Freedom of Speech?

This may come as a surprise and disappointment to some of my respected friends, but I support 100% the Oxford Union’s recent decision to invite the controversial figures of David Irving and Nick Griffin to a debate on ‘Freedom of Speech’.  No doubt, many of my friends would have been involved with the demonstration against their participation at the debate, but I have to say I think they are wrong.  Very wrong.

I have long felt that fascism should be debated out of existence, and not oppressed out of existence.  I have seen it argued that as fascists would not extend freedom of speech to people like us, why should people like us extend freedom of speech to fascists?  The answer to that is very simple – because we are not fascists.  It would seem that many on the Left have forgotten the famous words attributed to Voltaire, which state,

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

To my mind, this attitude of tolerance is what differentiates me from authoritarian fascists of many hues.   This is the attitude I expect from those who claim to abhor fascism.  Not demands for the censorship of their views, however repugnant they may be.  After all, what is freedom of speech if it does not apply universally?  It becomes nothing but the freedom to agree with established views.   If we refuse fascists the right to free speech today, who shall be refused tomorrow?  Anarchists?  Communists?  Socialists?  As much as it is disagreeable, a fascists freedom to speak is also OUR freedom to speak. 

The ideology of fascism can be defeated with a calculator and an etch-a-sketch.   The Irvings and Griffins of this world are no doubt delighted by the ‘no platform’ policy of those who could demolish their arguments in open debate.   For them, ‘war,war’ is better than ‘jaw, jaw’.  For the rest of us, ‘jaw, jaw’ MUST be the preference.  It would be a grave mistake to make free-speech-martyrs of the ridiculous British National Party.  As peace loving libertarians, we must sharpen our arguments, not our hatchets.             

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~ by blacksheepdiarist on December 3, 2007.

25 Responses to “Freedom of Speech?”

  1. “As peace loving libertarians, we must sharpen our arguments, not our hatchets.”
    It’ not easy, but it’s necessary, responsible, and all we really can do.

  2. I agree. Shutting them up allows them to feel persecuted, which plays right into their hands. Just look at their recruitment material.

    Engaging them in debates reveals how shockingly stupid they are, it’s not exactly difficult to win arguments with them. If we believe the BNP are wrong then we should be prepared to argue for that belief.

  3. In most cases I would agree with you. On this one I can’t.

    I believe the Oxford Union were motivated by money, prestige and headlines rather than by the right of giving free-speech. In the end about 200 people heard Irvine and Griffin in separate rooms. I don’t suppose they heard anything that they didn’t already know. Pointless.

  4. Hi, and welcome Jeremy. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment.
    As it happens, I do not disagree with your statement regarding the Oxford Union’s motivation for inviting Irving and Griffin, it was most likely a publicity stunt for them. I also agree that thanks to the way events unfolded, the whole exercise was more or less pointless.
    BUT, I feel a great opportunity was lost to take apart and refute the arguments of the BNP and Irving, thanks in large part to the demonstrators and they’re refusal to engage in debate with that they find odious. How good would it have been if both Griffin and Irving had met with rational argument and left Oxford with their tails very firmly between they’re legs? That would not be a worthless exercise.
    Peace

  5. I have no business talking about the Oxford Union. My comment was solely designed to backup this statement.
    ‘“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”’
    “To my mind, this attitude of tolerance is what differentiates me from authoritarian fascists of many hues.”

  6. Bit like a communist prof at a US university. They tried to shut him up, and he took them to court. They argued that if his lot came to power they would suppress freedom of speech. The judge found for him, and said to the university authorities, in effect, “He’s only talking about it, you’re actually doing it.”

  7. Excellent point, Steve. Thanks for contributing.

  8. The BNP are the only party that represents working people, Labour, Conservative and Lib Dems will do nothing to protect the rights of British born working people.

    The BNP is growing in strength and in some cases we are forcing main stream politics out of local councils. We are the party that will deliver change.

