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AN UNQUALIFIED FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION? January 12, 2015

Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics.
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The denizens of Catallaxy are too concerned with matters of great moment to be bothered to response to my propositions this morning. Furthermore, I might well have been censored.

Perhaps for good reason, but you can judge:

Some thoughts. Freedom of speech and expression is over rated. What passes for free speech is in fact regurgitation and indoctrination. In this society as in all others what is permissible to think and believe is in fact closely controlled. Angry, hateful, vindictive speech cannot be equated to free speech. It’s sole purpose is destructive, not of the ideas that are wrong, but of the people that espouse them. The presumption of “unlimited free speech” advocates is that we are sovereign individuals but the fact is in regard to language we are a social collective, and individuality is remarkably rare ( but perhaps especially valuable) and unlikely to survive or prevail. The purpose of free speech is not egotistical but to discover the truth, advance the social good, and rarely to bring into question social and cultural paradigms The latter speech and expression is rare because it falls below a threshold of consciousness. If we say “let reason reign”, then those that are not reasonable have no place.

OK,this needs some work. We need to question not so much the right of free expression, but its quality and authenticity. In the Sixteenth and Seventeenth centuries their was a spiritual understanding that “God could speak though every man.” Of course in this formulation “god” and “man” are code.

It seems to me that listening fully to others to distinguish what is said is more important than venting – as perhaps in my example. That works on a personal basis in a meeting hall where it has been said (I don’t have the reference to hand) that “the spirit of the meeting” can be adduced.The formula that came to me was a mix of self-regarding and other-regarding.

We live, however, in a political discourse of sound bites, public relations and manufactured consent. Politicians from the mass media stage address constituencies rather than individuals. Bob Menzies would have to deal with hecklers, whereas the current Prime Mediocrity operates at a distance, increased by peculiar ideas, including “Team Australia” and permission to give full expression to concern about terrorism. In other words platitudes wrapped in code that is understood differently among sections of the electorate.

It is not that this approach might not be politically efficacious, or worse is believed to be, but that it is not genuinely democratic in its inspiration. The question is not one of blame, but rather the more practical one of what is to be done about it. A democratic culture is necessary, as much as democratic institutions, and is in fact more important.

Tarig Ramadan discusses the right of free expression on Al Zareeza (when the interviewer does not interrupt his answers):

Comments»

1. wmmbb - January 12, 2015

Elsewhere:

Tristan Ewins, “Andrew Bolt on “Charlie Hedbo” and Free Speech: A Response” (Left Focus).[via Blogtariat]

John, “The Voiceless and the Liars for Capitalism“, En Passant [via Blogtariat]

Craig Murray, “Terrorism and Nuance“.

Two comments caught my eye:

It is essential to free speech that it includes the freedom to offend. That must include the freedom to offend religious belief. Without such freedoms, the values of societies would freeze. Much social progress has caused real anguish and offence to some people. To have stopped Charlie Hebdo by law would have been wrong. To stop them by bullets is beyond any mitigation.

I condemn, you condemn, we all condemn, and so we should. But the amount of nuanced thought in the mainstream media is almost non-existent. What will now happen is that conservative commentators will rip individual phrases from this article and tweet them to show I support terrorism. The lack of nuanced thought is a reflection of a general atmosphere of anti-intellectualism which has poisoned public life in modern western society.

Tarig Ali, “Maximum Horror” (CounterPoint)

Karl Sharro, “Charlie Hebdo and the Right to be Offended” (The Atlantic)

Rossleigh, “Je Suis Larry? Quelle est la différence?” (AIM Network)

Bob Ellis, “The Second Thousand Years” (Table Talk).

Glenn Greenwald, “In Solidarity with a Free Press: Some More Blasphemous Cartoons” (The Intercept)

Chris Hedges, “A Message from the Dispossessed” (Truthdig)

Someone at Table Talk observed to the effect that much had been written with little meaning. At some point I have to overcome my emotional predispositions and crystallize some thoughts. Equally, I have to take the time to absorb what has been said with these references. And the horror! I have to recognize my cognitive limitations – remove them. To have thought, and to have contended with the thoughts of others, may then mean I am ready to properly engage in a constructive discussion.

Rodger Shanahan, “Paris attack reveals limits of our free speech mantra” (ABC, The Drum).

I had not thought of the international aspect of freedom to speak against the powerful, especially in the Internet Age of globalized communication. I notice that Dr Shanahan does not mention Peter Greste. The other thing to note is that the Muslim World, with few exceptions, perhaps Iran, Indonesia and Algeria, has no sources of political leadership. The idea of a Caliphate, with its historical precedents makes sense from a political point of view, and given the politics of oil, why that would be a threat to the violence-enforced world order.

Do you replace on hegemon with another set, getting the same outcomes, or is there an alternative in which justice, the rule of law, and equality prevail? A schema in which the common needs of human kind are recognized and if not immediately the realization is foreseeable, rather than the diametric opposite.

2. wmmbb - January 12, 2015

Just on the heckling angle. I remember being, for some reason, at Perry Lakes Stadium, when Charlie Court turned up. I was impressed with the quality of the heckling from the punters. I have not heard Perth referred to as “the City of Light” for donkeys.


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