The left in Europe is increasingly fining, incarcerating or banning opponents of the multi-cultural project. The most common offence is speaking out against immigration, homosexuality or Islam. With freedom of speech going the way of the Dodo for people who harbour politically incorrect thoughts on my side of the pond, readers of gnxp.com would be well advised to be on the lookout for similar developments in the USA.
These events also leave us with an important question to answer– why should there be freedom of speech? And once freedom of speech is established, how extensive should speech protection be? If we are unable to answer those questions in a satisfactory manner, the oppression of non-leftist thought in Europe will continue to expand. After all, as we are often told, “There is no right to yell fire! in a crowded theatre!” (26 000 Google hits…)
Freedom of speech is essentially a cease-fire treaty. Politics has been a high-risk business throughout history, with extensive scull-cracking being regular fare. Males battled it out for power and all the perks that come with the territory: goats, women, land.
Various schemes, such as blood-based lineage and succession, as well as democracy in many forms, have all helped make the political scene a bit duller. Indeed, as C-SPAN shows you, modern post-World War II democracy is quite dull indeed most of the time.
Freedom of speech is one of the central mechanisms through which democracy works – the rulers, who control state power; forego the historically popular option of sending people who publicly disagree with them to the dungeons. In exchange, their opponents refrain from assassinations, coups, insurgencies, and so on. Differences in outlook are instead settled at the ballot box. It’s all very neat in theory, and in the modern western world it tends to work out reasonably well in practice.
The rise of free speech
Still, freedom of speech is not a stable state of affairs. As most politically inclined people know, having people disagree with you can be positively infuriating. This in turn gives rise to temptation: the temptation to give those who have stupid views what they deserve.
In order to temper these passions, westerners have been thoroughly indoctrinated into putting freedom of speech on a pretty high pedestal. Just as “democracy” has in many ways come to mean “sugar and spice and everything nice”, the assumed goodness of freedom of speech has allowed its spread far outside the political arena. (Read: “quadruple penetration” – 26 700 Google hits.)
Thus, freedom of speech is now held in high esteem throughout Europe and the USA, as it has become a central part of the established moral order. Here, the problems start though: because if democracy and freedom of speech are seen by the ruling European elite as “sugar and spice”, Multiculturalism and Homosexuality equal “caviar and champagne”. And caviar and champagne are mighty popular in Europe.
This means that the issue of freedom of speech becomes an issue of pure moral feeling, mixed in with day-to-day politicking. (Having the largest political party in the country outlawed, for instance, gives obvious advantages to competing politicians…) As nice as freedom of speech is, at the end of the day it pales in comparison to The One Virtue: Tolerance. To quote the Swedish court that recently sentenced Pastor Åke Green to prison for quoting the Bible: “the right of gays to be protected from such language outweighs the right to make homophobic statements in the name of religion.”.
The value of pragmatism
This in effect closes the moral avenue for arguing for freedom of speech. While the powers that be might think it neat, they consider locking up politically incorrect people an even more moral act. End of discussion. So, what should those that disagree do?
Sadly, the end of the moral consensus around freedom of speech leads straight back to the bad old days. If your opponents are in power, and they have decided to use the power of the state to shut up those that they disagree with, we are back at the classical options: Fight of flight.
As your opponents are still bound by quite a few moral restrictions though, there is no need to go back to scull-cracking in order to fight the power. Civil disobedience and low-level law breaking should be plenty enough. After all, a Swedish prison is no dungeon. And you get to play ping-pong with people of many different (and diverse!) backgrounds.
The power of example
One of the more powerful tools in the arsenal of the free-speech enthusiast is counterfactual example. The left have for so long dominated our morality-creating institutions that they have become oblivious to the existence of alternatives. A suggestion to ban “incitement to hatred against capital owners” usually turns a few heads, for one. Make sure to point out that capital owners is a historically persecuted and oft-maligned group. Then ask them why you shouldn’t ban such speech? After all, they are banning their opponents at will. ‘
When they object that this would be in violation of their right to free speech, just remind them that incitement against the hard-working builders of our economy “isn’t speech: it’s hatred”.
Posted by dobeln at 04:44 AM