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/ Why Holocaust-denial laws are bad

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Coel Hellier - on 30 Aug 2018

Of course Holocaust deniers are 100% wrong, but being wrong should not be a crime and even wrong and abhorrent speech should be protected as "free speech".  

Anyone saying "I'm in favour of free speech but ..." is not in favour of free speech.  The test is not whether you accept speech you approve of (that does not need protection), it's whether you accept speech you deplore.

Anyhow, Gert Wilders is having another of his provocative  Mohammed-cartoon competitions, and predictably people are upset (aww diddums).

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/aug/29/muhammad-cartoon-contest-netherlands-geert-wilders-pakistan-protests

But the one good point Pakistani PM Imran Khan makes is that laws against Holocaust denial concede the principle that speech can be outlawed just because it upsets people.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1429283

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MG - on 30 Aug 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> Anyone saying "I'm in favour of free speech but ..." is not in favour of free speech.  The test is not whether you accept speech you approve of (that does not need protection), it's whether you accept speech you deplore.

Taken literally, that means practically no one is in favour of free speech - incitement to violence, for example, is almost universally objected to.  So, such blanket statements aren't very sensible. The traditional argument in favour of free speech is it allows truth to be determined because all statements, even those apparently wrong or offensive or simply barking can be examined and may in fact contain something insightful.  It's a powerful argument and generally allowing wide latitude in what can be said is good.  However, it starts to break down where there is a power imbalance (such as violence but also in other ways) and also when the truth assessing mechanism starts to break down, as we are starting to see in social media.

jkarran - on 30 Aug 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> But the one good point Pakistani PM Imran Khan makes is that laws against Holocaust denial concede the principle that speech can be outlawed just because it upsets people.

Holocaust denial isn't outlawed just because it upsets people, it's outlawed because it's a powerful tool in bringing about the conditions for a further genocide.

I can live with limits on free speech, in reality they will always exist, all that changes is where they lie.

jk

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Coel Hellier - on 30 Aug 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

The rarely-bettered Christopher Hitchens on Holocaust-denial laws:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jyoOfRog1EM

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Coel Hellier - on 30 Aug 2018
In reply to jkarran:

> it's outlawed because it's a powerful tool in bringing about the conditions for a further genocide.

Is there any evidence that that's the case?  Any evidence that pushing such opinions underground makes further genocides less likely? 

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hang_about - on 30 Aug 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

Radio 4 this morning had an interview with the ex head of news at Twitter. They were discussing the conspiracy theories that Sandy Hook never happened and whether Twitter should act as a platform for this 'fake news'. The guy interviewed made it clear that it was outside of his remit to make those decisions at the time but, as a human being, would have rather them taken down earlier. When asked about balance, he was asked which interests would over-rule the rights of grieving parents. There was a very, very long pause. Just because the Holocaust happened in the '40s doesn't make the situation different.

Freedom of speech is important - so I don't, I suppose, have a problem with someone saying this sort of rubbish. But at the same time, if we allow, that then we also need to have consequences - so say it but then face the consequences of the laws that society chooses to construct. 

Using libel (or slander) laws as an example. You could use any medium to say something untrue, but then there are consequences. I think Holocaust denial falls within this same area.

 

 

Philip on 30 Aug 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

In most countries free speech does not preclude prosecution for the outcome, slander / inciting racial hatred / wikileaks. Even statements like Musk made about taking Tesla public.

Usually a lack of freedom of speech is about the restriction on the ability to make it, not the consequence. State controlled news, prohibition on public meetings, restriction on social media.

Coel Hellier - on 30 Aug 2018
In reply to hang_about:

> Freedom of speech is important - so I don't, I suppose, have a problem with someone saying this sort of rubbish. But at the same time, if we allow, that then we also need to have consequences - so say it but then face the consequences of the laws that society chooses to construct. 

So what are you saying?  That you're in favour of free speech, and accept people spouting wrong and offensive rubbish, but you also accept legal sanctions against such speech?  Isn't that contradictory?

As for things like Sandy Hook denialism, yes it's rubbish and offensive, but that's part of the price of living in a free society, since who gets to decide what is or is not rubbish? Who gets to decide what can or cannot be said? Trump?

And such things are rarely about people actually being offended.   Any Sandy Hook parent needn't follow Alex Jones on Twitter.  Muslims needn't google for Mohammed cartoons.

No, the "I'm offended" line is rarely an honest one, it's not "I don't want to encounter this", it's mostly "I don't want other people to be allowed to encounter this". That's censorship.

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MG - on 30 Aug 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

 

> And such things are rarely about people actually being offended.   Any Sandy Hook parent needn't follow Alex Jones on Twitter. 

And how do they avoid death threats and being accosted in the street?

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-38245883

In situations like that free speech has real-world consequences for people's lives that can't be shrugged off with glib statements about twitter.

 

Robert Durran - on 30 Aug 2018
In reply to hang_about:

> I don't, I suppose, have a problem with someone saying this sort of rubbish. But at the same time, if we allow, that then we also need to have consequences - so say it but then face the consequences of the laws that society chooses to construct. 

Eh? By the same token, then, would you say it is ok to murder someone as long as you accept the consequences of the law against murder? Doesn't make sense - laws are there because we have decided some things are not ok.

 

Coel Hellier - on 30 Aug 2018
In reply to MG:

> In situations like that free speech has real-world consequences

The example you pointed to was criminal behaviour and the police dealt with it.

You can't outlaw every utterance that someone else might take as a cue to behave badly.  Otherwise, where does that stop? 

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Sir Chasm - on 30 Aug 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> The example you pointed to was criminal behaviour and the police dealt with it.

> You can't outlaw every utterance that someone else might take as a cue to behave badly.  Otherwise, where does that stop? 

So what you're saying is that  you're in favour of free speech but not if the speaker is trying to incite violence? 

PeterM - on 30 Aug 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

Free speech is a myth. If it existed stuff like hate speech against anyone or distasteful ideas would proliferate ( see NAMBLA - google it, and PIE). 'free market', 'free trade' and 'free country' are also myths predicated by the word 'free' to make them sound rightous. As for the holocaust denial, in that specific case why not? As far as religion and deities go, you can say what you like as they are entirely fictional made-up shit. Blasphemy laws have no place in this world.

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98%monkey - on 30 Aug 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

Good call.

 

The energy within the mainstream media about anti-Semitism is disproportionate to the alleged situation.

 

It should be clear to anyone with a modicum of sense that this is essentially sponsored propaganda that is there to support the offensive stance of Israel, discredit an unsupportive Corbyn and credit a loyal Conservative base.

 

The media which constantly attacks media is all pro-Conservative owned and CFOI (google it) are clear drivers.

 

What is surprising is that despite everyone agreeing that WW2 was terrible and not to be repeated, how many organisations, charities, associations and movements etc there are to protect, promote and further Jewish and Israeli interests the world over.

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MG - on 30 Aug 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> The example you pointed to was criminal behaviour and the police dealt with it.

Up to a point.  The families are still being harassed.

> You can't outlaw every utterance that someone else might take as a cue to behave badly.  Otherwise, where does that stop? 

Where society decides.  If you are happy with direct incitement to violence being out of bounds, you have conceded the point that not *all* speech should be allowed.  It then becomes about where the boundary should lie. I don't have a firm answer but am increasingly of the view that where there is a huge imbalance in power (as here), some greater restriction than direct incitement is warranted.

 

Coel Hellier - on 30 Aug 2018
In reply to PeterM:

> If it existed stuff like hate speech against anyone or distasteful ideas would proliferate

Any actual evidence that suppressing such speech by legal sanction reduces their prevalence in society?

> As for the holocaust denial, in that specific case why not? As far as religion and deities go, you can say what you like as they are entirely fictional made-up shit. Blasphemy laws have no place in this world.

How would you then explain to Imran Khan or other Muslims that outlawing Holocaust denial is fine, but outlawing blasphemy is not?

Mike Highbury - on 30 Aug 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier: I can see why Gert Wilders and co think this is fab but why do you want to make this into a thing? Do you think it a timely discussion or something else?

 

Rob Exile Ward on 30 Aug 2018
In reply to MG:

I have to say that seems a bit of a non-sequitur. Freedom to say stupid/and or hurtful things isn't the same a freedom to threaten someone or accost them. That particular incident, the woman is facing 20 years, nothing to do with freedom of speech and (although the US penal systems is obviously dire) quite right too, 

MG - on 30 Aug 2018
In reply to Rob Exile Ward:

> I have to say that seems a bit of a non-sequitur. Freedom to say stupid/and or hurtful things isn't the same a freedom to threaten someone or accost them. 

So are you advocating no limits at all on free speech, even direct incitement to violence?

 

PeterM - on 30 Aug 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> Any actual evidence that suppressing such speech by legal sanction reduces their prevalence in society?

Hugely difficult to prove other than by removing those pieces of legislation. Although Trump-era america has become emboldened whether it's race or gender knowing that the laws won't be enforced

> How would you then explain to Imran Khan or other Muslims that outlawing Holocaust denial is fine, but outlawing blasphemy is not?

I'd be wasting my breath......religion has no place for logic

 

hang_about - on 30 Aug 2018
In reply to Robert Durran:

No - because murder is different from libel. We (in the UK) restrict the sale of guns because of potential for misuse but we don't restrict access to Twitter as the consequences are different. Absolutes are not useful.

Coel Hellier - on 30 Aug 2018
In reply to Mike Highbury:

> Do you think it a timely discussion or something else?

The timing is set by coming across the articles I linked to. 

On the broader point, I do think we need to reject the increasingly common idea that if someone is offended by some speech, then that speech is impermissible.

Dave Garnett - on 30 Aug 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> That you're in favour of free speech, and accept people spouting wrong and offensive rubbish, but you also accept legal sanctions against such speech?  Isn't that contradictory?

Not really.  It's just an expression of the presumption that there should be no prior restraint when it comes to free expression.  In fact, there are loads of actions the law can't usually prevent you from doing, but you do so accepting that you will face the consequences.

  

 

Rob Exile Ward on 30 Aug 2018
In reply to MG:

Not at all. I think there are already plenty of laws that mean that if I say 'I am coming to kill you' then I will be prosecuted. That seems a qualitatively different animal from saying 'the Holocaust never happened' or 'Allah doesn't exist.'

PeterM - on 30 Aug 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> On the broader point, I do think we need to reject the increasingly common idea that if someone is offended by some speech, then that speech is impermissible.

 

Mostly with you there, but this is were libel is important. Telling lies is not really on, especially about an individual, but a lot of non-libelous statements are being mis-construed and extrapolated- a lot of people seem to want to be offended.

 

Timmd on 30 Aug 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> Is there any evidence that that's the case?  Any evidence that pushing such opinions underground makes further genocides less likely? 

That the Holocaust didn't really happen, or that it was 'only' a couple of hundred thousand Jews who were killed rather than millions, is a favourite belief of far right antisemites*.  We can't 'know' that making it illegal makes further genocide less likely for the straight forward reason that we don't have two identical worlds to enable us to carry out an experiment, but with how ignorance and misinformation can breed hatred (Jews seem to be blamed for everything in youtube comments), it doesn't seem to be such a stretch to say that spreading belief that the Holocaust didn't really happen - with the inference being that it is a hoax carried out by Jews so that they can benefit, would be a rather good way of spreading hatred towards Jews. 

