends on the enforcement of restraints upon the actions of other people.

          It’s the same issue that applies to people who brandish religious freedom as if it gives believers some right to do whatever they like if they believe it is part of their faith. No it doesn’t. Religious freedom is a right to freedom from persecution (from other religious believers usually), believers are are still bound to obey secular laws, they are not, for example, free to own slaves or sacrifice babies.

          • Tim Harris
            Posted March 26, 2018 at 7:03 am | Permalink

            In connexion with free speech and hate speech, Josh Marshall, on his Talking Points Memo, writes this in connexion with Facebook:

            ‘I’ve been in contact with a number of knowledgeable sources and Facebook insiders who confirm that this is an ingrained Facebook strategy – experimenting on new tools in countries that have no privacy protections or weak states that can’t resist before bringing them to the US. This isn’t something that happens sometimes. It’s the model.

            ‘More ominously, Facebook also appears to be involved in some businesses abroad that it knows will never fly in the US. In this case, Facebook’s partnership with Cambridge Analytica appears merely to be an example of a larger dynamic. As I’ve noted, the UN has already chastised Facebook for the platform’s role in the on-going ethnic cleansing and mass expulsion in Myanmar. I’ve assumed that this was merely because the platform is poorly policed. I’m now more curious whether that is the full extent of it.’

            I think what worries me about free speech absolutism is that it assumes that everywhere in the world is the sort of robust democracy that hitherto certain Western European states and certain states that one might call Anglo-Saxon by inheritance have to a degree enjoyed (but which seems to me to be rather endangered at present). It seems to take no account of circumstance. Thus, it is claimed that in the USA, white supremacists, whose politics are really little different from those of a common or garden Nazi (as the white supremacists would seem to agree), have the ‘right’ to organise marches, which are intended both to advertise and intimidate. To be consistent, those who claim this would have to claim that the British government, in order to save the Good Friday agreement, whereby a measure of peace was brought to Ulster, was wrong in re-routing certain Orange marches in Ulster so that they wouldn’t pass through Catholic neighbourhoods; these were marches that were designed to demonstrate Protestant solidarity and to intimidate the Catholic minority by showing that that they are too weak to stop the Protestants from invading their turf. I have both Protestant & Catholic friends from Ulster, and they certainly believe that the British government did right, though doubtless the ‘hard men’ on either side did not.

            Again, I am surprised at the support shown for such as the execrable Amy Wax and her obvious racism (in a country where race seems, alas, to a European like myself, still fundamental to its politics), and Steven Anderson, who was banned from entering Jamaica, a place well-known for its violence against those suspected of being homosexuals, because of his homophobia – the man has called for the stoning of homosexuals; and American fundamentalist Christians have had a pernicious influence in Africa in fostering homophobia and murder. Perhaps such people have a legal right to such speech, but what moral right do they have to t?

  7. Richard Sanderson
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    I noticed on Twitter yesterday, that someone posted links to Nesrine Malik defending Diuedonne’s antisemitic “hate speech” when he was banned from the UK over his antisemitism……

    These “moral scolds” are always hypocrites and increasingly hostile to liberals and progressives who actually fight for freedom of expression and speech, which, for centuries, had to be fought for.

    • Posted March 24, 2018 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

      Crikey, if any speech is “hate speech”, it is Dieudonne, but of course I support his right to promote anti-Semitism as well. If Malik defended Dieudonne’s speech, then she’s an arrant hypocrite.

  8. Randall Schenck
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    Malik would never be considered anything close to a journalist in this country. Does the Guardian really believe in this garbage and pay this person full time for this kind of thinking?

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted March 24, 2018 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

      Is the news media landscape in the USA different to the UK? Are your journalists also ‘columnists’? Malik isn’t a journalist nor is she considered “close to a journalist” – she is simply a columnist.

      A journalist, in theory, gathers info & presents it in a neutral manner whereas a columnist nearly always takes a stance & doesn’t tend to have a journalism background most of the time [at least in the UK]. Most columnists aren’t paid “full time”, they are paid per piece or by column inch if self employed [most likely scenario] or usually on a zero hours contract if an employee of the media outlet.

      A columnist can earn £250k/year [that wanker Boris Johnson at The Telegraph] or £120k at The Guardian [the estimable Polly Toynbee**].

      Malik has a BSc in International Relations from the American University in Cairo and University of Khartoum & a Master of Philosophy in Global Politics and Economics from the University of London. She was a private equity consultant & before that she worked for Apax Partners Europe & Morgan Stanley. Big, big capitalism! She ain’t poor nor in need of the grub wages paid to the serf journalists at The Guardian. The money isn’t in journalism anymore – a kid wanting to earn a decent wedge would go in on the advertising side or the legals – not the scribbling of stories.

