The Value of Free Speech; A Threat to Democracy; What not to do when you’re offended; Karl Marx; You.

In a democracy it is the right of the individual to be heard. Whatever the individual wants to express he/she is free to do so. It comes also with the responsibility of the rest to listen. However controversial, however idiotic, however facetious, the right to free speech is protected on the grounds that every single individual have a voice. And as a society we   should pride ourselves upon this enormously beneficial facet. It is the defining element of a functioning democracy.

As a consequence of this element it is the responsibility of the individual to open up his argument for rebuke and the responsibility of the listener to rebuke, if necessary. And therein ensues a critical debate. This process is of extreme value, and should be protected, wouldn’t you agree? Of course you do..

Now all of this may seem somewhat banal to you. You may say ‘Well ok yeah, but what has this to do with me?’. And it would be a pertinent question.

Well, it has a whole lot to do with you. Yes, you.

I think we take it for granted that we can take to the streets in protest if we like, we can write articles criticizing something or someone, anyone and anything, we can use social networking sites, we can go to comedy gigs where comedians have a license to be politically incorrect, we can watch television from around the globe, we can smoke, drink, women can wear what they like and aren’t subjected to bronze-age arranged marriages, usually at an age where in our culture these children would be beginning post-primary school, women aren’t treated as if the very sight of them in the street unveiled would be disgusting. The list can, and does, go on. I feel it is the things we take for granted that ultimately end up being the most valuable, and alas, the things that we only realize are most valuable when they are taken from us.

Free speech and all these things I just listed  did not come easy. They were fought for, physically and mentally, on the streets and in print, in the mind and with sticks and stones. People fought for the right for you to have a twitter account, to criticize the church, to criticize Government, to question authority, to choose which man you would spend the rest of your life with, to go to school, to wear whatever clothing you want, to hold an erroneous opinion, to be able to express that opinion, however ridiculous it may be.

But what if something threatens this value, that is key for our functioning society? What if, as a civilization, the possibility of return to middle age style society is real, and knowable and recognizable? When free speech was virtually non-existent and you could face the death penalty, be tortured, be imprisoned, for writing, saying, reading, displaying, anything that is deemed to be heretic  or blasphemous.

Imagine living in a society of fear.

Imagine you had written a book. It had taken you 2 years, countless hours of research, fits of anxiety, publishing worries, and all of the anxieties that come with the process of the novel. You finish it and are extremely proud of it; people congratulate you, your family is ecstatic and the publisher takes it on. People will read your novel all over the world. Next you get a phone call, its your publisher. Bad news; the religious got their hands on your book. They’ve deemed it anti-church/satanic/blasphemous/immoral/offensive, and are banning it in every country they have sway. Every copy that we printed is currently being publicly burned in the city square as we speak, while the religious slander your name, your family and your publishers. And, also, you may stand trial for heresy.

Now this story may sound fantastic and you may say ‘That would never happen in our country’. It did, for centuries, and a similar situation may be returned. For hundreds, thousands of years, it happened until we fought back, relatively recently, and thrived for free speech and equality. Books burned, people executed, groups slandered, etc. And it happens in many countries still today, from groups that are determined to instill the same in our society.

Today, our free speech, and everything we hold dear and everything that great men have fought for, is being threatened by a familiar foe. Religion. And in particular, Islam. The tentacles of this poisonous cult have spread and continue to spread.

The recent violent uproar in the ‘Muslim’ world over an ‘offensive’ video that commits the crime of depicting Mohammed is not the first time we’ve witnessed an aggressive backlash from Muslims.

