You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Free Speech’ tag.

See the other award winners at the Quillette.

Pornography is not free speech. It is a teaching tool for toxic patriarchal values that hurt women. Need to start looking into the topic of the harms of pornography? This list isn’t a bad place to start.

  Longish essay on counterpunch, this pull quote doesn’t reflect the thesis of the piece, but rather something that should be concerning to progressives and people who want to see change in society.  The status-quo is resilient for a reason, and not taking that into account pretty much dooms whatever project you happen to be working for to failure.

 

 “It’s foolish to think that the failure of previous non-violent protests to change state structures can be blamed on the failure of the tactics, rather than the failure of the underlying politics in other domains. Those mass movements either did not achieve popular support, or, more poignantly, they did, but that support was coopted and channeled into an electoral theater and a political leadership that undermined and effectively annulled their goals, and turned energetic popular opposition back into apathy and acceptance. The transition from millions of antiwar protestors on the streets against the Vietnam and Iraq wars to <crickets> in the face of Obama’s Libya-Syria-Yemen-drones-around-the-world wars, illustrates that sad political dynamic.”

And there we have the problem folks.  The status-quo only persists because we allow it to.  Without changing the underlying political structures and features of a democracy, you can only count on one aspect, and that is ‘more of the same’.

The New York Times has featured Lindy West writing on the free speech conundrum on how entitled white dudes are getting their knickers in a knot because minorities and non white dudes dare to criticize features of society that make dudes happy.

See the flaming mound of poo that is “Gamer Gate” or any forum in which a feminist view/critique of society is presented.  Good times.  Today’s lesson is that criticism is not anti-free speech and conflating the two ideas because your pet notions don’t stand up to analysis is toddler level defence of your position.

 

There is a controversy in Canada going on with with regards to the issue of free speech, Bill C-16, and the refusal of a Professor at the U of T to use the alternate pronouns people choose for themselves.  This is the video that started it all (1h).

Three viewing options depending on your time frame.  A long panel debate (1h), a dual format interview (15m), and a one on one interview with Peterson alone (4m).

Also see the transcript to his interview on CBC radio here, and a look from an alt-right publication here, and from a local Toronto publication.   This is by no means a comprehensive list of all the sources available – just a sample and please bear that in mind while thinking about the issues being raised.   I’ll quote Peterson describing his position:

“This week, University of Toronto psychology professor Jordan Peterson released a video online criticizing political correctness on campus. He also said he doesn’t recognize a person’s right to be addressed using genderless pronouns like “they” instead of “he” or “she.”

Under the proposed Federal law Bill C-16, it will become illegal to discriminate on the basis of gender identity or expression. As It Happens host Carol Off spoke with Peterson about his position.

Carol Off: Professor Peterson, why have you said you don’t recognize another person’s right to determine what pronouns you use to address them?

Jordan Peterson: That’s right. I don’t recognize that. I don’t recognize another person’s right to decide what words I’m going to use, especially when the words they want me to use, first of all, are non-standard elements of the English language and they are constructs of a small coterie of ideologically motivated people. They might have a point but I’m not going to say their words for them.

CO: There are a lot of words that you can’t say even though you may want to, that may be considered, not just offensive, but even illegal. So you’re not entirely free to use whatever words you want in any context…

JP: No, that’s certainly true. I’m not claiming that a person is free to use any words, in any context. But what I’m saying is that I’m not willing to mouth words that I think have been created for ideological purposes.

CO: Even if it’s the law that says you should do that?

JP: Well, I guess we’re going to find out exactly what the law says and it’s one of the reasons that I don’t like Bill C-16. I think that it’s loosely written enough that the kinds of things that I’m talking about could be transformed into hate speech almost immediately.

CO: You have said that you don’t believe that there is enough evidence that non-binary gender identities even exist?

JP: No. I didn’t say that actually. If I’m going to be accused of saying things I have to be accused of exactly what I said. There’s not enough evidence to make the case that gender identity and biological sexuality are independently varying constructs. In fact, all the evidence suggests that they’re not independently varying constructs. I can tell you that transgender people make the same argument. They make the argument that a man can be born in a woman’s body and that’s actually an argument that specifies a biological linkage between gender identity and biological sex. I’m also not objecting to transgender people. I’m objecting to poorly written legislation and the foisting of ideological motivated legislation on a population that’s not ready for it.

CO: Well, transgender people are ready for it and they have been feeling a great deal of discrimination and that’s why they were seeking this type of redress in the law. Do you appreciate that?

JP: I don’t believe that the redress that they’re seeking in the law is going to actually improve their status materially. I think, in fact, it will have the opposite effect. I believe that the principles on which the legislation is predicated are sufficiently incoherent and vague to cause endless legal trouble in a matter that will not benefit transgender people.”