* Minimising the extent of the Holocaust is a way in which certain people like to infer that it's part of a hoax created by the Jews to reap benefits from the rest of the world. It's pretty sickening.

Post edited at 15:00
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MG - on 30 Aug 2018
In reply to Rob Exile Ward:

> Not at all. I think there are already plenty of laws that mean that if I say 'I am coming to kill you' then I will be prosecuted. That seems a qualitatively different animal from saying 'the Holocaust never happened' or 'Allah doesn't exist.'

Right, but I'm not suggesting saying such things should be restricted. 

I'm pointing out that if we ban direct incitement to violence because we think others are likely to act on it and cause harm, isn't it consistent to consider whether there are other similar situations?  I'd say Alex Jones' rantings are similar - I don't plan to listen them but I think it's reasonable to suppose he knew the likely effects of what he was saying and probably intended them.

Post edited at 14:59
Timmd on 30 Aug 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> How would you then explain to Imran Khan or other Muslims that outlawing Holocaust denial is fine, but outlawing blasphemy is not?

Perhaps one could say that Holocaust denial is outlawed to prevent hatred against Jews from being propagated with the idea that it's a hoax,  and that other religions seem to manage without being protected by blasphemy laws (with The Life Of Brian being cited) - and can't an all powerful god cope with that kind of thing? 

Coel Hellier - on 30 Aug 2018
In reply to Timmd:

> We can't 'know' that making it illegal makes further genocide less likely ...

But we can factor in that it's not illegal in,  for example, the UK.   Would you say that UK people are more likely to commit the next genocide than people in places where Holocaust denial is illegal? 

And, by the way, the Weimar Republic had laws against hate speech and anti-Semitic expression.  What happened next?

Coel Hellier - on 30 Aug 2018
In reply to Timmd:

> Perhaps one could say that Holocaust denial is outlawed to prevent hatred against Jews from being propagated with the idea that it's a hoax,  ...

And Imran Khan could reply by asking for a blasphemy laws to prevent hatred against Muslims based on the idea that Islam is a false and "hoax" religion. 

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Timmd on 30 Aug 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier: 

> And Imran Khan could reply by asking for a blasphemy laws to prevent hatred against Muslims based on the idea that Islam is a false and "hoax" religion. 

He could, but in itself that's not an argument 'against' having a law prohibiting Holocaust denial. 

Post edited at 15:10
wercat on 30 Aug 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

Free speech does not include any right to cause or harm or to cause others to cause harm.  That is the natural limit and remoaning about any limit being not freedom of speech is a false argument. 

Timmd on 30 Aug 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> But we can factor in that it's not illegal in,  for example, the UK.   Would you say that UK people are more likely to commit the next genocide than people in places where Holocaust denial is illegal? 

I wouldn't , but thinking of how people at Yarls Wood detention centre are being detained indefinitely, in limbo and at risk of/coming to harm gives me concern, in that I don't see a genocide happening any time soon but 'otherness' still allows people to be treated very poorly. 

> And, by the way, the Weimar Republic had laws against hate speech and anti-Semitic expression.  What happened next?

Good point. 

Post edited at 15:45
Coel Hellier - on 30 Aug 2018
In reply to wercat:

> Free speech does not include any right to cause or harm or to cause others to cause harm. 

The "cause harm" would be fair enough along with a sensible definition of "harm"  (being "offended" is not the same as "harmed"). 

The "cause others to cause harm" would be also be ok with a strict enough interpretation.    

Chris the Tall - on 30 Aug 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> The example you pointed to was criminal behaviour and the police dealt with it.

It's only criminal because the law makes such speech a crime

And your opening stance is that even the most abhorrent speech is still free speech and therefore should be untouchable 

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wercat on 30 Aug 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

And that is the difficult rub

Coel Hellier - on 30 Aug 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

Well looks like I was more topical than I knew!

"Former Juventus midfielder Rolando Mandragora has been suspended for one Serie A game after he was caught on television cameras shouting "Porca Madonna, Vaffanculo, Dio Cane", an insult to the Virgin Mary, while also referring to God as a dog."

""After acquiring and examining the relevant television images, the player, while cursing without referring to anybody around him, was nevertheless clearly seen by the television images to make blasphemous remarks, visibly identifiable from reading his lips without any margin for reasonable doubt," a disciplinary report from the Lega Serie A said."

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/45347238

Coel Hellier - on 30 Aug 2018
In reply to Chris the Tall:

> And your opening stance is that even the most abhorrent speech is still free speech and therefore should be untouchable 

Well obviously I didn't produce an entire essay on the subject in the OP.  Yes, there are accepted restrictions such as libel and death threats.  These are generally not what free-speech debates are about. 

What I meant is that being offensive or abhorrent ("inspiring disgust and loathing; repugnant") should not be sufficient to make something illegal.

Timmd on 30 Aug 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> Well obviously I didn't produce an entire essay on the subject in the OP.  Yes, there are accepted restrictions such as libel and death threats.  These are generally not what free-speech debates are about. 

> What I meant is that being offensive or abhorrent ("inspiring disgust and loathing; repugnant") should not be sufficient to make something illegal.

'Gays like to recruit children to be gay' is a common misconception, with how that runs the risk of inspiring disgust and loathing etc, and very probably physical attacks too, in your opinion would it be okay for a national broadcaster or newspaper to talk like that, with anecdotal accounts of gay pedophiles to back things up?

Post edited at 15:51
jkarran - on 30 Aug 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> Is there any evidence that that's the case?  Any evidence that pushing such opinions underground makes further genocides less likely? 

Well one could survey the attitude toward Jews of people who believe the holocaust is a huge Jewish conspiracy vs those that believe it actually happened and millions were murdered. From there you would have to extrapolate.

Obviously since we have thankfully yet to replicate the Nazi's 'final solution' you're always going to be able to claim there is no hard evidence it's actually dangerous to allow holocaust denial to gain popular traction if you wish. I don't, you of course are free to think as you will.

An underground idea gathers few followers. Imagine a future where holocaust denial were mainstream, where all ideas were considered equally valid and people were left to their own devices to sort fact from fiction, perhaps it's even taught in some schools, children are raised to believe the holocaust was not about systematically exterminating the Jews but perhaps even was about Jews killing another group... far fetched... try talking to someone who's spent years in the grubbier corners of the internet, see if they think that's far fetched.

Look at 'flat earth', transparently insane right? Yet powered by the ability of the internet to spread unchallenged nonsense as readily as actual science it's gathering traction in countries with decent public education systems in the 21st century, we should be immune to this shit but we're not.

jk

Bob Hughes - on 30 Aug 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

I think broadly-speaking i agree with your view on the legality of free speech. 

One part of the free speech side of the argument has got weaker over time: the idea that unpleasant ideas should be brought out into the sunlight and defeated by reason. The logic of the argument is impeccable. The problem is in practise, subjecting ideas to rigorous cross-examination only happens in a few specific forums. Mostly, and increasingly these days, people like Alex Jones, Fox News, Breitbart etc* - and their equivalents on the left - bang on their own hobby horse issues firing up their base. The growth of cable news (esp in the US) and social media and self publishing platforms only exacerbates this. 

I honestly don't know what the answer is. I'm pretty sure it is not further restrictions on free speech. 

*as an aside, its interesting that i can't off the top of my head reel off a few left-leaning  equivalents. I suspect becasue I lean centre-left most of the publications and twitter feeds i read bang on aboutb the 3 i have mentioned and not about their equivalents on the left. 

krikoman - on 30 Aug 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

I'm torn on this, obviously Hitchens is a great thinker and a better explainer.

And while I agree with everything he says in the link, I'm still struggling with why we'd want to allow people to be holocaust deniers.

So the question for me is why would you want to be a holocaust denier?

If I decide this denial is OK then where do I draw the next line, if not then who is the arbiter of what's acceptable?

I love the idea of free speech, but I'm not convinced of it's usefulness, Hitchens says it might be useful in that we revisit what we think about a subject and learn more from doing so, but not everyone is going to do that, which then brings about another dilemma, is free speech OK only for the clever people, or more importantly only for a clever audience.

I don't have an answer, but it would be nice if people thought about what they were saying and tried not to hurt each other, but we're in la la land there aren't we?

When soldiers are throwing kids into burning houses, it does seem a little trivial to not want to be offended by what someone says.

 

 

Flinticus - on 30 Aug 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> The "cause harm" would be fair enough along with a sensible definition of "harm"  (being "offended" is not the same as "harmed"). 

> The "cause others to cause harm" would be also be ok with a strict enough interpretation.    

The problem being that once harm has been caused, it has gone too far and you are effectively locking the stable after the horse has bolted.

Extract of a study of a more recent genocide which I am surprised has not been mentioned. Offensive speech spilling over into actual violence is not an historical issue but a contemporary one (and always will be)

The Rwandan genocide is probably the most vivid example where the media was employed as a weapon, resulting in the murders of up to one million people. The incitement against the Tutsi population of Rwanda through the media was also persecuted in the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Throughout the one hundred days of genocide the Radio and print media played a crucial role in inciting the Hutu population and even in giving specific instructions on how to kill. The tragic success of this hate campaign can be traced back to a low literacy rate in the population, to the distribution of radios and to the fact that people had few possibilities to verify facts and so-called news.

Dr. Kaufman explained that because of this, the local media was responsible for the first phase of the genocide. i.e., the incitement of the population. Particularly the French language newspaper “Kangura” as well as “Radio Rwanda” and “RTLM – Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines” played the decisive role in stigmatizing, dehumanizing and demonizing the Tutsi population. The radio broadcast news that could not be verified by the population. RTLM appeared to be very popular because of its lively music, interviews and gossip and were responsible for giving the Tutsi population dehumanizing names and accused Tutsi of planning a genocide against the Hutu. This incitement was followed by a deliberate campaign to orchestrate genocide. First, the Hutu were urged to kill Tutsi; second, specific instruction was given as to how this could be done; third, detailed information on the location of individuals or groups of people were broadcast with phrases such as “The graves are not yet full,” transmitted via radio and newspaper.

Source: http://www.kas.de/israel/en/publications/33411/

Though I do sympathise with your argument. The problem may be that the audience will not be the same as that attending Hitchen's lecture. 

Coel Hellier - on 30 Aug 2018
In reply to Timmd:

> Gays like to recruit children to be gay' is a common misconception, with how that runs the risk of inspiring disgust and loathing etc, and very probably physical attacks too, in your opinion would it be okay for a national broadcaster or newspaper to talk like that, with anecdotal accounts of gay pedophiles to back things up?

Should it be illegal? No, it should not be illegal.

Should we grant it a preferential platform (which is what being a national broadcaster involves)?  No, we needn't do that. 

 

Coel Hellier - on 30 Aug 2018
In reply to jkarran:

> be able to claim there is no hard evidence it's actually dangerous to allow holocaust denial to gain popular traction if you wish.

It's not so much whether you "allow" something togain popular traction, as whether making the idea illegal is an effective tactic. 

