Censorship and Freedom of Speech

This is a guest post from Tony:

“You have not converted a man, because you have silenced him.”
Lord Morley (1838-1923)

A couple of recent incidents on this blog, plus two current news items and a new move by the United Nations, have prompted this post. They are presented below as topics for discussion, without editorial comment except for the inclusion of some quotes- with which your writer generally agrees.

“All censorships exist to prevent anyone from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships. There is the whole case against censorships in a nutshell.”

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)

The first ‘local’ incident was when a picture of Jesus on the cross was used to head a post entitled The Five Most Loathed Dead Australians. Several readers took exception for various reasons including: the appropriateness or otherwise of the picture’s use – in that post in particular, and in a non-religious context in general; the perceived desecration of a religious icon; the perceived deliberate provocation by the author; and the perceived hypocrisy of the author in repeatedly singling out for ridicule Christianity in general and Catholics in particular, while stridently defending Muslims in another prominent post.

Two readers went so far as to demand that the picture be removed from the post, and, when their requests were refused, said their goodbyes and haven’t been heard from since.

“What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend it ceases to exist.”

Salman Rushdie (1947- )

The second Blogocrats-related incident occurred a couple of days ago when this writer linked from a comment to a picture posted at an obscure and now-defunct New Zealand blog. This was done under a post about the Pope, by the author mentioned above. A particular reader objected strongly to the link on the grounds that they judged the photo to be pornographic, and added some opinions about your correspondent’s personality and motives.

One of the blog’s authors, under the guise of ‘Kamahl the Moderator’, took the link down and added their opinion.

“It is obvious that ‘obscenity’ is not a term capable of exact legal definition; in the practice of the Courts, it means ‘anything that shocks the Magistrate’.”

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)

This is the first news item mentioned:

“An Australian who has denied the Holocaust occurred was sentenced Wednesday to three months in prison for defying an order to stop publishing anti-Semitic material on his Web site.

Fredrick Toben remained free after the sentencing, however, because the judge gave him two weeks to lodge an appeal.

Justice Bruce Lander of the Federal Court found Toben, 65, guilty of 24 counts of contempt of a 2002 court ruling that barred him from publishing anti-Semitic material on the Web site of his organization, the Adelaide Institute.

The material found to be in breach of the order included suggestions the Holocaust did not happen, that questioned whether there were gas chambers at the Auschwitz death camp, and that challenged the intelligence of Jews who questioned Holocaust deniers’ beliefs.”

“It is not the function of Government to keep the citizen from falling into error; it is the function of the citizen to keep the Government from falling into error.”
-Robert H. Jackson (1892-1954), U.S. Judge

The second news item is this one:
A 39-year-old Perth man has been charged under Western Australia’s racial vilification laws in relation to a series of videos posted on the internet website YouTube.O’Connell has been charged with conduct intended to incite racial animosity or racist harassment.It is believed he is only the second person to be charged under the laws, which were introduced by the previous state government. The maximum penalty for the offence is 14 years’ jail.

“Freedom of speech – pure, strong, robust freedom of speech- that sometimes irritates you, and sometimes annoys you, but at the end of the day is your God-given right.”

Ezra Levant (1972- )

Here is a description of the recent UN decision:

In an 83 to 53 vote, with 42 abstentions, the U.N. General Assembly urged nations to provide “adequate protections” in their laws or constitutions against “acts of hatred, discrimination, intimidation and coercion resulting from defamation of religions and incitement to religious hatred in general.”

Only Islam and Muslims are specifically named in this resolution against religious defamation, sponsored by Uganda on behalf of the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference, and cosponsored by Belarus and Venezuela . Opponents included the United States , a majority of European countries, Japan and India .

Those in favor said they do not want to limit free speech but do intend to stop such expressions as the 2005 Danish cartoons disrespecting the Prophet Muhammad that ignited violent protests by Muslims around the world.

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

N. B.: This quote is commonly attributed to Voltaire, but it is not found in his writing.
S. G. Tallentyre, The Friends of Voltaire

As a closing thought, the following is an excerpt from the Palgrave Macmillan Dictionary of Political Thought:

John Stewart Mill (1806-73), English philosopher and political economist, argued against censorship, suggesting that human knowledge advances through exposing opinions to refutation, so that the distinction between truth and error can be clearly seen.

Friday Footy with Tom

James has again failed to provide a footy preview, so this will have to do.

What a big week for the monogamous, respectable and upright AFL competition, if we ignore St Kilda.

Richmond vs Port. This is a big game for the supporters of both clubs; it will help resolve one of the main talking points among all football supporters – which team has the most feral barrackers?

The Richmond mob have been saving up their phlegm for this one. Terry Wallace will be issued with protective clothing for this game – a wetsuit, in club colours. The coach will put it on just before the end of the game. The very skilled members of tigers cheer squad can lob a gorbie a long way after a defeat, as Terry well knows.

On balance I think Richmond supporters will prove to be very feral. The Port rabble are mainly on the dole, and can therefore afford to drive hoon style cars such as a Ford G6E or something noisier with fat wheels.

By contrast, Tiger fans often have important jobs such as selling stolen TVs at the pub, and they are more likely to steal their vehicles.

Richmond will win the feral fans contest because their team will loose.

Dogs v Melbourne . A little like Richmond people, Bulldogs supporters spit a lot, though it’s usually because they’re drunk. A warm bottle of beer in a paper bag is the preferred vintage of the traditional Footscray supporters. Melbourne supporters enjoy a young sauvignon blanc. Expect a crowd of about 2,000 to cheer the dogs to victory. It has snowed early and therefore there will be no Melbourne supports present.

Fremantle vs Hawthorn. Hawthorn should win well. It is in the West, and they won’t hear as much from Jeff Kennett.

Geelong vs North. North is finished. By the end of the year they’ll be called the Gold Coast Lifesavers and wearing red and yellow. Geelong easily.

Brisbane vs Adelaide . After the weak, insipid, pathetic, weak, gutless, dismal, weak performance by Adelaide last week, Brisbane will flog them. So they should because Adelaide isn’t a real football team.

Sydney vs West Coast. This depends on whether the Eagles boys get to the game on time. I expect Daniel Kerr will be involved in “an incident” at a nightclub in Darlinghurst Rd at about 7am. Then about 45 minutes before the game is to start, he will still be “helping police with their enquiries”. Sydney players are more familiar with the tawdry glitz, so they’ll be on time to the game, and less hung over.

Collingwood vs Carlton . Has anyone ever tired of seeing Carlton loose? No. Has anyone ever tired of seeing Collingwood loose? Also no. Tipping this result is a dilemma so I hope the game has lots of fights (resulting in lots of long suspensions). The fans riot and thousands are arrested. The game is abandoned halfway through the 3rd quarter. Failing this optimal result, Carlton to win.

St K vs Essendon. My tip is that Nick Riewoldt will hook up with a new Neighbours starlet after the game, another blonde one. St Kilda to win.

Tom of Melbourne

Friday Frolykz..

G’day,

How’s it going? And welcome to Friday Frolykz, our end of the week thread – beginning of the weekend thread.

And what an entertaining week it’s been! We’ve had the Budget and Budget Reply, which was quite a hoot. (Thank you Tony I’m still suffering).

And the footy sex scandal. Pictures of poor old Phil Gould in tears on television was the stuff of comedy. No he wasn’t crying out of sympathy for the alleged victim – no he was crying about how poor Matty Johns had been victimised by the meja!

It has all the makings of a caption competition don’t you think? Or perhaps that would be considered poor taste. I’d better think carefully about that lest someone takes offence.

Other reports just out suggest that the “alleged victim” was bragging about shagging the team at the time and is now just out for revenge. Who can you trust?

The other day, I also paused to reflect on why we do this whole blogging thing. And then it struck me. I really haven’t got a clue. I guess it’s a good place to come together and share our views. We don’t always agree with each other. Let’s face it, it would be boring if we did. And some people are passionate in their convictions and others in defending their opinions.

While there is the occasional flare up, one thing I really appreciate is that everyone still comes together again in a good sense of sharing the common ground of just open dialogue and expression.

And for what it’s worth, I reckon that’s still worthwhile. And hope that you think so too…

Have a great weekend folks!

Caption Competition

Caption Competition