[from the CBC interview on As It Happens]

   The core of Peterson’s argument is this: “I don’t recognize another person’s right to decide what words I’m going to use, especially when the words they want me to use, first of all, are non-standard elements of the English language and they are constructs of a small coterie of ideologically motivated people.

    An important distinction to be noted here is that Peterson is not arguing against the exclusion of certain words (n*****) for example, but rather the mandatory and legislated inclusion of words.

gendernutral

    Here is a conversation gleaned from the comment sections of the article entitled – “Non-Binary Students React to the U of T Prof Who Won’t Acknowledge Their Pronouns”:

obj1mike1obj2mike2

The comment thread is some 500 responses long and there are several instances of exchanges between Micheal H and other people.  Several of the arguments present mirror how this debate often unfolds and the positions taken on the free-speech/discrimination issue.  If you have time, the article and comment section is a worthy use of your time.

Summarizing Micheal H’s position:

“Using someone’s preferred name doesn’t place an obligation on me to deny my appreciation of objective reality and affirm someone else’s.

What I find ‘somewhat wrong’ is someone expecting that his completely subjective, idiosyncratic self-conception should be validated by other people at the expense of their own foundational conception of reality.”

Micheal certainly has the arguments working for him.  What seems to be missing is the social realization that each person experiences society differently and that sometimes mere arguments cannot adequately capture all of the nuance of the interactions that take place in society – consider his phrasing here ‘And the hypocrisy here is to conceive of the dynamic between two autonomous individuals […]’

Once in society the phrase ‘two autonomous individuals’ becomes a less useful term because all of the social encumbrances and dynamics at play (race,class,sex,).  Not appreciating, or accounting for the ‘societal noise’ makes the arguments seem very clear cut and straightforward.  Perhaps a bit too easy.

Let’s take a look at some raw footage at Peterson’s gathering.  The interactions are haphazard at best, but the video gives some background onto what both sides are saying in the argument.

 

 

 

Vice – weighs in on the topic essentially saying that the entire Peterson episode is quite like a tempest in a teapot:

“The bill would do nothing to restrict people’s freedom to their own beliefs or to teach their own children,” Garrison told Albrecht during the debate. “What it would do is try to protect the expression of hatred and the kind of discrimination in public that takes place each and every day against transgender Canadians.”

C-16 will also update Canada’s Criminal Code, criminalizing “advocating genocide” and the “public incitement of hatred” based on gender identity or gender expression—adding those two classes to the current list of protected classes: colour, race, religion, national or ethnic origin, age, sex, sexual orientation, and mental or physical ability.

“The use of pronouns is not about advocating genocide,” said Cossman.

The bill also means that assault or murder, motivated by bias, prejudice, or hate against people with a certain gender identity or expression, could come with a stricter sentence.

“It’s not creating a new offense,” said Cossman. “It’s saying if there’s a hate crime, if there’s an assault, and you find that it was motivated by hatred on the basis of gender identity and expression, that could affect your sentencing in the same way that race or ethnicity or sexual orientation already do.”

It’s also highly unlikely that the failure to use gender-neutral pronouns will rise to the level of hate speech in Canada, Cossman said.

“The way hate speech has been interpreted by the courts is that it’s only applied to very extreme speech,” she said. “[The misuse of pronouns] is nowhere close.”

Cossman, who says reasonable people can disagree on whether or not hate speech laws are a good thing, says adding one ground to the list of identifiable groups isn’t a major change.

“It’s significant for the trans community, but it’s such a small addition that the idea that this is the most egregious just doesn’t add up.”

I’d have to agree this debate is a tempest for sure – the grist for the mill is how big the teapot happens to be.  It would seem, if the Vice analysis is correct, that we have little to worry about with regards to Free Speech.  Drawing the line between what is hate speech and what is a difference of opinion, will as always be the next contentious issue.

All members of Canadian society have the right to be free of discrimination.  At the very same time though, we all have the right to disagree with people’s opinions and evaluate them on the truth value they carry.  As the situation stands, it looks like both camps are still protected under the legislation as it stands.

Further reading:  A critique of Peterson’s CBC interview can be found here.  Also, another professor against the alleged PC culture on campus.

—–

 

“Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.”—Ralph Waldo Emerson

You would think the international laughter echoing through the halls directed at poor befuddled Pakistan would been a large enough hint for other countries to avoid looking foolish.  I was wrong.

Bangladesh has blocked social networking website Facebook over caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad and “obnoxious” images of the Muslim-majority country’s leaders, officials say.”