If some idea is gaining popular traction, outlawing it might actually help it.  It feeds ideas that "the establishment" is lying to you, and it feeds resentment. 

Just suppose that we made moon-landing denialism illegal.  Isn't that as likely to boost moon-landing denialism? "What do they have to hide?"  "Why are they afraid of open discussion?"

> Look at 'flat earth', transparently insane right?

Yep, and would outlawing it help it or harm it? 

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Coel Hellier - on 30 Aug 2018
In reply to Bob Hughes:

> *as an aside, its interesting that i can't off the top of my head reel off a few left-leaning  equivalents.

Vox news, Huffington Post, Slate magazine ...

Coel Hellier - on 30 Aug 2018
In reply to krikoman:

> ... I'm still struggling with why we'd want to allow people to be holocaust deniers.

Because if we "cured" it by making illegal the cure would be worse than the disease.

Almost everywhere where you give authorities the power to decide what can and cannot be said the power gets misused.

The first thing to go is the right to criticise those who get to decide what can be said.  After all, they're the ones with the power to decide what can be said!

Bob Kemp - on 30 Aug 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

I broadly agree with you, although I don't believe that free speech should be permitted in all situations. Shouting 'fire' in a  crowded cinema, and so on... A major problem with the Holocaust denial laws is that it legitimises all kinds of similar approaches, often in the interests of political repression. This article has some good examples - https://foreignpolicy.com/2016/10/02/first-they-came-for-the-holocaust-deniers-and-i-did-not-speak-out/

Bob Hughes - on 30 Aug 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> Vox news, Huffington Post, Slate magazine ...

Thanks! Although not sure any of them are quite as bonkers as Alex Jones. 

Bob Hughes - on 30 Aug 2018
In reply to Bob Kemp:

I was going to comment that I can see certain situations when it can make sense to ban something specific like holocaust denial. In Germany immediately after the war for example. But, thanks to this thread, i looked up a few examples and was surprised to find that many of the laws were introduced in the 90's which seems odd. 

Coel Hellier - on 30 Aug 2018
In reply to Bob Kemp:

Thanks, that is a very good piece on the problems with historical-denial laws. 

krikoman - on 30 Aug 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> Because if we "cured" it by making illegal the cure would be worse than the disease.

> Almost everywhere where you give authorities the power to decide what can and cannot be said the power gets misused.

> The first thing to go is the right to criticise those who get to decide what can be said.  After all, they're the ones with the power to decide what can be said!


I agree, you only have to look at Saudi, China, North Korea, Iran, etc, to see where it ends up. I probably don't like the idea that people feel free to say what they like and be as hurtful as the feel, which is an abuse of freedom of speech.

stevieb - on 30 Aug 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

What’s your view on other anti-free speech laws that do exist in the UK, such as glorifying terrorism? 

Chris the Tall - on 30 Aug 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> Well obviously I didn't produce an entire essay on the subject in the OP.  Yes, there are accepted restrictions such as libel and death threats.  These are generally not what free-speech debates are about. 

I'm pretty sure I have written entire essays on the subject, it's one of those basic things you do when you study civil liberties in law or politics. In fact I seem to remember a book - Freedom, the individual and the Law - that was preliminary reading, and detailed all the ways that Freedom of Speech was limited. And you very quickly realise that absolute "Freedom of Speech" doesn't exist, has never existed, and would be a complete disaster if it did.

So once you accept the basic tenet that there must be some restrictions, for the good of society, it then becomes a question of where do you draw the line, and that is far harder. There is no easy answer.

But what you also need to realise is that those who like to provoke freedom of speech clashes, be they Tommy Robinson over contempt of court or the Charlottesville Nazis, are not doing so because they believe in the principal. They are doing so because they want to create a situation they can exploit 

Coel Hellier - on 30 Aug 2018
In reply to stevieb:

> What’s your view on other anti-free speech laws that do exist in the UK, such as glorifying terrorism? 

I would not have "glorifying terrorism" as a crime.  I would have crimes of "conspiracy to terrorism" and "preparation for terrorism". 

wercat on 30 Aug 2018
In reply to stevieb:

or, more precisely,  incitement,  spreading ideas that infect a society, a group, or individuals

Post edited at 19:56
marsbar - on 30 Aug 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> How would you then explain to Imran Khan or other Muslims that outlawing Holocaust denial is fine, but outlawing blasphemy is not?

I suppose that blasphemy is based on a difference of opinions whereas the holocaust actually happened.  

I'd probably also suggest that blasphemy is a matter for him upstairs to deal with and not within the jurisdiction of human law makers.  Let God/Allah/whoever deal with being insulted.  Do they really think a powerful deity such as God/Allah needs us to get involved with such things?!  

 

stevieb - on 30 Aug 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> I would not have "glorifying terrorism" as a crime.  I would have crimes of "conspiracy to terrorism" and "preparation for terrorism". 

I agree with you. We also have a crime of incitement tonterrorism (in uk or abroad) which is also valid, but I would not criminalise glorifying. 

stevieb - on 30 Aug 2018
In reply to wercat:

> or, more precisely,  incitement,  spreading ideas that infect a society, a group, or individuals

Well no. There were existing laws against incitement to terrorism or providing material information. But there is a UK law against glorification. 

I’m not aware of any spurious convictions in the UK. But in France someone was sentenced to 18 months in prison for saying a terrorist attack was courageous, even though he disagreed with it. And in Spain a woman got a suspended sentence for posting a joke about a 1970s ETA assassination. I’d be pretty miffed if I got a prison sentence for posting a joke about Airey Neave, no matter how poor taste. 

Coel Hellier - on 30 Aug 2018
In reply to stevieb:

> But in France someone was sentenced to 18 months in prison for saying a terrorist attack was courageous, even though he disagreed with it.

If there were a law against saying that Bobby Sands was courageous, we'd have to lock up half the population of Northern Ireland. 

1
Thrudge on 30 Aug 2018
In reply to krikoman:

> And while I agree with everything he says in the link, I'm still struggling with why we'd want to allow people to be holocaust deniers.

I think the key concept in that sentence is 'allow'.  We don't - perhaps I should say "shouldn't" - in a free and liberal society have the option to allow or disallow the speech of holocaust deniers (yeah, I know - Austria). I have no doubt that the deniers are factually incorrect. But suppressing it is far worse than hearing it. Worse in that it impoverishes our understanding of who thinks what and why, and worse in that it robs us of our power to counter such an ugly narrative. 

Suppression of politically incorrect speech is the hallmark of the far right and the far left, a certain identifier of a totalitarian regime or a totalitarian political movement.  It leads directly to horrors such as Nazi Germany, Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, Pinochet's Chile, and Stalin's USSR. 

> I love the idea of free speech, but I'm not convinced of it's usefulness, Hitchens says it might be useful in that we revisit what we think about a subject and learn more from doing so, but not everyone is going to do that, which then brings about another dilemma, is free speech OK only for the clever people, or more importantly only for a clever audience.

I'm going to counter this argument quite strongly, and I may appear rude. I hope you will accept my assurance that I do so respectfully and I'm at pains not to offend. Here goes.

If you are not convinced of the usefulness of free speech, then I submit that you have not understood it. It is vital - not simply useful, or desirable, or preferable - but absolutely vital to a free and open society. Hitchen's point is an excellent one. Your point that not everyone is going to reassess is a valid one, but it is also irrelevant. 'Not everyone will follow the rules and play the game' is not an argument for having no rules, or not having a particular rule (free speech) or for not playing the game. The game, in this case, is called 'civilized society'.

Further, free speech is not just for clever people, it is specifically for everyone.  That is the way it is codified in law, and with good reason: if only one group get it, it's not free speech.

Finally (and I think more fundamentally) free speech is crucial because speech is not simply a way of saying, "I think this".  Speech is not just a way of expressing your ideas, it is a way of finding out *what* you think.  Until you express it, you don't really know what you think, and neither does anyone else.  And once you start *trying* to express it you will modify it as it's coming out of your mouth/keyboard, or you'll modify it shortly after when it butts up against contrary opinions. 

Speech *is* thought.  Limit speech beyond the lightest and most reasonable of touches and you limit thought. I hope we can agree that limiting thoughtful and open discussion is a bad idea.

> I don't have an answer, but it would be nice if people thought about what they were saying and tried not to hurt each other, but we're in la la land there aren't we?

Trying not to hurt each other is, broadly speaking, a laudable idea, but it should not be extended to mean 'fear speaking the truth - or even voicing an opinion - for fear that it might offend'. That is the silver bullet that kills free speech. Fear of giving offence is the weakest and most cowardly of reasons for silence (and not a motive I attribute to you). Currently, it's a very popular reason.

If we surrender free speech, we surrender our right to think, our right to develop, our right to progress, and our right to be wrong. We surrender our right not just to truth and justice but to the paths towards them. Without free speech we are slaves to our government or whoever our most powerful opinion-formers happen to be.  With limited access to free speech, we are at best compromised, stunted, and disabled. 

Free speech is not just about my right to say 'x'. It is - far more importantly - your right to hear it.

Let the holocaust deniers proclaim in full voice. It's fine. Facts, reason, and a natural human desire for truth will counter and invalidate them.

Free speech is not a gilding on a free and open society - it is its bedrock.

2
Thrudge on 30 Aug 2018
In reply to marsbar:

> Do they really think a powerful deity such as God/Allah needs us to get involved with such things?!  

I feel like I'm shooting fish in a barrel here, but what the heck, here goes: yes.

marsbar - on 30 Aug 2018
In reply to Thrudge:

It was a rhetorical question.  Coel asked what I'd say, not if they would agree with me.  

Thrudge on 30 Aug 2018
In reply to marsbar:

Yeah, I know. I wasn't trying to score points off you there, just making a point about religious nitwits 

Andy Hardy on 31 Aug 2018
In reply to Thrudge:

Been following the thread with interest, and I was struck by this:

"Finally (and I think more fundamentally) free speech is crucial because speech is not simply a way of saying, "I think this".  Speech is not just a way of expressing your ideas, it is a way of finding out *what* you think.  Until you express it, you don't really know what you think, and neither does anyone else.  And once you start *trying* to express it you will modify it as it's coming out of your mouth/keyboard, or you'll modify it shortly after when it butts up against contrary opinions. "

Which is possibly true for speech (face to face, like a university tutorial), but I would contend not true for posting on the internet. When can you ever remember anyone changing their minds in a "debate" on here.

 

Coel Hellier - on 31 Aug 2018
In reply to Andy Hardy:

> When can you ever remember anyone changing their minds in a "debate" on here.

It's often suggested that no-one ever does, but changing ones mind usually takes time, it doesn't happen in a thread, it happens over months or years.  And participation in things like UKC threads can be a big part of that. But one then needs to mull over things. 

Andy Hardy on 31 Aug 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

Did you ever waver from your belief that God doesn't exist, as a result of those endless threads?

Did saor alba ever say Scottish independence might not be a good idea?

Do you or john yates ever think brexit might be an almighty balls up?

In the context of protection for free expression v causing harm do you think that anyone posting on the daily stormer thinks that apartheid was wrong? There appears to be no solution to the conundrum, as there is no longer a mechanism by which truth prevails over opinions. 