    I’m proud to be British and have served my Queen in Iraq, Afganistan, Ireland and Bosnia and refuse to let Britain to be turned into an Islamic state. My grandad served in the same regiment and was a prisoner of war in Korea and lost is health fighting to protect your freedom.

    Islam has one purpose and that is to destroy democracy and christianity through the wombs of their women. They preach hate, racism, sexism and violence and if you don’t believe me watch dispatches on Channel 4.

    While I’m alive I will do all I can to prevent my country being invaded by people with such extreme views. These views are shared amongst all my sqaud and we’d all die to protect them.

  9. Hello there Richard, no doubt you won’t be surprised that I disagree with every single word you say, and everything that the BNP stands for.

    The BNP do not represent working people at all. They represent a discredited segment of little England, the racist and the intolerant. My freedoms, which I cherish, have not been protected in Iraq, Afghanistan, Ireland, Bosnia, or Korea. That is plain nonsense. In fact, while you were in Iraq and Afghanistan, the government you so proudly serve has been whittling my freedoms away – the right to trial by jury, the right to protest, the right to be innocent until proven guilty, and several others besides. The folk who have fought for my freedoms are mainly trade unionists and social activists, the kind of folk the BNP would likely round up if ever achieving power.

    I am sorry about your Grandfathers health, my Grandfather too lost his health fighting in the Second World War, fighting against the kind of fascistic, racist and intolerant attitudes that the BNP now display. I find it ironic that so many BNP sympathisers openly admire Hitler. My grandfather fought against those who wanted a racially pure nation, didn’t yours?

    Your ignorant claims about Islam are easily disproved with an etch-a-sketch and a calculator. In fact the claims you make against them are exactly what a great many of us think the BNP stand for – racism, hate, sexism, violence, and the curtailing of democracy.

    Think on.

  10. So poorly informed. I’ve never met a BNP support yet who supports Hitler.

    A victory in Afganistan is not only important for Britain it is also important for the millions of people that suffered under extremist Islamic rule. Women are now free, people can fly kites (previously banned), they can watch the tele or listen to the radio (previously banned) and can now vote.

    You have these rights in the UK because people went to war to protect Britian from invaders. But as shown on Channel 4 only last Thursday there is a huge movement of muslims, funded by Labour, wanting to turn Britain into an Islamic state.

  11. You are sadly mistaken, Richard. Pay a visit to the Stormfront website, popular with BNP supporters, and you will find lots of stuff sympathetic to the ideology of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. I will assume you are just naive about the kind of people you are aligning yourself with.

    As for the state of Afghanistan today, I refer you to the actual views of women in Afghanistan which you can read about here – http://www.rawa.org/index.php – you will note it is VERY different from the rosy and false picture you paint of a heaven on earth. The situation of women has improved little, and is arguably worse. Your claims do not stand up to any kind of scrutiny whatsoever.

    The notion that Britain is in any danger of becoming an Islamic State is simply preposterous. It is scare-mongering of the worst kind. The programme you mention has been thoroughly discredited. As has the BNP.

    Have a nice day.

  12. You are talking to someone who served in the Royal Marines and served in Afghanistan. You’re comments are based on a charity which would not be allowed in the old Afganistan. The only way you will know is to go and see it for yourself, the problem is if you bump into the local war lords you probably won’t make it back.

    I’d prefer to live in danger and fight for my freedon than live under a dictator anyday. It’s not safe out there but the people now have a degree of choice, so they can at least die fighting.

    You discredit every form of media that doesn’t conform to your views. Channel 4 made a whole documentary about the growth of Islamic Extremists, yet you completely discredit the idea that maybe this is the truth.

    More and more evidence is being produced that immigration is actually putting extreme pressure on jobs, local councils, the economy….but I suppose you would discredit these as well.

