Archie Bland: Free speech is a right, but be careful what you say

FreeView, from the editors at i

Share

There's nothing more boring than people chuntering on about free
speech, mainly because the general wisdom of the principle is so
thumpingly obvious.

For two-bit commentators to trot out that old saw about how they will defend until the death a bigot's right to say what they please is as comical as it is overblown. If you want the EDL to be allowed to say what they want, that's fine. I agree with you. No one is going to kill either of us for saying so. Stop making such a fuss.

Those arguments, although still hackneyed, become a little less laughable when we start talking about images of the Prophet Mohamed. Instances of extremist wingnuts getting attacked for saying racist things are relatively rare. Incidences of satirists who make images of Mohamed getting the same treatment are, troublingly, less so.

We all remember that such treatment hasn't been limited to the people who have made those jokes: when a Danish newspaper printed cartoons mocking Mohamed in 2008, five people were killed in a bombing on the Danish Embassy in Pakistan. It is far from the only such incident.

Tiresomely, this argument looks like it will come up again this week. A French satirical magazine has decided – presumably giggling excitedly as it did so, and patting itself on the back for being so tremendously daring – to devote a special issue to the mockery of Mohamed, after the victory of a moderate Islamist party in the Tunisian elections.

Leave aside the fact that the party in question, Ennahdha, has so far proved a model of good sense, willing to go into coalition with secular parties, and fitting exactly the model that Western democrats should aspire to in the Middle East. Assume instead that they're a bunch of dastardly extremists. The joke is still old, unfunny, and dangerous.

It's obvious that, for all the editor's claims that they're innocently applying the same standards to political Islam that they do to everyone else, they're really just seeking publicity. If they would lean on such a tired theme when satirising French domestic politics, they're still less funny than they seem at first glance.

In regard to these morons, the defend-your-right-to-say-what-you want line still applies, I suppose. They are several fathoms less appalling than anyone who would turn to violence in response. I'd like to modify the statement a bit, though, to the following: I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. BUT ALSO, YOU ARE AN IDIOT. And, actually, if one of us is going to get clobbered for your stupidity, I'd sooner it wasn't me.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: UI / UX Designer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm are focussed on assis...

Recruitment Genius: General Processor

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a General Processor ...

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - B2B

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: Our representatives must represent us

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
MP David Lammy would become the capital’s first black mayor if he won the 2016 Mayoral election  

Crime, punishment and morals: we’re entering a maze with no clear exit

Simon Kelner
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot