Western hypocrisy over free speech



“Je Suis Confused” was American satirist Jon Stewart’s response to the news that the French black comedian Dieudonne had been arrested for posting on his Facebook page: “Je Suis Charlie Coulibaly”. Coulibaly was killed by Police after he had murdered four Jewish men in the kosher supermarket on January 9. Regarding objectionable Facebook posts, Stewart riposted: Isn’t that what the “unfriend” button is for?

Dave Zirin is another who exposed the “free speech” hypocrisy of the French government with this Twitter post: “France has arrested 54 people for offensive speech since Charlie Hebdo killings. In other news, French PM Hollande has outlawed irony.”

It’s important that we defend on-line free speech (including objectionable speech) as the pressure goes on Facebook not to provide, in David Cameron’s words, a platform for terrorists.

Instead we should treat the Facebook pages of political extremists, and the number of likes and friends they have, as something to be politically challenged, not criminalised.

At the root of the problem are opposed extremist currents responding to each other’s terror, feeding on each other’s murderous ideology and practice. For example, the governments of the United States, Britain, France and Israel have bombed their adversaries in several Muslim nations, killing and wounding many civilians in the process. Sometimes, out of the resultant despair comes a terrorist response, not only from within the affected Islamic communities but also from disaffected (and often marginalised) youth living in Western nations.

Rather than reconsider their military adventures in the Islamic world, the reflex Western response to terrorist incidents is to step up their own “terrorism” by increasing the number of air strikes – which is exactly what France did in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo killings. And so the vicious cycle of violence continues.

To treat terrorist incidents in the West as originating primarily from conspiracies by Isis or Al-Qaeda misses the main point.

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Another problem with criminalising certain on-line posts is the inherent bias of Western governments, who will be the ones putting pressure on the Facebooks of the world. Such things as the US and Israeli drone strikes will never be considered terrorist, even though they strike fear into whole communities and kill so many innocent people. You have to be an adversary of America, or one of its allies, to be considered a terrorist.

To avoid any confusion, none of the above means that we shouldn’t continue to criminalise credible threats to the life of individual New Zealanders, whether by letter, email or posts on Facebook. Nor does it mean that the Human Rights Commission should stop its (generally non-punitive) work in challenging those who “excite hostility” towards a particular ethnic or religious group.


    • Presenting a biased, one version of the story and not presenting the version of what happened there from the other party is hardly convincing, especially when looking at the blatant “Anti Islamic” character of that website.

      When you sow hatred, you are likely to reap hatred. When you sow violence, you are likely to reap violence.

      Those that do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it, and it seems that the so-called “jihadists” supporting IS are succeeding in fueling the tensions that may exist in Europe, same as the ultra nationalists there.

      So Jamie seems to adhere to this kind of hate mission, supposedly in “reaction” to a so-called “invasion”.

      The problem is that poverty, injustice, corruption, last not least condoned and in some cases even encouraged by western and other neo colonialist powers, drives many to flee the misery and also violence in the places where systems are collapsing, and where unrest and war now rule.

      Where else to you want them to go? To drown themselves in the Mediterranean Sea?

      And the ghetto like scenario that exists in some European cities, I know it, I have seen it, it is about failed integration, which is an issue, but it can be blamed on both sides, as I have relatives there, who I have not much time for, as they adhere to the same white racism as Jamie here clings to.

      Maybe there lies one of the problems? And maybe this couple was drunk, made some improper remarks, hence the challenge by the youth on the bike, and what happened? We will not learn the full story from Jamie, I fear.

  1. The repeating cycle of violence mentioned is regrettable and wholly avoidable. At first I thought the reason for its continuance was ignorance, but now I realise the reason is profit. War is a profitable business for many with such a heavily vested power-base and lobby groups in the US, UK and other Western countries.

    It’s difficult to see a way out of the quagmire these attitudes bring with them, but realising there is a problem with the ‘solution’ is the first step.

  2. People emigrate from their homelands when the conditions become unbearable, otherwise they would not risk their lives on a leaky boat that has little chance of reaching its destination. Given their options, who can blame them?
    From the perspective of the citizens of the countries that the refugees reach, the arrivals are a threat. Most of the nations taking in refugees are struggling economically, largely due to mismanagement of the economy, but the citizens see only that jobs are already scarce and the refugees are low wage competitors for those jobs. Again, who can blame them?
    What is really driving this mass movement of refugees is the gross overpopulation of the human race. We have reached a point where there is no room on this planet for any life for that we cannot exploit directly.
    This cannot be sustainable. There is no solution to any of our many problems, until this underlying problem is fixed. But how?

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