Spiked Editor Brendan O'Neill on Free Speech
Brendan O'Neill, editor of Spiked, explains why "We must be free to hurt Muslims' feelings" and "Why we must stand with Bangladesh's vilified secularist bloggers" (Spiked, August 12, 2015):
Following the hacking to death of yet another Bangladeshi secularist blogger, a Bangladeshi police chief has come up with an idea for how these gruesome murders might be halted: secularists should stop criticising religion. Yes, . . . the problem is not the machetes . . . wielded by the intolerant Islamists who can handle no questioning of their beliefs; no, it's the blasphemous words being published on the blogs of secularists, atheists and free thinkers . . . . [D]oesn't it also sound familiar? If you want to stay safe, don't cross the line . . . where have we heard this before? We heard it after the Charlie Hebdo massacre. And again following the shooting at a free-speech event in Copenhgan in February . . . , Europe's chattering classes, even the literary set, all . . . expressed the idea that murdered critics of Islam are responsible for their deaths . . . . After the Copenhagen shooting, a Guardian writer said: 'Free speech as legal and moral pre-requisites in a free society must be defended. But . . .' Ah, the inevitable 'but' that follows every unconvincing declaration of support for free speech these days. 'But', he said, 'we must guard against the understandable temptation to be provocative in the publication of [anti-Islamic] cartoons if the sole objective is to establish that we can do so. With rights to free speech come responsibilities.' In short, 'don't cross the line' . . . . After the Charlie Hebdo massacre, a writer for the New Statesman said we cannot have 'the right to offend' with 'no corresponding responsibility'. '[T]here are always going to be lines that . . . cannot be crossed', he said . . . . Who'd have thought it: a writer for the house magazine of the British left and a head of police in a less-than-liberal state sharing the same view . . . . And of course, in April numerous authors . . . . publicly balked at American PEN's decision to give a freedom of expression award to Charlie Hebdo. Their reasoning . . . was striking. [Criticism of Islam] hurt people's feelings, and that is bad . . . . [P]eople's feelings are more important than freedom of speech . . . . There is a disturbing unholy marriage between these influential people who are cagey about free speech and the Islamist hotheads who carry out attacks on speakers who offend them . . . . The sanctification of hurt feelings gives extremists a licence to seek vengeance for their own hurt feelings . . . . Across the West, people's feelings are being elevated over freedom . . . . Enough . . . . You feel hurt? Tough shit. Grow up. Deal with it. We will carry on saying what we want to say.For O'Neill's complete column, see the Spiked site. As regular readers are aware, I stand pretty strongly for free speech and have argued that we have the right to insult religious feelings - and indeed any feelings - because the more we defer to people's feelings, the less we will be allowed to say, and speech will become largely unfree.