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Sep 30 2012

Arab League Leader Demands Criminalization of Blasphemy

I’ve heard people in the past wonder about the wisdom of celebration International Blasphemy Rights Day, which is today. The last couple weeks have, with spectacular timing, underscored the importance of standing against religious authoritarianism and in favor of free speech. Now the head of the Arab League has called for global criminalization of any speech that hurts the delicate feelings of religious believers (or at least Muslims).

The head of the Arab League called Wednesday for the international community to criminalize blasphemy, warning that insults to religion pose a serious threat to global peace and security. The comments put him squarely at odds with the United States and many of its western allies, which are resolutely opposed to restrictions on freedom of expression.

Blasphemy is not a threat to global peace and security, but the madness of people who think they can kill and maim in response to it certainly is.

“While we fully reject such actions that are not justifiable in any way, we would like to ring the warning bell,” Elaraby said. “We are warning that offending religions, faiths and symbols is indeed a matter that threatens in international peace and security now.”

“If the international community has criminalized bodily harm, it must just as well criminalize psychological and spiritual harm,” he said. “The League of Arab States calls for the development of an international legal framework which is binding … in order to confront insulting religions and ensuring that religious faith and its symbols are respected.”

Elaraby maintained that the 21-member Arab League valued the freedom of speech but stressed that “we don’t see any relation between freedom of expression which aims at enriching culture and building civilization of the one hand and activities that merely offend and insult the beliefs, culture and civilization of others.”

Yeah, they love freedom of speech — as long as you don’t say things that bother them. Famous first words of fascists.

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  1. 1
    reynoldhall

    I prefer Draw Mohammad Day (or however the f*** you spell that pedophiliac pig-f***’ers name).

    Oh I’m sorry, did some Muslim find that offensive?

    P*ss on them! It’s their religion not ours. They have no right to try to force non-believers to obey their religious laws.

  2. 2
    machintelligence

    They can’t seem to grasp the fact that one religion’s orthodoxy is another’s blasphemy. Or more likely, they don’t care, because theirs is the only TRUE religion.

  3. 3
    Sastra

    They want to criminalize “spiritual harm.” Of course we all know that demanding evidence for the “spiritual” is the worst kind of spiritual harm one can commit.

  4. 4
    Michael Heath

    Ed,

    I’m struggling to accept your moral authority to continue to ridicule such attempts to limit criticism of religion while simultaneously promoting skepticon while its current policy is in place. I’d really appreciate a blog post which directly takes on the portion of their policy regarding religion; your comments to me in the other thread took on side issues I don’t find relevant to their policy and the process they’re using to enforce it.

    For those not privy to two previous threads debate on this matter, which were off-topic to those blog posts’ subject: Skepticon requires all registrants to its upcoming event to submit to their policy. That policy restricts the expression of “offensive verbal statements” towards another’s religion with disciplinary recourse if one doesn’t comply to that which they must submit to in order to register.

    The policy justifies such suppression of speech by mutating the definition of the word ‘harassment’ to include “offensive verbal statements’. Here’s the relevant language, I bold the relevant portion:

    Skepticon is dedicated to providing a harassment-free conference experience for everyone regardless of gender, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, or religion. We do not tolerate harassment of conference participants in any form. Conference participants violating these rules may be sanctioned or expelled from the conference without a refund at the discretion of the conference organizers.

    Harassment includes offensive verbal comments [related to gender, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, religion], deliberate intimidation, stalking, following, harassing photography or recording, sustained disruption of talks or other events, inappropriate physical contact, and unwelcome sexual attention. Participants asked to stop any harassing behavior are expected to comply immediately.

    To be clear as I’ve noted previously. I support harassment policies, especially those which restrict personal criticisms directed at an individual’s immutable characteristics, like their sex or sexual identity. I object to skepticon’s mutating the definition of harassment to include “offensive verbal statements” which is then used to prohibit offensive statements about another’s religious ideas or religion.

  5. 5
    raven

    Allah is as weak and ineffectual as jesus and the xian god.

    If these gods didn’t really like people pointing out they don’t actually do anything, they should be able to take care of it and themselves.

    A few lightening bolts and charred corpses here and there would take care of their blaphemer powers.

    The fact that Allah, jesus, and Yahweh can’t do anything, without humans do it for them is telling. They are either sick, dead, drunk, don’t really care, or started a new hobby 50 million light years away. Or imaginary.

  6. 6
    raven

    warning that insults to religion pose a serious threat to global peace and security.

    No it doesn’t.