Bob Hughes - on 31 Aug 2018
In reply to Andy Hardy:

I have changed my view on immigration as a result of threads on here. I used to be an advocate of throwing all borders open but Postmanpat linked to an article about Sweden's experience with refugees which convinced me of the political challenge to open borders. I still think the problem is more political than practical (i.e. you get a backlash in the host society long before that society really can't cope) - but that still presents very real problems. 

Nevertheless I agree with your broader point about echo chambers, filter bubbles and confirmation bias. I don't think it is format-specific by the way. Not sure if there is any science on this but I'm not necessarily convinced that people are more willing to change their minds face to face than on the internet. I think it is more that some people are more open to changing their minds than others. I think there has been some work on this and it relates what you identify with - if you identify yourself as "rational truth seeker" you're more likel to be open tochanging your mind than if you identify with "Brexiteer / Remainer / Tory / Labour" or any other ideological position. I'm also not convinced by the argument that its about being clever or well-educated. Plenty of clever, well educated ideologues. 

I think the answer to this problem doesn't lie in legal restrictions on free speech. It probably lies in creating norms and somehow giving more social value to fair and balanced truth-seeking. 

Coel Hellier - on 31 Aug 2018
In reply to Andy Hardy:

> Do you or john yates ever think brexit might be an almighty balls up?

Quite often I do, yes, I've always been pretty ambivalent about it (though much less "it's a complete disaster" than the convinced Remainers, as people may have noticed).

I would much prefer a solution where the EU allows more a-la-carte latitude and we stay in.  I think this would also be better for the rest of the EU (it would mean having to adopt policies that people actually vote for). 

Coel Hellier - on 31 Aug 2018
In reply to the thread:

"Freedom of expression can never justify blasphemy.We strongly protest against disrespect of Our Beloved Prophet (PBUH) in France. Making cartoon of Prophet is the worst act of terrorism.The Sketch makers must be hanged immediately."

https://twitter.com/Rabipirzada/status/1033994340459274240

Rob Exile Ward on 31 Aug 2018
In reply to Andy Hardy:

I mull things over, and I dare say I change my mind - and seriously consider my position, e.g over Brexit as a result of arguments here.

Religion remains a totally closed book to me though, I'm afraid - every experience and all logic simply screams how unnecessary, untruthful and plain wrong all religions are. No exceptions.

Andy Hardy on 31 Aug 2018
In reply to Bob Hughes:

The more important bit of my post was not really whether or not posting on here has changed anyone's mind (although I do think that a real life conversation would be more likely to), my key point is that subjective opinion and straightforward lies are now given equal weight to objective truths. Maybe holocaust denial laws are the wrong way to tackle this problem, however we have to acknowledge that the problem exists.

The description of the Rwandan genocide upthread was particularly chilling - it shows what constant 'messaging' can achieve, and the interweb, particularly social meeja is fantastically good at targeting messages.

jkarran - on 31 Aug 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> It's not so much whether you "allow" something togain popular traction, as whether making the idea illegal is an effective tactic. 

Honestly, no, I don't think it's a totally effective tactic. I think it's a tool for dealing with specific problems, it keeps crackpot ideas from gaining parity with others on mainstream broadcast media (compare with climate change denial in the UK) and it keeps them out of schools. It's clearly not the only way to achieve that but I think we're perhaps a bit complacent in Britain, our role as liberator of the death camps and the national pride derived from that for now at least gives us some imunity from holocaust denial and antisemitism gaining serious traction as it threatens to elsewhere.

> If some idea is gaining popular traction, outlawing it might actually help it.  It feeds ideas that "the establishment" is lying to you, and it feeds resentment.

Yeah, it might, that's a risk we have to assess and monitor if we decide there is a growing problem which needs addressing. I don't like the idea of ideas being outlawed or more to the point their dissemination but I do accept there is no such thing as free speech, there will always be conflicts and they will always need to be resolved, the consequence is in any practical implementation of an open tolerant society there will be some limits on the ideas which can be promoted. A free and open society which is in fact neither, is that an oxymoron? Maybe but we don't live in a simple world, all we can do is make try it as good as we can while constrained by reality.

jk

Post edited at 09:09
jkarran - on 31 Aug 2018
In reply to Thrudge:

I have a lot of sympathy with your position that free speech is an essential right in an open democratic society, it is. We should however be under no illusion that free speech is anywhere actually free and totally unlimited, nor that it need be to effectively serve the role you describe.

> Let the holocaust deniers proclaim in full voice. It's fine. Facts, reason, and a natural human desire for truth will counter and invalidate them.

Like 'Flat Earth'? Your faith in our desire and ability to sift information, weigh it and reason over our desire to believe something easy and comforting with a compelling narrative and charismatic proponents is touching but I fear misplaced.

> Free speech is not a gilding on a free and open society - it is its bedrock.

Free speech exists nowhere. All countries, all societies from the most oppressive to the most open place limits on the ideas which can be promulgated. Either none of those societies are free and open in a meaningful way or your assertion does not quite stand up. Opinions differ on whether any meaningfully free and open societies currently exist so I'll leave you to decide where you stand on that.

jk

 

jkarran - on 31 Aug 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> "Freedom of expression can never justify blasphemy.We strongly protest against disrespect of Our Beloved Prophet (PBUH) in France. Making cartoon of Prophet is the worst act of terrorism.The Sketch makers must be hanged immediately."

What's your point, that, likely as a result of religious indoctrination she's being a complete cock womble or that in the UK she'd be breaking incitement to violence laws or something else?

jk

 

Coel Hellier - on 31 Aug 2018
In reply to jkarran:

> What's your point, . . .

Mostly just highlighting the attitudes of the "religion of peace" and their desire to violently suppress any criticism of that religion. 

Hence highlighting why maintaining the right to criticise, even if people are "offended", is essential to a free society.

1
Coel Hellier - on 31 Aug 2018
In reply to jkarran:

... though it also highlights the double standards of companies like Twitter in choosing who to ban.  That Tweet (from a blue-checked tweeter) won't get any response from them, whereas many people have been banned for vastly less.

People may not be aware that Twitter and Facebook and others routinely ban commentary by ex-Muslims and atheists in the Islamic world, owing to Muslims deluging Twitter etc with complaints, claiming they are "offended".

jkarran - on 31 Aug 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> Mostly just highlighting the attitudes of the "religion of peace" and their desire to violently suppress any criticism of that religion. 

You're conflating the ghastly output of an individual with the opinions of a billion other people. You'll have to forgive me for thinking less of you for that.

> Hence highlighting why maintaining the right to criticise, even if people are "offended", is essential to a free society.

I'm not arguing against the right to offend, I'm arguing holocaust denial laws do not where they exist do so to prevent offence being taken.

jk

Post edited at 10:27
1
Coel Hellier - on 31 Aug 2018
In reply to jkarran:

> You're conflating the ghastly output of an individual with the beliefs of a billion people.

And yet her remarks are in line with mainstream Islamic jurisprudence and indeed the laws of many countries. 

Are you aware, for example, of the blasphemy laws in Pakistan and how they are used?

Just for example, merely suggesting that the blasphemy laws were being misused was enough to get the Governor of Punjab assassination, because criticising blasphemy laws is itself considered blasphemous. 

After the assassin was executed, 100,000 people attended his funeral in support of his acts, regarding him as a hero and a martyr.  

And you want to suggest that such attitudes are only held be a few individuals?

> You'll have to forgive me for thinking less of you.

Ditto.  Specifically, I think less of you for your knee-jerk trying to excuse Islam.

Post edited at 10:36
1
Coel Hellier - on 31 Aug 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

For anyone interested in blasphemy laws in Pakistan, and why Pakistan is a nation poisoned by Islam:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salmaan_Taseer#Death

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mumtaz_Qadri

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blasphemy_law_in_Pakistan

 

jkarran - on 31 Aug 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> And yet her remarks are in line with mainstream Islamic jurisprudence and indeed the laws of many countries.  Are you aware, for example, of the blasphemy laws in Pakistan and how they are used?

Yes yet your statement tars moderate British muslims and others the world over with the same brush you rightly use on this twittering twit and the now the repressive Pakistani government.

> And you want to suggest that such attitudes are only held be a few individuals?

No, they are held by a fraction of a billion plus people but only by a fraction. You lazily or maliciously seek to tar all with the same brush or at the very least take no care at all not to.

> Ditto.  Specifically, I think less of you for your knee-jerk trying to excuse Islam.

You're welcome to. I'm a pragmatic atheist, I'm 'excusing' nothing.

jk

Post edited at 10:48
1
Coel Hellier - on 31 Aug 2018
In reply to jkarran:

> Yes yet your statement tars moderate British muslims and others the world over with the same brush

It tars a religion.  The laws against blasphemy are mainstream and widespread in Islam.   It's ridiculous to try to disallow such comment by pointing to moderates; if they don't like the mainstream of their religion then they're welcome to reform it.

No other idea system gets protected in this way, with people immediately inventing excuse for why it should not be criticised. 

> No, they are held by a fraction of a billion plus people but only by a fraction.

A fraction?  OK, but anything from 5% to 95% counts as a fraction. So what do you think that fraction is?

Well, people like the Pew Foundation have done the polling, and they find that the majority of Muslims worldwide support laws against blasphemy and apostasy.  Just for example, "88% of Muslims in Egypt and 62% of Muslims in Pakistan favor the death penalty for people who leave the Muslim religion".

> You lazily or maliciously seek to tar all with the same brush or at the very least take no care at all not to.

What utter tosh. I'm pointing to *mainstream* aspects of an ideology, that have widespread and mainstream support. 

Yet you take the attitude that if you can find some fraction of more moderate people then you adopt the denialist posture and kid yourself that the ideology is innocent and benign. 

elsewhere on 31 Aug 2018
In reply to stevieb:

> I agree with you. We also have a crime of incitement tonterrorism (in uk or abroad) which is also valid, but I would not criminalise glorifying. 

1988–94 British broadcasting voice restrictions

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1988%E2%80%9394_British_broadcasting_voice_restrictions

We made ourselves a laughing stock but it did produce some great comedy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w6UhXivPyw4

My instinct is to ban almost nothing (direct incitement to violence & cries of "fire" in a theatre only?).

A friend from NI had a less abstract view from more direct experience.  He'd seen that free speech could kill because a fiery speech or provocative march could ramp up tensions escalating from rioting to murder. 

 

 

Post edited at 11:49
Thrudge on 31 Aug 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> It's often suggested that no-one ever does, but changing ones mind usually takes time, it doesn't happen in a thread, it happens over months or years.  And participation in things like UKC threads can be a big part of that. But one then needs to mull over things. 

Agreed, although over the years I've been obliged to modify my position mid-thread (and retract errors) quite a few times.

Thrudge on 31 Aug 2018
In reply to Bob Hughes:

> I think the answer to this problem doesn't lie in legal restrictions on free speech. It probably lies in creating norms and somehow giving more social value to fair and balanced truth-seeking. 

Very nicely put, sir.

jkarran - on 31 Aug 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> It tars a religion.  The laws against blasphemy are mainstream and widespread in Islam.   It's ridiculous to try to disallow such comment by pointing to moderates; if they don't like the mainstream of their religion then they're welcome to reform it.

