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11 January 2009 @ 04:09 pm
Whatever happened to Free Speech?  
While Voltaire probably never wrote : I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it, we grew up believing it and felt comfortable and safe in our own country.

Then 20 ago Ayatollah Khomeini pronounced a death sentence on Salman Rushdie for 'insulting' Islam with his novel The Satanic Verses and things have never been the same since. Any book, play, opera or piece of visual art work with reference to Islam will probably never be shown (see yesterday's Guardian for more on this). Some right-wing Christian groups have tried similar protests and 3 years ago we came within a single parliamentary vote of a law (the Religious Hatred Act) that would have meant imprisonment for seven years for using insulting language (even if the insult was unintentional and referred to an established truth).

In August a customer who bought a book for teenagers by Jacqueline Wilson in her local ASDA store managed to get the whole lot removed and destroyed then later reprinted to replace what she considered to be an offensive word - 'twat' was altered to 'twit'.

Today we learn that St James Palace has had to apologise for Prince Harry's using racially offensive words in a 'secret video obtained by the News of the World'. Obviously taking after his grandfather who - in 1986 when speech was freer nevertheless made headlines by telling a British student during a visit to China: ''If you stay here much longer, you will go home with slitty eyes.''

To preempt any possible misunderstanding I do not admire or agree with these royal sentiments but I hate the way that self-appointed guardians of public morality can make a pious song and dance about it.

There is a lot to be said for tolerance, for allowing others to express unpopular or minority viewpoints without imposing a literary fatwa. I think this applies to what we write here as well. I've kept on line journals for a number of years and nowadays feel less confident about taking an unfashionable stance on  religion, morality, sexual orientation, feminism or parenthood. But sometimes you have to stick your neck out. I recall Martin Niemoller's poem

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn't a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.
Catpain Blackuddercharlycrash on January 11th, 2009 05:25 pm (UTC)
I object to the Harry thing because I'm paying for his upkeep. It's not unreasonable to ask that if anyone sucks up that much public capital purely be being lucky enough to be born into a certain family they should be a paragon of behaviour. If they don't like it, they're perfectly free to reject any claim to the throne, inheritance and a wage out of the public purse and get a real goddamn job like the rest of us.
anghara13anghara13 on January 11th, 2009 08:41 pm (UTC)
I'm sorry, are the armed forces not enough of a real job for you? This guy, however stupid his choice of language and personal habits has actually been on the front line (yes yes, endangering his entire unit, heard that one) fighting for a cause. OK, so not one I agree with, but that's another debate entirely.

I want to know how you can say he doesn't do a real job, when the rest of our forces are out there, doing exactly the same job? Are they not really working either???? Just leeching off the rest of us?
(no subject) - charlycrash on January 11th, 2009 08:51 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - anghara13 on January 11th, 2009 10:53 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - charlycrash on January 11th, 2009 11:45 pm (UTC) (Expand)
eulipious on January 11th, 2009 05:33 pm (UTC)
Some tight wing Christian groups ....... that would have meant imprisonment for seven years for using insulting language (even if the insult was unintentional and referred to an established truth.

Just out of interest, and because I'm perplexed. Which Right wing Christian groups and which protests? Jerry Springer?

and re the religious hatred act do you mean 'even if the insult was unintentional BUT referred to an established truth? Is so what sort of established truth?

Otherwise I'm with you all the way. I hate political correctness and think minorities should have minor rights - it would keep them interesting. Today everything is allowed except thinking and speaking for oneself.

Benbenicek on January 11th, 2009 06:26 pm (UTC)
Minor rights? Fascistic doctrines always employ the argument that they are defending the rights of an ethnic, political or religious majority against undermining by some minority (Jewish, immigrant, gay, atheist, 'red', counter-revolutionary etc.)

Take this case: http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2009/jan/09/atheist-bus-campaign-asa

Doubtless the complainants claim that they represent the majority religion in the UK and that the 'atheist bus' undermines or offends the national religion.
(no subject) - eulipious on January 11th, 2009 06:52 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - benicek on January 11th, 2009 07:16 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - eulipious on January 11th, 2009 07:40 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - benicek on January 11th, 2009 07:54 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - eulipious on January 11th, 2009 10:35 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - ijournaler on January 11th, 2009 06:30 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - eulipious on January 11th, 2009 06:56 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - benicek on January 11th, 2009 07:33 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - eulipious on January 11th, 2009 07:42 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - benicek on January 11th, 2009 07:59 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - eulipious on January 11th, 2009 10:35 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(Deleted comment)
Libby: seriouslibbi on January 11th, 2009 06:14 pm (UTC)
(no subject) - ijournaler on January 11th, 2009 06:33 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Libby: Treelibbi on January 11th, 2009 06:13 pm (UTC)
While I agree that people have to learn to be tolerant and not oversensitive I don't believe insulting others is an important point of free speech.

Harry is supposed to represent the UK and the commonwealth. If he behaves in a way that insults people he is supposed to represent then they have a right to tell him he is being a jackass. He has a right to get drunk and high and be a normal young man and others have a right to disapprove of his behaviour, particularly as we (including all us pakis, kikes and yids) pay for him.

Your reference to Martin Niemoller's poem is interesting. Telling someone to apologise for being offensive is not the same as being a Nazi/wishing to exterminate everyone who does not agree with you or share your race.

