Solving the World's problems with common sense and a flamethrower.

Monday, October 26, 2009

If Mine Speech Offends Thee. . . .

I would like, if I may, to ponder a little on the vexatious subject of Freedom of Speech*. Because I think I have finally found a solution.

As we all know, this issue has been front of many minds in recent weeks, from the great minds of the Blogosphere to the lesser ones of the Government and BBC and, of course, the tiny ones of the BNP and UAF. All have their own view on what constitutes freedom of speech, and where the 'limits' on such a freedom should be. What's interesting is how many of those involved are completely unable to see the irony inherent in their own positions.

The UAF, for example, throw tantrums, scream and smash things up, calling that the BNP should not have a platform, should be banned, should not be able to speak or debate their (stupid, bigoted and abhorrent) position. They say 'freedom of speech should be denied to Nazis'. The BNP and others rail against the (vile) speeches of Islamic fundamentalists. They say, "freedom of speech should be denied to religious extremists". The Guardianistas fall over in a swoon at Jimmy Carr's (tasteless) 'joke', and say, "he should not be allowed to say such things!".

Yet what they actually mean - and what all those who claim that there are things you cannot say actually mean - is this:

"Freedom of Speech should be denied to those who disagree with us".

It used to be that the limit on Freedom of Speech was the incitement of violence. That was quickly superseded by the somewhat more nebulous concept of 'inciting hatred'. Now it seems that has morphed again into a call for capital punishment against all those who cause offence.

The problem is, though, that almost everyone offends someone. Whatever your theory, whatever your position, however you say it, you'll offend someone. Gordon Brown, for example, offends me. I have managed to offend the BNP, the UAF, the Government and Islam in the space of just four days.

Jeremy Clarkson offends lorry drivers, prostitutes, feminists and eco-warriors. These same Greenies offend anyone who believes in proper scientific methods, who in turn offend Creationists, who in their turn offend the sane. Jan Moir offends homosexuals, who offend Christians, who offend Muslims, who offend the BNP, who offend the UAF. Jimmy Carr offends the Olympic Committee and, probably, the legless. Simon Cowell offends everyone.

It's never-ending - an eternal, unbroken circle of pissed-offedness. The only person who never offends anyone is Nick Clegg, and that's because he never says or does anything and nobody knows who he is.** It's clear to me now that with hard work, determination and creativity absolutely anyone can be offended by absolutely anything.

There is, quite clearly, only one solution. Ban speech.

Ban expression in all forms and formats.*** It is only by breaking the continual cycle of communication with others that we will reach the Nirvana of nobody ever being offended by anyone ever again, and we will all live happily ever after. Or something.

Politics and religion will never again be able to sully your ears and divide your communities. People would no longer be polarised by opinion, nothing divisive would ever be said, written or printed. Disagreement and argument would simply disappear. Mankind would live together as one, united in silence, never offending another soul.

Of course - you would lose the ability to love or to express joy. Laughter would be a thing of the past too, because the subject of your laughter may be someone else's misfortune. Forget controlling your children, or having a voice in the running of your country, or taking part in events that shape your life. But that's a small price to pay, really. After all, it's worth it if nobody is ever offended, ever again.

Isn't it?

Sorry if that caused offence.

* I am using the term 'speech' to encompass all forms of communication, written or spoken - just in case anyone is offended by my apparent discrimination against the spoken word.
**Now I think of it, that offends me.
***I would have suggested limiting human interaction to conversations about the weather, but my research indicates that most of Southern England was offended by Michael Fish's weather forecast in 1987, so that's out too.


Mark Hendy said...


manwiddicombe said...

Jimmy Carr offends the Olympic Committee and, probably, the legless.

Scientific studies have shown a relationship between the amount of alcohol an audience has consumed and the amount of laughter Jimmy Carr's routines receive. It seems the more legless you are the more likely you are to laugh at anything.


Anonymous said...

Call me cynical but this seems like "divide and conquer".

Government with the help of the BBC set us all up to ask the question, should A, or B, or C be denied the right to speak? The empty vessels all say "Yes!" and the sheep go "baaa". The rest of us would defend free speech in all its guises.

Once there is sufficient cacophony about denying free speech to others "who disagree with us", the government steps in because "something must be done".

Problem, reaction, solution. They can't get us to vote for a ban of free speech, so they create a problem to which they have a pre-defined 'solution' - which is what they wanted all along.

We've been manoevred into this shrill discussion of freedom of speech when we should be asking ourselves why we don't put piano wire to good use.

Hitler's fascist appatus was put in place during peacetime - before WW2. I believe that's where we're headed.

Thats News said...

Oh, that Jimmy Carr! He's so funny!

Well, no. Not really!

Secular Dentist said...

Very good post and excellent point of view.

ereador said...

Nice post. I'm in the US of America, or 'Murrica, as we say in the South (which I am not in), and this issue is a big deal here, too, apparently. There are those who don't want you to say the seven things you can't say on TV; those who want you to say them in order to cause offense as often as possible; those whose (institutions of) marriages will be destroyed if you talk about homosex and heterosex in the same breath, or either, ever, though I'm a little concerned as to how not talking about sex impacts their marriages; those who think if you don't talk about something it doesn't exist, and so demand that you talk only about the things they want you to talk about; etc.

My solution is not to ban speech, but to require that everyone blurt out everything they are thinking, all of the time. The intertubes, radio and TV are almost there, and that can be expanded to include ordinary human speech.

Along with this most excellent plan, we should place a new judicial emphasis on freedom of listening, which is to say everyone is required to say everything, but I cannot be required to listen to anything.

P Smith said...

The writer said:

Yet what they actually mean - and what all those who claim that there are things you cannot say actually mean - is this:

"Freedom of Speech should be denied to those who disagree with us".

The people who hold that attitude are quite often the same people who say "Terrorism is violence by those who disagree with us".

Such reactionaries, usually of the right wingnut variety, want to warp the definitions of words to their own ends, especially when they themselves often fit - or don't fit - the traditional definitions.