Freedom of Expression, Even For Those With Whom I Disagree!

Written on 23 December 2013

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Above: Chris Knowles, believer in liberty.

An article posted yesterday at Harry’s Place discussed a proposal to create anti-extremism “Asbos” for 25 individuals who have been designated as hate clerics.  I commented at Harry’s Place under the article.

Personally I am opposed to the idea and see this as yet another attack of the traditional British liberty.  While I oppose such ‘clerics’ and disagree with much of what they say I believe that what is being proposed represents a very dangerous step that will ultimately undermine the freedom of us all.  It illustrates the totalitarian impulses of our political elite. Undermining freedom of speech is a slippery slope to tyranny and a very dangerous move!  Of course freedom of speech no longer truly exists in the UK because of similar power grabs by the Government so my position on the matter could be considered irrelevant.  Individuals and groups who previously provided counter arguments to people such as the clerics in question have already been censored.  The process of the debasement of liberty has already started.  This is just another measure in support of that process.  Making that situation worse does not help the cause of freedom.

Another commenter at Harry’s Place made a fair enough point when they criticised my position on the grounds that the clerics themselves were advocates of tyranny.  However, it is my firm belief that the only way to deal with those who advocate tyranny is through counter argument and not censorship.  Taking away a person’s right to speak their mind is not something that can somehow be cloaked in the garb of egalitarianism.  The censorship that has already been put in place needs to be reversed, not built upon.

Censorship always need censors and it is those censors who would eventually dictate all morality and decide who can say what and when. Eroding free speech is a mechanism to create dictators and to give power to a small group rather the population as a whole. Do we really want to give that sort of power to politicians?  When you have freedom of expression bad ideas are out in the open and can be criticised. When you have dictatorship, you believe what you are told to believe whether it is good or bad.

As things stand, political and media elites play one group off against another in the clamour to end freedom of expression. One group demands that its opponents are censored. Then the censored group does the same, and the process continues. Where does the process end? Who will be the next censored individual or group? Which group will be next to have the right to freedom of expression taken away? What will be the next issue that people are not allowed to talk about?

Soon the only people who are considered sufficiently ‘trained’ to have the necessary expertise to say what is considered to be the ‘right thing’ will be a small and elite group indeed. That group, the ‘political class’ have already proved that they have nothing much of value to say anyway!

I would say these clerics want to see an end to freedom of speech and we are now giving them exactly what they want. After all, it is the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) which is leading the way globally against freedom of expression. We surely don’t want them to be the ones holding the censor’s pen and deciding what individuals are allowed to say!  However, I fear that this is the direction in which our society is unfortunately heading.

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