Charlie Gere is back; he seems to be enjoying himself.
I unreservedly and completely condemn any form of violence committed by anybody who believes they have been offended. That of course includes those who are offended by criticisms of the freedom of speech.
Okay. Good. Gere condemns violence committed by people who are offended by criticisms of the freedom of speech. Well naturally; don’t we all. Only…can anyone think of any? I can’t. I can’t, with however much furrowing of brow, think of any violence committed by people who are offended by criticisms of the freedom of speech. Can you? Do let me know if anything comes to mind.
What seems to have happened is that “freedom of speech” – rather than the various freedoms and limitations of speech and the ongoing and indeed never-ending negotiations involved in their continued existence – just becomes a tenet of a western fundamentalism that thus shows itself to be little better than those fundamentalisms it is held to be superior to.
Well, no. Even though I do in fact agree that freedom of speech is often used in a too sweeping and absolutist way which does simply ignore the limitations which are universally (or all but universally) accepted; even though I have in fact engaged in arguments on just this subject over the years, and been rewarded with uncomprehending stares in return; I have to point out that the conclusion that Gere draws doesn’t follow. Free speech is not absolute or unlimited, but it doesn’t follow from that that free speech absolutism is a fundamentalism that is ‘little better than those fundamentalisms it is held to be superior to.’ It could be a fundamentalism and still be superior to other fundamentalisms. It’s not absurd to claim that some fundamentalisms are worse than others, and that some are better. An obstinate unquestioned belief that it is imperative to be kind is better than an obstinate unquestioned belief that it is imperative to be cruel. One could multiply examples indefinitely.
What other conclusion can one draw from Rohan Jayasekera, associate editor of Index on Censorship…describing Theo van Gogh, the filmmaker murdered recently in the Netherlands, as a “free-speech martyr”, and thus turning his murder into a form of passive violence on his behalf[?]
…What? Describing Theo van Gogh as a ‘free speech martyr’ is a form of passive violence? What the sam hill does that mean? What is passive violence? And what is violent in any sense about calling van Gogh a free speech martyr? (It’s rhetorical and sentimental, but that’s another matter.)
Is this a case of defining deviancy downwards or something? Playing with terms in such a way that party X is made to be Just As Bad as party Y even though that is in fact obviously not the case? Y murdered van Gogh for being ‘offensive’; X called van Gogh a free speech martyr; they’re both as bad as each other! Really?
Charlie Gere is probably a rising star. Fasten your seat belts.