    The fact that some Moslems think Allah needs legal protection from a few non-Moslem bigots is telling.

    On some level, they have the idea or suspicion that Allah doesn’t really exist.

    An invisible god that does nothing is hard to tell from one that is imaginary.

  7. 7
    Ibis3, Let's burn some bridges

    @Michael Heath

    Why are you arguing your case here? Have you written or spoken to Skepticon organizers about this?

  8. 8
    davidct

    The only reason these people can experience “spiritual” harm is because they insist on holding on to beliefs that would be ridiculous to any outsider. While individuales deserve common curtasy, ideas do not. Religion has been in a priviledged position because of tradition but it is not inherently more deserving of respect than a political opinion. There is no limit to things that people can find to be offeneded about. Superstition does not deserve special treatment.

  9. 9
    laurentweppe

    I prefer Draw Mohammad Day (or however the f*** you spell that pedophiliac pig-f***’ers name).
    Oh I’m sorry, did some Muslim find that offensive?

    Depends: do you have pictures of him fucking a pig?
    Do you have evidences of him being a pedophile, appart from the usual rants of a demented distand cousin taken at face value by both the most reactionnary of muslim clerics and the european supremacists masquerading as the new secularist vanguard?
    Or are you simply shitting on a dead man’s name because it makes you feel strong and rebellious, and a proudly avant-garde?
    *
    Because, you see, for quite a few years, a lot of the “Fuck Muhammad” noise has come from biggoted white douches who thought that adding a thin coat of pseudo-blasphematory paint on their racism would suffice to fool people into seeing them as lovable rogues taking a stance against religious fanatism. And it turns out that their bullshit looks extremely similar to the posturing of internet warriors playing dragon-slayers and shitting on a dead people’s name because it makes them feel strong and rebellious, and avant-garde
    And you really don’t need to be Muslim to find the bullshit of biggoted white douches pretending to be paragons of virtue offensive, or to get really suspicious when another internet warrior arrives proudly waving his Sword of Prophets Slaying +3.

  10. 10
    raven

    I’ll add here that some of the biggest anti-religious bigots and haters in the world are…Middle Eastern Arab and Iranian Moslems.

    The target is the Jews. It’s well known they have a long running conflict with the Jews over Israel/Palestine.

    In a lot of Arab countries children are taught in schools a lot of highly insulting and bigoted things about the Jews as a matter of official government policy. For example, they are either descended from apes or turning into apes but not really human in some versions.

    The Iranians made a $5 million film about a Rabbi kidgnapping a xian child, bleeding it out, and using the blood in a ritual called…making matzo ball soup. The Iranian government is officially Holocaust deniers.

    I’m running out of room for Arab and Iranian religous bigotry and hatred here. They don’t bother too much with insulting ME xians. They spend a lot more time killing and persecuting them so why bother.

    2/3 of all Iraqi xians are either dead or fled (Moron Bush gets half the credit here). Same with the Palestinian xians of which, there used to be a lot. The Egyptian Moslems and Copts frequently mix it up. Since the Copts are 10% of the population, guess who gets the worst. The Boko Harum Moslems in Nigeria have killed hundreds of xian civilians.

    The Arab league hypocrite doesn’t want to protect “religious fellings”. He wants to protect his version of “Islamic religous feelings”. Why doesn’t he ask his god Allah for help instead?

  11. 11
    raven

    freedomhouse.org:

    Revised Saudi Government Textbooks Still Demonize Christians, Jews, Non-Wahhabi Muslims and Other
    .Washington, DC
    Freedom House’s Center for Religious Freedom today released a report analyzing a set of Saudi Ministry of Education textbooks in use during the current academic year in Islamic studies courses for elementary and secondary students. The textbooks promote an ideology of hatred toward people, including Muslims, who do not subscribe to the Wahhabi sect of Islam.

    deleted for length:

    ■Condemn and denigrate the majority of Sunni Muslims who do not follow the Wahhabi understanding of Islam, and call them deviants and descendants of polytheists.
    ■Condemn and denigrate Shiite and Sufi Muslims’ beliefs and practices as heretical and call them “polytheists”;
    ■Command Muslims to “hate” Christians, Jews, “polytheists” and other “unbelievers,” including non-Wahhabi Muslims, though, incongruously, not to treat them “unjustly”;
    ■Teach the infamous forgeries, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, as historical fact;
    ■Teach other conspiracy theories accusing Freemasons, Lions Clubs and Rotary Clubs of plotting to undermine Muslims;
    ■Teach that “Jews and the Christians are enemies of the [Muslim] believers” and that “the clash” between the two realms is perpetual;
    ■Instruct students not to “greet,” “befriend,” “imitate,” “show loyalty to,” “be courteous to,” or “respect” non-believers;
    ■Assert that the spread of Islam through jihad is a “religious duty;”
    ■Instruct that “fighting between Muslims and Jews” will continue until Judgment Day, and that the Muslims are promised victory over the Jews in the end;
    ■Include a map of the Middle East that labels Israel within its pre-1967 borders as “Palestine: occupied 1948.”

