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Timothy Garton Ash and Thor Holt on free speech

(20 Posts)
thatbags Sun 01-Jan-17 12:18:26

This, "Facebook Free Speech, Charlie Hebdo and The Stasi", is a really interesting conversation about free speech and in particular where we draw the line. TGA argues that it is only "dangerous speech" that should be censored. I agree with him. He talks very convincingly about the danger of private censorship, i.e. that used by corporate giants like Facebook, Google, and Twitter, censorship over which we and our governments have no control.

Have a listen to the podcast. It is just over half an hour long but it's the first 23 minutes that are particularly relevant.

thatbags Sun 01-Jan-17 12:19:30

Oops! Apologies to TGA, it should be Garton. I'll see if HQ can correct the title.

thatbags Sun 01-Jan-17 13:19:13

They could. Thanks, HQ smile

Ankers Sun 01-Jan-17 13:35:01

What about the speech in the panto that is being discussed on another thread?

thatbags Sun 01-Jan-17 13:56:57

I'd count panto humour, however distasteful to some, as not dangerous, ankers. TGA describes dangerous free speech on the podcast. His conclusion is the same one I keep coming back to, which is that context is all, as it is with all "offensiveness". Some offensiveness we just have to out up with if we want to live in a free society where people's freedom to express their thoughts and beliefs is not restrained except when they actually incite others to violence.

I nearly posted this link on that thread but decided not to.

thatbags Sun 01-Jan-17 13:57:32

put, not out

Ankers Sun 01-Jan-17 14:23:56

To be clear, do you consider the Charlie Hebdo cartoons dangerous or not dangerous?

willsmadnan Sun 01-Jan-17 15:11:49

Although I was horrified by the attack on Charlie Hebdo, and therefore the attack on free speech. I never actually bought a copy of the journal because I found the satire puerile especially when compared to UK satirical magazines. But as Voltaire said " I may not agree with what has been said, but I will support the right to say it to death' ( or, before GN's regular pendants correct me .... words to that effect. )smilesmile

thatbags Sun 01-Jan-17 20:27:34

In answer to your question, ankers, I consider extremist ideologies dangerous. Is there anything, anything I could say to you, anything I could draw or write that would make you go out and kill someone? I suspect not.

Charlie Hebdo ridicules and mocks all kinds of ideology, not just the one that currently sends out terrorists and suicide bombers. Why is it only one that is so provoked? It's not CH that's at fault but the ideology that encourages murder.

So no, I don't consider the CH cartoons dangerous. I'm with willsmadnan.

Do listen to the podcast. It really is interesting and you'd probably get where I'm coming from better.

Ankers Sun 01-Jan-17 21:10:27

But CH incites

I will listen to the podcast tomorrow.

There are laws about it.

Have you ever been involved in incitement yourself, as you seem to talk about free speech quite a lot.

Elegran Sun 01-Jan-17 21:25:47

Fanatics are dangerous. Ranting demagogues working up a crowd into righteous rage are dangerous. Cartoons are attempts at "humour". Unpleasant humour which most people are able to read and then use to light the fire or wrap their fish and chips in.

But a cartoon is not going to kill you - it is the fanatic who does that.

I can't imagine anyone less likely to be involved in incitement than thatbags. Cool discussion of the situation is more her style.

Ankers Sun 01-Jan-17 21:42:29

Everyone has a past.

Incitement is a crime, so it cannot be ignored or forgotten about.
It is a crime for a reason.

Ana Sun 01-Jan-17 21:51:29


Of course everyone has a past.

Are you casting some sort of aspersion, Ankers?

Elegran Sun 01-Jan-17 22:01:20

So those unpleasant cartoons would make YOU kill someone? Would make YOU blow up a planeload of passengers who had done you no harm? Make YOU strap explosive onto someone's child and explode it?


Because you have not been led to believe that someone making fun of an image of your religion makes it fair game for you to massacre large numbers of people, most of whom either haven't seen the cartoons or dismissed them as childish rubbish.

Extreme ideology is what kills. Narrowing down what people can laugh at, (even if you don't much like the "joke") and narrowing it again and again in response to violence and threats, doesn't get rid of the flawed ideology that underlies that fanaticism and makes the response a murderous one. It may even confirm them in believing that they were right to react like that because "Hey, it works, they are afraid of us now!"

Elegran Sun 01-Jan-17 22:03:32

So someone who believes in free speech is certain to use it to incite people to violence?

Ankers Mon 02-Jan-17 05:11:47

[merlotgran, glassortwo, and Galen might be along anytime. Helped by one or two others as well].

When my children were small, I took a good look at which child started the incident or argument. I knew that if I could stop that from happening again, I could nip a lot of problems in the bud.

Extreme ideology may be what kills,, but as I said incitement is a crime for a reason, a very good reason. They cannot escape their part in what happens following it.

Ankers Mon 02-Jan-17 05:17:59

I have learnt, in real life and on a forum, that when a person goes back to the same issue, over and over, that there is a reason for that. Something has happened in their life. Something happened either to them or someone they care about, which they cannot quite square in their head, or accept, or justify. It nags at them.
They can actually be quite innocent, and whatever happened got out of their control.
We all do things, that can end up with unintended consequences.

absent Mon 02-Jan-17 05:30:54

If a child tells his older brother that he has a face like a pig and he smells of farts does that justify the older brother hitting his younger brother over the head with a cricket bat? I don't think so.

Nipping extremist political groups in the bud is a bit tricky.

Incitement to crime is quite a specific offence. Cartoons are not, as a rule, an incitement to crime. They may be offensive. So get over it; we all get offended sometimes. Why do you think you, particular groups, nationalities, sexes, or religions should have special dispensation?

Ankers Mon 02-Jan-17 05:42:08

It wouldnt justify it. But if that sort of thing happens again and again, it changes the older brother's personality and actions. And the younger brother is responsible for that. And partly the parent also, for not intervening.

No one should have special dispensation, but nor should incitement be ignored.

Elegran Mon 02-Jan-17 11:05:10

Sorry this is so long, but it is the definition in law of incitement
Incitement is a specific crime.
Quote - "Incitement was an offence under the common law of England and Wales. It consisted of persuading, encouraging, instigating, pressuring, or threatening so as to cause another to commit a crime.
It was abolished in England and Wales on 1 October 2008 when Part 2 of the Serious Crime Act 2007 came into force, replacing it with three new statutory offences of encouraging or assisting crime."

"Encouraging or assisting a crime is itself a crime in English law. The . . . requirement is that the defendant carry out an act capable of "encouraging or assisting" the commission of another offence. An offence is committed under section 44, if this is done with intent to do the same; under section 45 if it is done "believing that the offence will be committed and that the act will encourage or assist its commission"; or under section 46 where there are multiple possible offences being encouraged or assisted, and at least one is foreseen.
Whereas incitement can only be committed when the defendant incites the principal offender, the crime of "encouraging or assisting" includes helping an accessory.

Offences under Sections 45 and 46 are only committed if the defendant believes that both the crime will be committed, and that the act will encourage or assist the offender: that they might do so is not enough. . . it is necessary that the defendant intend or be reckless to any required circumstances or consequences – for example, that death was a result.