Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Embarrassing Advocate Proves a Point

Charlie Hebdo, Hate-Speech and the Marianas Trench

When it comes to the rights of free speech the Western world is in a bit of a pickle.  Over the past twenty-five years, free speech rights have been steadily undermined.  "Hate speech" has become a crime, which is to say that any speech a particular statute d'jour just happens to say is "hate speech" is, by definition, a crime. 

Wikipedia provides the following definition:
Hate speech is, outside the law, speech that attacks a person or group on the basis of attributes such as gender, ethnic origin, religion, race, disability, or sexual orientation. 
The article then goes on to review the present state of "hate speech laws" as they apply in various countries around the world.   Regardless of the specifics of the French legal code, in a general (Western) sense the satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo has been repeatedly guilty of the crime of hate speech.  We might as well face up to it. Charlie Hebdo scathingly satirised people and cultures for their respective religions.

So, the bottom line is this: Charlie Hebdo was undeniably guilty of the generic crime of "hate speech" (at least as it is currently defined in the general Western legal corpus); those responsible got taken out in an act of vigilante justice;  therefore, the crime of the vigilantes was their "vigilanteism"--taking the law into their own hands--not the injustice of their cause per se. 

Some voices are recognising this uncomfortable reality.  They are applying a justification for the ex-judicial murders using a variant of the the "she got what she deserved" justification for rape.  Here is one example of just such a voice in New Zealand.
The Maori Party distanced itself from former candidate Derek Fox after he controversially blamed the victims of the Paris terror attacks for their deaths.  Mr Fox said on Facebook that the editor of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo had "paid the price" for his "bigotry" and "arrogance".

He stood by his comments, and said if the magazine had not published gratuitous insults, the victims "would still be alive now".  "But they didn't, in fact they ramped it up to sell more mags. Well, they got bitten severely on the bum."  . . .

Mr Fox ran for the Maori Party in Ikaroa-Rawhiti six years ago but is also a leading Maori journalist, former Maori Television chairman and former mayor of Wairoa.  He wrote on Facebook that Charlie Hebdo editor Stephane Charbonnier was a "bully" who had abused free speech and was now responsible for the deaths of his colleagues.

"The editor of the French magazine has paid the price for his assumption of cultural superiority and arrogance, he was the bully believing he could insult other people's culture and with impunity and he believed he would be protected in his racism and bigotry by the French state.  Well he was wrong, unfortunately in paying the price for his arrogance he took another 11 people with him."

Mr Fox continued: "Power cultures all like to use the old chestnut of freedom of speech when they choose to ridicule people who aren't exactly like them, and mostly they get away with it.  "These guys liked the privilege but didn't think they'd be caught up in the ramifications - they were wrong."
Apart from the implicit endorsement of vigilante actions, Mr Fox stands four square upon the modern Western notions of the crime of "hate speech".   Pillorize Mr Fox all you like, but whilst you dance around the stocks throwing rotten cabbages at him, at least be cognizant that Mr Fox is more in tune with modern Western law a this point than you are.

We cannot have it both ways.  You cannot extend that old forked tongue ridiculing Mr Fox's comments out of one side of your mouth, and yet support the notions underlying Western "hate-speech" law, out of the other. 

Our position is clear and, we trust, consistent:

  • Free speech is virtually an absolute freedom right as far as the State is concerned.  The only limitations historically recognised are those which put people in clear and present danger as a result of speech (crying "fire" in a crowded theatre) and civil actions such as defamation (which generally have a very high burden of proof). 

  • Speech can be evil or good.  The tongue can be used for sublime good, or gross evil.  (James 3: 5-18) But few sins are crimes in this life, and rightly so.

  • There are many sins of speech, all of which shall be adjudicated by the Judge of the heavens and the earth, on the Last Day.  But criminalising speech in this life always represents an unjust arrogation of power by the State.  It cedes to the State sovereignty over the thoughts and intentions of human beings.

  • The sinfulness of some speech does not justify the State criminalising such speech. 

  • The state which criminalises human speech has become a tyrannical state which persecutes those who disagree with the accepted state orthodoxy of the day.  For example a state-orthodoxy of our day is that homosexuality is amoral--neither good nor bad--in the same way as ethnicity or trees are amoral. In some Western jurisdictions, if a Christian church or Christians were to proclaim openly that homosexuality is not amoral at all, but a grievous sin against God and man, they would risk indictment and punishment under hate-speech laws.  

Is Mr Fox right?  Not at all, although many who would raise their hands in ridicule and horror at his views are actually stirring their objections in a bowl of thick hypocritical gruel.  These same people also champion "hate-speech" laws when it suits them.

If Charlie Hebdo deserves free speech rights then Western notions of "hate-speech" need to be tossed into the Marianas Trench, once and for all. And that, we believe, would be an exemplary thing to do.

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