Sunday, October 21, 2007

Free Speech or Hate Speech?

I wrote a post a little while ago about Free Speech, holding the party line and disgraced Professor Andrew Fraser making comments about different races, and since then I've come across another dishonoured professor.

"Harvard President Lawrence Summers was driven out of his university post in 2005 after he suggested at a conference that gender differences might account for an under representation by women in science, math and engineering."

The article from Real Clear Politics goes on to say....

"Summers, the Blasphemer was banished into the outer darkness. There's no debating that he was punished for saying something that made a special group feel bad -- the new blacklisting offense. To be called a sexist, racist or homophobe today is tantamount to being a communist sympathizer 50-60 years ago."

The question of whether hate speech is free speech has again arisen, this time in the Sunday Age, News Extra pg 20 "Race, Hate and DNA" on October 21, 2007. Nobel Prize winner Professor James Watson has stated in regards to Africans

"All our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours - whereas all the testing says not really".

However his comments were deemed so offensive that a sold out talk he was to give at the science museum in London was cancelled, stating

"We feel that Watson has gone beyond the point of acceptable debate".

So when do comments turn from free speech to hate speech? When is something someone says unacceptable, and who decides what speech is and isn't acceptable?

I personally know a number of anarchists who are strong anti-fascists and very anti- hate speech, which superficially seems reasonable. However, in keeping with anarchism and it's non-totalitarian nature, who are we as anarchists to decide what people can and cannot say? In fact, to pressure people or the state into censorship is anti-anarchist by its very nature. The reason is quite simple, to apply censorship is to apply rule over another, which by its definition, totalitarian.

However, what happens when something is said that is totally abhorrent to you as an individual? I've stated that anarchists shouldn't engage in censorship, but what about the State? Is it OK for the Government to engage in censorship? The answer unfortunately, is no. We shouldn't have censorship. For the answer we need only look to Channel nine last night and the "Great Debate". Mr Howard decided he didn't want the worm, and thus the feed to channel nine was cut. Ray Martin was even heard to say during the coverage

"So much for free speech in Australia".

Herein lies the problem; one mans terrorist is another mans freedom fighter. Everything is open to personal views, and to give an individual control over the information provided to the general public (censoring) will always be biased. The problem lies in where to draw the line. Drawing the line at hate speech might be acceptable for some, but the thin edge of the wedge is that even mainstream information is then subject to censorship by the whims of the State.

Anarchists more than any other group should advocate free speech (including hate speech) to provide the masses with more accurate information in which they can decide for themselves. Considering the fact that the comments by Professor James Watson are self-evident hate speech, let people decide for themselves. THIS IS ANARCHY!

Hate speech in its most basic form runs parallel with anarchist dogma. If anarchy was to "rule" the country, each person with their own ideas and agenda would be free to speak their mind and subsequently offend (which by it's definition is hate speech).

So the next time someone says something you think is "inappropriate" congratulate them for not being tools of the state. In fact, encouraging free speech in all it's forms, and you'll be encouraging the Anarchist way of life.

References:
http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2007/09/larry_summers_the_thought_poli.html
http://news.ninemsn.com.au/minisite/election_article.aspx?id=307689&sectionid=6046&sectionname=minisiteelection

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1 comment:

Ray said...

Yes, unfortunately it is the nature of humankind to express itself and to attempt to make one's own beliefs a shared system. Power does not just disappear. It is constantly in flux, moderated by dominant culture/the hegemony and sought after by those with marginalised views.

To be an anarchist is to accept such a state and be in a constant defensive stance. To be an anarchist is a constant struggle against those whose views threaten personal power and individual rights.