Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Free Speech isn't limited to people you agree with

There is a very worrying trend in the U.S.A. where two speakers (Carmen Callil and Tony Judt) have recently had appearances cancelled following pressure from Jewish lobby groups. For convenience, both cases can be read about at this single link.

Arguing for freedom of speech for those with whom you agree is meaningless. Of course none of us want our own opinions supressed. It only carries any weight at all when extended to include those with whom you disagree. That's why the supporters of the March Rally for Free Expression were the genuine article. Speakers disgreed strongly with each other on almost everything except the importance of being able to disagree in a peaceful environment, where nobody gets sent to prison, threatened or killed for their opinions or utterances ESPECIALLY when they are offensive. It's not an issue when people's views are not offensive to someone.

That's also why the equivocal waffling of organisations like Amnesty International over the Danish Cartoons affair was so degraded. Yes, we must have free speech, they said, but we must use it "responsibly", which is to say not at all if someone known to be violent might take exception.

Sorry. Free speech is an absolute. And that applies to Carmen Callil, Tony Judt, George Galloway, the American Minutemen, my old friend Ismaeel and David Irving. It applies to Mother Theresa, the Pope and the Mufti of Jerusalem.

It applies to everyone.

In a climate wherein anti-semitic comment has swept through the halls of academia, and anti-Israeli sentiment is the rule at the BBC, Reuters, AFP, The Guardian, The Independent, The New York Times and other media organisations, the Anti Defamation League should know well what the problem with the suppression of opinions and news is, and they should be ashamed of their recent conduct.

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