Jump to content

Freedom of Speech/Inclusion/Tolerance etc.


BomberPat
 Share

Recommended Posts

  • Paid Members

Stemming from a discussion that started in the AEW Double or Nothing thread about inclusivity, no-platforming, freedom of speech/expression and whether intolerance of intolerant views is in itself tolerant or intolerant (you follow?), and with this being something of a pet fixation of mine, I figured I'd get the ball rolling in Off-Topic.

I usually take my lead from Deborah Lipstadt's stance on holocaust denial;

Quote

They have the right to publish their articles and books and hold their gatherings. But free speech does not guarantee them the right to be treated as the 'other' side of a legitimate debate. Nor does it guarantee them space on op-ed pages or time and television and radio shows. 

Freedom of speech is not freedom of a platform, and those who use "freedom of speech" as their shield are often most guilty of abusing that freedom. When those who call for Tommy Robinson, Richard Spencer or whatever far-right, alt-right, reactionary provocateur is the next darling of the right wing to be allowed a platform by invoking free speech also extend the same energies towards defending the right of anti-English Imams, far left agitators or black power activists to have the same platform, then I'll believe that their motivation is the purity of freedom of speech. 

 

The idea that the ideal is a world in which we allow everyone a platform and then debate them and win it out is disingenuous and naive. For one, it assumes that everyone is entering a debate with honest intentions, and debating in good faith. More importantly, by presenting a debate, it presents those involved in the debate as, if not equal partners, at least legitimate other sides and/or alternative viewpoints on the issue.
To go back to the example of holocaust denial, there is no "debate" over whether or not the holocaust happened. It might seem noble to say, "then allow the deniers the platform, and win the debate to prove them wrong" but history shows this simply doesn't work - all it does is make more people aware that the notion of holocaust denial exists, and to afford it legitimacy by presenting it as the other side of an "argument" over facts that are inarguable.

Furthermore, it assumes that these ideas exist in a vacuum. To not allow Richard Spencer to speak at a conference isn't a silencing of an innocent, it's a decision made because his ideas and his work are already in the public eye. We already know his opinions, we know his values, know his politics. To not give a platform to them is an informed decision to not give credence to hateful - and perhaps more significantly, thoroughly discredited rhetoric.

To put it simply - I have never given a lecture at Cambridge Student Union, or had an opinion piece published in The Times. That, if I requested the opportunity to do either of these things, I'd almost certainly be turned down, is not an infringement of my freedom of speech. 

 

More broadly, there are limits on freedom of speech, and there are beliefs/opinions that we think are beyond the pale. The debate isn't "freedom of speech vs. censorship", it's an acknowledgement that rights come with responsibilities, that freedom of speech does inarguably have limitations, and what we're left with is an ongoing negotiation of where those limitations lie.

Edited by BomberPat
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Paid Members
13 minutes ago, BomberPat said:

Freedom of speech is not freedom of a platform, and those who use "freedom of speech" as their shield are often most guilty of abusing that freedom. When those who call for Tommy Robinson, Richard Spencer or whatever far-right, alt-right, reactionary provocateur is the next darling of the right wing to be allowed a platform by invoking free speech also extend the same energies towards defending the right of anti-English Imams, far left agitators or black power activists to have the same platform, then I'll believe that their motivation is the purity of freedom of speech. 

This is one of the key elements for me, especially now. 

The left has been consistently "no-platformed" for decades, with the result that, the moment somebody like Corbyn shows up, he's decried as "far-left". Yet we never heard any complaints about how groups like the Spartacist League or the Communist Party of Great Britain weren't being given the fora to speak in the way Farage, Yaxley-Lennon, Spencer, Yiannopoulos or Watson thus far have. The moment a far-right demagogue shows up to spew bile and hatred against immigrants, BME people, LGBTQI people, etc., there's suddenly a load of crying and wailing about how they're being denied freedom of speech. Yet their rhetoric has quite demonstrably caused actual harm against the people they're lambasting. 

As I said in the AEW thread, freedom of speech does not, should not, extend to someone's right to broadcast things that call for the harm of others trying simply to live in peace, hurting no-one.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Paid Members
Just now, jazzygeofferz said:

Too many people try to claim freedom of speech as freedom from the consequences of those words, which is what irks me. 

