Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Defending peoples rights is never comfortable

(or Thought Crime and Shouting Down in the name of Free Speech)

Defending peoples rights is never comfortable - because they most need defending when they are most under attack. If you see to defend someones rights their attackers will mindlessly aim for you too.

Marxists and other totalitarians typically like to supress opposing views by shouting them down claiming that their right to shout vacously over someone is 'free speech' while their drowmed out victim seems to have no such right.

It is, of course, just a ploy. The objective is simply to prevent alternative views being spread and to that ends any means is considered justified. In support of the action bogus, spurious arguments will be deployed, and any quesitoning of them will get the same 'shouted down' treatment.

What makes the whole question even more bogus is that the principal of 'free speech' refers to the right to hold and express your own view, it is not specifically about that act of talking (or even tweeting).

Those against free speech (or limits on it) often use the example of 'does free speech extend to somone standing up in a packed cinema and shouting "fire!" ?'. This entirely misses the point that shouting "fire" with the intention of causing panic is neither holding a view nor expressing it, so the example is entirely irrelevant.

A better way to think about free speech is to consider the counter point 'thought crime'. Making a criminal offence of even thinking in a way that others object to.

- Does it make sense for it to be a criminal offence purely for having particular thoughts or beliefs?
- Does it make sense for it to be a criminal offence to discuss those thoughts or beliefs?
- Does it make sense for these to be criminal offences even if they are not acted on?

If the answer to any of the above is yes, then this leads on the the further questions:

- Who is to decide which thoughts/beliefs are to be made lleglal?
- How is one to judge whether a particular individual does indeed hold lleglal thoughts/beliefs?

I beleive that the principal of 'thought crime' is a fundamental attack on our humanity - with out free thought we are nothing. However, if anyone wants to disagree then they need to answer the questions above, and explain how abuse of the principals set out will be avoided (if they can).

Unfortunaely this ploy has, in practice, proved quite successful and has spread to other groups in various forms. Recently a number of mainstream parties have supported 'denying a platform' to views they do not like.

As a libertarian and democrat, I support the public freely expressing their views at the ballot box, but they can only do this effectively if they are properly informed about the options open to them - without information their choice is not informed and cannot be free.

So, for instance, while I may object strongly to a party because of its views in all kinds of fundamental areas, I would still support the right of the party and its members to hold their own views.

If a party's views are silenced through any means other than humiliation at the ballot box, then it will be a case of "First they came for" And we must look to who will be next, and next, and next - somewhere you will almost certainly be on that list.

Mankind thrives thought change and new ideas these things drive progress and development sometimes because the ideas are good but also when the ideas are bad and new counter-arguments have to be deployed against them - none of this can occur in a totalitarian state that silences those who *it* considers disenters. Shouting down opposing views is a good way down the slope to that totalitarian state, and those shouters would do well to consider their part in it.

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