    Speaks for itself. These textbooks are BTW, official Saudi government textbooks.

    When Moslems aren’t hating or insulting Jews and Xians, they hate and insult each other. Just like xian sects hate and insult other xian groups, Catholics, Protestants, fundies, Mormons etc..

  12. 12
    Michael Heath

    Ibis3 writes:

    Why are you arguing your case here?

    The answer to your first question is in the very sentence of my first post on this thread, which I’ll repeat here for you along with the rest of the paragraph. It’s addressed directly to Ed:

    I’m struggling to accept your moral authority to continue to ridicule such attempts to limit criticism of religion [the subject of this blog post] while simultaneously promoting skepticon while its current policy is in place [see link #2 below]. I’d really appreciate a blog post which directly takes on the portion of their policy regarding religion; your comments to me in the other thread took on side issues I don’t find relevant to their policy and the process they’re using to enforce it.

    Ibis3 writes:

    Have you written or spoken to Skepticon organizers about this?

    One skepticon organizer has responded in two of Ed’s other blog posts to my condemnation of their policy. To date they’ve avoided directly confronting my secondary objection which I note above. The other criticism not noted above is that a policy suppressing offensive speech even exists (I’m fine with a policy which bans harassment, but again, skepticon goes further by banning offensive speech). Those threads with skepticon’s Katie Hartman are here:
    1) http://freethoughtblogs.com/dispatches/2012/09/23/help-keep-skepticon-free/
    2) http://freethoughtblogs.com/dispatches/2012/09/26/new-orleans-speech-restrictions-stopped-for-now/

  13. 13
    tomh

    laurentweppe wrote:

    And you really don’t need to be Muslim to find the bullshit of biggoted white douches pretending to be paragons of virtue offensive

    Of course it’s offensive. What of it? The point is whether it should be illegal or not. Do you think that offensive speech, spoken by white bigots, should be illegal?

  14. 14
    DaveL

    Once again I’m reminded that I have yet to encounter a use of the adjective “spiritual” that could not be replaced with the words “mental”, “emotional”, or (of course) “imaginary“.

  15. 15
    laurentweppe

    I’ll add here that some of the biggest anti-religious bigots and haters in the world are…Middle Eastern Arab and Iranian Moslems.
    The target is the Jews. It’s well known they have a long running conflict with the Jews over Israel/Palestine.

    Iranians do not have a conflict with Jews over Palestine.
    They have a clown who’s job is to spew stupid nonsense when a camera is filming him, and they also may (conditional) have a few people among their leaders who believe that having nukes will give them the leverage necessary to become an uncontested regional power, which then has been used by a notoriously incompetent politician with daddy issues and an enormous inferiority complex toward his brother (no: not dubya, the other guy) as a pretense to play the gallent hero.

  16. 16
    steve oberski

    @raven

    I’ll add here that some of the biggest anti-religious bigots and haters in the world are…Middle Eastern Arab and Iranian Moslems.

    The target is the Jews.

    Muslim anti-semitic bigotry pales in significance to Muslim on Muslim bigotry, starting with the Sunni/Shia conflict that kicked into high gear about the time that the most likely mythological body of the paedophile known as Mohammed started to decompose and has not abated since.

    The body count for western incursions into the middle east is background noise compared to that of Muslim internecine slaugther.

    @laurentweppe

    Do you have evidences of him being a pedophile …

    Do we have evidence of Santa Claus sodomizing reindeer ?

    We are talking about a mythological construct here, until unequivocal evidence is presented confirming the existence of Mohammad then arguing over it’s attributes is just theolgical wanking.

    Although in the case of Mohammad the pedophile, Muslim “holy” books are pretty damning.

  17. 17
    laurentweppe

    As a matter of fact, white biggoted speech is illegal in my contry
    Example one
    Example two
    And the thing is, the only people really bothered by it are the bigots who get a fine once in a while and cry and moan because not allowing them to advocate for oppressing minorities makes them feel oppressed.

