Freedom of Speech and Expression

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Freedom of Speech and Expression

#1  Postby Ciwan » Jan 18, 2015 1:46 am

Hello Friends

I am a little confused with freedom of speech and expression and was hoping you guys could shed some light on the matter to help me understand a little better.

We have all heard of the Charlie Hebdo incident, and I have just been watching Question Time on BBC iPlayer and some interesting things came up.

One point raised was about 'social responsiblity'. A man in the audience said, sure the magazine had the RIGHT to publish the things they did, but perhaps they should not have due to social responsibility, they KNEW many muslims would get offended, and the posiblity of some of those offended ones to go on killing would be increased with their publication, but they went ahead and did it anyway.

What are your thoughts on the above raised point?

Also, is it true about the double standard that Mehdi Hasan mentioned? France who is supposedly a firecly secular country and a champion of freedom, refused to allow an artist to make t-shirts with the last super on them? Also the president taking some rappers to court cause they were being offensive to France as a country? Finally a comedian going to jail because he wore a shirt saying 'I am Collaborator' instead of 'I am Charlie'?

Finally, is it true that we can't say that the holocaust did not happen? That there are laws that might land us in prison if we say so!?

Any clarification on the above would be great :)

Thank You.
Last edited by Ciwan on Jan 18, 2015 2:17 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Freedom of Speech and Expression

#2  Postby igorfrankensteen » Jan 18, 2015 2:04 am

None of the basic ideal freedoms has ever been fully supported by any state. Speech especially. Not without good reason, but not with any consistency either.

I don't know that much about France, but I do know that they have long standing opposition to freedom of speech there. For a while at least, they had laws that punished French citizens if they used non-French words, when French words were available.

You aren't going to find any clarification such as you want. I've come to believe that things like freedom of speech is lone among a few select concepts that will always have to be in flux, and the focus of constant debate. I think it may be the only way to preserve it at all.
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Re: Freedom of Speech and Expression

#3  Postby surreptitious57 » Jan 18, 2015 7:13 am

No publication is responsible for the reaction of its readers to what it prints and so the notion of social responsibility and particularly for a satirical magazine is rather nonsensical. For the two are to all intents and purposes complete opposites

There have been double standards at play unfortunately since the magazine itself sacked a member that produced
an anti semitic cartoon and the state subsequently arrested a comedian who had publicly supported the terrorists

Denying the Holocaust is prohibited on this forum because the server is in Germany and so it cannot be discussed

Everyone should have the freedom to say whatever want as long as they are prepared to accept responsibility for it. No one should ever be prosecuted just for something they say but rather for the consequences of what they say. Free speech is for all not just those whose voice one likes the sound of. So unpopular speech is no less legitimate in that respect than popular speech. How popular or unpopular it is is therefore of precisely zero consequence since it matters not one jot. Also no one has the right not to be offended and no subject so sacred or taboo it can never be openly discussed. Since the only way to challenge any view is to actually allow it to be freely expressed in the first place and regardless of the consequences also
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Re: Freedom of Speech and Expression

#4  Postby epepke » Jan 18, 2015 9:34 am

France is a country and a culture where free speech is very important. This does not mean that they are particularly good at it, universally. In fact, it means that they aren't. It's important because there's long been conflict between those who want it and those who don't.

Think about it. Do you think that in a country where free speech were universally recognized that people would be arguing about it so much? Come on. Garlic is something the French all seem to agree upon. You don't see arguments over garlic!

So I don't think that snarky comments about double standards of the French, as if they were a complete monolith, don't really make any sense.

As @surreptitious57 is pointed out, you can't deny the holocaust here because the servers are located in Germany, and that's illegal there. France also has some laws I think are squarely. They forbid trading in Nazi memorabilia.

Frankly, I think that the ban has the same purpose as the German ban. "Memorabilia" is stuff that makes you remember, and I don't think that a lot of either German or French people really want people to remember the things they did in World War II. They want people to forget the role they played in genocide. I can't really blame them, as it is all quite embarrassing, but I'm glad I live where these restrictions don't exist. I don't think about free speech much, because it's pretty well protected and is mostly a non-issue. It's only when something weird happens in Europe that I even think about it, let alone talk about it. We do have a functional problem with separation of church and state, though, so I think and talk about it a lot. But free speech is, mostly, taken for granted, so it's seldom an issue. The last time it was an issue was in the 1970s with the underground comics, which was within a significant cultural memory of times when freedom of speech was pretty badly violated. But now, really, seldom do I see something significant restricting it. Even pornography flows pretty freely, with some pretty basic and reasonable restrictions. (Which were a bit more problematic during the 1980s, but people seemed to have worked that out.)

I'm not trying to pull patriotism and jingoism and rank here. I'm just saying that when a right becomes widely accepted, there isn't much talk of that right. Nobody really needs to talk it up. Therefore, where it gets talked about a lot, you can expect it not to be so universal and taken for granted.

As for social responsibility, I'm not sure about what that is supposed to be in this case. The first cartoon that came right before the fire-bombing did feature Mohammed. The later ones, as I have pointed out elsewhere, didn't feature Mohammed. In all cases, the commentary amounted to the idea that the violent extremists don't represent most Muslims or Islam.

That message was probably offensive to the kind of people who firebomb and murder people, that is, the extremists, who certainly want people to believe that they represent all Muslims. However, if you or anyone else wants to claim that this message offends many Muslims, I think you're either going to have to use "many" to mean "just the extremists" or essentially say that most Muslims are extremists. Do you want to say that?

One might have a point with the idea that the first cover before the firebombing identified the character as Mohammed, but that doesn't work for the recent cartoons. I'm pretty convinced that they were intended to depict a vaguely Muslim everyman.

What I think is happening is that people judge something in retrospect, and then they assume that it's this or that. This is why, on one of the Charlie Hebdo threads, when people were saying that the new cartoon could not be interpreted as inciting violence, I posted a response noting this and asking what would happen when it did. Now, of course, it's been shown to have incited violence. So there are a bunch of people who declared that the cartoon was OK who now have the option of eating some crow or getting very quiet.

This is just as well, because when people say that something is OK, and when later, it turns out that someone got killed over it, and then they claim that the cartoonist should have predicted this, then it's a lie by lying liars who lie a lot. It's good when they stop.
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Re: Freedom of Speech and Expression

#5  Postby colubridae » Jan 18, 2015 9:46 am

epepke wrote:
So I don't think that snarky comments about double standards of the French, as if they were a complete monolith, don't really make any sense.

Agreed, what’s more it’s getting to the point where arguments over the hebdo attack are becoming conflated with double standards arguments. The fact is that the attack made on Charlie hebdo was not in response to the French double standards but for reasons of islamic religious intolerance.

It’s as if the double standards complaint is being used as some sort of vague excuse for the attack. Double standards are an anathema, but they were not the reason nor an excuse for the attacks.
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Re: Freedom of Speech and Expression

#6  Postby Ciwan » Jan 18, 2015 7:03 pm

surreptitious57 wrote:No publication is responsible for the reaction of its readers to what it prints and so the notion of social responsibility and particularly for a satirical magazine is rather nonsensical. For the two are to all intents and purposes complete opposites.


Interesting, can you please elaborate a little. Let us start at what the aim of a satirical magazine is (in general)? Also can you help me understand (perhaps by putting it in an example) how a publication is not responsible for the reaction of its readers? I am finding this a little hard to grasp.

surreptitious57 wrote:Everyone should have the freedom to say whatever want as long as they are prepared to accept responsibility for it. No one should ever be prosecuted just for something they say but rather for the consequences of what they say.


Isn't that where the difficulty lies? no one can really tell what the consequences would be for sure no? for example, in an understanding, mostly rational society, no one would go killing for a cartoon, so consequences are not major (perhaps some got offended). But if, like in Charlie Hebdo's case, the consequences led to the death of many, is Charlie Hebdo responsible?

The whole things is fuzzy at the moment, and I am seeking clarity.
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Re: Freedom of Speech and Expression

#7  Postby Sendraks » Jan 18, 2015 7:36 pm

The only person responsible for your emotions is you. No one else.
The only person responsible for how you act on your emotions is you. No one else.

It doesn't matter if you produce a satirical piece knowing some people will go bat shit mental, that is not your respobsibility. It is still their decision to go bat shit mental in response to your satire. They could always choose to do something else.
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Re: Freedom of Speech and Expression

#8  Postby Arnold Layne » Jan 18, 2015 8:41 pm

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Re: Freedom of Speech and Expression

#9  Postby Ciwan » Jan 19, 2015 12:26 am

colubridae wrote:The fact is that the attack made on Charlie hebdo was not in response to the French double standards but for reasons of islamic religious intolerance.


I agree with you there. Nothing they did or say would make one think it was in response to the French double standards.

colubridae wrote:It’s as if the double standards complaint is being used as some sort of vague excuse for the attack. Double standards are an anathema, but they were not the reason nor an excuse for the attacks.


I hope you don't mean me here :) I am clear on the reason of the attacks on Charlie Hebdo, my understanding problem is to do with freedom of speech in general.
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Re: Freedom of Speech and Expression

#10  Postby surreptitious57 » Jan 19, 2015 5:55 am

A publication is not responsible for the reaction of its readers only for what it prints. And equally the readers are
not responsible for what they read only for how they react to it. And so Charlie Hebdo was responsible for what it
printed and the terrorists were equally responsible for how they reacted to it. Neither is responsible for the other
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Re: Freedom of Speech and Expression

#11  Postby surreptitious57 » Jan 19, 2015 5:55 am

A publication is not responsible for the reaction of its readers only for what it prints. And equally the readers are
not responsible for what they read only for how they react to it. And so Charlie Hebdo was responsible for what it
printed and the terrorists were equally responsible for how they reacted to it. Neither is responsible for the other
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Re: Freedom of Speech and Expression

#12  Postby BlackBart » Jan 19, 2015 7:24 am

... Wrong thread
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Re: Freedom of Speech and Expression

#13  Postby Ciwan » Jan 20, 2015 9:46 am

Let me change this slightly and ask you the following. Rationally where would one draw the line of freedom of speech? At what point would you (rationally) tell someone, stop, you can not say this or that?
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Re: Freedom of Speech and Expression

#14  Postby Thommo » Jan 20, 2015 10:00 am

Ciwan wrote:Let me change this slightly and ask you the following. Rationally where would one draw the line of freedom of speech? At what point would you (rationally) tell someone, stop, you can not say this or that?