Take that! We will take down facebook to preserve the honour of our omnipotent sky-daddy who is all powerful and all kno… wait… Apparently ‘Mo can’t do squat to a measly collection electronic of 0’s and 1’s on a facebook page.  Perhaps the Mighty GOD of ISLAM is all powerful except when it comes to facebook (reasonable actually, even Superman had his Kryptonite) .

“The Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (BTRC) said the site was blocked on Saturday because cartoons of the Prophet “hurt the religious sentiments of the country’s Muslim population”.

“Some links in the site also contained obnoxious images of our leaders, including the father of the nation, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman; current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, and the leader of the opposition,” Hasan Mahmud Delwar, BTRC’s acting chairman, told the AFP news agency.

The move comes a week after Pakistani authorities banned access to Facebook for similar reasons. They also blocked the video website YouTube and 1,200 web pages over a row about “blasphemous” content on the internet.

Muslims regard depictions of the prophet, even favourable ones, as blasphemous.

Delwar said Facebook would be re-opened once Bangladesh had permanently blocked the offending pages.”

Not to write the same story, but wow guys, do your really think blocking facebook is going to save your pathetic delusion of a religion from the forces of rationality?

“Drawing caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad is an attack on Islam and is extremely humiliating for Islam,” Hemayet Uddin, a Dhaka protest organiser, told thousands of cheering supporters.

You know what?  Good.  Show your opposition to Freedom and Reason.  Show us how your particular religious delusion treats reasonable criticism.  I say: Good for free speech, good for rationality, good for all the people who possess enough intellectual capacity to see your religion for what it is: a ludicrous, mendacious fantasy that ultimately hurts and impoverishes your society.  Feel free to ignore modernity and progress.   Happily flush your society down the batshite-crazy-swirly commode known as religion, just do not be surprised when we laugh at you.

Underage? Mo' says: "It's a go!" I'm holy after all!

One of my first posts was about the silly legislation that was going to codify the insipid notion of blasphemy.  Well it happened and an Irish Atheist group is fighting back.

They have set out 25 statements that contravene the law and here they are:

“If you run a website, blog or other media publication, please feel free to republish this statement and the list of quotes yourself, in order to show your support for the campaign to repeal the Irish blasphemy law and to promote a rational, ethical, secular Ireland.”

List of 25 Blasphemous Quotes Published by Atheist Ireland

1. Jesus Christ, when asked if he was the son of God, in Matthew 26:64: “Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” According to the Christian Bible, the Jewish chief priests and elders and council deemed this statement by Jesus to be blasphemous, and they sentenced Jesus to death for saying it.

2. Jesus Christ, talking to Jews about their God, in John 8:44: “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him.” This is one of several chapters in the Christian Bible that can give a scriptural foundation to Christian anti-Semitism. The first part of John 8, the story of “whoever is without sin cast the first stone”, was not in the original version, but was added centuries later. The original John 8 is a debate between Jesus and some Jews. In brief, Jesus calls the Jews who disbelieve him sons of the Devil, the Jews try to stone him, and Jesus runs away and hides.

3. Muhammad, quoted in Hadith of Bukhari, Vol 1 Book 8 Hadith 427: “May Allah curse the Jews and Christians for they built the places of worship at the graves of their prophets.” This quote is attributed to Muhammad on his death-bed as a warning to Muslims not to copy this practice of the Jews and Christians. It is one of several passages in the Koran and in Hadith that can give a scriptural foundation to Islamic anti-Semitism, including the assertion in Sura 5:60 that Allah cursed Jews and turned some of them into apes and swine.

4. Mark Twain, describing the Christian Bible in Letters from the Earth, 1909: “Also it has another name – The Word of God. For the Christian thinks every word of it was dictated by God. It is full of interest. It has noble poetry in it; and some clever fables; and some blood-drenched history; and some good morals; and a wealth of obscenity; and upwards of a thousand lies… But you notice that when the Lord God of Heaven and Earth, adored Father of Man, goes to war, there is no limit. He is totally without mercy – he, who is called the Fountain of Mercy. He slays, slays, slays! All the men, all the beasts, all the boys, all the babies; also all the women and all the girls, except those that have not been deflowered. He makes no distinction between innocent and guilty… What the insane Father required was blood and misery; he was indifferent as to who furnished it.” Twain’s book was published posthumously in 1939. His daughter, Clara Clemens, at first objected to it being published, but later changed her mind in 1960 when she believed that public opinion had grown more tolerant of the expression of such ideas. That was half a century before Fianna Fail and the Green Party imposed a new blasphemy law on the people of Ireland.

5. Tom Lehrer, The Vatican Rag, 1963: “Get in line in that processional, step into that small confessional. There, the guy who’s got religion’ll tell you if your sin’s original. If it is, try playing it safer, drink the wine and chew the wafer. Two, four, six, eight, time to transubstantiate!”

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