  18. 18
    Michael Heath

    davidct writes:

    There is no limit to things that people can find to be offeneded about. Superstition does not deserve special treatment.

    I agree, which is one reason among several that should cause us to defend that this sort of speech in the public square, even in forums where the government plays no role. Especially when it comes to condemning some in our own tribe when they seek to extend special treatment for some ideas at the cost of suppressing speech which is obviously offensive.

  19. 19
    laurentweppe

    We are talking about a mythological construct here, until unequivocal evidence is presented confirming the existence of Mohammad then arguing over it’s attributes is just theolgical wanking.

    It’s not when white supremacists are using his supposed pedophilia as a justification for discrimination, oppression, invasions and in some case fucking genocide.

  20. 20
    tomh

    As a matter of fact, white biggoted speech is illegal in my contry

    Along with other types of speech, I’m sure. So you are advocating that such speech should be illegal in other countries also?

  21. 21
    Marcus Ranum

    I promise I won’t blaspheme if, in return, they observe a diet or dress-code that I specify.

  22. 22
    dingojack

    OK, so you you want to criminally prosecute for ‘spiritual harm’, right?
    Two questions:
    Firstly, how do you propose to prove, beyond resoanable doubt, you have ‘a spirit’ that can be harmed?
    And secondly, what evidence are you going to present proving, again beyond reasonable doubt, that actual harm occurred to your ‘spirit’?
    [/Lawyer Mode]
    Dingo

  23. 23
    tomh

    Michael Heath wrote:
    I agree, which is one reason among several that should cause us to defend that this sort of speech in the public square, even in forums where the government plays no role.

    I don’t understand your outrage. A private organization, holding a private gathering, can hardly be considered the public square. They can make any rules they want, and those of us who don’t like the rules can choose not to attend. The direct opposite of the subject of the post in which a new world order would make rules that affect everyone on the planet whether we like it or not.

  24. 24
    raven

    Firstly, how do you propose to prove, beyond resoanable doubt, you have ‘a spirit’ that can be harmed?

    It’s simple.

    Those hypothetical “spirits” should just show up in court and file a claim for harm or assault. A note from a doctor specializing in trauma and diseases of the spirit will be required as well.

  25. 25
    Ed Brayton

    Michael Heath wrote:

    I’m struggling to accept your moral authority to continue to ridicule such attempts to limit criticism of religion while simultaneously promoting skepticon while its current policy is in place.

    Okay, seriously. You’re getting downright obsessed over this. We’ve argued it out already. I’ve made my case. You’ve made yours. For crying out loud, drop it now. Don’t want to accept my moral authority to oppose the attempt to throw people in jail for blasphemy all over the world because I’m not as upset as you are over a vaguely worded policy by a private organization at a private event? Okay then, don’t accept my moral authority. This horse has been dead for quite some time now, there’s really little point to go on beating it.

  26. 26
    Michael Heath

    While I don’t support laurentweppe’s apparent defense of legal prohibitions against bigoted speech, I think some unmentioned nuance is required to adequately address the way so many people defame Muslims, or any population.

    That would be the fact some countries have civil courts where plaintiffs can seek damages for harm done to them, including both slander and libel. That aspect needs to considered if we’re going to be near-absolutists when it comes to the legality of offensive speech. However our liberty effectively requires personal responsibility for our actions. In fact the irresponsible actions of a few so often provides authoritarians or others the opportunity to restrict all our rights, e.g., Elevatorgate’s supposedly being the motivation for skepticon’s prohibition against offensive speech against another’s religion. So the civil courts play a key role in insuring the exercise of our rights comes at a cost when we cause harm to others exercising those rights, such as slandering or libeling others.

  27. 27
    tbp1

    I struggle to understand why people who are confident in their religious beliefs are so often desirous of making it a crime to hurt their widdle fee-fees. You’d think they aren’t really all that confident and need the force of law to defend what they cannot defend themselves in the marketplace of ideas. But that couldn’t be, could it?

  28. 28
    dingojack

    Cross-posting to here.
    Dingo

  29. 29
    steve oberski

    @laurentweppe

    As a matter of fact, white biggoted speech is illegal in my contry

    Does this legislation apply only to white bigots ?

    Can only white people be bigots ?

    Is it not at the very least condescending, if not downright bigoted, to assume that only white people can be bigoted ?

    To what army did these white supremacists involved in invasions and in some case fucking genocide belong ? What parts of the middle east did they invade, when did this happen and how did I miss it ?

