At the heart of much of the discussion of double standards is the suggestion that because there is much hypocrisy about free speech, so censorship is acceptable. Since campaigners for free speech are often happy to restrict the liberties of others, particularly Muslims, so Muslims, the critics suggest, should be allowed to censor what they find offensive. It is an argument that makes no sense. Double standards need to be confronted, not by extending restrictions, but by extending speech, by ensuring not that everyone is equally deprived of liberties, but that all are equally sheltered by them. To see how we should deal with double standards today, we only have to ask ourselves how we should have responded in the age of Milton and Locke. Should we have suggested that the best way to deal with their anti-Catholic bigotry was to extend to everyone the restrictions that Milton and Locke wished imposed on Catholics? Or should we have argued that restrictions on Catholics were wrong and that all deserved liberty? With four centuries worth of hindsight the answer to most people is crystal clear. It should be equally so today, in response to free speech and the hypocrisy of anti-Muslim prejudices.
- Russell Blackford
- 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) and AT THE DAWN OF A GREAT TRANSITION: THE QUESTION OF RADICAL ENHANCEMENT (2021).
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Kenan Malik on free speech and double standards
Go here for a fuller version - which tells us that there will be a fuller one still, yet to come (i.e., what I've linked to is itself an extract). Malik concludes:
Posted by Russell Blackford at 8:51 pm
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Free speech is often most threatened by well meaning individuals. And I find that different kinds of speech. People who claim to support free speech sometimes have an area where they themselves are censorious.
It seems that people who cheer speech critical of Catholicism take a different position when the speech offends Muslims or other minorities, or gays, or women. At this point some start crying 'hate speech', or 'bullying' and demanding the speech be stopped.
But free speech is nothing if it does not include all the things we may be against.
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