Whole sections of the community

Oliver Kamm is brisk with Charlie Gere.

Charlie Gere…expresses unabashedly and succinctly a view that has increasingly made its way into the mainstream of public debate and ought to be derided out of it again…Of course it’s “not a problem” in public policy to offend anyone’s sensitivities, because people’s mental states are no business of government. If government set itself the task of alleviating mental anguish, then there would be no inherent limit to the powers that government might claim. The only proper response in public policy to those who say their deepest beliefs have been slighted and who complain of the offence they’ve been caused is: too bad, but you’ll live; and in the meantime there is no restitution to which you’re entitled, because you have suffered no injustice.

Well, quite. And as Kamm indicates, the idea that you have suffered an injustice, along with the effort to remedy that injustice, would entail massive interference with various freedoms and vocations that we all (probably including the offended among us) value highly. Anything that anyone says can be considered an offense to someone’s sensitivities, and the only way to be certain of never offending anyone’s sensitivities would be for no one to say anything ever, in fact would be for everyone to drop dead immediately. There’s such a thing as too much caution, and it leads to the dead end of doing and saying nothing at all.

Gere replies in the comments.

These limits [on speech] are cultural determined and in this case simply do not take into consideration matters of considerable sensitivity to Muslims.

No, nor on matters of considerable sensitivity to Mormons, or Raelians, or Branch Davidians, or Trekkies, or Wiccans, or anyone else, and thus people are allowed to say things without wondering whether the things might offend one or two or ten of a million groups or groupuscules. How odd that Charlie Gere apparently wishes it were otherwise.

In fact he later says he does.

[W]hat I want is something that is probably impossible, that is neither a PC dictatorship nor a situation in which the support of free speech risks alienating whole sections of the community.

He wants a situation in which the support of free speech stops short of risking ‘alienating whole sections of the community’ – which means (whether he realizes it or not) he really does want no one to say anything, at least anything more provocative than ‘the cat sat on the mat.’ All speech ‘risks alienating whole sections of the community.’

6 Responses to “Whole sections of the community”