    Those white supremacists sound suspiciously similar to people like you and me who enjoy a civilization based on oil kept at an artificially low price and the concomitant resulting foreign policy that mandates that the middle east’s role is that of a provider of the raw material but under no circumstances will it be allowed to control the production, distribution and marketing of their natural resources with the result that we (that’s you and me) keep theocratic despots propped up and ensure that none of the necessary infrastructure will ever be put in place to allow middle eastern countries to make the transition to secular democracies.

  30. 30
    dingojack

    Uh Steve -
    Do laws against murder (as an example) include murders committed by white males (for example)? Is the fact that there are laws against murder in any way implying that only white males can commit murder?
    Are laws against murder inherently bigoted because they can be used against white males?
    Dingo

  31. 31
    Michael Heath

    I wrote:

    I agree, which is one reason among several that should cause us to defend that this sort of speech in the public square, even in forums where the government plays no role.

    tomh writes:

    I don’t understand your outrage. A private organization, holding a private gathering, can hardly be considered the public square. They can make any rules they want, and those of us who don’t like the rules can choose not to attend. The direct opposite of the subject of the post in which a new world order would make rules that affect everyone on the planet whether we like it or not.

    I’ve repeatedly noted skepticon can legally suppress the speech of its registrants; so this aspect of your argument is a red herring. I’ve instead pointed out skepticon’s suppression of speech is repugnant for those of us who promote the principle of free speech.

    We don’t defend speech rights merely because it’s already legal. We instead defend speech rights because we think more speech promotes the well-being of humanity more than the suppression of speech. Particularly speech religionists might find offensive. The legality which protects speech is a mechanism to promote speech, in this case skepticon’s policy suppresses the very type of speech we promote – criticism of religion even to the point of it being offensive.

    In addition this is a national event which potentially reflects on all freethinkers, secularists, and skeptics. Where they distinguish their registration process by noting the suppression of “offensive” speech against another’s religious ideas.

    Suppression of offensive speech against religion is a predominate impression received by all skepticon’s registrants. The fact supposed speech advocates who register are OK with it reveals some combination of the following:

    1) how passively slavish even non-conservatives can be when it comes to the authoritarian tactics of our own tribe,
    2) illiterate to the history of defending speech, particularly the fight by freethinkers, skeptics, enlightenment thinkers, and secularists,
    3) aren’t really authentic supporters of speech rights.

    The fact skepticon can be perceived as somewhat representative of all freethinkers, justly or unjustly, has the potential of making us all appear like hypocrites when it comes to our supposed support for speech some might find offensive. So I think actual speech advocates have a moral obligation to voice our condemnation on this matter.

  32. 32
    Michael Heath

    Ed Brayton writes:

    You’re getting downright obsessed over this. We’ve argued it out already. I’ve made my case. You’ve made yours. For crying out loud, drop it now.

    I’ll drop it now; it’s your blog and you set the rules. But I want to point out you have not, contrary to your claim here, addressed my core objections. For example, you have not addressed the fact a national event has changed the meaning of harassment by including “offensive verbal speech” and prohibited such speech in its venue regarding another’s religion. You have not addressed a national freethinking event requiring all its registrants submit to a policy which prohibits offensive speech against another’s religion. I find that troubling, both that they’d do it and you won’t engage on skepticon’s policy and registration requirements.

    I disagree I’m “downright obsessed over this”. Instead I find us constantly and consistently ridiculing such behavior by out-groups over the yearsm and yet on this matter this forum predominately avoids such bad behavior when it comes to this in-group. So my motivation is to get you to confront this head-on in the same way you did on the subject of this blog post, i.e., apply your argument consistently. Why you refuse to is not something I’ll speculate about, I’d instead respectfully request you directly engage on the topic.

  33. 33
    slc1

    Re laurentweppe

    As usual, Israel basher Mr. Weppe is incorrect in his assumption that Ahmadinejad is the voice of the Government of Iran. The real power in Iran is the Ayatollah Khamenei who is the one calling the shots and his rhetoric differs not at all from Ahmadinejad’s.

    As for his psychological evaluation of Bibi, he misses out on the real problem. Bibi is a congenital liar. As Ariel Sharon once told him to his face, you were born a liar. Former France President Sarkozy was on the money when he said, I can’t stand him, he’s such a liar.

  34. 34
    steve oberski

    @dingojack

    I have no disagreement with what you say.

    My point with respect to white biggoted speech was the apparent obsession with the white aspect, harkening back to a Kiplingesque White Man’s Burden.

    I found it deliciously ironic that legislation prohibiting certain types of speech in a (futile in my opinion) attempt to stop bigotry appeared to apply only to white people, as if the coulor of one’s skin determinied one’s ability to hold a bigoted viewpoint.

