Friday, February 03, 2006

Danish cartoons and the BNP

As per usual, the Nameless Tory and I debate the above issues; namely, the acquittal of Nick Griffin, and the furore over the Mohammed cartoons. His comments italicised.

I think Nick Griffin and his bunch of pig ignorant no-hopers probably were guilty of attempting to inspire racial hatred. Everything they said was based on fact, but a very selective interpretation of the facts to inspire hatred against Muslims. One example is the use of the phrase Muslim rather than Islamic fundamentalist. Everyone with half a brain cell (and Griffin is not stupid, just ignorant) knows that there is a massive difference between a normal Muslim and someone who straps a bomb to their back. He called Islam a 'vicious religion', when the truth is vicious people hide behind the religion. And the suicide bombers/rapists are as close to the normal Muslim as a pro-life extremist who blows up an abortion clinic is to a standard Christian.

I also think that the Muslim world have done themselves no favours with the hysterical reaction to the cartoon of Mohammad. Yes, it is probably offensive, and I do not know how I would react to it if I was Muslim. But it is satire and everyone and everything is open to criticism. The fact that the extremists in the Muslim world are taking to the streets, burning flags and brandishing weapons, is not good. At best it looks like they can’t take a joke. At worst, they are proving the odious Nick Griffin right.

And this leads me to my main point. I believe that Griffin should be able to think freely about his beliefs. And I think those involved in the anti-cartoon protests should seriously think about their actions. Because I do believe in free speech, but also acknowledge that free speech can be very challenging. I don’t think we should suppress satire, and I don’t think we should silence those with extreme beliefs. The way Griffin and his ilk can be stopped is not through putting them in prison and by making them martyrs for their cause, but rather by hearing their case and arguing against it. Because if you dig beneath the surface of the BNP, it’s not about offering people the chance to return home. Scratch the *moderate* surface that Griffin tries to exude and you have a very nasty core to that party. Because they believe we fought on the wrong side in World War Two, and there is an extremely concerning believe on what should ultimately happen to those with different coloured skin and different faiths. The death camps would be re-opened, in a nutshell. So let’s deconstruct his arguments, and throw the extreme part of his party and his belief system back in his face. Suppress him, he becomes a martyr. Deconstruct him he becomes what he is – an ignorant joke. Let him talk freely. Give him enough rope to hang himself. And if the Islamic world finds the cartoon offensive, acknowledge the right of the cartoonist to draw what he thinks, and then offer a calm, rational argument as to why it if offensive. Make the cartoonist appear insensitive and ignorant, rather than yourselves as hypersensitive militants.

So much of this comes down to the old liberal maxim (misquoted here): 'I hate what you have to say, but I would defend to the death your right to say it.'

What are you thoughts?

I think it is very important to turn the full glare of publicity on idiots. It facilitates deconstruction of their ideas. Banning the airing of controversial views, and parties that espouse them, dignifies them. (Have I ever told you about the doorstep debate I had with a BNP member?) You are right, they are vile people, and their rhetoric is a veil for far darker ambitions. The problem is the chasm in modern political debate; the mainstream parties cannot and will not address certain issues for fear of causing offence, the BNP goes straight for the jugular and appeals to people's most base and xenophobic instincts, and in the middle, the Sun-reading white van-driving, man on the street thinks, how many more bombs on the tube will there be? If mainstream parties fail to address people's basest fears, extremists will. BNP electoral successes have all been in areas of high unemployment and mass ghettoised immigration. While the middle classes chatter about the positive effects of mass immigration (cheaper au pairs, more restaurants), it is the people in housing estates who actually live with its effects and if their issues are NOT addressed, the BNP will gain more and more support. Addressing the issues = open debate.

Re; the cartoon, people have come to expect lunatic over-reaction from the Muslim world. It is generally most hysterical in countries which have the most autocratic and corrupt governments. It is worth noting that many people have no concept of freedom of speech of satire because those concepts do not exist in their countries. It is notable that here in the UK the papers and the Beeb have exercised self-censorship. It is also notable that Danish imams demanded, in the first instance, that the Prime Minister stop Jyllands Posten publishing the pictures, which implies they do not fully grasp the concept of an independent media. Kudos to Rasmussen for refusing to do anything about it, at least in the first instance; Blair would have capitulated as fast as you can say 'marginal Muslim constituency.'

Does the right to free speech include the right to insult?

Every time something like this happens there is flag burning and gunfire in places like Tehran and Gaza. I think I shall set up a flags and ammunition chain in the Middle East. I'll make a fortune. 'Buy three boxes of ammo and get a FREE Danish flag! Two for one on all flammable Bush 'n' Blair effigies!'

Yes, the right to free speech includes the right to insult. But in a properly open climate where debate is welcomed rather than feared as something new and odd that might aid terrorists, if you insult, be ready to justify. Because in general if you are insulting, you have already lost the argument.


Blogger REZA said...

A Muslim never can be a terrorist and a terrorist never can be a muslim . Right is announcing it.

7:47 AM  
Blogger The Pedant-General in Ordinary said...


But what do you do when terrorists declare *themselves* to be Muslims?

And Muslim leaders then hail them as great loyal Muslims?

And ordinary Muslims do absolutely jack shit about it?

On the substantive topic, Freedom of Speech is indeed the freedom to mock, insult, denigrate and be gratuitously offensive.

But that misses the point. The real point here is that when those of us who accept Freedom of Speech describe it sacrosanct, we are actually saying that violence is proscribed.

Where this is the case, there is no need to be gratuitously offensive - indeed it detracts from the LOGICAL FORCE of your argument. Insults are accepted as unnecessary because biting hard logic is much more difficult to rebut.

But where it is not the case that initiation of violence is proscribed, this does not hold. If my opponent is going to use violence, logic loses it force.

Oddly enough, and as is the case here, it may be necessary to be insulting to demonstrate to the world how uncivilised your opponent is.

3:02 AM  

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