      The interesting aspect of Malik is when she left Big Business she disappeared her past quite effectively [LinkedIn etc deleted] & reinvented herself as a left-leaning, SJW, Muslim Apologist. Why she did this is a mystery to me, but it will be part of a plan. Perhaps the objective is politics one day soon…

      ** Who didn’t ‘do’ journalism at university, but she’s paid her dues on the road.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted March 24, 2018 at 11:46 pm | Permalink

        On this side of the pond, this dichotomy is often expressed as being between pundits and reporters. Both come under the rubric “journalists,” but the former appear on the Op-Ed (rather than News) pages and, if their bylines appear in publication regularly, are also referred to as “columnists.”

  9. colnago80
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    This is evidently a serious problem in the UK. However, here are a couple of blog posts opining that the problem is being overblown in the US.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/accordingtomatthew/2018/03/the-dangers-of-campus-sjws-are-exaggerated/

    https://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/free-speech-perception-vs-reality/

    I am in no way, shape, form or regard claiming to be an expert on this topic. However, based on posts on this site, it appears to me that the perception that this is a major issue may be due, in part, to the fact that some of the colleges/universities involved are amongst the elite schools (e.g. Harvard, Yale, Stanford, UC Berkeley, Un. of
    Chicago are all rated in the top 10 or 15 universities in the world in most surveys). It is not surprising that happenings at elite schools attract inordinate attention.
    The media is less interested what’s going on at perfectly good schools like James Madison Univ. in Virginia.

    There more then 300 institutions of higher learning in the US, most of which seem to be absent from the list of schools where de-platforming and related activities are going on.

    IMHO, outfits like F.I.R.E. which possibly have an agenda which is supported by dubious sources of funding like the Templeton Foundation, the Mercer family and the Koch brothers. I have not done an investigation to determine what F.I.R.E.’s agenda might be but we all know what the agenda of the Templeton Foundation and the other cited funding sources is and it is not supportive of the intellectual independence of academia.

    • Posted March 24, 2018 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

      You can’t just dismiss FIRE’s database because of who supports them just as I don’t dismiss arguments because Templeton supports them (I call attention to the support, and sometimes say that the speaker is saying what will get them Templeton money, but I always address the argument itself). FIRE says it puts on its database any case that it becomes aware of and verifies.

      If you’re implying that FIRE’s agenda is to point out only cases of the Left censoring the right, and leave out other cases please say so explicitly. But of course then you’d have to explain why the database, which was compiled not that long ago, shows a change over time, with an increasing amount of censorship by the Left in the last few years (that comports, by the way, with what I see, too, and I pay attention to these things and am NOT supported by Templeton or Koch!).

      • colnago80
        Posted March 24, 2018 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

        In no way, shape, form, or regard did I mean to imply that that Prof. Coyne takes gelt from Templeton or the others. In fact, it is well known that he does no such thing and is critical of scientists who do. If it was inferred otherwise by my comment, I apologize for the misunderstanding.

        I am also in no way, shape, form, or regard dismissing F.I.R.E.’s database as I am sure that every situation they reported on happened.

        The Neurological blog which I cited above is the property of Dr. Steven Novella, who is described in the following.

        Dr. Novella is an academic clinical neurologist at Yale University School of Medicine. He is the president and co-founder of the New England Skeptical Society. He is the host and producer of the popular weekly science podcast, The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe. He is also a senior fellow and Director of Science-Based Medicine at the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF), a fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI) and a founding fellow of the Institute for Science in Medicine.

        Here is Dr. Novella’s conclusion after his assessment of the situation.

        What you will not find in this data is support for the common narrative that we have a free speech crisis on college campuses in America, driven by political correctness on the left. That narrative is essentially a myth. Like many popular beliefs, it does not survive confrontation with actual facts.

        • Posted March 24, 2018 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

          Steve Novella’s got a lot of fracking nerve to deny there’s no free speech crisis, when he shamefully disinvited Richard Dawkins over a tweet.

          • colnago80
            Posted March 24, 2018 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

            Just to complete the record, after he deleted the tweet in question, NECSS reissued the invitation. Unfortunately, a few days after the re-invitation,
            Dawkins suffered his stroke and thus was unable to attend the conference. Thus it is, I think, fair to say that the stroke was the reason for his non-attendance and he would have been unable to attend even if the invitation had never been rescinded.

            • Taz
              Posted March 24, 2018 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

              You mean after their successful attempt as censorship?

            • Taz
              Posted March 24, 2018 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

              I should also note that NECSS ended up apologizing to Dr. Dawkins for the whole affair.

            • Posted March 25, 2018 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

              Right, self-censor and we’ll let you back into the circle. FTS.

              It’s fair to say that all the needless controversy & agitation contributed to Dawkins’ stroke.

              The Novella brothers can go to hell and take their vile side-kick BeckyBooze along with them.