  35. 35
    dingojack

    *Meh* your obsession, my example.
    Dingo
    —–
    PS: I think you are reading a little too much into what was actually said and drawing loooong inferences.

    Oh BTW – speaking of invasions and genocides, remember Bosnia? (Or America or Australia, for that matter).

  36. 36
    dingojack

    DOH! HTML fail.
    your obsession; my example.

    (Silly) Dingo

  37. 37
    raven

    COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh (Reuters) – Hundreds of Muslims in Bangladesh burned at least four Buddhist temples and 15 homes of Buddhists on Sunday after complaining that a Buddhist man had insulted Islam, police and residents said.

    In the last few years, Moslems have violently mixed it up with xians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, and Pagans. As well as each other quite often.

    Maybe the Arab league hypocrite should stop worrying about blasphemy and worry more about endless cycles of violence and murder involving Moslems and everyone else and Moslems and each other.

  38. 38
    dingojack

    And in Western Burma, the minority Muslim population live in overcrowded tent cities. They were forced there by the local authorities for fear of further sectarian violence between the Buddhist majority and the Muslim population. Homes and shops formerly owned by Muslims are nothing more than burnt out shells.

    Money isn’t the root of of all evil…

    Dingo

  39. 39
    Dr X

    @Michael Heath:

    The fact supposed speech advocates who register are OK with it reveals some combination of the following: [...]

    3) aren’t really authentic supporters of speech rights.

    Respectfully, Michael, it looks to me like you’re predefining speech rights according to your preferred model of rights. From there, it’s a tautology to say that those who disagree with your take aren’t “authentic” supporters of speech rights.

    Our notions of rights are human constructs–there is nothing inherently real about them, and so constructions differ. Among thoughtful people, this is a banal observation, but for some reason it requires repeated restatement when people argue about rights. When you use the word authentic, you’ve jumped from the realm of human construction, to making a concrete reality claim that hasn’t an iota of support. You’re simply saying that the view of rights you find compelling is the authentic [real and true] one, and, therefore, those who disagree with you have an inauthentic—not real and not true–position.

    This is why I believe these discussions go nowhere with people who disagree with your take. You can, at best, try to persuade others that you have a more compelling view, but deeming the view of others “inauthentic” isn’t an argument; it’s a baseless assertion that denigrates other thoughtful people.

    You’ve explained your very thoughtful view of rights (one shared by many others) before, so I get it, but I’d note that the root of the disagreement is that others simply don’t share the understanding of rights to which you subscribe. Personally, I find compelling elements in both your view and in the libertarian view of rights. These views are at odds, but claims of authenticity for one or the other are fallacious (reifications).

    In terms of whether your position is compelling in a practical sense—that is, your view offers a more reliable road to truth—is not an established fact; it’s a hypothesis and I have no idea how we could actually test it. Personally, I’m skeptical, but my suspicion is that whether free speech of the form you advocate is superior in a private context, depends entirely upon the particular context.

    For example, as someone who very selectively attends academic conferences, I don’t see how we could usefully exchange ideas at the highest levels without rules of decorum, limitations on range of content and high expectations of competence among attendees. The lack of such restriction is what I find inherently insipid about most comment sections in blogs.

    Frameworks of conduct and action that can cause people to chafe can actually force greater depth and creativity and, without these frameworks, things can become hopelessly muddled by noise. I have no faith that the truth outs in such a circumstance. It’s a reassuring aphorism, but I don’t accept it at face value. My experience is that the lack of noise-restricting framework will instead drive off the most insightful and creative people.

  40. 40
    Gretchen

    Michael Heath said:

    I disagree I’m “downright obsessed over this”

    I’ve read those other threads as well as this one, and…trust me, you are. You’ve also been a jerk about it, to both Katie and Ed. Please stop.

  41. 41
    Michael Heath

    I hope Ed will forgive me for responding here.

    me earlier:

    3) aren’t really authentic supporters of speech rights.

    Dr. X:

    Respectfully, Michael, it looks to me like you’re predefining speech rights according to your preferred model of rights. From there, it’s a tautology to say that those who disagree with your take aren’t “authentic” supporters of speech rights.

    Two responses:
    1) I offered up two other alternatives, one which seems more fitting here given the reported age of the organizers. That was #2:

    illiterate to the history of defending speech, particularly the fight by freethinkers, skeptics, enlightenment thinkers, and secularists, [Therefore not sufficiently appreciate of the value of speech, even offensive speech.]

