The Shotgun Blog
Sunday, March 30, 2008
Is the UN Secretary-General Canadian?
Nope. But he sure sounds like Warren Kinsella in this official United Nations press release condemning "in the strongest terms, the airing of Geert Wilders’ offensively anti-Islamic film." According to Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon, "There is no justification for hate speech or incitement to violence. The right of free expression is not at stake here...Freedom must always be accompanied by social responsibility."
It's the same old story: a) freedom of speech is great; b) but you must use it responsibly, which apparently means in a way that won't offend other people; c) oops, I'm sorry: apparently, it's okay to use it in a way that offends some people, just not those prone to react violently once they've been offended.
I'm kind of tired of freedom being held hostage by the violent impulses of fanatics living in faraway places. But I'm also tired of cowards like Ban ki-Moon. The people at LiveLeak.com, the website that once hosted Wilders' film, are more honorable than the Secretary-General of the UN. At least they waited for the threats to come in before caving in (and they were certainly within their rights to do so.)
It's absolutely disgusting. The Secretary-General is just as afraid, but uses the rhetoric of "social responsibility" to condemn those unwilling to be silenced by threats of violent Islamic backlash.
Posted by Terrence Watson on March 30, 2008 | Permalink
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I'm not so sure that the Sec Gens comments are really out of line. First, he said, "There is no justification for hate speech or incitement to violence." Well, this is true. I think that Canada's hate speech laws - all of them - should be repealed, but that is not to say that I ever think hate speech is justified. It just means that I think it should not be illegal. Gratuitous insults to strangers one meets on the street are also never justified, but there is no law against them, nor should there be.
Second, he said, "The right of free expression is not at stake here." Now maybe I am reading this wrong, but it could be that this comment is to just affirm what I just noted. That is, that while hate speech is never justified this is not a case where free speech is at stake precisely because he is not endorsing the legal restriction of the film.
Third, he says, "I acknowledge the efforts of the Government of the Netherlands to stop the broadcast of this film...." Note that he does not say he "supports" or "endorses" it. He just "acknowledges" it. Well, yes, I acknowledge that it is happening, but I think they are wrong to do so. Moon does not go so far as to condemn the actions of the Dutch government, but he also does not praise it either.
Fourth, he says, "Freedom must always be accompanied by social responsibility." This is also true. Governments have a responsibility not to restrict our freedom, but we all have a moral duty to behave responsibly and with consideration for the effects of our actions on others. In short, all he says here is that being nice should not be enforced, but we still should be nice.
Now maybe Moon has said or will say other things that more explicitly endorse legal restrictions on speech, but his words here seem to be quite carefully chosen not to do so. So it is not clear that he is really a censor.
Finally, I should note that I disagree with his judgement of the film. As I mentioned in another thread, it does not strike me as saying anything that radical Islamists would not agree with. They might even consider it a "highlight reel" of what they think of as their "achievements" along with explanations of what they consider to be legitimate "justifications" for their actions. The outrage, I would say, is to the man who made the film, not to the content of the film.
Posted by: Fact Check | 2008-03-30 4:41:00 PM
"Second, he said, "The right of free expression is not at stake here." Now maybe I am reading this wrong, but it could be that this comment is to just affirm what I just noted. "
Yes, I'm sure you are correct. Heaven knows the Sec Gens would never talk out both sides of their mouths.
Posted by: h2o273kk9 | 2008-03-30 5:05:21 PM
Hi Fact Check,
First, I appreciated your comments on the other thread. Your interpretation of Moon's words is interesting, and similar to something I considered myself, but let me try to explain my position.
"There is no justification for hate speech or incitement to violence." As I understand your interpretation, we can think of hate speech as unjustified speech without also thinking that therefore such speech ought to be censored.
But consider this: Moon paired hate speech with incitement to violence. Isn't that significant? Intentional incitement to violence is unjustified, in the same sense hate speech is unjustified, but it is also morally problematic in a way that makes us think (typically) that it ought to be treated by the law in a way other speech acts are not.
I interpreted Moon's statement as saying, basically, that hate speech and intentional incitement to violence are on a moral par in both senses, and that both can or should be treated and judged in the same way.
As you point out, Moon's statement is cleverly phrased, e.g. using "acknowledge" instead of "support", etc -- I should take notes! -- and I may have read it in a particularly uncharitable way, but consider this as well:
As far as "Freedom of expression is not at stake" I interpreted that to mean something like what the Keegstra court meant when it said (as I recall) that hate speech "contributes little to the aspirations of Canadians or Canada... Consequently, the suppression of hate propaganda represents an impairment of the individual's freedom of expression which is not of a most serious nature."
In other words, suppressing "hate speech" does not really put freedom of expression in jeopardy, so (putting myself back into Moon's shoes) nothing would really be lost if governments around the world make sure Wilders' film disappears. Although, as you note, he doesn't actually advocate any such restrictions. He doesn't denounce them, either, though.
Wouldn't it have been better if Moon's statement had been more like the statements I've read from the Dutch parliament -- basically, "We don't like what Wilders is saying, but it's unequivocally his right to say it"?
I guess I'm forced to ask, why didn't Moon make a clearer statement, rather than the one he did make?