I think this comes down to a key right/left divide on personal vs collective responsibility, and on confusing morality with legality. 

On that latter point, to me that's the biggest defining characteristic of many of the modern right wing - to assume that a moral judgement is a legal one. When someone on the "left" decries a piece of media as unacceptable or problematic, the right cry "censorship" and talk about how the right want to ban everything. Because they interpret the moral criticism as a call for legal action.

On collective responsibility, and it ties into that moral/legal issue a little, I recently saw a thread on Twitter about white supremacist mass shooters and terrorists citing Ben Shapiro as an influence. Lots of his fans were coming out of the woodwork to say "Shapiro never told anyone to pick up a rifle, I listen to Shapiro and never shot anyone, it's ridiculous to blame him for someone else's actions". But to say that Shapiro should take stock of the consequences of his words, and bear some responsibility for what he's said, isn't absolving the shooter of his personal responsibility - it's not a binary choice.

That argument also betrays the lie of their freedom of speech absolutism - if our words have no consequence, why is it so important that they be protected? And if free speech is only for those words without consequence, what kind of freedom is that? 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Paid Members

A lot of the time, it's usually right-wing white people. As is often stated these days, "to those who regularly enjoy privilege, equality can seem like oppression". 

People like Yaxley-Lennon and Farage are so used to being given a means to be heard that they think that they're entitled to it. So when they've had those means withdrawn, like they were never extended to those on the opposite side of the political spectrum, they think they're being persecuted.

Of course, that same sense of privilege and entitlement leads to them thinking that being persecuted means "not being given an outlet for their views outside Speaker's Corner", rather than actually facing threats of physical violence or damage to their lives that those who are truly persecuted face on a fairly regular basis.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As Pat points out, a lot free speech advocates are nothing of the sort.  Look at Yiannopoulos, people defending him on a free speech basis suddenly changed when he went on about paedophilia.  They weren't supporting him because of free speech, they supported him because they liked what he was saying up until that point.  It's worth noting that Yaxley-Lennon has said he lost in the North East because it wasn't a fair campaign as he is banned from social media and Yiannopoulos is begging people to buy him dinner.  No platforming works.  And if that sounds a bit intolerant and against freedoms, Karl Popper said it best.

 

D685nXYWwAAPcpu.jpg-large

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think in trying to come up with a solution to ending/changing hate there has to be consideration given to different ideas.


Yes, preventing someone a platform to speak can silence them temporarily but they will always find a way to espouse their views and enough people to listen. 
Of course there are instances where debate is not on option but there have been situations where, on a one-to-one or small scale basis, being around others, listening to their experiences, discussing why you feel a certain way etc. HAS opened up a productive dialogue and led to change. Again, this is in certain instances.
I heard on the radio recently about a young Muslim man who came out to his devoutly religious, homophobic father. His father initially disowned his son but it was only through periods of listening to each other [which took tremendous time and effort] and engaging with views that neither was comfortable hearing that the father changed his thought process and now apparently speaks in schools and is an advocate for gay rights.

I know that's not a 'one size fits all' solution but things rarely are. If we look at it as a 'well this is the best way and that's it' solution - especially when it has not been proven to yield effective results - we are not dealing with the problem, in my opinion. 
 

 

Edited by Snitsky's back acne
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Paid Members
14 minutes ago, Snitsky's back acne said:

Yes, preventing someone a platform to speak can silence them temporarily but they will always find a way to espouse their views and enough people to listen. 

If that is the case, they don't need anyone's help in that. Nobody's stopping them talking (unless they're actually advocating killing or physically injuring someone). As Pat was saying, giving them a mainstream platform is giving credence to what they're saying. They've got access to YouTube, Twitter and Facebook now, anyway.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 minutes ago, Carbomb said:

If that is the case, they don't need anyone's help in that. Nobody's stopping them talking (unless they're actually advocating killing or physically injuring someone). As Pat was saying, giving them a mainstream platform is giving credence to what they're saying. They've got access to YouTube, Twitter and Facebook now, anyway.

