Sunday, 18 January 2015

Free offence

It is possible to hold these views simultaneously:

• Free speech is critically important; on it rest many other liberties

• Free speech can offend; many DO offend using free speech; that is okay; in fact it must be defended

• Offensive speech must be defended even if you disagree vehemently with what is being said; defending it does not mean you agree with it

• Offensive speech can be countered with more free speech, which can be as, or more, or less — your choice, it's free, remember? — offensive

• Rational, contemplative, evidence-backed responses work better

• It can be fun to mock too, but this usually winds up preaching to the choir and alienating those who agree with the idea you're ridiculing (but humour, mockery, satire, and even crude satire is free speech too, so go for it, and try, pretty please, to be actually funny so I can defend you with my heart in it)

• There is learning to be had from even very offensive speech

• Countering offensive speech with violence is wrong

• Islam is getting vilified for the misdeeds of its radical fringe

• Dig deep enough, try hard enough to understand, and you'll find that inequality — economic inequality — lies at the root of much religion-based conflict, and that these inequalities are being exploited by leaders who use religion as a cloak for their lust for power and money

• People who take offence at slights to what they call an omnipotent being are risible

• All religion is crap

• If religion helps you sleep well at night, I have no quarrel with you

• Bacon is tasty