05 February 2006

Outrage and Censorship

Is there some contradiction between my view of the Government's version of the Religious Hatred bill ("As clear a breach of the human right of self-expression as one could ask for", as I put it just before it was voted down), and my more relaxed attitude to the Jyllands-Posten cartoons?

I don't think so. I am as much convinced as all the ranters and ravers on Samizdata, as Scott and all the others, that the UK papers have an absolute right to pubish those cartoons if they want to. If they were banned from doing so, I would be ranting and raving with the best of them.

But as the papers have not been banned from printing the cartoons, I don't see why they would want to. The broadsheets, at least, are not in the business of offending a lot of potential readers for the sake of a cheap laugh.

I've we're going to pick a fight with radical Muslims over free speech, I'd rather do it over something that has some purpose or merit other than offending them. And that's what this is about - it's about picking a fight. Yes, techincally Jyllands-Postan are in the right, but if you walk up to someone in the street, insult them, and then get all shocked and upset when they turn violent, it doesn't look all that impressive. And if free speech is under threat, it's under threat from scumbags like Blair and Clarke. Will turning this into a big fight in Britain improve the position or not?

As far as this country is concerned, it is a non-story. A Danish newspaper printed some cartoons, people in Palestine and Beirut are acting like savages. As far as the man in the street is concerned, it's about as relevant as an episode of Jerry Springer. If "we" publish the cartoons in a mainstream newspaper here, we are launching an unprovoked insult at a lot of people here, just for the sake of watching them react. That's rude.

As for "supporting Denmark" - the Danish government has said, entirely correctly, that it's none of their business and they can't do anything about it. That's absolutely right. How do we "support" them in their no-position position?

Well, if they are attacked, we can defend them. We should do that, but there's not really much we can do against the Beirut mob. But reprinting the cartoons isn't really support for "none of our business". It's confusing irrelevance with approval.

2 comments:

Perry de Havilland said...

I'd rather do it over something that has some purpose or merit other than offending them.

The fight has to be on the basis of what they are trying to prohibit, so choosing another less distastful topic is not really an option.

I actually agree with almost all your points but where I disagree is that I think not only is this more important than you think, I am delighted to see it escalate into a full blown culture war, though in truth the culture war in question is an internal western matter which some intolerant Muslims are just the trigger.

Next time Blair (or whoever, there is little difference amongst the two main parties) tries to abridge free speech, we can say "Oh so you want to reward intolerant Islam and give those scabby protesters exactly what they want?"

That is something which I think the 'man in the street' could get his head around.

Perry de Havilland said...

BTW... added a link to your blog in the Samizdata sidebar