Posted: Sep 04, 2019 4:46 pm
by Spearthrower
It does seem one of those baseline issues where it's easy to rapidly identify the flaws in someone else, but completely fail to spot them in oneself.

I have argued before that criticism of Islam cannot be racism, because Islam is an idea, a religion, a belief system - not a set of observable heritable traits. But then you encounter people, and I think I met them first on this very forum, with whom criticism of Islam really is barely distinguishable from rank xenophobia.

Previously, we had a chap here called Peter Brown who was unable to notice that his comments supposedly critiquing Islam were basically never about the ideology, but always about the people, their motivations, their nefarious intentions, their 'coming over here and stealing our X' type diatribes.

Pushing back against that was always met with angry retorts about the myth of Islamophobia and how it's a cheap diversion intended to stifle free speech, even though no one had mentioned Islamophobia at all and were in fact saying that the problem was that he wasn't talking about Islam, but about those foreign brown people.

I have, over the years, been obliged towards a rather uncomfortably unsophisticated explanation: most people are just bloody ignorant. Not ignorant of facts, or things, places, or basic education - they can do their times tables, know the capitals of major nations, read to a decent standard, and generally operate comfortably in modern life - but ignorant of themselves, of what motivates them, and what drives their thoughts. Being ignorant of that means they also can't see how they can be wrong, so criticism of the ideas they express isn't considered or scrutinized to verify whether those ideas really do stand up to testing, instead it must be the other person who's ignorant of the things they know which, they believe, perfectly justifies their ideas.

At the end of the day, thoughts cannot be purified, people cannot be made to mentally conform. All that can really be done is to demarcate what is or isn't appropriate social conduct. Your grandad can be just as racist as he wants to be in his own head, and not one person on the planet has so much as an atom of a right to stop him; what he can't expect to do is loudly and proudly announce those racist ideas and expect no objections, no repercussions, no change in peoples' attitudes towards him or valuation of him. That, I think, is what needs to be broadcast. Yes, you can say whatever you like and it's very hard to imagine an acceptable way to stop you, but really it just makes you look like a drooling numpty that no one wants to have around them.

Rather than wrestling with the Gordian Knot of what is or isn't free speech, what is correct or political correctness quasi-fascism etc., I think the message loudly broadcast needs to be about self-control and self-responsibility. If you do X, then Y will be the outcome. Do you want Y? No? Then stop doing X. You'd think this message would have landed sometime around the age of 8, but it apparently needs to be repeatedly reinforced for some of the slower learners.