I wrote this month’s column for the Freethinker yesterday. It’s a rather heated rejection of the “we must be responsible if we want to live in harmony with horrible ideas” approach. I don’t want to live in harmony with horrible ideas; I want to reject them, and explain my reasons for rejecting them.
It’s not always immediately clear which ideas are horrible. Sometimes it takes extended discussion and illustration and listing of examples to make the horribleness of a particular idea clear. That’s one major reason free speech is important, and why it often trumps other goods.
But some ideas we already know are horrible. We don’t need to keep reopening the question every hour, because we already know and because the ideas are so horrible that they do damage and harm. It can be worthwhile to discuss such ideas in classrooms or seminars, but that doesn’t mean that they have to be discussed in every newspaper and chat show. Should we be sitting down for a serious conversation with Boko Haram in order to come to an understanding? No. Boko Haram has murdered some 30 thousand Nigerians. There’s nothing to discuss. Its members may be rehabilitatable, but its ideas are the ideas of murderers.
But you won’t find Boko Haram in a Copenhagen coffee shop or a Paris newspaper office. It’s not Boko Haram that keeps getting threatened and killed for trying to have a conversation.