Beliefnet
L'Ordre

One of the biggest and most pointless arguments made by Islam-haters is that Muslims oppose “freedom of expression”.

Today we get artists, musicians, etc. trying to be as offensive as possible, who cry out that conservative elements of the public or Muslims are repressive and toxic to liberty as soon as they show any sign of anger at being barraged with offensive images. The best examples are published by Charlie Hebdo.

I consider artists and protesters who set out to offend members of the public, to be hypocrites. They want the right to offend everyone but they simultaneously don’t want anyone to be allowed to offend them or their work. They want to discriminate against and hurt others e.g. Muslims or Catholics, but put on a whiny display if anyone discriminates against them or hurts them. They insinuate that others are too sensitive and that others need to relax, but actually they are the ones who need to relax.

As I have already argued in the past, even the terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo actually didn’t actually infringe on Charlie Hebdo‘s freedom. It simply showed that if you offend people, they can react violently. This has been known for thousands of years and only an imbecile or wingebag would find it extraordinary. I’ll say it again. “Freedom of speech/expression” laws say nothing about protecting publications like Charlie Hebdo from being attacked by terrorists or angry members of the public. Such special protection for offensive publications is anti-freedom, because it privileges the hated few to offend everyone while enjoying heavy police and government protection from reprisals.

Freedom of speech or expression, as best captured in the First Amendment of the US Constitution, guarantees freedom to express oneself without reprisals by the government, and freedom to believe whatever one wishes without reprisals from the government. Seen in this light, the “war on terror” waged by western governments (including in France where Charlie Hebdo was fiercely protected to an extent that eight-year old kids who refused to support Charlie Hebdo were summarily detained and questioned) is actually a bigger attack on freedom of expression than the actual terrorism itself.

In many cases within the west, “terrorism” is only angry members of the public (quite often Muslims, whose lands are occupied, divided and bombed constantly so they feel a need to retaliate) committing murder because of a sense of outrage. It is not a foreign threat, it is not a totalitarian state invading the west to take people’s freedoms away. The laws one needs to apply to prevent this are simply the laws against murder, and have nothing to do with freedom of speech or constitutions in any sense. Any conversation about “freedom of speech” over what happened at Charlie Hebdo is therefore pointless nonsense, a spectacle created by people who don’t even know what they are talking about or are trying to frame this as a clash of civilisations to be resolved by western superiority and conquest.

Freedom of speech, as I recently pointed out in a tweet, is absolutely nothing to do with protecting artists from reprisals by random members of the public. Someone who uses their freedom of speech is merely exercising a right that the government gave them. No government ever said it would provide security to artists so that they cannot be booed, pelted or even stabbed by their audience. Of course, if someone is killed in a violent incident it will necessarily involve the government because it is murder, but that’s irrelevant to “freedom of speech” or the idiotic narrative of west-vs-Islam.

In all human interaction, people are normally expected to show a measure of restraint and attempt to minimise offense. People who don’t do this will eventually end up being punched in the face or found dead in a hole somewhere at some point, even in the “freest” society imaginable. Such events, while unfortunate, have nothing to do with an attack on freedom of speech and everything to do with stupidity and lack of vision on the part of the person who ends up dead rather than the actual murderer.

People should not be offensive. They should censor themselves for their own safety from everybody else, as the vast majority of people wisely do. No set of laws will ever be able to protect each individual from everybody else. People are expected to protect themselves, partly by not making enemies and offending everyone they walk past. Publications like Charlie Hebdo or the worse Vive Charlie publication created in its honour are not expanding the boundaries of freedom, but restricting them. They expect vast and powerful governments to shield and protect them from their audiences and allow them to offend everyone without reprisals.

The best thing for “freedom” would be to treat artists as being no different than anyone else who opens their mouth or writes something. If artists are killed for offending people, you should call them idiots, just as you would call any prankster an idiot for insulting the wrong person and getting beaten up or killed as a result.

Alternatively, a world where all reprisals are fiercely prevented and Charlie Hebdo feels safe will be a world in chains, with significantly hampered freedoms. There would be security guards and cameras posted everywhere. It will be a world where schoolchildren are monitored for any sign of “radicalism” or offense taken to Charlie Hebdo images, and while Charlie Hebdo is allowed to offend and criticise everyone, criticism of Charlie Hebdo itself is banned.

It isn’t “freedom” for there to be a tiny privileged few being protected by security forces, while they offend and chastise a billion powerless and oppressed people’s religious sensibilities.

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