Free Speech – defending the indefensible

Two recent cases:

Cannes International Film Festival has declared Danish film director Lars von Trier ‘persona non grata’ following his rant about understanding Adolf Hitler.

Lars Von Trier, winner of the Palme d'Or at th...

Lars von Trier

 John Galliano found guilty of racial abuse but escapes jail and fine

Try to view these two situations dispassionately, and without emotion, and read or listen to the actual rants in full.

One could be concerned that the words spoken, in the circumstances in which they were uttered, have acquired a significance that is out of any proportion.

Had these things not been said by well known people, with all the attendant publicity, would anyone have attached any special significance to the incidents?

In the cases of these two specific individuals, society will make them pay for their few moments of stupidity in ways that the courts never can.

If everyone were to be imprisoned for making bad jokes, in a language that is not their mother  tongue, or makes anti-Semitic remarks fuelled by alcohol or drugs, the jails would be overfull.

Freedom of speech is allowing things to be said that you don’t want to hear and don’t agree with, and are even hateful.

Much as I speak out and post about anti-Semitism, I am not comfortable with laws that make the insulting of Jews, or questioning the Holocaust and everything associated with it, a criminal offence.

There is a wealth of historical evidence confirming all aspects of the truth of the Holocaust. And enough Holocaust museums in the world dedicated to ensuring that mankind does not forget.

The world is full of crazy and delusional people who say the most extreme and bizarre things.

But on what basis is society entitled to deny them this right?

The usual defence is that words can lead to actions and some of those actions can kill. But, I question the validity of that claim. I doubt that there is a direct relationship between cause and effect.

Does a mob shouting “death to the Jews ” actually make people act, literally, on that demand? Most people understand that it is just hysterical hyperbole, and treat it as such. And those that do not, would have taken their actions without any connection to the shouted words.

The problem with the restriction of free speech is, who is doing the restricting?

And according to what set of moral criteria?

And who determines the fine line between free speech and, say, sedition?

On the parallel issues of libel and slander, laws exist to deal with this.

It’s not the same thing as stating a truth, or an opinion, that whilst unpalatable to some, is not, of itself an unjustifiable view.

Insults and racial slurs, whilst offensive, are usually made in circumstances, in which the perpetrators mental state or self control is limited by alcohol, drugs or mob hysteria.

Disturbing, maybe. Unacceptable, certainly.

But jail time?

Andyboy- Telling it as it is!


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2 comments on “Free Speech – defending the indefensible

  1. Pingback: Scotland the Brave – but not when it comes to freedom of expression! « andyboy

  2. Pingback: Free Speech Includes the Right to Rant. Doesn’t it? | andyboy

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