Thank you, though, Fact Check, for keeping me honest. I probably was a little hard on Moon, and underestimated the diplomat's ability to say something without really saying anything :-)
Posted by: Terrence Watson | 2008-03-30 5:08:05 PM
That's exactly the crux of the problem we face, "those prone to react violently after being offended", it stifles the truth for starters.
The man who made the film is telling it as it actually is, they don't want to have the truth exposed in a forum that reaches the masses. It exposes their inhumanity, their sickness, their madness. Tough.
Moon feels they should be pandered to because they react violently? In that case they win. That's not the way it works in civil societies. We expose the scum and deal with it or it proliferates. Offending them should the least of our considerations and they need to get the message.
Something that offensive should offend all who belong to the human race.
Posted by: Liz J | 2008-03-30 5:11:30 PM
Let me see if I understand all this. A short film or documentary of Muslim clerics quoting from the Koran and filming the behaviour and acts of other Muslims is anti-Islamic and hatred.
Very interesting. Normally this is a mental disorder where one blames the victim for one's own actions.
Posted by: Alain | 2008-03-30 5:21:26 PM
Wilders has just made a propaganda film for Islamists. They should send him a cheque instead of threatening to kill more people.
Posted by: Markalta | 2008-03-30 6:17:27 PM
"But consider this: Moon paired hate speech with incitement to violence. Isn't that significant?"
You might be right here, but I worry about reading too much in to what he said. One man's implication is another man's inference. I think the pairing here might have been to suggest that he regards the movie as both hate speech and as incitement to violence. But I'm not confident of that.
"As far as 'Freedom of expression is not at stake' I interpreted that to mean something like what the Keegstra court meant when it said (as I recall) that hate speech 'contributes little to the aspirations of Canadians or Canada... Consequently, the suppression of hate propaganda represents an impairment of the individual's freedom of expression which is not of a most serious nature.' "
But in the Keegstra court language they say it is a restriction on freedom, just not a big one. Moon said something quite different (I think).
"Although, as you note, he doesn't actually advocate any such restrictions. He doesn't denounce them, either, though."
Yes. I think he is quite consciously walking the line here, like a true politician!
"Wouldn't it have been better if Moon's statement had been more like the statements I've read from the Dutch parliament -- basically, 'We don't like what Wilders is saying, but it's unequivocally his right to say it'?
Absolutely. It also should be noted here that Wilders himself is pro-censorship. He has tried to ban the Qur'an in the Netherlands. Now that does not justify any calls for his film to be banned, but it makes it harder for him, at least, to complain.
Posted by: Fact Check | 2008-03-30 7:17:05 PM
"He has tried to ban the Qur'an in the Netherlands."
Again, it evokes the age-old question. Who will be the censors? It shows once again why freedom of association is the paramount freedom and from it responsible speech is determeined by the characteristics of the group.
"Bavaria, one of Germany’s federal states, has won a legal battle to get the publication and sale of Adolf Hitler’s infamous book “Mein Kampf” banned in Turkey after the book became a best-seller here, a Turkish news report said yesterday.
"The court case was the latest attempt on the part of Bavaria to stop Turkish publication and sale of the book written by Hitler in prison before he rose to power, reports the daily Hürriyet. After becoming a best-seller in Turkey earlier this year, with publishers saying more than 100,000 copies have been sold, Bavaria took action to intervene. In letters to publishers, Bavarian officials argued that the book’s copyright belonged to the German federal state everywhere except in the United States and Britain.
"Some eight publishing houses responded to the Bavarian letter, providing legal promises that they would stop publishing and selling the book. But six others refused to comply with Bavarian demands, prompting the German federal state to file a lawsuit against them. The two-year court case resulted in a decision upholding the Bavarian position and the final verdict banned Turkish publishers from publishing and selling the book. The sudden rise in the book’s popularity caused concern in Europe and among Turkey’s Jewish community."
Posted by: DJ | 2008-03-30 8:47:08 PM
The entire UN is a shill for Islam and Africa. End of story. They are a socialist organization who work 24/7 to take down the West. Nothing they say can be taken seriously.
Posted by: John West | 2008-03-30 9:31:31 PM
"HEATHER Reisman has ordered all copies of Mein Kampf pulled from the shelves of Chapters and Indigo bookstores and deleted from the company's on-line ordering service.
Ms. Reisman said Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf is inappropriate for sale in her stores.
"We consider it hate literature," she said. "With freedom of expression, the line is drawn on hate literature. It's a corporate decision. It's what we stand for. It's our point of view.
Tracy Nesdoly, media-relations spokeswoman for Indigo, acknowledged Wednesday that Mein Kampf, which retails as a trade paperback for $31.95, is "not technically and legally hate literature.
"It is, in fact, dissemination of hatred and as such does not belong in our mix."
Calling Ms. Reisman's stand "disturbing," Franz Donker, owner of Book City, a four-store chain in Toronto, suggested Ms. Reisman is seeing shadows. "She might as well not carry the Koran now, if you believe we're in a holy war, if you want to carry that kind of logic on."
The issue is not the Koran but the heterogeneous nature of Dutch society.
Posted by: DJ | 2008-03-30 9:38:14 PM
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