In 2005-2008 a similar event occurred. A Danish newspaper published a number of depictions of Mohammed. The outrage and downright abhorrent violence that ensued was horrific. Danish embassy’s were attacked and burned out, innocent Scandinavians were attacked on the street, Danish companies were boycotted, the Danish Embassy in Pakistan was bombed (several people died), violent clashes all over the world culminated in dozens of deaths, several men were arrested after plotting to have the animator assassinated and there was a general threat to Westerners around the world with a number of murders culminating. A number of ambassadors from supposedly secular countries in the ‘Muslim’ world went to Denmark and deplored the Prime Minister to intervene and change the law of Denmark so as to give him the power to stifle the free speech of an afternoon newspaper. He refused. Things got noticeably worse.

This week a similar thing has happened and is happening. A wave of violence has spread throughout, not only the ‘Muslim’ world but here in Europe, in Africa, in Asia.  It all began in Egypt and quickly spread to Libya. The US embassy in Benghazi was attacked on Tuesday following violent protests. 1 ambassador, Christopher Stevens, and 3 others were killed that day.  This  is all the more upsetting and angering knowing Stevens himself had aided the transition of a new Government in Libya and was there to assist Libya and strengthen ties with post-Gaddafi Libya. I reckon the fact that the US actually helped the Libyan people in their uprisal against Gaddafi will go unnoticed; that the US sent fighter planes and imposed sanctions on Gaddafi that crippled him makes this attack on their embassy and the murder of those poor individuals all the more deplorable.

It’s as if upon being helped free of chains the prisoner then jabs a knife in the back of the emancipator.

How does this all tie in with freedom of speech which I began with… ?

Quite simply, actually. The violent protests that occurred in 2005-2008 against the publication of the caricatures happened in a number of countries. The retaliations this week have occurred in a great many more countries. In a sort of hubble-telescope style realisation, you will notice that the violence, not contracting, is actually speeding up and spreading out in all directions, and more violently. Which means it is coming to a town near you.

Now I sincerely hope I do not sound as if I’m mongering, as it were. This really is spreading like wild-fire. A google maps image of Europe, North Africa and Asia shows the spots where protests, some of them extremely violent, have taken place since Tuesday. Demonstrations, attacks, etc have occurred in almost 50 places in these regions.

This link shows the widespread retaliations – http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2012/09/201291543351757576.html

I found myself almost gagging when Al – Jazeera published a piece entitled ‘Is the reaction to anti-Islam film justified?’. How can you even attempt to pose such a question. Put the same question to the families of Christopher Stevens and his three associates you pack of wankers. And has anybody from the other side come out and apologised for their murders? No.. Violent ‘demonstrations’ have now engulfed many cities and towns and even German and British Embassy’s are attacked.

And I haven’t even mentioned the Salman Rushdie affair! I trust that you know all about that… You don’t? Well then, take 5 minutes and read up about it and you’ll understand. It all boils down to what we in our society champion and what makes our society what it is today. Of course, people complain about greedy bankers, high price of living, etc, in our society but these things fade into darkness beside the capitulations that we’ll have to engage in if the threat to our democracy is not realised. At the end of the day we will have to yield much of what is valued in our society to appease these people.

You may be shocked even to know that many countries, including our own, have a Blasphemy Law, making it a crime to criticize religion. In our country the punishment comes with a potential 25,000  EURO FINE.

Nobody will point out the pink elephant in the room. Its easy; this all comes down to religion and religious belief but nobody says so.

Karl Marx, in the introduction of his Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, said that ‘the criticism of religion is the prerequisite of all criticism.’ The ability to criticize religion is most imperative.

If you’ve come this far, well done!

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2 thoughts on “The Value of Free Speech; A Threat to Democracy; What not to do when you’re offended; Karl Marx; You.”

  1. Hi my name Ria pon Allae rea-ch arand. I am a Muslim woman and I have just came across your article and thought it was,excuse the pun here but, to die for(sarcasm), if I was trying to imbue a hatred against muslims which I think you do very well(are you Jewish in any way?) but I do have a few gripes with your gravy train of thought here.