I think too many of the Royals and their ilk are arrogant, inbred cunts but I don't judge them all by the bad behaviour of some and I don't think it is my right to call them that to their faces without justifying it or apologising for my sweeping and offensive judgement of them.
ijournalerijournaler on January 11th, 2009 06:41 pm (UTC)
I quite agree that being insulting is not the same as free speech and that the Royals should have a responsibility commensurate with their position so there probably is a different issue here. What annoyed me about the Harry thing was first that the remarks were made on what was said to be a private video (and how many of us would like our private remarks made public) and scondly the outrage was from the News of the World , a paper which I find hypocritical and opportunist.

Re the Niemoller, as I replied to a previous comment - I was eliding two ideas,and trying to say that if you get into the habit of never being controversial and always playing safe then when an occasion arises where outspokenness is requires you may find you've lost the habit, or worse still, the courage.
(no subject) - libbi on January 11th, 2009 06:56 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - ijournaler on January 12th, 2009 10:32 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - radiantsoul on January 11th, 2009 07:30 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - eulipious on January 11th, 2009 07:43 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - benicek on January 11th, 2009 07:55 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - eulipious on January 11th, 2009 10:36 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - ijournaler on January 12th, 2009 10:37 am (UTC) (Expand)
zephret on January 11th, 2009 08:59 pm (UTC)
The whole Salman Rushdie affair seriously pissed me off, and considering the effect it's had, it's a hitorical milestone.

I fucking hate Islam. I'm sorry, but I despise it and anything ever associated with it. (This hatred extends to many other things also, so don't think I am solely an islamophobe.)
eulipious on January 11th, 2009 10:37 pm (UTC)
Thank you for sharing with us.
Hating Islam - ijournaler on January 12th, 2009 10:49 am (UTC) (Expand)
anghara13anghara13 on January 11th, 2009 11:36 pm (UTC)
There comes a time when "political correctness" tends to go out of the window and sheer monetary gain takes over. I suspect this is what happened here, and although the incident in question is three years ago, the mere fact that it is dear deluded Harry saying it makes it worth a lot of money and a lot of hoohah!

At the end of the day, I have trouble convincing my son who is eight that the word 'nigger' is not something he wants to be saying anywhere near any person of colour. Because regardless of the fact that slavery has been abolished, and that they are no longer considered even remotely inferior, that one word has the power (of their allowing it to) to make them feel their history is their present. Sheer stupidity if you ask me, but then again, most every race or creed has some trigger that causes a similar reaction.

In the end, it is my view that we are all the same, human. It matters not whether we have a colour, a creed, a historical background of any kind, or a current chip on shoulder attitude about any of it. We are all still human, and in that case, all still fallible, prone to human error, and occasional bouts of silliness.

I resent the fact that I can not speak freely in my own country because others who now call my country their own feel that my words belittles them. Hey guys? Got a problem with me being ENGLISH, then you know where the borders are, go cross them. I go to a muslim country, I obey their dress codes and laws, I expect the same courtesy when they come to my country.
ijournalerijournaler on January 12th, 2009 11:39 am (UTC)
Thank you for your comment and the points you make. I was interested you said that your son had picked up (what might be thought) an offensive word: I think all children experiment with mildly abusive language as they need to explore boundaries of acceptability. They also use them fairly fearlessly. When I was a child we called one another 'fatty','piggy', 'cretin' or 'titch', sometimes as an insult and sometimes as an affectionate nickname. As adults we have learned to be more respectful but we need also to be less 'sensitive' in seeing insults to our person in what others say, probably more willing to laugh at ourselves.

We are definitely ENGLISH and people who chose to live here should surely adopt our rules rather than vice versa.
(Deleted comment)
ijournalerijournaler on January 12th, 2009 11:41 am (UTC)
Thank you, welcome and well said!
(no subject) - anghara13 on January 12th, 2009 08:10 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - ijournaler on January 13th, 2009 02:42 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Kiran: [Stock] I can fly if I want to.xkiranvx on January 12th, 2009 08:25 pm (UTC)
Do you know what I find most irritating about all of these PC debates? The vast majority of ethnic minorities in this country don't even know about these so-called outbursts of rage that we supposedly feel until they hit the papers in the morning - reported, may I add, by our white counterparts in Fleet Street.

Unfortunately I can't choose where I am born. I can't choose that I was an indian girl born in Essex. However, as a hardworking law-abiding and loyal Brit who has always thought of this country as my home, I am fast getting tired of all of the ethnic minority bashing every time one of these little shit-stirring debates come up.

Believe it or not, we don't all have a problem with the indigenous population and our life's ambition is not to piss you all off. Be proud of who you are, fly your nation's flag and celebrate your British/English heritage. We're not bloody stopping you - the media's shit-stirring is.

As for this particular debate, I think Harry ought to remember that his "little paki friend" is putting his life on the line for this country too and deserves the utmost respect for it. Sure this was all said in jest, and even if it wasn't Harry is entitled to his own private opinions, but believe it or not for some of us ethnic minorities, this is the only home we have ever known, and we are just as protective of it.
anghara13anghara13 on January 12th, 2009 08:36 pm (UTC)
Thankyou. Because I haven't heard anyone speak out about this from any form of minority other than outraged!! It is so refreshing to hear a sensible point of view!!!!

Multi-cutltural Britain, yes, multi-ehnicity, yes, and give it up for tolerance and acceptance, neither of which get a good hearing in this terribly Politically Correct day and age!
(no subject) - ijournaler on January 13th, 2009 02:56 pm (UTC) (Expand)