I'm not trying to disallow anything, I asked you for clarification as to what you meant by posting a quote without comment, you provided that and I disagreed with the position you took. I didn't ask you to delete or retract it.

> A fraction?  OK, but anything from 5% to 95% counts as a fraction. So what do you think that fraction is?

That believe blasphemy should be punishable by death? I don't know, I suspect a significant majority but the point stands that leaves many millions globally who do not hold that view. You seek to tar them all with the same brush by re-posting only the most extreme views you're presented with.

> Well, people like the Pew Foundation have done the polling, and they find that the majority of Muslims worldwide support laws against blasphemy and apostasy.  Just for example, "88% of Muslims in Egypt and 62% of Muslims in Pakistan favor the death penalty for people who leave the Muslim religion".

I'm not surprised.

> Yet you take the attitude that if you can find some fraction of more moderate people then you adopt the denialist posture and kid yourself that the ideology is innocent and benign. 

I'll say it again, I'm an atheist. I think religions can be and are used to achieve both good and harm. I'm also pragmatic, we cannot simply do away with them in the short to medium term, probably ever so we need to find ways to not kill each other over them. That includes prosecuting where possible cock wombles who incite or indulge in violence in the name of their god.

jk

Post edited at 11:36
1
Thrudge on 31 Aug 2018
In reply to jkarran:

> I have a lot of sympathy with your position that free speech is an essential right in an open democratic society, it is. We should however be under no illusion that free speech is anywhere actually free and totally unlimited, nor that it need be to effectively serve the role you describe.

Agreed on all points.

> Like 'Flat Earth'? Your faith in our desire and ability to sift information, weigh it and reason over our desire to believe something easy and comforting with a compelling narrative and charismatic proponents is touching but I fear misplaced.

I disagree.  To use your example, the Flat Earthers are widely ridiculed.  The overwhelming consensus is that they are cranks, despite them having a free hand to push their ideas.

> Free speech exists nowhere. All countries, all societies from the most oppressive to the most open place limits on the ideas which can be promulgated. Either none of those societies are free and open in a meaningful way or your assertion does not quite stand up. Opinions differ on whether any meaningfully free and open societies currently exist so I'll leave you to decide where you stand on that.

Not quite. Unlimited free speech exists nowhere. But free speech with very limited and sensible constraints exists throughout western Europe, the US, Canada, and Australia, for example. To call this "not free and open in any meaningful way" is wildly inaccurate.  In this country, you can criticise the state religion until the cows come home and there are no repercussions.  Try that in Pakistan, or Egypt, or Iran, or Saudi Arabia and you're probably going to die - either at the hands of the state or at the feet of a hysterical baying mob.  These are not meaningless differences, and free speech is not an 'all or nothing' proposition.

When I use the term 'free speech', I'm not using an absolutist definition; I'm using the standard, widely accepted, definition of 'free within certain mild constraints', as implemented in much of the west.

 

Post edited at 14:33
Thrudge on 31 Aug 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> Yet you take the attitude that if you can find some fraction of more moderate people then you adopt the denialist posture and kid yourself that the ideology is innocent and benign. 

Yep. I still haven't figured out why (brain-washing? a desperate desire to be perceived as non-racist?) but there's a seemingly endless number of non-Muslims who will leap at the chance to defend Islam, and only Islam.  Have a look at the thread about corruption in the Catholic church and find the people going in to bat for Mother Church.  Tumbleweed....

Thrudge on 31 Aug 2018
In reply to jkarran:

> many millions globally who do not hold that view. 

And.... tens - perhaps hundreds - of millions globally who do.  But that's OK, because it's not 100%, so it's not a problem.

 

 

captain paranoia - on 31 Aug 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> Is there any evidence that that's the case?

I think the rise of the alt-right, based greatly on the use of 'fake news', is a pointer that we might just be on that slippery slope.

In the early days of the internet, it was thought that it would be used to spread knowledge and wisdom, leading to greater mutual understanding. Sadly, it seems to be increasingly used to spread lies and hatred, leading to division.

marsbar - on 31 Aug 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

Really Coel you are cherry picking.  Pakistan and Egypt are not known for being places moderate Muslims live.  

What percentage of Turkish Muslims support Blasphemy laws?  British Muslims?  Bosnian Muslims?  

In other news, people from backward old fashioned countries are old fashioned.  My late Catholic Grandad would have been in favour of blasphemy laws.  

Lord_ash2000 - on 31 Aug 2018
In reply to Philip:

I think we need to clear up what we mean when we say "Free Speech". 

In my view, it doesn't mean we can say literally anything with no legal consequences, such as insisting a group of people to attack someone or lying in court etc etc.

But instead, I take it to mean freedom to express one's opinions and beliefs. You can believe the earth is flat and express that all you want (people really do), you can believe the holocaust never happened or one race of people are genetically superior to another or whatever you like and you are free to let people know that by talking or writing about it.

When having an opinion which is factually incorrect or simply not condoned by the state becomes a crime, we are in a bad place.  

Post edited at 16:07
wercat on 31 Aug 2018
In reply to Lord_ash2000:

Misrepresentation of facts has been something on the law has rightfully placed sanctions so really absolute freedom of speech has never existed.

I think the real measure is freedom to say truthful facts or opinions expressed IN GOOD FAITH against the authorities without fear of reprisal or punishment or discrimination.

~There's never been a right to tell your boss what you think of him or her without some comeback

Philip on 31 Aug 2018
In reply to Lord_ash2000:

Tell me when this goes to far:

1. Top roping is bad form

2. Top roping is morally wrong

3. Top roping is evil, and those who do it probably beat their children and harm animals

4. Top roping is abhorrent to God, those to who do it should be stoned to death (by 8 years old boys on the Gower - see Jamie's thread)

5. Top roping should be the only allowed form of climbing on Stanage. 

wercat on 31 Aug 2018
In reply to Philip:

As a thought experiment I wondered - suppose paedophiles started to assert on line that paedophilia was just a "gender issue" and that they weren't wrong, just somewhere on the gender/orientation spectrum and that justified their wish to pursue their interests.  Similar with bestiality. Opinions like this might be thought by society to encourage/justify some people internally to practice their leanings and increase offending rates.

Most people would find it abhorrent to express such views and to seek to facilitate harm to children , but couldn't someone argue that it was just "freedom of speech"?  Just as to say that another sector of humanity or society is less than human in some way is just expressing an opinion?

 

Personally, I think that in a civilised society, speech is more limited than we may think, for good reason

 

 

By the way, you want locking up for YOUR views ;-)

Post edited at 16:43
jkarran - on 31 Aug 2018
In reply to Thrudge:

> And.... tens - perhaps hundreds - of millions globally who do.  But that's OK, because it's not 100%, so it's not a problem.

I'm not saying that isn't a problem, it is (but one we here can't solve). What is also a problem is when all those people are treated with the same fear, suspicion and revulsion as the worst of their bigoted lunatics deserve.

I would say similar if we had a problem with people spitting at little old ladies and screaming paedo at them on their way to church but we don't, this type of abuse, ignored politely by otherwise decent moderate people in Britain is reserved for Muslims, well Muslims and travellers but most folk wouldn't dare physically start on them.

Jk

marsbar - on 31 Aug 2018
In reply to wercat:

I seem to remember that there was an attempt to portray paedophiia that way some years ago.   Will look it up.  

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-26352378

 

Post edited at 19:22
Coel Hellier - on 31 Aug 2018
In reply to wercat:

> As a thought experiment I wondered - suppose paedophiles started to assert on line that paedophilia was just a "gender issue" and that they weren't wrong, just somewhere on the gender/orientation spectrum and that justified their wish to pursue their interests. 

In this country that are free to say that (they'd be breaking no law) and some of them do.

But the vast majority of people say they're 100% wrong because they harm children. 

Coel Hellier - on 31 Aug 2018
In reply to jkarran:

> That believe blasphemy should be punishable by death? I don't know, I suspect a significant majority but the point stands that leaves many millions globally who do not hold that view. You seek to tar them all with the same brush by re-posting only the most extreme views you're presented with.

This sort of response I find bizarre. 

If I criticised Catholic church policy on, say, birth control, then no-one would reply that many Catholics don't agree (entirely true) and thus that my statement tars them all with the same brush (no it doesn't, everyone knows some Catholics disagree, and criticising Catholic policy does not imply that every single Catholic agrees).

If I said that Nick Griffin and his BNP were racist, no-one would say, no, maybe most of them are, but perhaps 3 or 4 of them are not, therefore I shouldn't tar them all with the same brush by saying that the BNP are racist.

If I said that Nazism was evil, no-one would say that, no, out of 8 million Nazi party members in the 1930s, you could find a few thousand who didn't personally hate Jews and who only wanted to live a peaceful family life, and that you shouldn't tar them all with the same brush by saying that Nazism is evil. 

So why do these excuses get trotted out when it's Islam?

I never said that 100% of Muslims agree.  I just made fair and accurate comments about mainstream Islam that you accept are likely agreed with by a majority of Muslims.  I didn't post a "most extreme" view, I posted a mainstream view.  

If the moderate Muslims don't like being "tarred with the same brush" by association with Islam then they're welcome to either reform their religion or leave it. 

3
Coel Hellier - on 31 Aug 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

So just to report that the tweeter of this tweet:

"Freedom of expression can never justify blasphemy.We strongly protest against disrespect of Our Beloved Prophet (PBUH) in France. Making cartoon of Prophet is the worst act of terrorism.The Sketch makers must be hanged immediately."

Is now whining:

"I already deleted n blocked 14 people... i need to report this to Twitter... its a never ending thing... so painful..."

Of course there's no hint of a Twitter ban for her own Tweet. 

Yet making a joke by saying that a black female actor looks like a dude can get you permanently banned. 

Timmd on 01 Sep 2018
In reply to Thrudge:

> And.... tens - perhaps hundreds - of millions globally who do.  But that's OK, because it's not 100%, so it's not a problem.

I got the impression he was asking for a certain amount of objectivity?

Post edited at 13:55
Pete Pozman - on 01 Sep 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

There is a difference between pushing the limits of free speech and criminal libel/slander. The parents of Sandy Hook murdered children are grievously wronged by fake news  sites who assert that they are part of a conspiracy. The guy who turned up at a pizza parlour brandishing a gun demanding access to a non existent Hillary Clinton paedophile cellar was informed of its existence by parties claiming free speech. Fake news which tells us that crop circles are alien landing strips are fine but holocaust denial is not only an affront to historians it is a gross libel which engenders real harm. Individuals affected by such libels should not have to bring their own legal defence, the State should protect them by declaring holocaust denial a crime. 

3
elsewhere on 01 Sep 2018
In reply to Pete Pozman:

What speech should be criminalised, it just Holocaust & Sandy Hook denial or is there a scale of danger?

An immediately dangerous topic at the moment is criticism of vaccines because lack of vaccination is causing real deaths in places where vaccination is routinely available.

Should criticism of vaccines be illegal?

Climate change is probably a far more significant danger. Should climate change denial be illegal?  

PS Holocaust deniers and Sandy Hook conspiracists are vile scum. 

