Whatever happened to freedom of speech

Look. David Irving is an idiot. His views on the holocaust are preposterous and, I suspect, deep down inside he knows this and it is keeping him awake at night. But putting him in jail for saying that it didn't happen is, technically speaking, FUCKED UP. Now, suddenly we don't have freedom of speech? Yes we do, don't we? Or did I just hear all those editors across Europe wrong?

Irving is, and must be, just as allowed to speak his mind as Orhan Pamuk was, when he spoke against the state opinion in Turkey on the Armenian Genocide of 1915-1917. And Irving must be just as allowed to speak his stupid, insensitive opinion as Jyllands-Posten and all the other dumb-ass newspapers that printed those cartoons were. This is a matter of free speech and of democracy. We don't have to like it, we just have to fight to the death for it, to paraphrase that guy whom every Joe with a typewriter and his infinite monkeys have been quoting (badly, without understanding and hypocritically) since this whole Muhammed-brouhaha began.

Democracy isn't something one magically "is." It's something one does. And honestly, since Pamuk got all that attention, and Irving got nearly none, that means that the intellectuals of Europe are not doing their job. Freedom of speech also means getting off your ass and defending the right of anyone to say anything, not just the people whose opinions you happen to approve of. Then, after they make their laughably silly remarks, you rip their arguments apart with your teeth, and laugh in their face. That's democracy.


Blogger ø said...


February 21, 2006 1:02 am  
Blogger MGL said...


February 21, 2006 9:38 am  
Blogger Mikkel said...

The intellectuals of Europe are not doing their job? Hold the press.

February 21, 2006 9:41 am  
Anonymous S said...

What's their "job" anyway?

February 21, 2006 12:24 pm  
Blogger MGL said...

Creating and teaching the big picture. In this case, big picture = what are we actually debating here?

February 21, 2006 1:46 pm  
Blogger Mikkel said...

Why did you remove that post? I hope I didn't step on your toes there.

February 22, 2006 11:36 pm  
Blogger will said...

I absolutely agree with your sentiment particularly in the light of London Mayor Ken Livingstone's suspension today. He has been accused of anti-Semitism by his detractors led, ironically enough, by an organisation that does more than anyone else in the UK to encourage racial tension and mistrust, namely the Daily Mail Group. What strikes me about the exchange that took place between Mr Livingstone and the journalist was that it has not been subject to any kind of serious analysis. In the same way that reaction to the cartoons was a purely emotional one that came to be hijacked by highly politicised groups seeking a band wagon to jump on, so it is in this case. By missing the nuances and ironies in a statement or drawing, either can be totally misconstrued; I believe this to be the case in both these cases. While I don’t have time for a reading of either here, suffice it to say that the job of literature and art generally is to ask questions about the way we understand the world. These are things to be discussed in a way that does not rely on people just saying “I’m offended”. This is a classic way of avoiding having to think about things.

It is easy to condemn people as racist, anti-Semitic or whatever else you fancy. It is harder to understand that people can disagree with you. It is just plain stupid to think you can punish people because they have offended you. So my message to those who think it’s OK to kill people or suspend them for being offensive: until you can engage in the world in anything other than a childish and reactionary way, keep your ridiculous views to yourself.

Of course you won’t. But that’s OK; we can take it and, in fact, wouldn’t have it any other way.

February 24, 2006 3:25 pm  
Blogger MGL said...

I was not aware that Livingstone had been suspended. I remember the case being mentioned, but always thought that the ridiculous accusations against him would be ignored. I suppose I was wrong.

Thanks for the news, and the opinions.

February 24, 2006 4:35 pm  
Blogger will said...

Unfortunately yes he has. The accusations were not ignored and he was suspended by three people from a select committee - so much for being voted in..and out again.

February 28, 2006 4:26 pm  

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