              • colnago80
                Posted March 26, 2018 at 7:27 am | Permalink

                It’s fair to say that all the needless controversy & agitation contributed to Dawkins’ stroke.

                An absolutely outrageous charge with no supporting evidence.

                I would note that the blog post by Dr. Novella which I linked to has a lively discussion with a number of commentors taking issue with the author and no evidence of commentors being banned. In actuality, I have found that the Novellas are probably too tolerant in their comment sections, allowing such as Michael Egnor to post comments.

              • Posted March 26, 2018 at 9:08 am | Permalink

                In his recorded message following his stroke, Dawkins mentioned his doctor’s advice to step back from the stress and agitation caused by SJW attacks against him.

                Whether Novella allows free commentary on his blog (though I recall a comment of mine never making through moderation) does not negate his cowardice in bowing to SJW pressure to disinvite Dawkins to his stupid conference.

          • Taz
            Posted March 24, 2018 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

            I remember that. A rather embarrassing display by Dr. Novella.

    • Posted March 24, 2018 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

      Do you also suspect the Heterodox Academy, led by alt-right firebrand, Jonathan Haidt, of having a secret agenda?

      Its Guide to Colleges employs several criteria to rank the institutions openness to free speech:

      https://heterodoxacademy.org/guide-to-colleges/

  10. Posted March 24, 2018 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    Malik writes: “They fight to their deaths to defend the rights of Bachmann, Sellner and the other peddlers of hate – but not mine.” And you (Jerry) respond: “Wrong. Any liberal would fight just as hard to defend Malik’s speech as that of the people she names.” I’m not sure, of course, but when I read Malik’s piece I took her to be referring not to her right to free speech (which clearly is not threatened), but to her (non-existent) right not to be offended. Or, as she would probably put it, her right not to be subjected to the violence inherent in these speakers’ words. In other words, her complaint is that the right to free speech is being placed above her own presumed right to live in a society in which she never has to encounter or coexist with views she doesn’t like.

    • Michael Waterhouse
      Posted March 25, 2018 at 12:11 am | Permalink

      You may be right there.
      It is worth consideration at least.

  11. AD
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    My mother was a Guardian reading music teacher whilst my father read the Daily Mail. I read both papers and noticed the difference from being quite young. So I had quite an affection for the Guardian and as an adult, whenever I bought a paper it would most likely be the Guardian. In recent years they’ve had financial difficulties in common with many other papers and so they keep asking for donations. I would really like to give them money but they keep printing articles like this one and I just cannot bring myself to donate. When you read the comments under these types of article most of the readers argue against the views of the journalist but the next day or the next week another similar article is published. I’ve noticed a trend that many similar articles do not allow comments, this one is something of an exception. I wish the Guardian would return to its liberal origins and then I could support it once again. I bet there are many other Guardian readers with similar views.

    • Rich Sanderson
      Posted March 24, 2018 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

      The Guardian used to be a decent liberal newspaper. It is now an increasingly regressive and far left digital rag, indistinguishable from Vice, Buzzfeed, Salon, and company, with endless articles hostile to liberal values – such as free speech, articles hostile to ex-Muslims and progressive Muslims like Maajid Nawaz.

      The Guardian can stuff its begging messages for money. It will never get a dime from me.

  12. DrBrydon
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    The flaw in Malik’s premise is the idea that there is no countervailing benefit from free speech. All of our rights, all of civil society, are a compromise, where we agree to put up with some things that are occasionally noxious in order to reap the other benefits, while at the same time not over-policing our fellow citizens. Assuming for sake of argument that speech can lead to violence, how much more violence would there be if we tried to restrict it?

    • Posted March 24, 2018 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

      The other fatal flaw is that folks like Malik assume they will always be in charge to decide what is “palatable” speech. Hell, in the US, the regressive leftists aren’t in charge but act like they are!

      If you write an Artikel 48, eventually someone will use it for evil.

  13. Heather Hastie
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    Of course, as a strong free speech advocate, I agree with everything Jerry writes.

    One of the things he points out is how hearing speech we disagree with enables us to hone, refine etc. our own arguments. When an idea is banned, it immediately becomes something people are curious about and not everyone is good and assessing ideas. They will seek out information, and the sources of that information will not, of course, all be places like WEIT. It’s easy to imagine a young person hearing what sounds like very attractive idea and not being in a position to work out the arguments in opposition. If ideas are aired publicly, all sides of an argument can be heard by everyone interested and there’s a better chance of a good choice being made. Seeing that process also helps to work out how to assess other ideas in the future. I know that sort of thing helped and continues to help me anyway.

