Monday, January 12, 2015

‘Nous Sommes Voltaire’

"From ‘Je suis Charlie’ to ‘Nous Sommes Voltaire’," or "freedom for the thought that we hate":
.... The loud expressions of support for free speech have been so striking because they contrast with the everyday silence on the subject.

In normal circumstances we in the West spend far more time discussing how to restrict and outlaw harmful or hateful speech than how to defend and extend that precious liberty. Almost everybody in public life, barring perhaps the Islamic State supporters’ club, pays lip service to the principle of free speech. Scratch the surface, however, and in practice most will add the inevitable ‘But…’ to button that lip and put a limit on liberty.

Even in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, it was not long before the ‘Buts’ were back, from the feminist blogger who called the attack on the offensive magazine ‘understandable’, to the editor of the Financial Times who accused the ‘stupid’ Charlie Hebdo of ‘editorial foolishness’. Nobody said they were asking for it, but…

Of course, everybody with a shred of humanity condemned the cold-blooded mass murder by Islamist gunmen. Well done. Now, what have you got to say about the right of Charlie Hebdo or any other section of the Western press to publish whatever it believes to be true or just funny, regardless of whether it upsets Muslims or Mumsnet, Tories or the transgender community?

The right to be offensive has been a theme pursued by some of us for 25 years, since the backlash against Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses. Suddenly after Charlie Hebdo, it seemed that everybody was talking about it.

Yet most appear to endorse a very restricted idea of that ‘right’. They insist on their right to offend Islam or Christianity. But they show little tolerance for anything that offends their own cherished notions, such as the ‘homophobic’ attitudes of traditional religions.....

We need to face the hard fact that the Islamic gunmen who attacked the offices of Charlie Hebdo acted less as the soldiers of an ancient Eastern religion than as the armed extremist wing of a thoroughly modern Western creed.

As spiked has consistently argued, the West today is dogged by a creeping culture of conformism. From the official censors of the police and political elite to the army of unofficial censors online, the cri de coeur of these crusaders against offensive speech is You Can’t Say That. ....

The truth is you don’t have to be Charlie, read Charlie or like Charlie in order to defend it. Free speech is not the same as ‘me speech’. It is always primarily about defending what a US Supreme Court justice once famously described as ‘freedom for the thought that we hate’. .... [more]
Recognition of the "right" to say or write something doesn't, of course, require one to endorse what is said or written.

From ‘Je suis Charlie’ to ‘Nous Sommes Voltaire’ | Charlie Hebdo | Free speech | spiked