Thursday, 29 November 2007

The Oxford debate

There is an excellent eyewitness account of Monday's events at the Oxford Union here. Also some very interesting comments/discussion.

From the point of view of a defender of free speech, I find it dismaying that so many commentators apparently cannot distinguish between free speech as an inviolable principle, and the merits of the issues being discussed. Surely, whether or not a view is mistaken, obnoxious, or downright wicked is irrelevant so long as it is not advocating coercive violence against others.

In my view, those who maintain that free speech should be limited to the expressions of opinions they agree with, or do not consider harmful, are clueless as to its actual nature. It is always the 'hard cases' - the racists, the Holocaust deniers, even the defenders of paedophilia - who put the free speech principle to the test. Those who would ban or prevent the peaceful expression of such mistaken views because they believe they will do harm by seducing the unsophisticated are themselves the enemies of free speech, democracy, and an open society, as was quite clear at Oxford on Monday night.


Emmett said...

YOU Know, the guy who folds an unpopular view has got to have enough sense to look out a bit himself, too....

I Mean, whenever I go up to Old Mankato as I am doing to-day, on business, I am simply overcome with rage and pity for all of the non-readers & Tee Vee-owners attempting to be in their motorcars whilst gabbing away -- or, indeed, typing ['texting', /eg/ -- ed] messages! -- on their pocket 'phones. Why ever should I NOT shoot some of them & put them out of their misery? Needless to say, however, I neither do kill off anyone for their own good, nor do I compose editor-letters promoting this no-doubt eleemysonary idea.

WHY Ever not?

WELL, It is all very much a matter of swine and too-rich feedings of real pearls, you see. Were I actually to render anyone the merciful act, or even to write about my compassionate sensations to the papers, why, these deluded halfwits in their witless misery, which they wantonly mis-take for 'the best of ALL possible post-modern worlds & NO standards whatsoever', would put ME up on charges and, in any case, try to make out that /I/ am some sort of 'defective'. I would be paraded in the dock as a kind of object-lesson for those unable to either & the Generally God-damned....

MR Irving, on top of being wrong (unlike I am, myself, in connection with my particular personal megrims!), /is/ an ass remarkably lacking in self-respect; else why ever should he be hanging out his face in public the first place? And, in front of such a public!

Emmett said...

[a correction, please -- ed]

' a sort of object-lesson for those unable to learn & the rest of the Generally God-damned....'