  13. Hi again Richard, I see you fail to comment on the words of the women of Afghanistan as reflected in the link I posted. Funny how they completely contradict what you said…
    The ‘local war lords’ of which you speak, are the very same people the US and UK supported in Afghanistan – the Northern Alliance – a band of thugs and cut-throats if ever there was one. Your role in Afghanistan with the Marines effectively helped hand the country to them. Replacing one bunch of nutters with another.

    I too, believe it or not, would “prefer to live in danger and fight for my freedom than live under a dictator”. Though by ‘fight’ I do not mean violence, but rather non-violent direct action. You are talking to someone who has been to jail for what they believe in, and likely will do so again.

    I do not “discredit every form of media”, but I do have great sceptisicm about the mainstream corporate media, which is generally owned by a handful of very wealthy individuals who tend to promote their agenda, and not the whole unvarnished truth.

    And while I might accept that there are problems with immigration, namely the way it is handled, I do not accept that immigration per se is a bad thing, or that the nation is being “swamped” by foreigners, as the Daily Mail and those in the BNP tend to suggest.

  14. Richard, I saw this and thought of you – http://themiddleeastinterest.wordpress.com/2008/01/06/historical-imagination-a-world-without-islam/

    I think you might find it of interest.

  15. I wouldn’t want a world without Islam that would be facism or communism…both are pretty much the same. I just don’t want Islam enshrined in the British constitution I don’t agree with it’s values. I’m a christian why would I want that.

    If I was to go and live in another part of the world I wouldn’t expect my host to starting changing laws to accept my beliefs.

    Only recently the muslim council of Britain held meetings with No.10 to try and get muslim divorse law added to the British constitution. No one really knows the outcome of this meeting but if the government is considering this then this a sure way to creating more tension in this country.

    It’s not racist to think this way and I shouldn’t be persecuted for my beliefs, if anything this should be put to a national vote and not left to isoloted groups.

    Like many issues the government won’t put this to a vote because they are too scared of the results, just look at the the EU constitution.

    We do live in a multi cultural society and we should be proud of that but there has to be clear boundaries that protect our culture, standard of living and rights. If we don’t then the melting pot won’t work and people like myself will vote for those that are willing to campaign for change.

  16. I don’t think there is even a remote possibility of Islam being enshrined in the UK constitution, not least because there IS NOT a UK constitution! As an athiest, I wouldn’t want Islam, Christianity, or Judaism enshrined in to our political system. But a multi-cultural society is supposed to make allowances for the belief systems of it’s citizens, whether that be religious or otherwise.

    I agree that if you were to live in another part of the world, your host would not be expected to change it’s laws to accomodate your beliefs, but it should have a set of laws that protect your right to believe what you want. That my friend, is tolerance.

    I have no problems with groups like the Muslim Council of Britain, or the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland for example lobbying government, that is how our political system has worked for decades. Trade Unions lobby governments, individuals and campaigning groups do. Why should the M.C.B. be any different? Are you suggesting they should be excluded from the UK’s political process?

    I also agree with you about national votes, or referendums on changes to UK laws etc. You are right it should not be left to isolated groups. But then, as far as I can tell it is not. Well, apart from the CBI, the arms industry and the nuclear lobby etc etc The MCB are not the ‘deciders’ on any aspects of UK law. But like you, me and everyone else on these Isles, they are perfectly entitled to express an opinion and campaign for it. Is that not the liberty and freedom of which we are supposedly so rightly proud?

