Currently, the libertarian end of the blogosphere is under assault (Again?) from the forces of darkness. Cranmer has had some come catspaw using the ASA. Witterings from Witney from another source (on a three year old post? Is someone taking the mick?), and there are mutterings in various comment columns about “We’re coming to getcha.” (Oh noes, not again). Some sites, offering informal advice based on personal experience have been shut down by regulators. Bloggers, even in ‘free’ societies have been raided by Police and even faced criminal prosecution simply for publishing their version of events (Tallbloke over ‘Climategate’ springs to mind, follow the ‘Holly Grieg‘ subject blogs for others). Never mind the (Very) hastily taken down Greenpeace threat last year “We know where you live” – seriously? Just because of a disagreement on an issue – even though reality tells a different story? Talk about acute humour failure. Definitely the Violet Elizabeth Bott approach to dissent; (“Do what I want or I’ll thcream and thcream ’till I’m thick – I can too!” ) No one is fooled. Behind the attempts at suppressing free speech blogs come the echoes of marching jackboots, and it isn’t a pretty sound.
Aldous Huxley nailed the major weakness of suppressive tactics in 1941;
“For the means employed inevitably determine the nature of the result achieved, whereas, however good the end aimed at may be, its goodness is powerless to counteract the effects of the bad means we use to reach it. Similarly, a reform may be in the highest degree desirable; but if the contexts in which that reform is effected are undesirable, the results will inevitably be disappointing. These are simple and obvious truths. Nevertheless they are almost universally neglected.”
For a given value of ‘good’, I might add – there’s a downside to everything; and ‘good’ is mostly subjective anyway – even more so when preceded by the word ‘greater’.
So it is with attacks on free speech. In seeking out offence everything becomes offensive. Pointing out that something can’t work / isn’t working means being labelled a ‘Denier’. Highlighting the failures, areas of suspicion and dodgy dealings of an administration makes you a ‘Hater’. Mildly contentious comments that some might find slightly objectionable (Mostly if they contain a good deal of objective veracity) are turned into ‘Hate speech’ by offence seeking drama queens. Setting official agencies on people because of a flimsily perceived ‘offence’, likewise.
Like a school playground ruled by sneaks and snitches running to teacher every time their feelings are hurt, this creates an ugly place to live in, so such behaviour poisons discourse and spreads a fog of disinformation. Not to mention creating a huge enforcement overhead. It prevents open and reasoned examination of an issue, and hides that which should be known. As with war and truth, honesty is always the first casualty because in order to shut people up, the primary weapons are always emotive lies, disinformation and exaggeration.
Essentially what we’re dealing with is immature offence seeking such as;
“Mummy, Mummy! They’re saying bad things about me!”
“Mummy, Mummy! They’re smoking at me because I’m a non-smoker!”
“Mummy, Mummy! They’re drinking at me just because I’m teetotal!”
“Mummy, Mummy! They’re shooting guns at targets and it fwightens me!”
“Mummy, Mummy! They’re eating bacon sandwiches at me because I’m a Vegan!”
“Mummy, Mummy! They’re saying I’m bad because I tell on them all the time – stop them Mummy!”
All of the above have one thing in common – they are invented ‘offences’. Of course said attacks on freedom of expression are dressed up in grown-up speak, but the impulse that drives such behaviour is nonetheless childish, born of unreasoning fear. There’s only one real cogent response – overt mockery. Specifically Shakespeare’s classic from Twelfth night; “T’hart a fool. Go to.” or the more modern “STFU” and variants thereof. Which is why I often respond to them in baby talk and parody. “Has Oo had oo’s feelings hurt, den?” highlighting the attacks for the contemptible, selfish and immature outpourings that they are. Not to do so is to allow the jackboots to march again – and 20th century history holds a grim record of what that led to.
Here’s an Australian perspective on why freedom of speech and expression is so important. H/T Just about every blog I link to, but I believe the Angry Exile was first by a nose.
To Quote the late, great Ray Bradbury; “For it is a mad world and it will get madder if we allow the minorities, be they dwarf or giant, orangutan or dolphin, nuclear-head or water-conversationist, pro-computerologist or Neo-Luddite, simpleton or sage, to interfere with aesthetics.” The old adage of the road to hell being paved with good intentions springs to mind. For a given value of ‘good’.