Having also grown up as a child of a publicly labeled political dissident, actively persecuted by a totalitarian regime, I have much empathy for Weiwei…
Many people think that it is a reasonable limitation on the freedom of free speech to prohibit someone from yelling ‘FIRE!’ in a crowded theatre – provided, that is, that there is no fire.
That little caveat – provided that there is no fire – is often forgotten by those who wold consider this to be a reasonable limitation of free speech. This, indeed, is not surprising – failure to recognize real warnings of danger and simply treating unpopular statements equally, whether they are true or not, is symptomatic of the individuals who most loudly profess that this limitation on the freedom of speech is somehow ‘reasonable’.
According to these people, giving a warning of a real ad present peril (like, say, a fire in a crowded theatre) is worse than letting everyone sit complacently until they burn to death.
I must admit, there was a time when I was persuaded that if there indeed were no fire, then shouting a warning of it ought not happen. OK, I still think that it ought not happen – but not because there are laws against it.
To explain my change of mind, I have to digress a little bit to some examples on utilitarian morality from philosophy. Not that I am particularly versed in philosophy – my ideas are mostly self-reasoned, but a little education has made me widen the scope of my reasoning.
There is that classical moral dilema question: if you see an uncontrollable train going down some tracks where it will hit six people, but there is a lever you can pull that will divert that train onto another set of tracks, where it will only kill one person, should you pull the lever?
Most ‘utilitarians’ will say that yes, you should, because one death is less tragic than 6 deaths.
I don’t think this is anywhere near as clear cut.
If the train stays on its original track, you (presuming the uncontrollable-ness of the train is not your fault to start off with) are not responsible for the deaths of those 6 people.
If, however, you do pull the lever, you will be the direct cause of the death of that 1 person.
People are not cogs, interchangeable for each other. We are individuals. And, if you pull that lever, you will indeed be guilty of causing the death of that individual. What is more, since you have had time to consider it, that constitutes premeditation. You would therefore be commiting murder.
This means that the question itself is improperly formulated.
Rather, it ought to ask if you could pull that lever and save the 6 people – but in the process murder 1 person, with all the legal consequences this carries, should you still pull that lever?
Because that is the real question: is saving the lives of 6 people worth murdering someone – and, perhaps, spending the rest of your life in prison as a result! After all, real actions have real consequences…
Similarly, the person who shouts ‘FIRE!” in a crowded theatre has not actually killed anyone.
It is the people who act before checking whether their actions are based on fact or not, and those who put their lives above others by trampling them to death to save themselves, who are guilty of, well, the trampling. Not the person who – rightly or wrongly – shouts ‘Fire!’
It is always the tramplers who are the ones guilty of the trampling.
But, because there are many of them, and our moral compass has for too long been corrupted by the profoundly immoral Judeo-Christian doctrine of ‘scapegoating’, of ‘vicarious redemption’, that we are willing to put the blame of the many ‘tramplers’ onto the one who may not, indeed, have done any ‘trampling’ at all!
It is precisely this predisposition we have of shifting the blame for the actions of the individuals who actually carry them out onto a scapegoat who is said to have ’caused’ their bad or immoral behaviour that is going to be the downfall of our society!
It is precisely this scapegoating which is at the heart of political correctness and the erosion of the freedoms which we ought to be able to exercise unfettered.
How have we improved our lot if we have liberated ourselves from Christian religious dogmas, if we permit its worst shackles to still imprison our morality, albeit under the new name of ‘political correctnes’?
So, now, I agree with Christopher Hitchens on this point:
This is from the ‘it would be funny if it were not actually true’ files…
A man was actually arrested during an Olympic event because he was ‘not smiling enough’.
Never mind that he has Parkinsons’, and thus stiff facial muscles: the idiocy of the Olympic oppression has no bounds…
A father with Parkinson’s disease was arrested as he watched the Olympic cycling road race because he ‘failed to smile or look like he was enjoying himself’.
Mark Worsfold, a martial arts trainer and former soldier, claims that he was thrown to the floor and handcuffed just as cyclists passed by.
His worried wife Nicola only found out he was being held after she reported him missing when he did not turn up for their daughter’s ninth birthday party.
Ah, yes – this defines the Olympic phenomenon , as it does all other forms of totalitarianism!
Lately, my browser keeps crashing – because I have just way too many windows open.