    Also, the idea of speech causing violence. If you do not only ban speech that specifically calls for violence how would that work? Different people have a different threshold for what they hear before they are moved to violence (some never are) and that threshold is different for different subjects. It also depends on all sorts of other seemingly irrelevant things like whether you had to have a cold shower that morning, your roommate has used the last of the milk, and the cat was sick. Is there going to have to be some kind of assessment of your mental state before you’re allowed to attend a rally to see if you’re ready to lose it? That’s something we could actually have the technology for one day, but in the meantime it’s just silly.

    You can’t stop people speaking because of how someone else might react. We are not responsible for the actions of others. That’s a form of blaming the victim and failing to take responsibility for our own actions. (There’s no demon possessing us when we do wrong either!)

  14. Ken Kukec
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    One could argue that the words of all of these people could in principle cause remote violence …

    Before the “imminent lawless action” test of Brandenburg v. Ohio, before the “clear & present danger” test, before Justice Louis Brandeis led the way on free speech, the US standard was whether speech had a “bad tendency” to promote or incite illegal activity. That standard was far too deferential to state power and led to the conviction and imprisonment of those protesting the First World War, including labor leader Eugene V. Debs and the Yiddish pamphleteers prosecuted in Schenck v. US.

    May we never go back to those bad old days, and may our friends in the UK never fall prey to that trap either.

  15. Saul Sorrell-Till
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    Nesrine Malik’s column is just awful. She reliably defends the most obnoxious left-wing political positions out there.

  16. Posted March 24, 2018 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    “…society or the law regulate the more unpalatable or illegal views away before we have to deal with them at Speakers’ Corner.”

    Note the dangerous conflation here. Society may well regulate acceptance of certain views — condoning bestiality or pedophilia for example. The law does prohibit certain acts, like engaging in bestiality or pedophilia.

    What Malik wants, however, is for holding & expressing certain “unpalatable” beliefs to be illegal. And, as we saw with the recent detentions, the belief that untrammeled immigration is a threat to Western free society is now prohibited in the UK.

    This is nothing less than totalitarianism, and people like Malik pose a dire threat to our liberty. They must be stopped now before it’s too late.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted March 24, 2018 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

      Malik is a newspaper columnist. What do you mean when you say people like her “must be stopped”?

      • Posted March 25, 2018 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

        She’s a totalitarian and enemy of free speech. This all-out assault on free speech from the regressive left must be thwarted.

    • phil
      Posted March 24, 2018 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

      “What Malik wants, however, is for holding & expressing certain “unpalatable” beliefs to be illegal.”

      I cannot see anywhere in her article where she advocates that. In fact she distances herself from such extreme sanctions, writing “[t]he disappeared of Egypt, the jailed and flogged blasphemers of Saudi Arabia, the arbitrarily detained bloggers and journalists of China are being denied freedom of speech. It’s an insult to their ordeals that we equate them with shutting down Milo Yiannopoulos’s Twitter account.”

      This is quite a lot less than totalitarianism.

      • Posted March 25, 2018 at 6:00 am | Permalink

        If things move in the direction desired by Malik – and they do, – at what point you think that she would stop and advocate for the rights of her opponents? I think that the quote is an example of Malik’s hypocrisy, and that she actually would welcome such measures. We know that many “moderate” Indonesian Muslims at the end of the day welcomed public floggings, and that BDS activists are for destruction of Israel.

        • phil
          Posted March 25, 2018 at 11:32 pm | Permalink

          I don’t think it is an issue of whether “things move in the direction desired by Malik,” she is for the most part talking about how things already are, specifically whether denying a visa to unpleasant, deplorable one might even say, people is denying them freedom of speech.

          “…at what point you think that she would stop and advocate for the rights of her opponents?”

          Well, before they reach the point they have in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and China, I expect. I am curious as to why you think “the quote is an example of Malik’s hypocrisy.” I am unaware of any evidence to support that.

          “We know that many “moderate” Indonesian Muslims at the end of the day welcomed public floggings, and that BDS activists are for destruction of Israel.” In what way are they linked to Malik, and more specifically, what she says in her piece?

          But so what? I think that is largely irrelevant. As Jerry says, we should listen to or read things from people we disagree with because they may after all have valid points to make, and in this case I agree with her that denying a visa to unpleasant, deplorable, people is not denying them freedom of speech, and it is incorrect to claim otherwise.

    • Posted March 25, 2018 at 5:54 am | Permalink

      I think that, similarly to the evolution theory, the belief that untrammeled immigration is a threat to Western free society has grown beyond its place in the realm of ideas and is now in the realm of facts.

      • Tim Harris
        Posted March 26, 2018 at 1:13 am | Permalink

        Ah, it’s science!

        • Posted March 26, 2018 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

          I didn’t say “science”, I said “facts”.

  17. Posted March 24, 2018 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    Well, that might be the legal definition in the UK, if they even have “free speech” in the law (someone enlighten me),…

    We don’t have any free-speech laws in the UK. There is a presumption that one can say anything not specifically banned by some law, and there are various laws, all open to interpretation, that prohibit various things in various circumstances. So your question is not easy to answer.

