#TunEstPasCharlie : Free Speech, Censorship, & Their Discontents

In no particular order or personal preference, and solely for the purposes of provoking thought and debate on these topics:

Irish Independent (Charlie Weckler): We are hypocrites on Charlie Hebdo and freedom of speech

Take France, the epicentre of attention after the Paris attacks on the Charlie Hebdo newspaper offices two weeks ago. After initially grabbing the high moral ground for defending freedom of expression, it immediately reverted to an old European habit: rounding up and jailing people for saying exactly the same things as Charlie Hebdo does, but focused on different targets…
In Ireland, we don’t really have much of a problem curtailing free speech or communications when it’s ‘required’. The majority here agreed with a law that criminalised the broadcast of a person’s voice if that person was a member of a particular political party (Sinn Fein)… [note from Oisín: the majority didn’t actually get much of a ‘choice’ in the matter…]

US News & World Report (Charlie Schnurer): Let Charlie Be Charlie –
Yes, Charlie Hebdo is offensive, but freedom of speech is most tested by those on the fringe.

Unfortunately, very rarely do tests of freedom involve the popular, the tasteful and the acceptable. For what should be obvious reasons, our tolerance is generally tested by the intolerable – and, most often, this is represented by those on the fringes of society, not the powerful and dominant…

The notion that words or thoughts in themselves are harmful depends upon rejecting the concept of free will and human responsibility for one’s own actions… we can’t really build a functioning society without these concepts. Yet we are trying to do just that if we insist that someone who suggests something to you is responsible for your own actions and decisions.

Now, it’s sometimes the case that independent, rational thought isn’t involved, and these are circumstances that can make mere words responsible for ensuing harms – where, for instance, they can be understood as an order that the speaker reasonably knows will be followed, or a violent threat that the hearer can reasonably fear will actually be carried out. That’s why yelling fire in a theater isn’t protected speech: It can be fully expected to incite a dangerous panic. But where the opportunity exists for rational thought, an action is the responsibility of the person who chooses to take it, not the one who suggests or “incites” it…

This gets responsibility backwards. Except in rare instances… words do not cause harm. It is the people who act on them that do.

suppression, by definition, emanates from majorities or those who otherwise hold power. It is always a tool of the powerful, not the weak and the downtrodden.

Humankind’s advance is due to the development and spread of new ideas. Virtually everything that comprises modern life – from the scientific revolution to each of the three monotheistic religions – was originally considered unacceptable and repressed by authorities of the day. To stifle expression of thought – and, with it, thought itself – would be to consign humanity to stagnation and extinction.

The assertion that one shouldn’t express controversial views because they will engender predictably violent reactions – and that such speech can and should therefore be suppressed – has been a frequent one, directed mostly against the civil rights and anti-war movements. Arguments that words can be equated to weapons, and ideas therefore suppressed, tend to arise from those intent on protecting status quo ideas and elites…

An Phoblacht (Mark Moloney): When did free speech become a British ‘value’?

The three men who took to the platform days later called for those who supported freedom and democracy to face down these murderers. For their trouble, these three men were arrested and thrown in prison – charged with exercising free speech.

This was not, however, some reaction to the horrific killings at the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris – these murders took place on the streets of the Irish city of Derry in 1972…

When did freedom of speech become a British value, precisely? It certainly wasn’t a value in 1972 when those three men were locked-up for a year and a half for speaking their minds.

It certainly wasn’t a value when the British Government banned democratically-elected representatives from speaking on national airwaves in the 1980s and 1990s.

And it certainly wasn’t a value when the British Government justified the bombing of a Serbian TV station and the slaughter of its employees just before the turn of the millennium.

It would appear “free speech” is only a British value when the Government agrees with what is said.

An Phoblacht (video): ‘Freedom of Speech’ at the An Phoblacht offices in Dublin, 23 November 1987 #CharlieHebdo

An Phoblacht newspaper office raid 1987

Techdirt.com: Sickening – Police & Surveillance State Apologists Leap At Charlie Hebdo Opportunity To Advocate For More Spying, Less Freedom

In the wake of the attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris yesterday, many people have been talking about various issues related to free speech and satire… it’s concerning to see that those who wish to suppress other civil liberties are jumping at the chance to use the attack yesterday as a jumping off point.


In an age of heightened terrorism liberty depends on increased security.

David Green of British “Liberal Civilization” group, Civitas

Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

US President, Terrorist, Unconstitutional Demagogue, Anti-British & Successful Revolutionary, Benjamin Franklin

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