About Me

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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. My latest books are THE TYRANNY OF OPINION: CONFORMITY AND THE FUTURE OF LIBERALISM (2019); AT THE DAWN OF A GREAT TRANSITION: THE QUESTION OF RADICAL ENHANCEMENT (2021); and HOW WE BECAME POST-LIBERAL: THE RISE AND FALL OF TOLERATION (2024).

Monday, April 25, 2011

An employment case re Koran burning...

... together with an editorial. Should this guy have got his job back or not?


stevec said...

Name one good reason burning the Qur'an considered "abhorrent", "deplorable", or "wrong".

I find much of the content of the Qur'an to be abhorrent, deplorable and wrong. I find the entire concept of faith to be abhorrent, deplorable and wrong.

I especially find the notion that certain beliefs which are not supported by evidence but are held only by faith are somehow immune from criticism or inquiry to be abhorrent, deplorable and wrong.

The adherents of Islam, as a group, have deservedly earned a reputation for handling criticism especially poorly. The consequences of this poor handling of criticism are widely regarded as, at best, unpleasant. To avoid this unpleasantness, some would call for the suppression of criticism which might trigger it. This is, at best, treating this symptom while ignoring the cause. The followers of Islam, if they are to be admitted to the set of civilized humans, must learn the art of being offended without exacting some sort of vengeance. For this to happen, they need a *lot* of practice at being offended. So, it is our duty to offend the followers of Islam as much as possible, in order to give them this needed practice. I'm not kidding. They *really* need this practice.

Russell Blackford said...

Are you asking me or the editorial writer?

phil said...

I think it is wrong to dismiss him for expressing his views, but if (for example) the transport authority had many employees who were offended and that lead to serious disruption then they might have grounds to dismiss him, with suitable compensation.

I think it is a matter of degree (i.e. the seriousness of the disruption). The authority should also defend their employees' right to freely express themselves (so long as that doesn't involve the authority), so a balance needs to be found as to what extent they defend their employees and at what point do they terminate them for causing too much unrest within the organisation.

phil said...

I agree that some followers of Islam "*really* need this practice". If they want to be included in grown-up discussion they have to behave like grown-ups. I don't agree that we should offend Muslims as much as possible though.

Felix said...

"It was abhorrent. It was deplorable. It was wrong."

Looks like the standard apology for supporting free speech that has become absolutely normal.

"However, we remind Fenton and all citizens that the great rights and freedoms in our democracy come with attendant responsibilities"

With the benefit of living in a society which allows you to exercise freedom of speech comes the responsibility of restraint when your neighbour engages in speech you abhor.

Russell Blackford said...

Yeah, I tend to think that language is OTT. As I've said before, I'm not a great fan of burning holy books, but I wouldn't describe it in that way. It's also not clear to me that it's the employer's business in the circumstances in which it happened - which, I guess, is why his case succeeded.

But I'd be happy to see any contrary views.

Jeremiah said...

Hmmm. Well personally I don't think he should have been fired, it was on his own time and not related to his work in any way. In my opinion, it is none of the transit systems business but..... on the other hand I do have some sympathy for the notion that companies should be free to employ (or not) whomever they wish. Of course this can quickly descend into the murky grounds of discrimination which is all the more reason why employers should keep work lives and private lives separate.

Of course I think most of the time when these situations arise the employee is cut loose not really because the company cares what they did but just that they want to avoid the trouble that comes with complaints and these media firestorms. They don't want the boat to be rocked and when it is they see the quickest, easiest solution is to jettison the person of controversy.

The chastising/rhetorical tone of the article doesn't actually bother me that much because I think this is all part of the social moral conversation and exactly where things like conflicts over book burnings should be waged, in the court of public opinion, rather than in courtrooms and law offices. On the level of 'what constitutes good manners', rather than 'what is a stoning offense', so to speak.