Free Speech

This little rant isn’t quite as topical now as it would have been a couple of weeks ago, but I’m putting it up because centuries will pass before it ceases to be relevant. On 26th November, the Oxford Union staged a debate on the limits of free speech with BNP leader Nick Griffin and historian David Irving as guest speakers. Given their publicly held views, the knee-jerk reaction was predictable and it led me to question whether we are as liberal a society as we like to believe.

For one thing, the speakers’ credentials disturbed me. Irving has been jailed in Austria for denying the Holocaust. I disagree with his opinion on the matter but that doesn’t alter the fact that his viewpoint is backed by a certain amount of reasoning and research on his part. So how can engaging in historical debate be a crime? Isn’t this exactly the kind of thought-policing the Nazis were advocating back in the thirties? Furthermore, this debate was not about immigration or the Holocaust, so Irving and Griffin were not being asked to justify their more offensive ideas, yet still there were people who sought to prevent these men from speaking. Does this mean that the protestors advocate the idea that holding one opinion that they disagree with permanently disqualifies all your thoughts and actions? And given that free speech is a human right, does this mean that one controversial opinion is enough to disqualify you as a human being?

Let’s assume for a second that the fascist left are correct, that certain views are far too offensive to be viewed in public and that the advocates of those views should be shut away from the world where they can do no harm. Who gets to decide which opinions are right and wrong? Who gets to decide which debates are worthwhile and which ones should have their answers taken as a given? For even giving Griffin and Irving a hearing, I’m very clearly in the wrong. Nevermore should be shut down and I should never be allowed to express another opinion again. Shame, really; I have things to say about wider philosophies that will blow your mind. But now that I’ve engaged in a controversial debate about modern politics, none of my other opinions are valid. Why? Because I say bad things. Because I’m wrong. Mind you, no-one’s bothering to debate with me on this; the fact that I’m wrong is taken as a given. Is that right?

So I’d like to make an invitation to you all in the name of Free Speech. Disagree with me. Go on, do it! Debate is how we learn. And if we don’t learn, how on Earth are we supposed to grow? If we just assume that an opinion is wrong, how can we learn from it? Test my viewpoints to destruction and I, in return, shall test yours. That way, we can learn and grow together. And Nick Griffin and David Irving can, too.

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~ by Scary Rob on 18 December, 2007.

6 Responses to “Free Speech”

  1. It’s a difficult thing, that’s true. I could see why the were excluded from discussion if they had justified fascist deeds (there’s a law against that, so it’s easy), but does denying the holocaust count as justifying it? It’s probably a border zone. Not juristically, but morally.

    I wonder, though, how do people come across the idea of trying to disprove that the holocaust took place? I mean, what’s the benefit they would get from it? I’ve been to Auschwitz, and by the looks, it might as well be an arrangement of old cow barns, if it wasn’t for all the photos and pyjamas and shoes arranged in glass boxes. I still wouldn’t come across the idea of claiming that the holocaust didn’t take place. It could all be fake, I wouldn’t have a way of proving it. I just don’t see why anybody should fake it. A huge effort, and for what? Does Irving say anything about that?

  2. Personally, I feel these men should never be given a platform. Never.

  3. Verena – I’ve not really read Irving’s work, so I can’t comment on his theories.

    Boso – I’d be interested to see you elaborate on that. Why should they be silenced?

  4. Off-topic, but I like that moustache you have in the photo. Will it come back? 🙂

  5. These guys spew out poison about not just migrants and foreigners, but anyone who whose skin isn’t white. As far as they are concerned, the UK should be a closed shop, don’t even allow tourists in if they aren’t white. They don’t care how many Irish, Australian or even white Americans come to live in the UK, but once your skin isn’t white, then you find yourselves in their crosshairs. Recently, they’ve gone after Eastern Europeans, but that’s because they don’t speak English I reckon……

    behind the facade of politics and political parties, they are racists, pure and simple. I’d go one step further and call them racist thugs. The fact that they are becoming more and more mainstream is a major worry. So for a major establishment to give them a platform is a shame, much less Oxfod Uni, which has so many foreign student who the BNP would kick out of the country if by some miracle they got into power tomorrow.

    you can argue that freedom of speech means they should be allowed to air their views in public. Maybe you are right. But I think the massive protests, and public disapproval speaks volumes about what these guys are about………

  6. Verena – probably not anytime soon. According to some, it makes me look either gay or like a pervert…

    Boso – As much as I agree with your opposition to their views, my chief point is that they weren’t there to talk about that side of their ideologies. If Christianity were labelled as an evil point of view, would it be right that Christians were never allowed to speak in a public place on any topic, even the strictly secular?

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