    2) I’m using the very standard we’re all celebrating today and which Ed continuously uses in his blog posts, not one of my own special making. That being the celebration of being critical to point of being offensive to religious ideas, it’s sadly ironic that I have to defend this perspective on Blasphemy Day. We seem fine with such offensive speech when we use it against out-groups, to date we’re avoiding defending this standard when we observe such prohibitions coming from an in-group.

    In regards to the rest of your post:
    As I’ve repeatedly noted, the distinguishing aspects regarding my view of rights is irrelevant to this discussion. I come to the exact same conclusions using Ed’s construct for example or the general argument made by all speech advocates. That’s the promotion that free speech is laudable, that when we come across ideas we disagree with we shouldn’t seek to deny others the ability to express their views but instead respond with more speech, even if such speech is considered offensive by others. That this is good policy which why we support it, even when our laws aren’t the governing protections or limitations.

    Finally, I support policies to minimize harassment and disruptions. This policy goes well beyond that as I’ve noted ad nauseam. So I find the rest of your post irrelevant to my objections.

    Dr. X, why haven’t you weighed-in on this policy? Why instead the quibbling on my style and chewing on the margins of the issue?

    Gretchen writes:

    I’ve read those other threads as well as this one, and…trust me, you are. You’ve also been a jerk about it, to both Katie and Ed. Please stop.

    If you want to take on my objections directly than I’d be happy after the fact to reconsider. I’m persuaded by compelling arguments, not avoidance tactics prior to even weighing on the issues I raise. I tried to frame this reply diplomatically, but I can’t do any better than that right now, all because of the fact I’m the only one actually directly engaging on the policy. Of course we all have the excuse it’s off-topic, which is precisely why I’m asking Ed to blog about it.

    I think my request Ed do a blog post where he weighs-in on the specific merits of this policy and the necessity to require all registrants submit to a speech suppression policy is one that would benefit all of us. Especially because we so often ridicule out-groups for suppressing speech while here he have an in-group employing the same. I’m also keen to consider regular commenters opine on the policy where to date I observe avoidance. Especially DaveL, Abby Normal, and others I miss here.

  42. 42
    slc1

    Re Michael Heath @ #42

    As I stated, this entire subject of suppression of speech at private skeptical events all started with the infamous elevatorgate incident which I believe occurred at an Amazing meeting a couple of years ago. IMHO, this ukase at the Skepticon event is an overreaction on the organizer’s part due to the very intense fallout from that incident. I don’t know if Heath follows the blogs of PZ Myers and Ophelia Benson, who, among others, has been making a mountain out of what I consider a medium sized hill over the incident. In particular, the head of the James Randi foundation, D. J. Grothe, has been subjected to a tidal wave of attacks by them and others for the charge of not taking the problem of sexual harassment seriously enough, ITHO. This has included serious attacks on him based on his sexual orientation (although to be fair, not by Benson or Myers).

    It would not surprise me if what I consider an overreaction is an attempt on the part of the organizers to avoid the sort of calumny and character assassination which Grothe has subjected to.

  43. 43
    slc1

    Re 43

    Actually, the elevatorgate incident may have occurred at another skeptical conference, not at an Amazing Meeting.

  44. 44
    reynoldhall

    laurentweppe says at post #9:

    This isn’t about “proof” of his pig-f***g, it’s about Blasphemy against a savage religious belief whose adherents are trying to enforce their religious views on, and to prevent the free speech of those who don’t even subscribe to their religion.

    If they go nuts over lousy cartoons and people speaking ill of their religious leaders, the only way to cure that is to keep on doing it until they grow some thicker skin.

  45. 45
    John Pieret

    @ Michael Heath

    … some countries have civil courts where plaintiffs can seek damages for harm done to them, including both slander and libel. That aspect needs to considered if we’re going to be near-absolutists when it comes to the legality of offensive speech.

    An action for slander and libel dies with the person. You can’t defame a dead person because his/her “reputation” ceases to exist when do. “Mohammed” is not a person anymore. There is no legal or rational sense in which someone who has been dead 600+ years can be defamed.

    In fact the irresponsible actions of a few so often provides authoritarians or others the opportunity to restrict all our rights

    In other words, we should voluntarily restrict our own rights lest someone take them away from us? What rights, then?

    I’ve instead pointed out skepticon’s suppression of speech is repugnant for those of us who promote the principle of free speech.

    The freedom we crave is from government restrictions on our speech. If I join an organization, I accept the restrictions they may put on my actions. My choice is to not join … a choice I can’t really exercise when it comes to government.

