A Poor Concept of Freedom

Sunday, 12 July 2009

I am a libertarian. I believe that unless there is a good reason we should be free. Yasmin Alibhai-Brown fundamentally disagrees with me.

What is freedom of speech? In her piece Alibhai-Brown tries to say that “Freedom of speech is a precious right, fought for in Europe over many centuries … ” yet also that underpinning the laws that prevent direct harm from exercising freedom of speech (libel, official secrets and so on) she claims “… is a general understanding of what would be inappropriate and hateful if expressed in public”. At no time does she say that this has any legal basis, or provide any reason why it should, although the strong implication of the piece is that some people should shut up, and if necessary be made to shut up. The standard left-wing response, shut up!

The true irony is that it appears that one of the first pieces of speech Alibhai-Brown would silence is the bloggers who are criticising her (and this really goes beyond all parody) for writing a hateful message. She wrote of Iraq “… there have been times when I have wanted more chaos, more shocks, more disorder to teach our side a lesson …”, and obviously felt she should have the freedom to write that, yet wishes to curtail others’ freedom to criticise those very nasty words.

As for Peter Tatchell and Poly Toynbee, I suspect the former would be horrified at the idea of restricting free speech and after taking on Mugabe and Putin he can probably be fairly sanguine about a few internet nutters (Tatchell has gradually gained my respect, although I still disagree with him on many things) and Polly Toynbee really does deserve fury. She was lucky Robert Fisk got there first, or she’d be an internet verb.

Finally how can an opinion writer even think the words in her final paragraph “We don't yet have a really effective way of restraining material promoting racism, sexism, violence (except against children), homophobia, and other group hatreds”? Two points, Ms Alibhai-Brown. First that all of those are opinions and beliefs, and all you ever write is opinions and beliefs. Why should others not be allowed to write there own? Second is, what on Earth use is an opinion writer, if not someone who involves herself in debate? Just the kind of debate which is the best way of restraining such material. Any other method simply plays to the strengths of those that hate.

Freedom of speech does not just include the freedom to say what we don’t want to hear. It is that freedom. The freedom to say nice and fluffy things is trivial. It is only when there are people who don’t want something said that such freedom becomes relevant in any way. I don’t think Yasmin Alibhai-Brown can conceive of that freedom.

Hat tip Harry’s Place. A slightly different angle on my blog.



2 Responses to “A Poor Concept of Freedom”
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Anonymous said...

When you see the kind of authoritarian bullshit trotted out by the left-wing propagandists, freedom of speech becomes more than just the freedom to speak: it becomes a duty. 'Shutting up' is not an option.

12 July 2009 at 21:59
Richard Dale said...

I know, when I read things like that I want to go and shout racist epithets and homophobic rants from the rooftops. Not because I believe any of that absurd garbage, but just because this muppet doesn't want me to say it.

In fact I would hope to be joined by various black, asian and homosexual friends in joyous abandonment of political speech. None that I know would have any more time for censorship than I would. It is the white, trendy upper-middle class at leisure that drive this, not people with any close relationship with reality.

12 July 2009 at 22:37