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Shut Up and Play Nice: How the Western World Is Limiting Free Speech 1160

concealment writes "In the face of the violence that frequently results from anti-religious expression, some world leaders seem to be losing their patience with free speech. After a video called 'Innocence of Muslims' appeared on YouTube and sparked violent protests in several Muslim nations last month, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned that 'when some people use this freedom of expression to provoke or humiliate some others' values and beliefs, then this cannot be protected.' It appears that the one thing modern society can no longer tolerate is intolerance. As Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard put it in her recent speech before the United Nations, 'Our tolerance must never extend to tolerating religious hatred.'"
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Shut Up and Play Nice: How the Western World Is Limiting Free Speech

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  • Re:what? No. (Score:4, Informative)

    by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Monday October 15, 2012 @10:26AM (#41657453) Homepage Journal

    I expect people to treat my faith with respect because that is the civilised and enlightened thing to do.

    I expect people to grow up and put faith aside because that is the civilized and enlightened thing to do. How do we reconcile these beliefs?

  • Re:Why? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Zeromous ( 668365 ) on Monday October 15, 2012 @10:39AM (#41657651) Homepage

    >They even started a country that used those concepts and grounded all of those concepts in a piece of paper


  • by andyring ( 100627 ) on Monday October 15, 2012 @10:40AM (#41657679) Homepage

    That video WAS NOT the trigger for anything in the Middle East. The video was on YouTube since June or July. What happened was, plain and simple, a TERRORIST ATTACK by Al Qaeda, timed to coincide with the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. It has nothing to do with free speech, despite the White House trying to portray it as such, and which they finally, grudgingly admitted.

  • Re:Balance (Score:4, Informative)

    by stevew ( 4845 ) on Monday October 15, 2012 @10:42AM (#41657701) Journal

    If you live in the US - you really don't understand how the First Amendment operates.

    You are correct that the right is limited - but it is ONLY limited by that speech which might create a public panic, etc. Yelling FIRE! in a crowed room is against the law. However - saying something that is hurtful to someone else is NOT and CANNOT be illegal, for within that realm comes ALL political speech which is fundamental to the operating of a democratic form of government.

    As soon as you start limiting such speech you manage to disenfranchise some segment of the population to the vagaries of the majority. If the offended minority can't stand up and defend themselves VERBALLY - what is left? It becomes a two way street.

    What CAN NOT be allowed is for the minority's offense to itself become illegal, or for that minority to cause violence to the person causing the offense. THAT is where we draw the line in the US. Mr. Ban Ki-Moon can jump off of the UN building if he doesn't like it.

  • by JazzHarper ( 745403 ) on Monday October 15, 2012 @10:52AM (#41657815) Journal

    European governments have never embraced the concept of absolute Freedom of Speech. It is a peculiarly (U.S.) American idea, which never caught on, elsewhere. Not even in Canada, as a matter of fact.

  • Re:Why? (Score:5, Informative)

    by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Monday October 15, 2012 @10:58AM (#41657921) Homepage

    It was not just about "freedom of religion" it was also about "freedom from religion."

    Peopel never cease to [amaze/annoy/disappoint] me in that they STILL somehow believe that "goodness" can only come from religion. That's nonsense. But that's part of how religion build a false sense of trust which is *ALWAYS* exploited by leadership. Religion is yet another "team affiliation" which creates a sense of Us vs Them.

    Most of the founding fathers are 'suspected atheists.' I say suspected because especially back in those days, people in leadership positions who announced themselves as "godless" would immediate lose the trust and faith of the people. If fact, things haven't improved too much since those days. It's all part of an ugly and vicious cycle of expectations. But the fact that your presumption that it was Christians and therefore Christianity which was responsible for creating the constitutional government of the US only serves to prove my point. Was the government of England not ALSO Christian?

  • Re:Why? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 15, 2012 @11:05AM (#41658033)

    Sure, and every Jewish scholar who has ever referenced a date with AD or BC is a closet Christian.

    Pedantry is the last resort of the intellectually dishonest.

  • Re:Why? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Baloroth ( 2370816 ) on Monday October 15, 2012 @11:22AM (#41658293)

    Further, your founding fathers were, by-and-large, not religious -- you go ahead and find one mention of "God" in the US Constitution... I'll wait.

    Lambert (2003) has examined the religious affiliations and beliefs of the Founders. Of the 55 delegates to the 1787 Constitutional Convention, 49 were Protestants, and two were Roman Catholics (D. Carroll, and Fitzsimons).

    Source []. You were saying? Oh wait, you're an uninformed ignorant idiot who clearly thinks that for a person to be religious, they have to write the word "God" into their political documents. I don't care what you were saying.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 15, 2012 @11:30AM (#41658435)

    India is a democracy and a free country. But you can be fine or imprisoned for making statements that may offend one of the many religions there.
    India found it necessary to codify how groups of different religions may interact with one another, rather than the live and let live policy you find in the United States.

    In my opinion, relgion is an individual's choice and therefor open to criticism. Violence as a response to free speech is unacceptable and illegal. No matter how riled up you get over what someone says, you must focus your anger in a more constructive manner.

  • by phlinn ( 819946 ) on Monday October 15, 2012 @11:49AM (#41658741)
    Heinlein was never a fascist. It's an accusation that keeps getting thrown out occasionally by the same people who claim that libertarianism is fascist because they don't want to actually examine their own preferences for various forms of strong government.
  • by phlinn ( 819946 ) on Monday October 15, 2012 @11:51AM (#41658767)
    Those didn't originate with Bush. The phrase is strongly associated with campus speech codes.
  • by TheMiddleRoad ( 1153113 ) on Monday October 15, 2012 @01:21PM (#41660017)

    Not even close. They're not rioting, bombing, or trying to kill people in any significant numbers. They're not making school girls afraid to go to school.