Where there's a likely and predictable consequence of immediate harm, seems like a good, broad starting point.
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Re: Freedom of Speech and Expression

#15  Postby surreptitious57 » Jan 20, 2015 10:29 am

Drawing lines is quite problematic because universal agreement cannot be found on where they should be and who does the drawing. And which is why I my self do not accept any boundary beyond either the limitation of ones imagination or of ones conscience. They are far more reliable metrics than anything the law can reference for less I agree with it there may be no deterrent against me saying what it is I want to say. In other words self policing is much better than state policing. Because if something is forbidden by law that does not actually prohibit one from saying it. It is just that if one does one will have to suffer the consequences. But long as one is aware of what the consequences are and accepts all responsibility for what they say then that is not actually a problem. Remember too that laws are going to be broken because if they were not then there would be no need to have them in the first place. And so any total prohibition against free speech is just nothing more than fiction. For most it will be a deterrent but no law is actually fool proof and so there will always be someone willing to break it particularly if it is one pertaining to a fundamental and universal human right as free speech. Which is way too precious to be contained by any restraint on it. Now of course no democracy has free speech without any limitation but as I have already said that is not actually a prohibition on free speech itself but the consequences of free speech so is not the same thing at all
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Re: Freedom of Speech and Expression

#16  Postby Ciwan » Jan 20, 2015 10:35 am

surreptitious57 wrote:Drawing lines is quite problematic because universal agreement cannot be found on where they should be and who does the drawing. And which is why I my self do not accept any boundary beyond either the limitation of ones imagination or of ones conscience. They are far more reliable metrics than anything the law can reference for less I agree with it there may be no deterrent against me saying what it is I want to say. In other words self policing is much better than state policing.


I love this!

surreptitious57 wrote:Now of course no democracy has free speech without any limitation but as I have already said that is not actually a prohibition on free speech itself but the consequences of free speech so is not the same thing at all


This I don't understand, can you please place it in an everyday example? To me they seem to be the same thing at the moment. :(
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Re: Freedom of Speech and Expression

#17  Postby surreptitious57 » Jan 20, 2015 10:55 am

Committing perjury would be one such example. Anyone who lies under oath in a court of
law in this country will be jailed. Now that does not mean that they do not have the choice
as to whether they can or not but that if they do choose to they will suffer the consequences
So while they may lose their freedom the freedom they do not lose is to say whatever they want
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Re: Freedom of Speech and Expression

#18  Postby Ciwan » Jan 20, 2015 11:21 am

surreptitious57 wrote:Committing perjury would be one such example. Anyone who lies under oath in a court of
law in this country will be jailed. Now that does not mean that they do not have the choice
as to whether they can or not but that if they do choose to they will suffer the consequences
So while they may lose their freedom the freedom they do not lose is to say whatever they want


Nice thank you. Can the laws determining the consequences be freely disputed / criticized?

I learnt earlier in the thread that in Germany and France there are certain prohibitive laws in place with regards to the holocaust.

What would happen in these countries if one criticized these laws? anything serious? Also is this where democracy does not mean the "rationally correct thing"? So if (for example) 90% of the people in Germany voted that "Yes, we do not want anyone denying the holocaust or discussing it" and law is put in place, then even though not rationally correct, because of the democracy (voice of the many) the law gets passed?

By the way, just so that we are clear. I do not deny the holocaust and I am not interested in starting discussions with regard to that topic. I am merely interested in the freedom of speech aspect.
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Re: Freedom of Speech and Expression

#19  Postby surreptitious57 » Jan 20, 2015 11:51 am

Laws are not set in stone so are subject to review over time. In democracies as a general rule the most popular views
tend to be reflected on the statute because laws have to be passed by a certain percentage of a countrys parliament
But the most popular views do not always good law make because the majority do not have a monopoly on wisdom so
it is not a perfect system. And democracy it self is not perfect either but is as perfect as can be all things considered
The alternative would be to have laws imposed on the people without any accountability on the part of those doing it
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Re: Freedom of Speech and Expression

#20  Postby Ihavenofingerprints » Jan 20, 2015 12:33 pm

Ciwan wrote:

One point raised was about 'social responsiblity'. A man in the audience said, sure the magazine had the RIGHT to publish the things they did, but perhaps they should not have due to social responsibility, they KNEW many muslims would get offended, and the posiblity of some of those offended ones to go on killing would be increased with their publication, but they went ahead and did it anyway.


If they knew the potential consequences and they still did it, so what? They are educated adults and if they want to take that risk they can.

That sounds pretty bad because the aftermath was most certainly undesirable, but I dunno, what are you going to do? Set up a cartoon review board? No matter how hard we try we will never make this world idiot proof.
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