    There is also the European declaration of rights, which does declare freedom of expression, and that takes precedence over the laws, but that’s not categorical either (it allows some restrictions on speech for vaguely stated reasons).

    • Sarah
      Posted March 24, 2018 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

      At least now no one in Britain can be prosecuted for blasphemous libel, as Dennis Lemon was in 1977, so there has been some improvement. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whitehouse_v_Lemon

  18. nicky
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    “Hate speech leads to violence” is of course the wrong way round. When speech actually leads to violence, we may contemplate if it was hate speech. And as Heather pointed out, some will be incited to violence by certain speech, while others may not. It is a difficult problem.
    We all agree (I guess) that direct threats of violence maybe considered hate speech. “Kill the boers”, “Death to those who mock Islam” and the like are clear.
    A bit less clear is the speech of say Mr Goebbels, talking about Untermensche that should be eradicated, or cockroaches, (Radio Mille Collines) and ‘you know what we do with cockroaches’ is less direct, but not less deadly. I would consider the latter two clear examples of hate speech. But both of them are associated with, nay, were instrumental in, genocide.
    I fear I would throw the net of ‘Hate Speech’ a bit wider than our host, but Malik’s self decided considerations are neither here nor there. As pointed out, speech that offends you is not hate speech, unless it reeally calls for violence or genocide.

  19. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    The first time I heard the term “The Decider” was when George W. Bush used it about himself. Not an auspicious beginning.

  20. Jon Gallant
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    There was a time when the extreme Left was actually dangerous—the Red Army Faction in west Germany, the Brigati Rossi in Italy, the Symbionese Liberation Army here, and so on. As recently as a few years ago, our “Black bloc” juvenile delinquents might go so far as to break a few windows. Currently, however, communicants of the pop-Left have given up the pose of revolutionary for that of victim: a poor quarry, perpetually in fear of being “oppressed” by somebody’s choice of words.

    Does anyone have a hypothesis to explain how pop-Leftism became hypochondria? Could
    it be that when the successors of Chairman Mao discovered capitalism, all of our would-be Maoists came down with chronic fatigue syndrome, anxiety attacks, and agoraphobia?

    • Posted March 24, 2018 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

      They are not really afraid, they only pretend to be victims. Virtue signalling is the easier way to convince oneself and the society about to be a good person, for that no one has to risk anything anymore.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted March 25, 2018 at 2:00 am | Permalink

      “communicants of the pop-Left have given up the pose of revolutionary for that of victim:”

      Oh? My impression is, they still like to pretend to be revolutionaries, even while they’re as bourgeois as a bowler hat.

      Constantly using words like ‘subversive’, ‘transgressive’, ‘challenging’, yadda yadda, of their pathetic attempts at shit-stirring.

      Though I do agree, no good old-fashioned revolutionary would have allowed themselves to appear so weak and spineless as to whine about their feelings.

      cr

      • Posted March 25, 2018 at 6:22 am | Permalink

        + 1

      • Craw
        Posted March 25, 2018 at 9:41 am | Permalink

        A long-suppressed chapter of “What Is To Be Done” discusses safe spaces, coloring books and Paddington Bear stuffies.

  21. Christopher
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    I don’t have anything useful to say to people like this anymore. Let me just call a spade a spade, or in this case an A$$hole, and oh, what an A$$hole!

  22. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

    We should indeed question Malik on her unsupported and fuzzy claims.

    But I feel the irony when Jerry claims that “completely open borders [is] something that simply isn’t sustainable”. What is the evidence for that? And why should US, who accepts something like less than 10 % the immigration fraction of what, say, Germany does I think, worry about opening its borders?

    For one, we can see that during wars less than 10 % of the relocated wants to migrate far; of the 20-30 million homeless Syrians less than 1 million has tried to relocate to EU. For another, who is willing to go to Trump’s US; I read that tourist statistics show less Swedes visiting?

    We know from statistics that free exchange and free trade benefits all. Why should free migration not do the same?

    • Posted March 24, 2018 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

      The anti-immigration crowd often pretends the opposition is demanding open borders. To my knowledge, no one seriously suggests a country’s borders should be completely open. For example, we wouldn’t want criminals to come and go at will, right? If we don’t want 100% open borders, and I think we don’t, it will require a more complex policy. This is what the US Congress ought to be working on but they don’t trust each other and there are too many absolutists, especially on the Right.

    • phil
      Posted March 25, 2018 at 12:00 am | Permalink

      Exactly which “unsupported and fuzzy claims” are you referring to?

    • nicky
      Posted March 25, 2018 at 1:28 am | Permalink

      I don’t think many in the US would want mass migration of fundamentalist, and often militant, Muslims, as has happened in Europe. One would want at leastsome cotrol.

