Policy, Politics, Psychology, Real life, Social development, Truth

Freedom of speech should be sacred

“There is no god higher than truth.” – Mohandas Gandhi

Update: just hours after I posted this article, Amazon.com sadly de-listed my book, “The Killing of William Browder.” (I assure you, there was no trace of hate speech in my book)

Across the Western world, government bureaucracies and large media corporations like Amazon, Google, Twitter and Facebook have been increasingly proactive in suppressing “hate speech,” always with bestest of intentions. However, these efforts are unnecessary and will likely prove counterproductive.

Warning about the danger of disastrous rise of misplaced power” in our societies, Dwight Eisenhower said in his January 1961 farewell address that, Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry” can curb the power of the state, “so that security and liberty may prosper together.” Freedom of expression is the essential means of keeping the citizenry alert and knowledgeable. As such it should not be suppressed under any pretext, but encouraged and cultivated.

The temptation of state and corporate mandarins to proactively police public discourse and impose arbitrary restrictions on “hate speech” will gradually erode the freedom of expression. With it, it will also erode liberty and security. Even if we believe in the good intentions of our speech police, their endeavors may be altogether unnecessary. In absence of concerted propaganda campaigns and fear mongering, hate speech seems to have rather marginal effect on the general public.

France’s satirical weekly magazine Charlie Hebdo was a good case in point. Charlie Hebdo regularly featured vulgar humor mocking various groups, particularly Muslims and Christians. Regular feature of Charlie Hebdo publications were their crude cartoons, insulting large segments of the French public, and earning Charlie Hebdo the moniker, bête et méchant” (stupid and nasty).

On 7th January 2015, the magazine’s editorial office was the target of a terror attack which left 12 people dead and 11 injured. In the aftermath of that attack, many European leaders and public figures rushed out strong and unequivocal statements of support for freedom of expression. Sadly, their actions were contrary to their declarations. Within a week from the attack, European ministers called for tighter surveillance of the internet in order to control “terrorist propaganda” and promotion of “hatred and violence.” [1] Their call was heeded with remarkable efficacy: barely a week from the attacks, the French police arrested “at least 54 people” for “defending or glorifying terrorism,” many of them “for comments made on Facebook, Twitter and social media…” This was “part of a broader French crackdown on perceived hate speech, extremism and anti-Semitism amid a government push for tougher anti-terrorism measures.” [2]

Terror attacks shock our communities and stir up emotions; in those circumstances, tough action of some sort may seem justified. But restricting the freedom of speech should remain off limits – strictly and entirely. You see, Charlie Hebdo – whose freedom to mock and insult Muslims, Christians, as well as Jews, was affirmed on many occasions by numerous public figures in France – was actually a failing publication. Their insults and mockery gradually lost them most of their subscribers and at the time of the 2015 terror attacks they were on the verge of bankruptcy. In all likelihood, they would have shut down entirely within three months’ time. It was the average French person who would have sealed Charlie Hebdo’s fate by simply turning away from their vulgarity and insults.

Hate speech, insults and bigotry will always find an audience. But that audience will tend to be marginal and with a short-lived attention span. As such, it should not be used to justify government or corporate policing of free speech. We should equally not allow ourselves to be seduced by the bureaucrats’ declarations of good intentions (governments always act with good intentions, even when they drop nuclear bombs on civilian populations). Given time and full freedom of expression, the purveyors of intolerance and hate speech would see most of the public turn their backs on them. There’s nothing as discouraging as speaking to an empty or disapproving audience.

This we should know about ourselves: we love beautiful, inspiring things. To embrace hatred and bigotry and to give our consent for wars, we must be coerced with fear and lies. Even if you feel skeptical about these assertions, the burden of liberty imposes a choice on us: ultimately, we must choose between putting our faith in ourselves and in humanity or we must put our faith in government bureaucracies and corporations. That should not be a difficult choice.

 

The Killing of William Browder: Deconstructing Bill Browder's Dangerous Deception by [Krainer, Alex]

Alex Krainer is an author and hedge fund manager based in Monaco. In 2016 he published the book “Mastering Uncertainty in Commodities Trading.” Most recently he also published “The Killing of William Browder: Deconstructing Bill Browder’s Dangerous Deception.”

 

Notes

[1] Queally, Jon “In Europe: First the Calls for Unity, Then the Calls for ‘More Spy Power’” CommonDreams.org 13 January 2015. https://www.commondreams.org/news/2015/01/13/europe-first-calls-unity-then-calls-more-spy-power

[2] Dearden, Lizzie “Paris attacks aftermath: French police arrest 54 people for ‘defending or glorifying terrorism’” The Independent, 14 January 2015. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/paris-attacks-aftermath-french-police-arrest-54-people-for-defending-or-glorifying-terrorism-9977434.html

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One thought on “Freedom of speech should be sacred

  1. Pingback: Land of the Free? - Amazon Bans Book Critical of Hyper-Russophobe Bill Browder in US-Times of News Russia

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