  • Even better (Score:4, Informative)

    by Safety Cap ( 253500 ) on Monday October 15, 2012 @01:36PM (#41660221) Homepage Journal

    -- you go ahead and find one mention of "God" in the US Constitution... I'll wait.

    Sigh. Unfortunately, we have gone through a 236-year-long exercise in Religious fanatical masturbation, with no end in sight.

    During the constitutional convention, there were attempts to add Christianity to the Constitution's preamble, and they were all ignored/thrown out by the core architects (Franklin, Adams, and Madison).

    During the first few decades of the new republic, several amendments were proposed to add the same; none made it out of Congress.

    Eventually the religious zealots gave up and went home. Until the Civil War. Recognizing the war was a direct result of "God not being mentioned in the constitution" (yes, they actually believed that) attempts to amend the constitution to add Christianity were renewed, with the same result: epic failure.

    Every couple of decades, we forget and try to do the same old thing again. As always, it fails. Thank dog.

  • by Cow Jones ( 615566 ) on Monday October 15, 2012 @01:46PM (#41660385)

    As an Austrian; thank you for bringing this up. People from other countries are often confused or concerned about this law, so I'd like to clear a few things up. The situation is very similar in Germany, but since I'm an Austrian, and you specifically mentioned the Irving trial, I'll concentrate on that.

    The Verbotsgesetz is indeed an intentional limitation on free speech. As far as I know, this is the only major difference to what is considered free speech in the US, although we may be a bit stricter concerning incitement of popular hatred against ethnic groups. Both the Verbotsgesetz and the right to free speech are part of the Austrian constitution. To understand why we have this law, and why such an obvious limitation on what we can say or publish is tolerated by the people, you need to take a look at when and why the law was instated.

    The first version became law on May 8, 1945 - the very day that WWII ended in Europe with the capitulation of the Wehrmacht. Its main and largest part deals with the process of "denazification," which was an acute necessity in order to resume normal life after the war. It was also mandated by the allied forces, who continued to occupy Austria for the next ten years. This part is now dead law, because the denazification is as complete as it's ever going to be, and also because there was an amnesty for former members of the NSDAP in 1957.

    The second part of the law forbids the reformation of the NSDAP and certain organizations associated with it (like the SS, SA, etc). It also - and here's where the interesting part comes in - made national-socialist activities illegal. This includes any action which "denies, belittles, condones or tries to justify the Nazi genocide or other Nazi crimes against humanity".

    I'm sure you will understand why such a law was considered necessary immediately after the war. So why didn't we repeal it later? The main reason for that was to send a strong public signal that this era is once and for all over. During the time of the Third Reich, there was a significant brain drain in Germany and Austria. Many of the most important scientific minds, as well as writers, artists, lawyers, doctors, etc, were Jewish and were forced to emigrate. It was of great importance to prove to those people that it was safe to return.

    Which leaves the question: how long should this law, as a special case due to historic necessity, remain in force? This point is actually debated regularly, but unfortunately the only people who are publicly advocating to repeal it are from the extreme right. They're not at all concerned about freedom of speech in general, they just want to avoid fines and prison terms after their typical antisemitic tirades. As a result, they are consistently voted down. As for me.. as long as there are Holocaust survivors living in this country, I wouldn't want the law repealed. At some point in the future, it would probably be best to put it behind us and let the normal laws handle these cases.

    By the way, this Innocence of Muslims video (idiotic as it is) would not have violated any Austrian law. There's no need to be afraid about speaking your mind in Austria, as long as you don't publicly deny or condone the Nazi war crimes. Irving knew that perfectly well. He knowingly violated the Verbotsgesetz multiple times, and as a result he had to spend 13 months in prison. It was a stupid thing to do, and it appears he has learned his lesson.


  • by dkleinsc ( 563838 ) on Monday October 15, 2012 @02:39PM (#41661147) Homepage

    It's the "within limits" part that makes the "Free Speech Zones" so bad.

    The key issue is that the "Free Speech Zones" have always been designated far away from where the event that the protesters are protesting is happening, and the mainstream media is discouraged from actually covering anything the protesters are doing. The goal of the zones is and has always been to silence protesters who's views fall outside the realm of what's deemed acceptable by the political establishment. For instance, I went to a VP debate back in 2004, and what was clearly allowed were signs saying "Kerry / Edwards" or "Bush / Cheney", but what was not allowed anywhere near a TV camera were signs saying "End the Fed" or "Leave Iraq Now".

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 15, 2012 @02:43PM (#41661203)
    There's no need to embellish this story. She was shot in the neck, which is shocking enough.
  • by Max_W ( 812974 ) on Monday October 15, 2012 @02:54PM (#41661393)
    On the October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed on the door of All Saints' Church in Wittenberg the paper with 85 theses []

    Just one paper.

    It started the Reformation and the most destructive war in Europe, the Thirty Years' War'_War []

    Up to 75% of the population of Germany was killed in this war. Immeasurable suffering and desolation. Armies were annihilated. All because of one piece of paper written by a countryside monk.
  • No but the US provided plenty of weapons to plenty of other extremist groups in the last 50 years in the name of controlling geopolitics.

Were there fewer fools, knaves would starve. - Anonymous