Giving a mainstream platform can also show them up on a large platform too though. We are assuming that by having a larger platform that is going to be of benefit to them. In some instances, it does, but in others it doesn't. Didn't Ben Shapiro get royally shown up and storm out when he was given an interview with the BBC recently? I've no doubt many criticised them even having him on and 'giving him a platform' but by doing so and confronting him he was shown as being out of his league and not able to deal with 'tough' questions.
Not saying that in any way changed his opinion on anything - but it was better than just refusing him the platform, in my opinion.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Paid Members
11 minutes ago, Snitsky's back acne said:

Giving a mainstream platform can also show them up on a large platform too though. We are assuming that by having a larger platform that is going to be of benefit to them. In some instances, it does, but in others it doesn't. Didn't Ben Shapiro get royally shown up and storm out when he was given an interview with the BBC recently? I've no doubt many criticised them even having him on and 'giving him a platform' but by doing so and confronting him he was shown as being out of his league and not able to deal with 'tough' questions.
Not saying that in any way changed his opinion on anything - but it was better than just refusing him the platform, in my opinion.

 

Where's the limit, though? What are the criteria? Should we give exposure to, say, the leader of the KKK or National Action? They have lots of followers after all.

Ben Shapiro is the result of someone with abhorrent views being given a platform and then not challenged every time he's appeared, in US media. The fact that he threw a hissy fit when Brillo Pad (of all people) gave him a grilling he'd become accustomed to not expecting from a media personality is neither here nor there, because there are now so many people out there who simply just say he's been fucked over by the "lefty" establishment (which is a fucking joke in itself).

EDIT: To further expand, it's not just about the ideas they espouse being challenged. These ideas were already challenged, decades ago; there's been a shit-ton of conflict over them, and they should be, along with paedophilia, murder, rape, etc., be considered things that just don't need to be discussed or debated if you're a decent human being. We know they're just wrong, so why do we continue to give them the time of day? What possible reason could we have for giving someone the time to justify racism?

As Houchen said, Yiannopoulos got de-platformed because he started advocating for paedophilia. Because we know paedophilia's wrong. Because it impinges on the lives of other people. 

Edited by Carbomb
Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 minute ago, Carbomb said:

Where's the limit, though? What are the criteria? Should we give exposure to, say, the leader of the KKK or National Action? They have lots of followers after all.

Ben Shapiro is the result of someone with abhorrent views being given a platform and then not challenged every time he's appeared, in US media. The fact that he threw a hissy fit when Brillo Pad (of all people) gave him a grilling he'd become accustomed to not expecting from a media personality is neither here nor there, because there are now so many people out there who simply just say he's been fucked over by the "lefty" establishment (which is a fucking joke in itself).

Agreed - Shapiro has been 'martyr'd' by his followers for the incident, the same as he would have been had he gone 'the BBC refused to interview me'. It was still the better of two options though in my opinion because it exposes him. Only allowing him platforms where he gets an easy time and says what his audience wants to hear benefits no-one.

I don't know where the limit is in all honesty - but I know that just going 'Not in my backyard' and NOT engaging with them does nothing.
Of course it is not always appropriate or possible, nobody is saying it is, but surely it's worth a try? What other solution is there? NOT engaging does nothing. It's a plaster over a gaping wound. It's a temporary and ineffective solution to a permanent and highly damaging problem.


Again, I know this is one incident but it shows that engaging with hate CAN work. As mentioned in the article, it absolutely should not be the job of the minority individual to change the mind of the bigot/racist/homophobe etc. BUT in this case, it proved beneficial. Had it just been 'Go away! Not here! Go spread your hate somewhere else' nothing would have changed. Not saying it's THE solution but it's A solution - and surely that's what we should be ultimately seeking?

https://eu.usatoday.com/story/news/2018/11/01/hate-group-white-extremist-radicalization/1847255002/

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I worry about the concept that certain ideas have been "dealt with" and can no longer be debated or mentioned.   You might assume that but there are always younger generations of people growing up who will need to be exposed and convinced of stuff.