But, I cannot possibly close them: each one is about something important that had happened that I really need to blog about… Except that – I am an exceptionally slow thinker and, as an Aspie, an even slower writer. Sometimes, it takes me hours just to squeeze out 2-3 hundred words about what is going on in the world….
But, if I close the windows with the stories in them, I know so much other blogging-worthy stuff will happen, I will never get back to them. So, until I deal with them, I need to keep the windows open!
Something has to give: even though I’d love to write a full post on each and every one of these stories, I simply cannot.
So, I have closed most of the windows (ack!!!) and will take this opportunity to bring just a few (hopefully somewhat) representative ones with just a brief comment on each:
OK – this one is not Islamic – it is tribal African, but it is an abuse of girls in an effort to make them ‘chaste’ by disfiguring them….breat ironing? Really? How can anyone do this to their child…..it makes my blood boil! It’s right up there with FGM…which is why I am including the video here.
I have said this often – and in many ways.
I have lamented the disconnect that exists between the people who fight for civil liberties in general and freedom of speech in particular and those who are battling the copyright trolls and those hardly audible voices that are trying to raise alarm about the abuse of patent laws.
Part of the problem – in my never-humble-opinion is that each of these groups comes from a completely different sphere of interest/infuence and, for all practical purposes, from different cultures.
They do not dress alike.
They do not follow the same trends in popular culture.
They do not agree on what ‘societal norms’ are today.
They do not read the same news sources.
And – perhaps most importantly – they do not use language the same way: not only do they not use the same words to express themselves, when they do use ‘common’ words, they do not use them in the same sense.
Example: when Canadian Free Speech acvocate Ezra Levant was being sued for defamation by an HRC troll by the name of Vigna, one of the ‘defamatory’ statements was that Mr. Levant accused Mr. Vigna of ‘hacking’. The judge then started a bit of a lengthy discussion about what does the term ‘hacking’ really mean: the consensus – undisputed by Mr. Levant’s sounsel – was that ‘hacking’ implies an illegal act!
Sitting in the audience, I came close to screaming out: it does no such thing!!!
‘Hacking’ simply means ‘an innovative use of existing code/coding’!
I can easily say that I ‘hacked together’ a new app from bits of code I had from before: no illegal activiy implied! Sure, many people can use hacking for illegal purposes, but ‘cracking a problem’ is not the same as ‘cracking a safe’ – so the word ‘cracking’ does not, in itself, have illegal connotations.
Same with ‘hacking’.
BTW: Mr. Levant was found to have defamed Mr. Vigna for saying he had ‘hacked’ something…
No wonder that the first two groups (civil libertarians/free speachers and anti-copyright-people) as ureasonable and weird… (The last group is perhaps less distasteful to each of the first two, but, being mostly scientists, they are just not that great at communicating just how dire the situation really is….they are trained to overcome problems – not bitch about them: so, that is what they do. Which does not mean the problem is not there and is not desctroying our way of life!)
So, why is the message not resonating?
‘At this point in the discussion, the copyright industry will complain that they only take action for the illegal bitpatterns found, and that there is no infraction on the right to legal communications. And in doing so, they put themselves in the exact same spot as the old East German Stasi, which also steamed open all letters sent in the mail – but only took action on those with illegal content, just like the copyright industry describes as their preferred scenario. Stasi, too, sorted legal from illegal, and left the legal alone.’
And that is exactly what the copyright industry is demanding: decrypt and check all the communication, permit the legal bits through and hand the rest over to law-enforcement agencies!
Please, consider the following court ruling in the UK: All UK ISPs are now compelled to block access to Pirate Bay.
onsider what is necessary to accomplish this: each and every bit of communication has to be decrypted, analyzed and then either permitted to pass through or not.
That means that a private company not only has the right – it is compelled to – read each and every single email everyone sends.
What do they do with the information they receive in this manner? The ruling does not bother itself with such mundane details….
Sorry – please, insert the worst invectives of your choice here….
Because in a very real sense, this does indeed mean the end of private speech on the internet and the end of anonymous speech on the internet.
And let’s not forget our not-so-distant history: anonymous speach is the cornerstone of liberty!
Without anonymous speach, there would be no Federalist Papers.
Without anonymous speach, there would be no way to overthrow tyrants.
No wonder those who want to hold power will use any pretext that presents itself in order to eliminate private communication and anonymous speech!!!