Friday, 13 February 2009

Why Is ‘Freedom Of Speech’ Such A Hard Concept For Some People To Understand?

So, the British Government showed what a bunch of giant, brow beaten pussies they are once again, and banned the elected Dutch MP Geert Wilders from entering the country to attend a discussion about his anti-Islamic film ‘Fitna’ at the House of Lords.

There are two major threads that tie together in this debate, both of which are becoming an ever increasing threat to our society. The first is the issue of free speech. Whether you like what Mr Wilders has to say or not, whether you agree with his film and his opinion on Islam, censoring his work and banning him from entering the country in order to attend a debate on the issue he is tied so closely to is abhorrent in any society that wishes to call itself free. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, whether you like it or not, if you want to advocate free speech, then you have to take both the rough and the smooth that goes along with it. I.e. just because you are offended by what someone has to say, be it racist, homophobic, insulting, sexist or just downright ugly or insensitive, they have just as much right to say it as you do to call them an idiot. That’s it, case closed. You do not ban words. You do not ban thoughts. You live with it. You try to educate people as to why they shouldn’t hold such viewpoints, but you have no right to stop them from having them and airing them.

The exception comes in the case of inciting violence however. If someone is saying ‘I think all gay people should be killed’ that is fine. Is it an ugly statement? You bet your ass. But do they have a right to say it? You bet your ass. If, however, they say ‘I want you to go and kill all gay people’ they are directly inciting violence. Now, if some idiot takes their words in the wrong way, and goes and kills gay people after hearing ‘I think all gay people should be killed’ then that is not the speaker’s fault. The speaker was voicing an opinion, not giving an order. It is not his fault that someone took his words too far and went and killed gay people, just as it is the responsibility of a celebrity who’s been photographed snorting coke when a fan dies of a drug overdose.

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, you can like it or not, but just as you have the right to call someone an idiot for whatever reason you choose, they have just as much of a right to call you an idiot back for whatever reason it is that they choose. Just because we may find their reasons horrific does not mean we have any right to shut them up.

The second point is that, once again, the reason this brew-ha-ha came about was because it had to do with someone offending peoples religion. There seems to be an unpleasant wave of thought in this country that people of faith have a right to be protected from criticism. They don’t. You can believe whatever you want to believe, as can I , and we can both call each other idiots because of it. For some reason however, if you go to a church or a mosque or a synagogue or a temple, people in power are much more likely to try and protect you from that criticism. Uh, why? You believe one thing, I believe another. It drives me up the wall when the religious – Muslims specifically – often demand special privileges in being protected from such criticism. Christians and Jews often have to just bear the brunt of it. In the case of Mr Wilders, it was the peer Lord Ahmed, who said that he would mobilize a protest against the entry of Mr Wilders into Britain. You know what then, Mr Ahmed (your title means nothing to me)? Mobilize. Exercise your right to protest. And let Mr Wilders exercise his right to free speech. It disgusts me that anyone is allowed protection from things because of the crazy screwed up beliefs they may have. Did you see mass homosexual protest when yet another West Indian artist was allowed into the UK to perform a collection of his greatest hits advocating the rape, abuse of and eventual extermination of homosexuals? Hell no.

Now, Mr Wilders is on record saying that he wants to ban the Qur’an, while at the same time blathering on about free speech. A double standard. But a spokesman for the Muslim Council Of Britain called him an ‘open and relentless preacher of hate’ and no one made a point to ask this spokesman where he stood on preachers like Abu Hamza, who was allowed to operate openly and freely for years with funding from and the approval from the MCB while banging on about how great suicide bombings were and how Western values should be destroyed and Islam imposed upon them. Why does no one call out that double standard? Because no one wants to upset a religious person.

I’m sorry, but fuck your beliefs. Just like you don’t give much of a shit about mine, I don’t give a shit about yours. We all share this crazy messed up world together, and whatever you need to believe in to get yourself through another day without killing anyone is fine by me. But don’t pretend that that entitles you to any kind of privilege, just because lots of other people believe the same thing. I’m specifically referring to Muslims here, but I’m also generalising to Christians, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Atheists. Whatever you choose to believe in does not automatically give you protection from criticism.

We are a multicultural, open, free and (allegedly) tolerant society. That means tolerating everyone’s views. It doesn’t mean agreeing with them, but tolerate means that you put up with something, not agreeing with it. Just as conservatives have to tolerate the views of liberals, gays have to tolerate the views of homophobes, ethnic minorities have to tolerate the views of racists, atheists have to put up with the views of the religious, liberals have to put up with the views of conservatives and women have to tolerate the views of sexists. No one is asking you to agree with them, but they are asking you to give to others the same rights of free speech that they afford to you.

Sometimes freedom means putting up with more than you’d like to. It’s not selective based on political correctness, religious beliefs or political views. It means that in a free society, everyone is free, whether you agree with them or not.

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