Post edited at 14:56
pavelk - on 01 Sep 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

In the country where people are imprisoned for puting bacon sandwich in front of mosque and investigated by the police for distributing stickers saying ‘Women don’t have penises’, the Holocaust-denial laws are not the greatest threat to the freedom of speech, I am afraid

2
Coel Hellier - on 01 Sep 2018
In reply to Pete Pozman:

> Individuals affected by such libels should not have to bring their own legal defence, the State should protect them by declaring holocaust denial a crime. 

Which individuals are harmed by Holocaust denial?

2
Pete Pozman - on 02 Sep 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> Which individuals are harmed by Holocaust denial?

We are all harmed by Holocaust denial. 

5
Pan Ron - on 02 Sep 2018
In reply to Pete Pozman:

Harmed?

Pete Pozman - on 02 Sep 2018
In reply to Pan Ron:

The parents of the Sandy Hook school shooting have been criminally traduced: accused of being complicit in a conspiracy to fabricate a story so horrific that the gun lobby cause will somehow be damaged. They have been threatened and abused and suffer, daily, the injustice of being told that their children did not suffer and die. They are accused publicly of lying and see week after week fresh atrocities which make that suffering and death seem in vain.

Replace the words Sandy Hook with Auschwitz, gas chambers, holocaust. Do you see where I'm coming from now?

You need to change "gun lobby" to " far right apologist" too . Although they are often the same people. 

Richard Popp - on 02 Sep 2018
In reply to pavelk: There are no Holocaust dental laws in the UK. 

 

Coel Hellier - on 02 Sep 2018
In reply to Pete Pozman:

> We are all harmed by Holocaust denial. 

If we're talking about actual laws, we should talk about actual harm.

Pete Pozman - on 02 Sep 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> If we're talking about actual laws, we should talk about actual harm.

Do you mean that unless you're actually punched in the gob it can't be classed as actual harm? 

1
wercat on 02 Sep 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

one of the steps to being in a state ripe for radicalisation is a "realisation" that there is no justice in the world, that society doesn't care about lies, hatred, unfairness, things that harm you.  Not everyone has a cosy life experience and an objective view of the world.   Allowing people to falsify history, generally not done for good motives, though perhaps you can find me some, is often a step towards taking control of people's minds and wills by convincing them that they have been told lies by those in charge.  It is subversive and these days has given rise to a belief on subjective truth.  Subversion should be stamped on.

Denying great harm done in the past as a historic untruth is undermining the belief system, and historical experience that protects us from these things happening in the near future

Post edited at 10:41
1
Pan Ron - on 02 Sep 2018
In reply to Pete Pozman:

If they have been threatened or abused then there are laws already safeguarding them.

Going a step further and banning conspiracy theories because they themselves are  "harmful" is surely itself harmful and a prime case of state power over reach. Though there seems a real appetite for that these days. 

I'm less worried about the lessons of gas chambers and holocausts being forgotten and more worried about the insidious erosion of freedom in exchange for some assumed utopia where feelings aren't hurt.

Post edited at 10:59
3
marsbar - on 02 Sep 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

You seem determined to take the laws of Saudi and such places and blame all Muslims for not sorting it out.  Given that there are several kinds of Muslims you may as well demand that members of the Church of Scotland sort out the Catholic child abusers. Perhaps the UK Methodists are to blame for the abortion laws in Malta.  Perhaps the Catholics should take responsibility for no Sabbath trading and children not allowed to play on some of the Islands?  

wercat on 02 Sep 2018
In reply to Pan Ron:

And the dangers of denying the Y2K problem which is a newer analogy?

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-millennium-bug-meme-debunked-remain-project-fear-fake-news-ignorant-wrong-leave-eu-a8473381.html

what did you do in the fake history daddy?

Tony Blair famously said he wasn't too interested in history in the run up to our disastrous invasion of a sovereign nation in the middle east.   A lesson in why we should not allow history to be forgotten or overwritten.

I did history to A level and bloody well hated it, over 40 years ago.   The intervening years have taught me how much we should heed its lessons

Post edited at 11:56
1
Thrudge on 02 Sep 2018
In reply to Pete Pozman:

> Do you mean that unless you're actually punched in the gob it can't be classed as actual harm? 

Can't speak for anyone else, but my answer is yes. "I'm offended by your words" is not evidence of harm.  It is often evidence of fascism on the part of the supposed sufferer, and it's widely used these days.  It's "Speak as I instruct you to speak, or be punished".  Wannabe totalitarians eager for a job with the Ministry of Right-Think.  (Orwell described it as the Ministry of Love.  A wonderfully prophetic touch - the modern howlers of offence routinely proclaim that they're acting out of love and compassion while screaming for the death and destruction of everyone who disagrees with them).

2
Timmd on 02 Sep 2018
In reply to Thrudge: I've heard the viewpoint that 'political correctness' has played a role in LGTB+ people being more accepted in society. 

 

Coel Hellier - on 02 Sep 2018
In reply to marsbar:

> You seem determined to take the laws of Saudi and such places and blame all Muslims for not sorting it out.

The things I'm accusing Muslims of are widespread, majority opinions, not ones pertaining to only one sect of Islam.

1
Coel Hellier - on 02 Sep 2018
In reply to wercat:

> Denying great harm done in the past as a historic untruth is undermining the belief system, and historical experience that protects us from these things happening in the near future

So what are you asking for?  Laws preventing people questioning accepted truth?

OK, but then who gets to decide what is true?  Trump? 

Any such laws would do way more harm than good.  And conspiracy theorists saying that the moon landings were faked is just one of the things one has to put up with in a free society.

1
Coel Hellier - on 02 Sep 2018
In reply to Pete Pozman:

> Do you mean that unless you're actually punched in the gob it can't be classed as actual harm? 

If we're talking about justifying laws that prevent you saying something, then there does have to be actual and real harm, yes.

1
MG - on 02 Sep 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

Which to you means just physical harm? 

Coel Hellier - on 02 Sep 2018
In reply to MG:

> Which to you means just physical harm? 

No, there can be other sorts of harm, such as financial loss.  But there does have to be actual, real harm. 

Feeling upset, miffed or offended is not being "harmed". One of the bedrock principles of society is that we agree to disagree with each other.   How could we have democratic politics if people were not allowed to criticise an opponent's policies  in case they were offended?

MG - on 02 Sep 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> No, there can be other sorts of harm, such as financial loss.  But there does have to be actual, real harm. 

> Feeling upset, miffed or offended is not being "harmed". 

Thats debatable and where things get difficult. Societal, cultural and psychological harm, for example, are all entirely real. The question is always where limits on expression should be placed. There is no simple answer and asserting that there is is naive

 

1
Timmd on 02 Sep 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> No, there can be other sorts of harm, such as financial loss.  But there does have to be actual, real harm. 

> Feeling upset, miffed or offended is not being "harmed". One of the bedrock principles of society is that we agree to disagree with each other.   How could we have democratic politics if people were not allowed to criticise an opponent's policies  in case they were offended?

Couldn't prejudice towards a member of a specific group be seen as 'harm' since it's going to change their life experiences for the worse, or spreading ideas likely to result in (an increase of) prejudice?

Post edited at 20:07
elsewhere on 02 Sep 2018
In reply to Timmd:

> Couldn't prejudice towards a member of a specific group be seen as 'harm', or spreading ideas likely to result in (an increase of) prejudice?

Wouldn't that mean criminalising any religion  prejudiced (as they sometimes are) against homosexuals, aethists or other religions?

Would you ban them from evangelising their religion?

I don't see how you can have freedom of and from religion if you can't be prejudiced in favour of your theism or aetheism and prejudiced against the rest.

I doubt any opinion about religion is inoffensive  to every single snowflake and every single bigot. 

 

Post edited at 20:18
Timmd on 02 Sep 2018
In reply to elsewhere: 

> Wouldn't that mean criminalising any religion  prejudiced (as they sometimes are) against homosexuals, aethists or other religions?

> Would you ban them from evangelising their religion?

I was basically trying to explore how far the definition of 'harm' could go, but good question. It seems to be that evangelising of religions isn't the same as saying in public spaces that homosexuality is a sin (for example). 

> I don't see how you can have freedom of and from religion if you can't be prejudiced in favour of your theism or aetheism and prejudiced against the rest.

One can favour something as being 'the truth', and also not be prejudiced against somebody who believes something different, and just disagree with them instead. Thinking different things and prejudice needn't go hand in hand. As an atheist, I like to think I wouldn't use not sharing another person's religious faith as a reason to think negatively about them (with prejudice being a negative pre-judgement or generalisation about another person or group based on gender/race/religion/sexuality/etc). 

> I doubt any opinion about religion is inoffensive  to every single snowflake and every single bigot. 

Ditto.

Post edited at 20:33
wercat on 02 Sep 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

No problem with people questioning, but overwriting historical facts with malicious misinformation and spreading lies is  a step beyond that - I'm not talking about reinterpretation either

Post edited at 20:49
elsewhere on 02 Sep 2018
In reply to Timmd:

For some,  evangelising WILL be the same as saying in public spaces that homosexuality is a sin. 

Thinking different things and prejudice needn't go hand in hand, but sometimes they do. 

I don't think these should be criminalised as that would require goverment definition of which religious/aethist views are too offensive to be expressed and which are state approved.

Post edited at 20:59
Timmd on 02 Sep 2018
In reply to elsewhere:

> For some,  evangelising WILL be the same as saying in public spaces that homosexuality is a sin. 

Which is the fault of them, I guess?

> Thinking different things and prejudice needn't go hand in hand, but sometimes they do. 

See above, we need to be better than people who have prejudice for those who think differently.

> I don't think these should be criminalised as that would require goverment definition of which religious/aethist views are too offensive to be expressed and which are state approved.

I don't think they should be criminalised either. 

 

Coel Hellier - on 02 Sep 2018
In reply to wercat:

> but overwriting historical facts with malicious misinformation and spreading lies is  a step beyond that - I'm not talking about reinterpretation either

And who gets to decide what is an historical fact? Who gets to decide what is malicious misinformation?

Do you really want to give to our elected leaders the right to decide that something is "malicious misinformation" and then legally censor it?   If not our elected leaders, then who?

1
Coel Hellier - on 02 Sep 2018
In reply to MG:

> Societal, cultural and psychological harm, for example, are all entirely real. The question is always where limits on expression should be placed.

If we're talking about legal censorship, then, no, those things are not "harm" in any way that counts.

Again, a bedrock principle of a free society is that those things do not count as "harm" that would justify limiting free expression.

1
wercat on 03 Sep 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

Denying a crime took place is denying criminals - it's akin to perverting the course of justice.  It would certainly engender a sense of injustice in the relatives and descendants of the victims which could have consequences.  It is a kind of ex post facto complicity in the crime itself

wercat on 03 Sep 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

judges

MG - on 03 Sep 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

They can do. Receiving death threats, for example, as a result of someone's free speech is a definite harm. 

Coel Hellier - on 03 Sep 2018
In reply to wercat:

> It would certainly engender a sense of injustice in the relatives and descendants of the victims which could have consequences.  It is a kind of ex post facto complicity in the crime itself

I think it's just ridiculous to try to extend "harm" to such things.   We all have to accept that other people have opinions that we don't like, or which outrage our sense of justice. 

