Tuesday, 27 January 2015
Do we have a right to be offended?
I think we do. There is free speech and then there is free speech. With free speech and the power of this comes responsibility I feel. But where do we draw the line? We can’t constantly say we're being offended simply because of a disagreement or to shut down debate and discussion that is not what a free society looks like. The idea that any kind of free society can be constructed in which people will never be offended or insulted is absurd. So too is the notion that people should have the right to call on the law to defend them against being offended or insulted. A fundamental decision needs to be made: do we want to live in a free society or not? Democracy is not a tea party where people sit around making polite conversation. In democracies people get extremely upset with each other. They argue vehemently against each other’s positions. (But they don’t shoot.) The right to offend is not about humor. It's not about anarchy. It's not about what I feel like doing, without consequences. Believe it or not, it's about defending the right to tell the truth -- which is necessary for progress of society. The right to say these things is called freedom of speech, and is one of the cornerstones of a free society. Throughout human history, we've had a lot of "inconvenient" truths, and saying them out loud have cost the lives of countless martyrs. Modern society is no different, with the concession that today it's less likely -- but still possible -- to be killed by saying something offensive. As with the recent awful attacks in Paris on the headquarters of the so called satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo Which I completely condemn and are not the answer to which were offensive and let’s be honest racist depictions of the prophet Mohammed. I think we should all try and apply self censorship being careful what we say to different people is crucial to being a decent human being. Using certain words around certain people can trigger all sorts of thoughts and feelings so being careful with our language are key I feel even if I am not against you saying it I on the other hand have the right to disagree with you. As with racist and fascist language words we use the no platform strategy within the labour movement to prevent them gaining a foothold in the movement we will argue our corner but arguing with fascists is not an opting when they will not debate with you and have no interest in debating fairly with you. No platforming used to be something that was done to fascists. Photo: Getty What happened to no platform? The idea that certain viewpoints had no right to be expressed in public debate has never been wholly uncontroversial, but at least it used to be clear: as Nick Lowles of the anti-racism campaign Hope Not Hate explained it in a 2013 blog post, no platform was “the position where we [i.e. anti-fascist groups] refuse to allow fascists an opportunity to act like normal political parties […] which sometimes includes physically deny[in] them the freedom to operate.” No platform might be enacted in a number of ways: it could mean an institution refusing to host speakers associated with particular violent groups (something the NUS has historically done), or established political parties forbidding their representatives to share the stage with figures from far-right organisation. As a last resort, it meant taking direct action to prevent the proponent of an abhorred position from speaking. But it was traditionally about rejecting the rhetoric of violence – especially when that rhetoric was liable to inspire leagues of smash-happy skinheads. In times of economic and social crisis, the fascists will offer racism and violence as a solution to people’s desperation. The question of No Platform must be posed as an issue of working-class unity against the bosses’ efforts to divide and rule. It is also a question of our right to organise self-defence against fascist pogroms and attacks on our meetings and demonstrations. That’s why, when the English Defence League march in our cities and towns, attacking black and Asian areas, screaming racist abuse, we need our own “Antifascist Defence League” to stop them in their tracks and send them packing. A highly trained, highly organised Defence League of our own is the way to beat them, defend our demonstrations and our communities from racist thugs. But there are other reasons too. As capitalism moves into decay and crisis, as we are seeing today, it relies more and more upon brute force and violence to back up its political and social attacks on working class people. Organising against the fascists, and preparing defence of our struggles is a necessary step in organising our class to fight back against bosses’ offensive as a whole – a class war driven by wealth and backed up with violence and repression. https://twitter.com/share In the midst of all the post-Paris grief, hypocrisy and hyperbole abounds. Yes, the attack was an act of unquantifiable evil; an inexcusable and merciless murder of innocents. But was it really a “bid to assassinate” free speech (ITV’s Mark Austin), to “desecrate” our ideas of “free thought” (Stephen Fry)? It was a crime – not an act of war – perpetrated by disaffected young men; radicalised not by drawings of the Prophet in Europe in 2006 or 2011, as it turns out, but by images of US torture in Iraq in 2004. Please get a grip. None of us believes in an untrammelled right to free speech. We all agree there are always going to be lines that, for the purposes of law and order, cannot be crossed; or for the purposes of taste and decency, should not be crossed. We differ only on where those lines should be drawn. Let’s be clear: I agree there is no justification whatsoever for gunning down journalists or cartoonists. I disagree with your seeming view that the right to offend comes with no corresponding responsibility; and I do not believe that a right to offend automatically translates into a duty to offend. When you say “Je suis Charlie”, is that an endorsement of Charlie Hebdo’s depiction of the French justice minister, Christiane Taubira, who is black, drawn as a monkey? Of crude caricatures of bulbous-nosed Arabs that must make Edward Said turn in his grave? These were quite clearly racist cartoons and designed to offend. SDo people have a right to publish this sort of material? Of course but let’s be honest this is not satire when it’s poking fun at those below us and have less than a voice than we do. Lampooning racism by reproducing brazenly racist imagery is a pretty dubious satirical tactic. Also, as the former Charlie Hebdo journalist Olivier Cyran argued in 2013, an “Islamophobic neurosis gradually took over” the magazine after 9/11, which then effectively endorsed attacks on "members of a minority religion with no influence in the corridors of power". It's for these reasons that I can't "be", don’t want to “be", Charlie