    • Posted March 25, 2018 at 9:13 am | Permalink

      I do not know of a single example in history of uncontrolled immigration that was not disastrous for the native population, and I see no reason to think that the current situation is different. Mass Muslim immigration to Europe has already led to loss of free speech, chronic terror, and numerous rapes.

      • phil
        Posted March 25, 2018 at 11:48 pm | Permalink

        Are you suggesting that Muslims are somehow more prone to rape than indigenous Europeans? That seems to be the implication of your last sentence.

        It is interesting to compare the “chronic terror” experienced in Europe at the hands of Muslim immigrants with the perpetrators of mass killings in the US. AFAIK the great bulk of mass killings in the US are committed by white Christian males, and it seems the thing they have in common with most terrorists Europe is their failure to integrate into society. I’m not saying that the respective societies have no blame in this, but it would seem that being Muslim or an immigrant is not a strong indicator of potential problems.

        Here in Australia we many many immigrants, and a lot of them are Muslim, but we don’t have a big problem with large scale violence. I don’t know what the reason is, perhaps it is just an outcome of our wealth, but the curious thing is that over the past two centuries Australia’s greatest prosperity has been accrued in times of greatest immigration, from the times of Chinese immigration in the 19th century on.

        Can you cite specifics about the loss of free speech caused by Muslim immigration?

        • Tim Harris
          Posted March 26, 2018 at 1:14 am | Permalink

          Well done, phil.

        • Posted March 26, 2018 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

          There are many examples of loss of free speech caused by Muslim immigration on this blog alone, e.g.
          https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2017/01/21/welcome-to-the-trump-era-no-safe-spaces-for-those-you-oppose/#comment-1440393

          and this is even if we count only government oppression, though I count also people bombed/shot/stabbed by Islamist thugs, such as Theo van Gogh and Charlie Hebdo staff.

          About whether I am suggesting that Muslims are more prone to rape than indigenous Europeans – of course I am.

        • Posted March 26, 2018 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

          After three brothers of Pakistani origin gang-raped two girls in Australia, the lawyer of one of the rapists “blame[d] the rapes on his upbringing in Pakistan”.
          https://www.smh.com.au/articles/2005/11/04/1130823388140.html

          In 2015, Norway subjected new immigrant from guess-what religion to courses to teach them that rape is illegal:

          • phil
            Posted March 27, 2018 at 2:39 am | Permalink

            Well let’s be clear, Australia does not have “uncontrolled immigration” nor does it have a problem with “numerous rapes”, perpetrated by Muslims or any other religious group (leaving aside the issue of child sexual abuse by Catholic clergy).

            The Khan brothers case was THIRTEEN YEARS AGO. Furthermore the lawyer of one of the rapists blaming the rapes on upbringing is a legal ploy to diminish the culpability of his client, not evidence for anything much else. Poor upbringing, parental failure perhaps.

            As much as people might be critical of Islam (myself included) there just isn’t much evidence of extensive criminal activity by immigrants in Australia. In fact usually when statistics on crimes committed by people from overseas are released New Zealanders top the list. Frankly the most shocking allegations of widespread rape to surface in recent years were perpetrated by Catholics, followed by Anglicans, Salvation Army members, Jehovas Witnesses, and members of Jewish groups.

            In fact we have an ongoing problem in Australia of (usually) right wing types trying to whip up outrage over various moral shortcomings and criminal activities of immigrants and refugees, and almost always the truth is something different to that portrayed. The most recent was probably African youth gangs in Melbourne. Two years ago there was the Paul Sheehan affair, which cost him his job for reporting false allegations about a supposed rape committed by men of Middle Eastern (nudge nudge) appearance.

            http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-03-04/journalist-paul-sheehan-suspended-from-smh-over-rape-article/7221800

            And congratulations to Norway for acknowledging the need to help immigrants to adapt to their new and foreign society. Every country should do it, and for other things as well as how to treat women. Let’s remember that a few decades ago rape was sometimes described as “assault with a friendly weapon”, and a lot of people thought it was ok to beat your wife. Many white, Anglo-Saxon Christian males still think wives should be subservient to their husbands, and that it is ok to abuse your wife, financially, sexually, psychologically, emotionally, if not physically.

  23. Posted March 24, 2018 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

    In the UK, some are not waiting for a legal banning. They are simply storming platforms and violently stopping speakers. Such as at King’s College London earlier this month …

    This one was Carl Benjamin hosting a prominent Objectivist speaking about Ayn Rand.

    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/03/06/violence-breaks-self-proclaimed-antifascists-shut-alt-right/

    Their is a thought-police squad at King’s, apparently ….

    [“Safe space” marshals are employed by the students’ union to patrol speaker events on campus where there is a potential for audience members to be offended. While on duty, the £12-an-hour officials are expected to hand out leaflets detailing the union’s Safe Space policy, and must be ready to take “immediate action” if anyone expresses opinions that breach the policy. This could include derogatory comments about age, disability, race, religious faith, sexual orientation, gender identity or socio-economic status.]

    Apparently, assurance of safety does not extend to speakers with whom some object.

    • phil
      Posted March 24, 2018 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

      So you’re saying that freedom of speech is leading to some instances of low level violence?

      • Posted March 25, 2018 at 12:05 am | Permalink

        No, I’m saying that freedom of speech is already evil in the eyes of many at a great university, and King’s permits thought police to roam the campus with permission to “take immediate action” if they “judge” anyone’s words will hurt someone’s feelings.

        And King’s does not protect speakers from violence of thugs.

        • phil
          Posted March 25, 2018 at 11:51 pm | Permalink

          I get that from your comment, but you said “They are simply … violently stopping speakers.” The implication of that is that offering some speakers freedom to speak has motivated some to violent action.

          • Posted March 26, 2018 at 12:28 am | Permalink

            @ phil

            [note: i still do not have a firm grasp of what you are challenging or asking of me. I don’t see the implication you have claimed.]

            Offering a platform, officially inviting a speaker, publicizing the agenda and inviting the public, is the type of thing a university does.

            If some students, faculty, administration, or members of the public, hate the speaker or his message, fine. They should shun the event, or speak out against it, or convince others to shun it.

            If, instead, they take violent action against the school and/or speaker, break through security and physically perform damage and threaten personal harm, that is not the fault of the platforming agency. The “motivation to violent action” is purely and absolutely that of the thugs.

            However, as in this case, the University failed in a different way. They did not defend the event, host, and speaker from the repulsive violations of the thugs.

            It seems King’s also enables roving bands of thought-police sponsored by students.

            I cannot prove, and will not assert, that the violent thugs were one in the same, or aligned in the plan, with these “Safe space marshals.” However, that is at least a smoking plausibility.

            • phil
              Posted March 27, 2018 at 1:51 am | Permalink

              I am pointing out that you are saying that allowing freedom of speech has lead to violence.

              My purpose in doing so was highlight the fact that in some circumstances denying freedom to speak might be necessary to preserve public order. I am prosecuting the case that freedom of speech should be subservient to other public benefits in some circumstances.

              As it is we do not have absolute freedom to say anything we might like, in the US, UK, Australia, and elsewhere. Furthermore, the “slippery slope” argument is unconvincing as Malik says. We have already run UP the “slippery slope” over the past few centuries as speech has become freer.

              • Posted March 27, 2018 at 9:37 am | Permalink

                “Allowing free speech.”

                This formulation is already off the tracks. Upside down. A human being possesses the expression of his being innately. It is not something granted or allowed by others.

                Therefore, the focus is properly on anyone or any agency in violation of individuals’ right to expression.

                Your approach, that “allowing” leads to violence is erroneous and dangerous. Why are you shifting the burden to free minds, rather than suppressors?

                The logical result of the case you are prosecuting: the government or person deploying agency power and outlawing expression by force gets to have the “final speech,” thus winning the argument standing with foot on neck of another. In the name of “public order.”

              • phil
                Posted April 5, 2018 at 3:31 am | Permalink

                @ John Donohue

                “This formulation is already off the tracks. Upside down. A human being possesses the expression of his being innately. It is not something granted or allowed by others.”

                No, you are exactly wrong. Consider that until late last year same sex couples were not granted their right to marry in Australia. As much as they may have wanted to they simply could not marry, and if they were married in a different jurisdiction it wasn’t recognised. It wasn’t until their right to marry was granted that they could marry. Rights are granted, usually on the implication that to not do so would be wrong, immoral.

                “Your approach, that “allowing” leads to violence is erroneous and dangerous. Why are you shifting the burden to free minds, rather than suppressors?”

                So when you wrote above that “They are simply storming platforms and violently stopping speakers” you were not telling the truth?

                “… the government or person deploying agency power and outlawing expression by force gets to have the “final speech,” thus winning the argument standing with foot on neck of another. In the name of “public order.””

                Have you not heard of the riot act? As it stands that is exactly the situation that pertains in the case of “imminent lawless action” isn’t it?

            • Posted April 6, 2018 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

              @phil

              I repeat: your world-view on the matter of free speech is upside down. You champion the primacy of “allowing.” This means: nothing is permitted except what some authority allows. There are few more dangerous notions than this. It extends out from speech to movement, association, property … humans are only allowed to think, do, say, possess what the authority permits.

              Take your item of same-sex marriage. This is a hideous case of Authority NOT allowing! The essential reality is: humans possess the expression of their being innately. Two people associate, fall in love, commit to each other, and mate. Authority did not make them do this, nor allow them to do it. It is a result of their own volition and actions. Meanwhile, Authority dis-allowed them from a civil/legal ceremony and contract. The fault here is Authority for not allowing.