Just telling people "this is wrong" without telling them why comes across as arrogant and a little bit authoritarian.  And you cede the ground to those who ARE willing to talk about it, but with the contrary view.  And so you get young people being exposed to the Holocaust only through alt-right sites that sew doubt on it, and use no-platforming as evidence of the scary deep state coverup.

Universities seem like the perfect ground to restate the case on racism, sexism, paedophilia, Islamophobia, Holocaust denial.  If you are confident of the truth, then putting that up against the lies in a public forum should be a walk in the park.

I totally agree that the right to free speech doesn't mean you constantly have to re-litigate climate change on the BBC every month, but there should be some venues for this, and educational establishments seem like a good place to do it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Paid Members
3 minutes ago, Snitsky's back acne said:

I don't know where the limit is in all honesty - but I know that just going 'Not in my backyard' and NOT engaging with them does nothing.
Of course it is not always appropriate or possible, nobody is saying it is, but surely it's worth a try? What other solution is there? NOT engaging does nothing. It's a plaster over a gaping wound. It's a temporary and ineffective solution to a permanent and highly damaging problem.

Not engaging does do nothing, and to be honest, I'm fine with that, if the opposite "something" of that is ideas like that getting a foothold. Sometimes "nothing" is the best thing to do.

3 minutes ago, Snitsky's back acne said:


Again, I know this is one incident but it shows that engaging with hate CAN work. As mentioned in the article, it absolutely should not be the job of the minority individual to change the mind of the bigot/racist/homophobe etc. BUT in this case, it proved beneficial. Had it just been 'Go away! Not here! Go spread your hate somewhere else' nothing would have changed. Not saying it's THE solution but it's A solution - and surely that's what we should be ultimately seeking?

https://eu.usatoday.com/story/news/2018/11/01/hate-group-white-extremist-radicalization/1847255002/
 

I'm not saying we shouldn't engage at all. And there is value in debating them. But not when they're advocating actually harming people or damaging their lives. If they want to preach self-segregation, let them take their ignorant selves to a studio to debate the merits of their idea. 

1 minute ago, Loki said:

I worry about the concept that certain ideas have been "dealt with" and can no longer be debated or mentioned.   You might assume that but there are always younger generations of people growing up who will need to be exposed and convinced of stuff.

Just telling people "this is wrong" without telling them why comes across as arrogant and a little bit authoritarian.  And you cede the ground to those who ARE willing to talk about it, but with the contrary view.  And so you get young people being exposed to the Holocaust only through alt-right sites that sew doubt on it, and use no-platforming as evidence of the scary deep state coverup.

Who's not telling them why?

We teach kids that it's wrong to steal, kill, hurt, etc., yes? And we pretty much tell them why, yes? Likewise, we should be telling kids right from the get-go that discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sexuality, etc., is wrong. No difference.

It's because we haven't done that that we're having to entertain and discuss these ideas with fucking adults who should know better by now.

1 minute ago, Loki said:

Universities seem like the perfect ground to restate the case on racism, sexism, paedophilia, Islamophobia, Holocaust denial.  If you are confident of the truth, then putting that up against the lies in a public forum should be a walk in the park.

I totally agree that the right to free speech doesn't mean you constantly have to re-litigate climate change on the BBC every month, but there should be some venues for this, and educational establishments seem like a good place to do it.

You don't need to invite exponents of said lies to talk live in front of audiences, though. These people are published, students can easily access their writing and media work, and this can all be debated without giving demagogues the publicity and credibility of public exposure.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

6 minutes ago, Loki said:

 

Universities seem like the perfect ground to restate the case on racism, sexism, paedophilia, Islamophobia, Holocaust denial.  If you are confident of the truth, then putting that up against the lies in a public forum should be a walk in the park.

I totally agree that the right to free speech doesn't mean you constantly have to re-litigate climate change on the BBC every month, but there should be some venues for this, and educational establishments seem like a good place to do it.

Yet sadly universities, or rather sections of students at university, are some of the worst offenders to the whole 'no platforming' thing.
As you say - educational establishments should absolutely be the place for productive discourse on highly contentious issues but, I hate to say it, it seems to be the 'acceptance' and 'tolerance' brigade that is preventing that from happening.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...