  17. I agree that if one goes to another country then they should accept the laws and customs of the ‘host’ nation….. unlike the British when they ‘went abroad’ to India/Africa (for instance). The British enforced their own laws and customs on the Indians, like dress and food and religion and worst of all – the language. Very, very few British learnt to speak any of the languages, even fewer adopted local dress or ate local dishes. The British subjugated the population, but I suppose that Richard would think that all right, because he bears the ‘white man’s burden’.
    However, that isn’t really my point; India gained a great deal from its multicultural visitors, and no matter how hard the British tried to convert the population into Christians it didn’t happen, because the masses didn’t want it. It is just as unlikely that Britain will become an Islamic state; it’s barely a christian state (more’s the pity!). The majority of people in Britain only worship the god of shopping, and wouldn’t give a damn about Allah, any more than they give a damn about Christ. The joy of being British is that we like to tell people how to behave when they come over here, but we are way too British to reciprocate; think of all the Britons that have retired to Spain, complete with fish and chip shops because they don’t like foreign food. Again, the point I’m trying to make is that movement of people and mingling of cultures and traditions is a good thing. So Britons going abroad and taking chippies with them is good for Spain, just as people coming to Britain is a good thing for us. The Spanish aren’t going to change their constitution just because they have lots of Brits, anymore than we are going to change ours because we have Muslims (or Hindus or Jews or Jains or Rastafarians etc).

  18. Clear sign that people are sick of the current policy on immigration

    North West Leicestershire District Council
    Ibstock and Heather Ward
    Thursday 10th January 2008
    Felix Fenning – Labour Party 699
    Ivan Hammonds – British National Party 637
    Paul Oakden – Conservative Party 515
    David Wyatt – Liberal Democrat 441
    BNP Percentage: 27.8%

    I’m standing for parliamentary candidate and so far it’s looking very promising.

  19. Well Richard, as I’m sure you are intelligent enough to know, the votes the British National Party have gathered are not purely just votes in favour of your manifesto. Many people who vote for you are disillusioned with mainstream politics, not necessarily inspired by your immigration policy.

    Anyway, care to touch on any of the points I raised in my last posts, or some of the fine points put forward by ‘madbadhairday’?

  20. Interesting debate, guys.
    However I have to disagree with the person who commented that the enforcement of the English Language on the Indian populace in Imperial times was a negative thing. In fact it was a very farsighted thing and was the work of one of my great heroes Macaulay.

    Macaulay argued that the indian population should have the right and power to run their own businesses and that as such, teaching them English would be an empowering thing. It would also mean they were on a level ground with their “bosses”. It was heartily opposed by the Establishment of the time who argued that Macaulay teaching the Indians English would lead to revolution. It would be interesting to know whether we would have had a Gandhi or a Nehru if it were not for Macaulay.

  21. Thanks for the comment, Alan. Hopefully ‘madbadhairday’ may reply to your comments about the “enforcing” of the English language on India. (when is “enforcing” anything but ‘negative’?)

    I have to admit to knowing very little about Macaulay. I will do some research before commenting at any length on him. A brief google search throws up some interesting stuff on him, like this for example –
    ” I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for it the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is so good and greater than their own, they will lose their self esteem, their native culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation.”

    I see nothing heroic or admirable in this sentiment I am afraid.

    Peace

  22. The following comment was originally posted by Sandra Leslie, who despite having several screws loose and a malevolent streak a mile wide, does occasionally write something of interest. I have removed her obligatory childish digs.

    ——

    “Plymouth’s 30th Anniversary of the Plymouth Anti-Nazi League’s (ANL) Victory over the fascist National Front – But I’m A Prophet of Critical Anti-Fascism Now.

    This coming April 2009 marks the 30th Anniversary of the Plymouth Anti-Nazi-League’s (ANL) and Rock Against Racism (RAR) victory over John Tyndal’s National Front (NF) fascist party holding a public meeting to promote hatred in Plymouth at, the then Coburg Street school, now the Scott Lecture buildings of the University of Plymouth. This meeting was organised and promoted locally by Derek Merry (now of Taxi Fast) using blatant racist propaganda that is now unlawful. The meeting hall was surrounded by hoards of banner and placard waving anti-fascists while inside members of the ANL and its committee (including myself since I was the Chair of the ANL at the time) sat firm in the occupation of the hall in order to prevent the meeting going ahead.