 

 

Coel Hellier - on 03 Sep 2018
In reply to wercat:

> judges

So you're seriously suggesting that what can and cannot be said can only be established by a trial?

So, let's suppose some journalist genuinely and honestly believe, say, that the Guildford Four were innocent, and so campaigns and publishes that opinion.

You would then have a trail in which the judge pronounces on whether they were in fact innocent, and if he finds they are guilty he then sends the journalist to jail for vocally stating a wrong opinion about a historical event.

Are you entirely serious about this? Have you thought this through?

2
Coel Hellier - on 03 Sep 2018
In reply to MG:

> Receiving death threats, for example, as a result of someone's free speech is a definite harm. 

But "free speech" has never been held to include threats of violence.  The term does have a fairly well-established meaning. 

MG - on 03 Sep 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

A threat isn't violence but may well have serious psychological effects on the recipient (e. g Sandy Hook parents) 

wercat on 03 Sep 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

indeed I have.  I did not say it was easy.  Anyone with any knowledge of jurisprudence, law and legal history would admit that this is a difficult area.   However, there is something of the spirit of the Islamic fundamentalists who did so much to destroy priceless artefacts and wipe out ancient cultural history, apart from other crimes agains humanity, in those who would deny the historic crimes of the Third Reich in an attempt to attack the victims of those crimes and their descendants.

You are being guilty of very simplist thinking in denying any possibility of taking action against those who would rehabilitate regimes that have committed crimes against humanity.  Personally I'd like to see people take the consequences of speaking maliciously, as per the school shooting deniers. If the law doesn't then the families of the victims should have the right to do something about it themselves.

 

I don't have a problem with idiots denying the moon landings so long as Aldrin B. has a right to punch them for saying so.

 

You  personally should face up to your stupid remarks about Y2k as you seem not to understand the amount of stress involved in that supra-project.

 

Post edited at 09:30
Coel Hellier - on 03 Sep 2018
In reply to MG:

> A threat isn't violence but may well have serious psychological effects on the recipient (e. g Sandy Hook parents) 

But "free speech" has never been held to include threats of violence.  The term does have a fairly well-established meaning. 

Coel Hellier - on 03 Sep 2018
In reply to wercat:

> You are being guilty of very simplist thinking in denying any possibility of taking action against those who would rehabilitate regimes that have committed crimes against humanity. 

Any "cure" for such things would always be way worse than the disease.  Such censorship would always be misused and would give way too much power to whoever gets to decide what gets censored. 

1
MG - on 03 Sep 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

So you are happy to ban all speech that results in threats of violence (such  as Alex Jones).  That is a pretty major restriction.

1
Coel Hellier - on 03 Sep 2018
In reply to MG:

> So you are happy to ban all speech that results in threats of violence (such  as Alex Jones).  That is a pretty major restriction.

No, I'm happy to ban threats of violence.  But "all speech that results in threats of violence" is a rather vague and undefined concept. 

Aamir: I'm unconvinced that Islam is true, and no longer consider myself a Muslim.

Abdul: Then I'm going to kill you.

MG: You wicked person Aamir, I'm going to lock you up for inciting violence.

Pete Pozman - on 03 Sep 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

Are the parents of the Sandy Hook children simply miffed because Alex Jones has broadcast the lie that they are part of a anti gun plot and staged a phony massacre . That their children didn't die or they never had any children. Or thatJews are part of an international conspiracy and spread lies about the Nazis murdering 6 million in order to strengthen their grip on the world. Are they snowflakes because they refuse to simply suck it up? 

If I call you a fool I have offended you  You will no doubt feel slightly miffed. But if I tell everyone that you are only on this forum because the Nazis are paying you to spread lies about the truth or seriousness of the holocaust then you have the right to accuse me of libel and expect the moderators to protect you by taking me down 

Believe me your reputation is one of the most precious things that you have. I'd take a punch on the nose any day rather than see my reputation damaged by thugs claiming a right to free speech. Damage to reputation is already classed as real harm in Law. 

Post edited at 09:54
1
Coel Hellier - on 03 Sep 2018
In reply to Pete Pozman:

> But if I tell everyone that you are only on this forum because the Nazis are paying you to spread lies about the truth of the holocaust then you have the right to accuse me of libel ...

But "free speech" has never been held to include libellous accusations. The term does have a fairly well-established meaning.

MG - on 03 Sep 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

You seem to be saying

"Kill that person  there" is out

But

"Threaten with death that person there"  is in

Not sure I agree. 

2
Coel Hellier - on 03 Sep 2018
In reply to MG:

> You seem to be saying "Kill that person  there" is out But "Threaten with death that person there"  is in

Nope that's not what I'm saying nor what I seem to be saying. 

MG - on 03 Sep 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

It's what you seem to be saying. If you don't think the second is acceptable, you need  to define a boundary which, as above, is always the tricky bit. 

1
jkarran - on 03 Sep 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> If I criticised Catholic church policy on, say, birth control, then no-one would reply that many Catholics don't agree (entirely true) and thus that my statement tars them all with the same brush (no it doesn't, everyone knows some Catholics disagree, and criticising Catholic policy does not imply that every single Catholic agrees).

But you don't do this. The more comparable position would be that Catholics who do not showily renounce their faith are complicit in the crimes and repressive behaviours of some branches of that church.

> If I said that Nick Griffin and his BNP were racist, no-one would say, no, maybe most of them are, but perhaps 3 or 4 of them are not, therefore I shouldn't tar them all with the same brush by saying that the BNP are racist. If I said that Nazism was evil, no-one would say that, no, out of 8 million Nazi party members in the 1930s, you could find a few thousand who didn't personally hate Jews and who only wanted to live a peaceful family life, and that you shouldn't tar them all with the same brush by saying that Nazism is evil. 

The BNP was an explicitly racist organisation, I think most would agree racism was a central tenet. I certainly wouldn't tar all of the white working class from which the BNP predominantly recruited with that same brush. Violence is not a central tenet of Islam, certainly not of the most widely practised versions.

As for 'good Nazis', there were certainly many who joined the party for an easy life rather than for the annihilation of the Jews, this is hardly a controversial point though we may still choose to judge them all harshly in hindsight (or not, your choice) for their failure to take the movement more seriously and resist.

Membership of a political movement is something one chooses as an adult, it is something we are responsible for, the religious beliefs and cultural practices we're imprinted with as children are hardly comparable.

> I never said that 100% of Muslims agree.  I just made fair and accurate comments about mainstream Islam that you accept are likely agreed with by a majority of Muslims.  I didn't post a "most extreme" view, I posted a mainstream view. 

No, you posted a view that is likely mainstream in Pakistan. It would be considered as extreme as it obviously is in many other places across the globe, the UK's Muslim population centres included.

> If the moderate Muslims don't like being "tarred with the same brush" by association with Islam then they're welcome to either reform their religion or leave it.

Belief doesn't work like that Coel, you don't just choose to stop believing something because some others who believe some of the same stuff behave appallingly. As for reform, there are as many different flavours of Islam as any other big religion, some are repressive and aggressive in absolute terms, most aren't though they may still from a modern Western perspective seem conservative and patriarchal they do tend to fit the broader society they exist within suggesting reform does happen but not necessarily fast or ahead of changes in those societies.

jk

1
Coel Hellier - on 03 Sep 2018
In reply to jkarran:

> The BNP was an explicitly racist organisation, I think most would agree racism was a central tenet. [...] Violence is not a central tenet of Islam, certainly not of the most widely practised versions.

Yes it is.  Intolerant repression, imposed by force, is a central tenet of the mainstream versions of Islam. 

> Membership of a political movement is something one chooses as an adult, it is something we are responsible for, the religious beliefs and cultural practices we're imprinted with as children are hardly comparable.

The distinction is not that neat.  Many people vote "culturally" according to how their parents and community tend to vote. 

> No, you posted a view that is likely mainstream in Pakistan. It would be considered as extreme as it obviously is in many other places across the globe, the UK's Muslim population centres included.

The view I posted is a mainstream Islamic one that is held by the majority of Muslims world wide, as shown by polling such as by Pew. 

By the way, what fraction of the UK's Muslim population do you think would want a blasphemy law that made Mohammed cartoons illegal?  I'd guess it's a majority. 

> Belief doesn't work like that Coel, you don't just choose to stop believing something because some others who believe some of the same stuff behave appallingly.

It's the same with politics.

2
Coel Hellier - on 03 Sep 2018
In reply to MG:

> If you don't think the second is acceptable, you need  to define a boundary which, as above, is always the tricky bit. 

It's accepted that incitement to violence and harassment are not protected by free-speech principles.  

Exactly how you define those things might indeed be tricky, but the principle is pretty clear, and they are a very different thing from expressing minority opinions (even wrong and loony ones), such as that the moon landings were faked, 9/11 was done by Mossad, Sandy Hook was a conspiracy to repeal the 2nd Amendment, et cetera. 

1
RomTheBear on 04 Sep 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

Publicly condoning, denying or grossly trivialising genocides commited against a race is a particularly vile and pernicious form of racial abuse. 

It's bleeding COMMON SENSE.

Now if you want to argue that everybody should be free to spout racial abuse at will, knock yourself out.

 

Post edited at 01:24
7
Pete Pozman - on 04 Sep 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> It's accepted that incitement to violence and harassment are not protected by free-speech principles.  

> Exactly how you define those things might indeed be tricky, but the principle is pretty clear, and they are a very different thing from expressing minority opinions (even wrong and loony ones), such as that the moon landings were faked, 9/11 was done by Mossad, Sandy Hook was a conspiracy to repeal the 2nd Amendment, et cetera. 

You don't seem to want to acknowledge the damage done by fake news (made up news) stories about Sandy Hook 

Coel Hellier - on 04 Sep 2018
In reply to Pete Pozman:

> You don't seem to want to acknowledge the damage done by fake news (made up news) stories about Sandy Hook 

You don't seem to want to acknowledge that any attempt to cure the problem by censorship laws would be worse than the disease.

Can you outline what sort of laws you would want?  Pay particular attention to the enforcement mechanism and to who gets to decide what is true and what can or cannot be said. 

1
Coel Hellier - on 04 Sep 2018
In reply to Pete Pozman:

I mean -- Sandy Hook being America -- do you really want a panel appointed by the President having the legal power to tell newspapers and the media that they may not write something, because they (the President-appointed panel) consider it to be "fake news"?

You really want that?    

Please have a think about who the current President is and about what you are asking for. 

MG - on 04 Sep 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> Can you outline what sort of laws you would want?  Pay particular attention to the enforcement mechanism and to who gets to decide what is true and what can or cannot be said. 

Sarcastic dismissal really isn't helpful.  There clearly is a problem, magnified by social media, with some views being expressed which cause real harm.  Because there isn't an immediate, clear-cut solution on offer doesn't mean the only option is to ignore the situation. 

As an observation, the US, which has perhaps the freest speech anywhere, is an increasingly divided and unstable society, while Singapore, which has significant restrictions, is stable.  Maybe somewhere in between is at least worth considering.

1
krikoman - on 04 Sep 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> Exactly how you define those things might indeed be tricky, but the principle is pretty clear, and they are a very different thing from expressing minority opinions (even wrong and loony ones), such as that the moon landings were faked, 9/11 was done by Mossad, Sandy Hook was a conspiracy to repeal the 2nd Amendment, et cetera. 

