Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Indy: Thomas Sutcliffe on Irving and Free Speech

Todays Independent:
If you want to defend David Irving's right to talk nonsense, as I do now, you have to face the fact that you're going to find yourself in ugly company ... Unfortunately those of us who think liberty of expression has had a very bad time just recently don't have a lot of choice. You can't always choose the site of battle, and there's no getting round the fact that those who wish to qualify and trim the principle of free speech occupy what looks very much like the high ground.
He is, of course, completely correct. As Judy eloquently points out, Irving is, not to put to fine a point on it, the type of person I'd rather avoid at all costs. However, banning him from speaking his mind isn't the way to go about it. Sending him to jail for making a speech is counter-productive and potentially even more damaging, as John observes here.

Sutcliffe again:
...free speech has never been defended by protecting the saying of things that nobody minds being uttered. If that was so what kind of liberty would it be?
Iqbal Sacranie made some pretty obnoxious remarks about homesexuality recently. The way to counter this is not to ban him from saying these things, not to arrest him, but to tell him he's wrong. Shout it from every rooftop. Lowri Turner may be an ignorant bigot, but the way to deal with this is to tell the world she is (as this Google search shows was done), not ban her from talking such nonsense. I retain my position that those cartoons were stupid, unfunny and not worth publishing, furthermore, that to do so once was misguided, to continually do so was bloody stupid. But I would not seek to ban a newspaper editor from being a blithering idiot (although I'll happily call them out when they are, especially everyone's favourite traitor). Freedom of speech has to be an absolute. If someone is talking crap, you need to tell them it's so, denounce them, shout it from the rooftops. "No platform" when it comes to groups such as the BNP is counter productive; debate 'em, show them up as what they are.
There's a real danger in moving to a position where the affront a speech might cause governs its admissibility...This particular right is too important to be withheld from the repulsive.


Gert said...

I'm rather surprised so little was blogged in the UK about Nick Griffin's race hate trial, which is really quite a similar matter. The trial concluded in the worst possible of outcomes: a retrial. More publicity for these wingnuts. Griffin stated publicly that the BNP had received some £20,000 in donations as a direct result of the trial...

Anonymous said...

Oh it was discussed, quite widely, DK put up some good posts as did others, don't think I did, I think it was one of those never got around to things.

Can't blog about everything. But it was covered elsewhere.

MatGB said...

Above comment would be nice to show itself now...