    Tyndal, Merry and other NF organisers decided to abandon the meeting and so we held a party in the hall instead. The following day Tyndal went around the Barbican whinging about the ‘reds’ not allowing him freedom of speech but got short shrift from the citizens of Plymouth who recognised him as Nazi and a traitor. This incident hit both the national and local news media and Plymouth ANL received telegrams, letters and phone calls of solidarity from elsewhere. This marked the culmination of a previous eighteen months of the Plymouth ANL/RAR organising public meetings, benefit gigs as well as blanket leaflet and poster campaigns across the whole of Plymouth.

    But what do I think of this ‘victory’ today in light of the fact that Derek Merry has a lucrative career in the race industry teaching migrant workers the ‘knowledge’.. (tourette moment deleted).. Now Merry may have changed for the better these days but who can tell the difference with so many of these professional ‘diversity’ workers being pretty much like him anyway with their ‘capacity building’, their ‘human resouirce collaboration and singularity and their promotion of streotypes still? This and many other reasons is why today I am a prophet of critical equality and diversity work as well as prophet of critical anti-fascism. I use the word ‘prophet’ for I am not a political participant now but instead herald in the new with the promotion of new ideas and new approaches. For example, Unite Against Fascism and Love Music, Hate Racism still use exactly the same methodology and campaigning ideas that were used 30 years ago. But I believe that this can and will change now. Sandra Leslie 14th January 2009.”

  23. Freeluncher

    Part of the reason i come to your site is in the hope that Sandra has been and left a message. its a shame you edit them but i guess printing lies about yourself is no fun but they are still amusing none the less. I like to play the game seeing how long it takes before the topic comes back to her and her importance (usually not long).

    Anyways keep up the blogging, good to see you back, i don’t agree with a word you say but interesting to read none the less. The most suprising thing i found though is how you think the BBC is biased against the Palestinians. As there are whole websites (i.e biasedbbc) which are claiming the complete opposite saying that the bbc is against israel. Seems they’re damned from both sides. I’d be interested to see a post from your point of view showing their bias.

    Laters
    Dexcel (from your DB days)

    • Hey there Phil/Dexcel, it has been a while. I hope all is well with you and yours.
      With regards to Sandra , you really wouldn’t believe the crap she has been writing about me, for about two whole years now. There are literaly hundreds of emails and articles dedicated to calling me all the names under the Sun. In fact, I was toying with the idea just yesterday of posting a whole load of them on here, so as others can see quite how ‘barking’ she is. But wiser counsel has prevailed. I believe what she wants more than anything is my attention, for me to spend time responding to her tedious nonsense. I don’t think I will give her the satisfaction. I find the whole thing endlessly amusing tbpfh. I used to joke that it would be cool to have a stalker!

      As for my blogging, it has been a bit lax lately, to say the least. A combination of work, real world activism, and a general bout of lazyitis when it comes to writing and researching. I am intending to break out of that forthwith. Maybe I will, as you suggest, write about why I am angry and disgusted with the BBC’s coverage of the massacre in Gaza. The idea that it is pro-Palestinian, as pro-Israeli people allege, is demonstrably and laughably untrue.

      Anyway, nice to hear from you. Watch this space 😉

      Peace, John (freeluncher)

  24. If you embrace ‘freedom of speech’ you may find this Award Winning Film interesting – ‘Billy & Lilly go to New York’ for film followers who have a passion for truth and justice.

    You may already believe that you cannot rely on official sources of information and realise that you need to look at alternative media in order to gain a better understanding of the world’s ruling establishments such as the Monarchy, Religious Institutions and Parliamentary and Federal Authorities. You may already believe that governments allow crime because it is profitable!

    Presenting the truth can be dangerous!

    http://billyandlillygotonewyork.wordpress.com/shocking-documentary-drama-from-london-and-new-york/

    And here are some strong views by ‘maverick’ Bill Maloney directed at BBC Newsnight interviewer at the G20 protests, London: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cCcvTvfBGsg Please leave comments if you feel inclined.

    Find out more about Bill Maloney and his controversial films and documentaries at: http://www.pienmashfilms.com

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