Wednesday, 3 June 2015

I Shall Say What I Want

Although I don't like to have Big Opinions - after Nietzsche, it feels uncool to believe in universals - I am a Freedom of Speech absolutist. It might be a little simplistic, but I don't think Freedom of Expression can survive a little bit of censorship. It's all or nothing. 

That doesn't mean that I am against rating systems - I advocate that children ought to be protected. In fact, being in need of protection defines being a child.

But I am finding that censorship, as a method of protection, is becoming acceptable. People I would regard as allies - feminists, ant-racists, liberal left-wingers - frequently invoke the need for censorship, when an opinion that they deem obnoxious appears.

Remember Je suis Charlie? This website does a great job of exposing the hypocrisy of the political leaders who hitched a ride on the freedom of expression bandwagon. And this article plays on the irony factor.

At the time, various members of the SWP pointed out that the international protests did, actually, support the right of Charlie Hebdo to publish cartoons that were Islamophobic. They weren't excusing the attack, only correcting a sudden rush to object to 'censorship by the gun'. Luckily, it was the SWP making the point, so the mainstream could ignore it.

But they did clarify, for me, why censorship is a zero sum game: I either support the right for offensive opinions, ones that do not chime with my beliefs or hopes for a better world, or you accept the principle that some things can be removed from the public domain. Any variations on this have to postulate that a certain authority has the right to determine what is acceptable.

I don't recognise any authority on this matter. 

So when feminists called for Dapper Laff's gig in Glasgow to be banned by Glasgow City Council, I had to disagree with them. I am no fan of Dapper. But I think that GCC would censor all sorts of things if they thought they could. Do you think A Thousand Flowers would last five minutes? Asking them to act as an arbiter of public taste is a bad precedent.

The GCC are, of course, currently in the blogosphere for their decision to let The Loyal Orange Lodge hold Orange Fest in George Square. For readers outside of Scotland, the Orange Lodge is a political movement that celebrates the Act of Union and the protestant revolution. They tend to support Rangers FC. They are controversial, especially in a post-referendum country that tends towards the left. 

They raise money for charity, too.
The calls for a ban are all over Facebook, and there is a petition.

And it is controversial: predictions are being made that Saturday night in Glasgow is going to be a Big Fight. The GCC, who gave permission, appear to lack some degree of common sense. Yet these are the same people that are being asked to rescind the offer of space to the LOL... the GCC that would be handed the power to ban events. Go on, what events do you think they'd ban? Pride? Protests?

My attitude towards Orange Fest is simple. Let it happen, without me. I'll go to the park or something, and whatever comes out of it - a sudden shift in loyalist behaviour, or a recreation of an obscure skirmish from the counter-reformation - can wait until the next week for me to comment in my inimitable, tight-lipped, self-satisfied manner. 

Mind you, if other people want to protest it, that's cool too. But I don't want a kicking. But don't petition to get it banned. Apart from the general principle against censorship, we'll need hear the end of Orange members claiming that they have been silenced. 

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