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.