Harold Wilson and MI5 was once a conspiracy theory.

Tricky Dickie Nixon and the CIA.

Oliver North and arms to the Contra's, too.

I'm not advocating any of you examples are true, simply suggesting sometimes the fantastic is the truth. Which sort of adds to the difficulty in denying free speech.

Coel Hellier - on 04 Sep 2018
In reply to MG:

> Sarcastic dismissal really isn't helpful. 

It's hardly sarcastic dismissal, it is the very pertinent point that for every "good" use of censorship laws there will be ten very bad ones.

Do we really want a society in which a teenage girl is convicted of a crime because she quoted rap lyrics, without any intent to offend, as a tribute to another teenager who had died in a road accident? 

MG - on 04 Sep 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> Do we really want a society in which a teenage girl is convicted of a crime because she quoted rap lyrics, without any intent to offend, as a tribute to another teenager who had died in a road accident? 

Oh, definitely.  Next stupid question?

1
Coel Hellier - on 04 Sep 2018
In reply to MG:

> Next stupid question?

Why is it a stupid question? Some people do want a society like that; others do not. 

Andy Hardy on 04 Sep 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

Been pondering this thread for a while, so here's a question: Does objective, verifiable, truth require legal protection?

Because it seems to me there is a massive problem with "fake news" and a considerable overlap with tin hat wearing conspiracy theorists all of whom hide behind the skirts of "free speech". Opinion would not get the protection - so anti semites could still post racist crap, but they would have to confine themselves to espousing their views without trying to justify them by saying (for example) the holocaust didn't happen.

Coel Hellier - on 04 Sep 2018
In reply to Andy Hardy:

> Because it seems to me there is a massive problem with "fake news" . . .

And the best way of boosting fake news is to allow them to scream "... and the establishment won't let you hear this! What are they trying to hide??".

And the same question arises, who gets to decide what is or is not true, as opposed to fake news, and how do you ensure that these legal censors use their power well instead of badly? 

Andy Hardy on 04 Sep 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

The best way of dealing with fake news is to prove, very publicly that whatever they posted was bollocks. To that end, and with respect to holocaust deniers, I would envisage a member of the public suing both the author and the website hosting company. They would come to court, and have their claims [that the holocaust never happened] heard, before a jury. The prosecution can bring forth their evidence, the defence theirs and when they are found guilty they get a hefty fine / costs etc and are ordered to ammend / remove said website.

Repeat offence? double the previous fine.

Or do you think that truth does not require any legal protection?

Coel Hellier - on 04 Sep 2018
In reply to Andy Hardy:

> I would envisage a member of the public suing both the author and the website hosting company. They would come to court, and have their claims [that the holocaust never happened] heard, before a jury.

So let's see if I've got this right.  You want a law such that any member of the public can challenge any publicly made claim, and the person who made the claim has to prove it to the satisfaction of a jury, otherwise they get fined.   Is that right?

Just out of interest, are you going to exempt religions from this?

> Or do you think that truth does not require any legal protection?

Yep, that's what I think. 

 

Andy Hardy on 04 Sep 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> So let's see if I've got this right.  You want a law such that any member of the public can challenge any publicly made claim, and the person who made the claim has to prove it to the satisfaction of a jury, otherwise they get fined.   Is that right?

Broadly. "The law, like the Ritz, is open to everyone".

> Just out of interest, are you going to exempt religions from this?

No, but I might re-train as a lawyer.

> Yep, that's what I think. 

I think that's dangerously complacent.

Coel Hellier - on 04 Sep 2018
In reply to Andy Hardy:

> Broadly. "The law, like the Ritz, is open to everyone".

So that's a yes then?

So if someone says: "GM crops are harmless and healthy", or alternatively "GM crops are harmful to the environment and can damage health" then anyone can take them to court and challenge them, and they have to prove their case. 

And it wouldn't just be about GM crops, it would be about every controversial topic in society. So climate change, whether particular diets are harmful or helpful, whether moderate alcohol damages your health, whether pornography leads to violence, whether video games leads to violence, all sorts of things.

And then there's simple honest mistakes, people getting things wrong and saying something wrong, which people do all the time.  Should that get you taken to court?

If I say "England won the world cup in 1972, with Gary Lineker scoring a hat-trick", should I get taken to court and fined £1000 for spreading fake news?

This would cause all discourse to break down. It would overload the courts.  People would use threats of court action as  way of shutting people up. No-one would dare say anything, the prospect of having to prove it in court being too unappealing.

> I think that's dangerously complacent.

And you're being absurdly complacent about the effect of your laws; this cure would be 100 times worse than the disease. 

Bob Hughes - on 04 Sep 2018
In reply to Andy Hardy:

> So let's see if I've got this right.  You want a law such that any member of the public can challenge any publicly made claim, and the person who made the claim has to prove it to the satisfaction of a jury, otherwise they get fined.   Is that right?

> Broadly.

That's absolutely crackers and would put an end to whistleblowers. 

Single person spots crime at large multinational, takes it to their boss, gets ignored / sidelined. Takes it to the press. Large multinational throws millions in legal fees at it. Single person gets sued to within an inch of their life. 

> "The law, like the Ritz, is open to everyone".

It is. But its a lot more open to people or companies with lots of money.

Pan Ron - on 04 Sep 2018
In reply to Pete Pozman:

> You don't seem to want to acknowledge the damage done by fake news (made up news) stories about Sandy Hook 

Where would you stop? The average American is blissfully unaware their nation either directly or indirectly caused the deaths of several million people from Indonesia to Laos in 60s and 70s. That neivety, or subtly fake-news, or denial and suppression, was arguably a major contributor to the assumptions that future forays were morally acceptable. It has been a form of holocaust denial. 

Odious as that may be, I suspect states that have been more vigorous in regulating what can be taught and what can't have ended up falling in to holes which devalued life even more. Put another way, I'd be more scared of a USA that outlawed certain views on history than one which pretended they didn't exist.

HansStuttgart - on 04 Sep 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> Of course Holocaust deniers are 100% wrong, but being wrong should not be a crime and even wrong and abhorrent speech should be protected as "free speech".  

I am generally on the side of free speech, but not on this one. Providing the state with the means to crack down on a future resurgence of national socialism is more important. Realpolitik over principles

Andy Hardy on 05 Sep 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

OK maybe my idea of a law to protect the truth is flawed, but if you think truth will always win over lies read this https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/sep/05/survived-warsaw-ghetto-wartime-lessons-extremism-europe and think about how Goebbels would have used the internet. You don't think that's a risk, I do, no more debate to be had really.

Pan Ron - on 05 Sep 2018
In reply to Andy Hardy:

Isn't the point here that Goebbels would have an absolute field day if the state were allowed to punish lies and "false history"?

It seems in trying to protect against fascism people are willing to invest the state with the exact power required to enable fascism.

Post edited at 09:41
baron - on 05 Sep 2018
In reply to Pan Ron:

While it has never been easier to spread fake news, using social media, internet sites, etc it has also never been easier to check whether a 'fact' is true or not using google, etc.

If people are being misled by false information it's because they want to be.

Totally agree with your point about investing the state with powers that might enable fascism.

Coel Hellier - on 05 Sep 2018
In reply to Andy Hardy:

> You don't think that's a risk, I do, ...

I do think it's a risk.  Plenty of people hold to obviously wrong opinions (moon-landing fakers, homoeopathy, vaccines cause autism, astrology, creationism, etc, etc).

But, overall, yes, I do have confidence in the ability of truth to win out -- given free speech where we can all criticise what we see as error.

But, my reply is not just that, it's way more serious.  My point is that any such censorship laws will end up being used to promote lies and suppress truth.   And that's way worse. 

 

1
RomTheBear on 06 Sep 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> I do think it's a risk.  Plenty of people hold to obviously wrong opinions (moon-landing fakers, homoeopathy, vaccines cause autism, astrology, creationism, etc, etc).

> But, overall, yes, I do have confidence in the ability of truth to win out -- given free speech where we can all criticise what we see as error.

There is a difference between erroneous speech and racial abuse and incitement to racial hatred, of which holocaust denying is a particularly vile and perfidious form.

 

 

 

Post edited at 07:37
1
Coel Hellier - on 06 Sep 2018
In reply to RomTheBear:

> There is a difference between erroneous speech and racial abuse and incitement to racial hatred, of which holocaust denying is a particularly vile and perfidious form.

But stating that there *was* a Holocaust could be construed as incitement to racial hatred against Germans.  

But, you might reply, it's true! Indeed it is, but how can we decide what is true unless we're allowed to hear and examine cases for and against?

If we're not allowed to assess the evidence and make up our minds, but are expected to adopt and parrot the officially approved line, then it becomes a religious ideology complete with blasphemy laws.

This isn't merely theoretical.  As it stands, denying the Armenian genocide is illegal in several countries (including France and Greece), and yet stating that there *was* an Armenian genocide is illegal in Turkey.

Overall, it's best that the law stays out of prescribing versions of history.

 

 

2
RomTheBear on 06 Sep 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> But stating that there *was* a Holocaust could be construed as incitement to racial hatred against Germans.  

Hum... no.

> But, you might reply, it's true! Indeed it is, but how can we decide what is true unless we're allowed to hear and examine cases for and against?

> If we're not allowed to assess the evidence and make up our minds, but are expected to adopt and parrot the officially approved line, then it becomes a religious ideology complete with blasphemy laws.

You are completely off the mark. Nobody is suggesting that you shouldn't be allowed to investigate and assess the evidence. On the contrary. There is absolutely nothing in France or Germany preventing you from investigating the historical evidence of the holocaust.

> This isn't merely theoretical.  As it stands, denying the Armenian genocide is illegal in several countries (including France and Greece), and yet stating that there *was* an Armenian genocide is illegal in Turkey.

There is a bleeding obvious difference between the two.

One is there to protect the significant Armenian communities in France and Greece from further psychological trauma, abuse, and cultural annihilation.

The other is state propaganda.

> Overall, it's best that the law stays out of prescribing versions of history.

Again, nobody is suggesting that the state prescribes any versions of history. On the contrary, History is left to historians.

However it is the role of the justice system to punish racial abuse. Genocide denial is a particularly vile, harmful, and traumatic form of abuse.

Maybe your misunderstanding comes from the fact that the separation between the state and the judiciary is not as strong in a system like the UK as it is in France or Greece, this combined with the lack of constitutional protection  may result in a justified aversion to restricting hate speech in any way or form even when it is obviously necessary to protect people from harm.

I'll therefore agree that I'd be suspicious of such laws in the UK system, However I'm pretty comfortable with it the way it is in France or Greece for ex. As a matter of fact the implementation so far has been perfectly successful, proportionate and justified as far as I can tell.

 

Post edited at 17:28
1
RomTheBear on 06 Sep 2018
In reply to Coel Hellier:

May I add, It seems weird to me to single out what's maybe one of the most sensible restriction of speech there is (Genocide denial) for which very few cases actually ever came up, and completely ignore the vast majority of restriction of speech we have, many of them not so sensible, and for which many people are arrested every day in the UK.


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