              The same with your “riot-act” example. Humans, innately, associate with each other, act together, make contracts, attend group events. Not because Authority “allowed” it, but because they willed it and did it voluntarily in the pursuit of happiness. If Authority makes a law that gives it power to use force to break up an assembly of 12-or-whatever number, that is still not “allowing.” It is disallowing. In the United States, Authority does not disallow mass gatherings, by the way.

              The proper rules for Authority: humans are free. Everything is permitted. Authority must not disallow anything. That covers 99.999 of interactions in the world. The exceptions are when one person violates the rights of another. Then, Authority is duty-bound to rectify the crime.

              There is also a small class of situations, subsumed in the .111 exceptions, when Authority may be empowered to establish the boundaries of association a priori, when there is probable cause for crimes to be committed. This is necessary, but dangerous.

              I cannot envision any case of “speech” requiring a priori dis-allowing by Authority.

  24. phil
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 11:58 pm | Permalink

    One thing I feel needs mention is that I was under the impression that editors frequently choose the headlines, so it is not certain that “Hate speech leads to violence” are actually Malik’s words (I can’t find them in the body of the text).

    Malik’s piece is about the debate around freedom of speech as much as freedom of speech itself. She decries “useful liberals” on the grounds (not without merit) that simply denying someone one channel of communication is not really the same as denying their freedom of speech. Whether or not you buy her notion of what really constitutes freedom of speech (state sanction) in the examples she addresses directly the people involved were able to get their messages out through other means. Futhermore giving people the right to free speech does not necessarily entail also allowing them a platform.

    She also points out that the “thin end of the wedge” arguments are baseless:

    “We could extend the right to platform and rally to all, but what next? Paedophile rallies? That’s obviously absurd, but it highlights the fact that there are limits, and they are broadly dictated by how much certain values are coded within society.”

    Free speech (like unrestricted access to firearms) comes at a cost. Consider Pizzagate, where a bit of fake news motivated someone to take a firearm to a pizza shop to end what he thought was a paedophile ring (fortunately a massacre did not ensue). Consider the case of polio, nearly wiped out by an extensive vaccination campaign until and imam in Africa said it was a CIA plot to wipe out Muslims, and now that particular strain of the disease endemic to the area has spread internationally. As part of freedom of religion, freedom of speech is implicated in the deaths of children of religious believers, denied medical services when they are sick (religious leaders are free to propagate their odious and dangerous beliefs).

    As it is freedom of speech is already curtailed in countries that espouse some dedication to it (e.g. US, UK, Australia), and so it should be. Absolute freedom of speech could be as dangerous as censorship.

  25. Commen-tater
    Posted March 25, 2018 at 12:47 am | Permalink

    Forget it, Jake, it’s the Guardian.

    • phil
      Posted March 25, 2018 at 11:54 pm | Permalink

      Forget it, Jake, it’s just one opinion at the Guardian.

  26. Posted March 25, 2018 at 5:50 am | Permalink

    Kenan Malik, writing in the Guardian’s Sunday sister paper the Observer, defends the right to offend:

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/mar/25/being-offensive-should-not-be-illegal-in-society-that-defends-free-speech

    I’m assuming he’s not related to Nesrine Malik, despite sharing the same name.

    • phil
      Posted March 26, 2018 at 12:05 am | Permalink

      Re: relatedness. That could make xmas dinner interesting.

      To be fair I don’t believe Nesrine Malik is saying that being offensive should be illegal. She is arguing that denying a platform is not the same as denying freedom of speech. Furthermore I am beginning to think that is a point that many commenters here have have failed to grasp.

      I don’t believe that being offensive should be illegal. However denying a platform is a way of expressing distaste or disgust with the potential speaker’s point of view. As Nesrine Malik asks, would we be happy to allow paedophile rallies where speakers could get up and regale us about the pleasures of little kiddies?

  27. another fred
    Posted March 25, 2018 at 7:07 am | Permalink

    “Hate speech leads to violence” in the same manner that rum leads to madness.

    “Rum, n. Generically, fiery liquors that produce madness in total abstainers.” – Bierce

  28. Craw
    Posted March 25, 2018 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    The open borders stuff is especially weird. Open borders is a long time anarchocapitalist free market fundamentalist position. The traditional Left was never for it, just look at the Labour Party policies in the first decades post-war. The major multinationals are for it.

  29. adamsmith1922
    Posted March 27, 2018 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Inquiring Mind and commented:
    The UK has now long departed from its’ history of allowing a broad range of opinions to be heard. The constant use of the ‘phrase’ hate speech to oppress views other than those deemed acceptable by a vocal minority chills discourse and does everyone a disservice.


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