    1)All animals are equal but some are more equal than others
    Why not just admit that it’s just so true today,especially in your precious Ireland that there is a social pecking order and just like you hate Islam (The tentacles of this poisonous cult – Meow kittekat why not call them the cocks of malicious intent),I hate the poor(we’re sisters of fortune,yeah, ride on) not everyone deserves to have a say and some of the unwashed masses can’t even talk properly and if you think I’m being facetious, they don’t vote so fuck them, if they don’t hitch there post to a wagon because ‘it’s all bullshit’ they have no right to complain. Free speech is all well and good but see above “however ridiculous it may be,” talk about a waste of time!

    2)Rushdie…all arguments aside was a cunt. He was a modern day Cromwell that set out wholeheartedly to cause a rumble in the bunny jungle and despite all his anti-Islam and threats over women being discriminated against,he himself was a misogynist and if you need proof,take a look over his many wives(yeah he’s no problem with having more than one) and tell me that they aren’t good looking. It seems Rushdie loved himself a hot piece of ass but of course I’m sure it was for her opinion and such.

    3)”It’s as if upon being helped free of chains the prisoner then jabs a knife in the back of the emancipator”
    Yes because no jailer has ever been killed as a result of a prisoner’s freedom. It’s as if the ‘screws’, as you call them in Ireland, just love the and look foreward to prison riots.

    You really need to learn some feeling for the individuals that are enlightening this world as a casual collective ensemble,just think think without your head and do it with your heart and you’l see where our muslamic passion comes from and in the heat of the moment,everyone melts to reveal their true selves

    yours sans Fuck

    Ria pon Allae rea-ch arand.

    1. Hello,

      First of all, I’m not Jewish. I’m not religious in any way; I’m an atheist. I thought that may have been obvious but alas.. I consider every religion in the same way; they are all, in my view, similar glimpses of the same untruth. I don’t just single out Islam for criticism but it’s interesting to see individuals and various groups get so flustered when I do.

      “… not everyone deserves to have a say and some of the unwashed masses can’t even talk properly and if you think I’m being facetious, they don’t vote so fuck them, if they don’t hitch there post to a wagon because ‘it’s all bullshit’ they have no right to complain. Free speech is all well and good but see above “however ridiculous it may be,” talk about a waste of time!”

      Apart from the improper use of grammar that I find abhorrent, I find more abhorrent you’re language regarding the ‘unwashed masses’ that don’t vote so ‘fuck them’. It really tells me more about yourself than you know. You’re aversion toward free speech is apparent and you clearly don’t champion democracy because of your ‘not everyone deserves a say’ and your talk of social pecking orders.

      I don’t think Rushdie was a cunt. And I’m sure there’s millions that would agree with me. I cannot for the life of me see where you came up with the Cromwellian connection… ? So what if any of his wives were good looking? Does that make him a cunt that his wife was pretty? I must congratulate you here, I’m not easily confused.

      “It’s as if upon being helped free of chains the prisoner then jabs a knife in the back of the emancipator”
      Yes because no jailer has ever been killed as a result of a prisoner’s freedom. It’s as if the ‘screws’, as you call them in Ireland, just love the and look foreward to prison riots.”

      I don’t even know what to say about this. Apart from the spelling mistake and the absolute illogicality I really cannot make out what you’re trying to say.

      “You really need to learn some feeling for the individuals that are enlightening this world as a casual collective ensemble,just think think without your head and do it with your heart and you’l see where our muslamic passion comes from and in the heat of the moment,everyone melts to reveal their true selves”

      I do not think that any man or woman of religion is doing anything to enlighten this world in any way. I defy anybody that can ‘think without their head’! Now there’s somebody I’d like to meet, somebody who can think without their head… My heart’s primary function is to pump blood around my body; its not even remotely connected with thought processes.

      The heat of the moment has passed and you’ve melted, revealing your true self. You didn’t even try to defend your religion in any way. Some advice; instead of thinking with your heart try thinking with your head. And go for some grammar classes before you comment on my blog.

      Shuki

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