    The legality which protects speech is a mechanism to promote speech, in this case skepticon’s policy suppresses the very type of speech we promote – criticism of religion even to the point of it being offensive.

    Bullcrap! Is anyone, much less the government, suppressing your right to criticize Skepticon? What you are arguing is that you should have the right to go into a mosque and loudly criticize Mohammed and the people who run the mosque have no right to tell you to go away. That’s not freedom of speech, it is a violation of other peoples’ right to have their own freedom to meet.

    I’m using the very standard we’re all celebrating today and which Ed continuously uses in his blog posts, not one of my own special making.

    Bullcrap again! No one is arguing that we have the right to intrude on mosques or churches to “exercise” our right to freedom of speech. We have the right to speech in public … we have no right to invade Muslim or Christian churches or homes, for that matter, to make our speeches. Nor does anyone have the right to invade Skepticon’s meetings to say whatever they want.

  46. 46
    laurentweppe

    Does this legislation apply only to white bigots ?

    Of course not: anyone expressing the same kind of bigotry, they can end up having a very bad day in court.
    But let’s not play dumb: since the majority of french people are white, they provide the biggest contingent of bigots and these have the greatest capacity to turn their bigotry into real harm; white bigots were who lawmakers had in mind when they passed these laws.

    *

    What parts of the middle east did they invade, when did this happen and how did I miss it ?

    Never heard of that country?
    Because, West-european white supremacists took advantage of being close and went there during the war and enthusiastically took part of the slaughters and systematic rapes: it was a greek flag which flown during the Srebrenica massacre.
    Also ever heard of the “pacification” of Algeria? One third of the country’s population slaughtered and it was justified in the name of the cultural superiority of “enlightened” white people bringing civilization to the poor muslim masses kept backward by their religion and its oh so violent and barbaric and so inferior to europeans founder… And white supremacists still claim to this day that it was a good deed: they’ve been trying to disguise their bloodlust that way for a very long time.

  47. 47
    dingojack

    Laurent – to be fair it’s not just white guys*. Consider the Malaya Emergency, The Congo, Mali, Rwanda, Uganda, Zimbawe, East Timor, The most recent Fijian Coup. All had, or in first and last cases at least the potenial to have, some nasty genocidal elements.
    (“I don’t know which are worse. You don’t see them fucking each other over for a percentage” – Ellen Ripley).
    :( Dingo
    —–
    * I not talking about a particular country here, but the world in general.

    PS: BASIL: Don’t mention the war! I did just now, but I think I got away with it!

    PPS: I also didn’t mention the Armenians – after all who’ll remember them? [/bitter]

  48. 48
    laurentweppe

    Laurent – to be fair it’s not just white guys*
    * I not talking about a particular country here, but the world in general.

    And I was not talking about the world in general, but about the reasons why laws in a particular country were voted.

  49. 49
    slc1

    Re John Pieret @ #46

    An action for slander and libel dies with the person.

    Although this is generally true, it is my information that it may not be the case in Louisiana, which operates under the Napoleonic Code.

  50. 50
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    I say we embrace this ban on spiritual harm:

    The non-Christians would be banned from discussing anything religious because it would jeopardize the immortal souls of Christians. The Christians would be banned from saying anything which contradicts anything another Christian has said, as it might jeopardize an immortal soul.

    Voila! No more religious persecution or oppression. That guy from the Arab League is one smart cookie. Almost certainly smarter than a bag of oats before adding the eggs and sugar.

  51. 51
    Michael Heath

    I’m trusting Ed will be merciful in allowing me to respond. I promise to not raise the skepticon issue again since Ed is asking me not to.

    Me earlier as quoted by John Pieret:

    . . . some countries have civil courts where plaintiffs can seek damages for harm done to them, including both slander and libel. That aspect needs to considered if we’re going to be near-absolutists when it comes to the legality of offensive speech.

    John Pieret responds:

    An action for slander and libel dies with the person. You can’t defame a dead person because his/her “reputation” ceases to exist when do. “Mohammed” is not a person anymore. There is no legal or rational sense in which someone who has been dead 600+ years can be defamed.

    I never claimed otherwise nor did I even insinuate such. However extant Christians and Muslims can be slandered and libeled and frequently are which was why I raised the point.

    Me earlier as quoted by John Pieret:

    In fact the irresponsible actions of a few so often provides authoritarians or others the opportunity to restrict all our rights

    John Pieret responds:

    In other words, we should voluntarily restrict our own rights lest someone take them away from us? What rights, then?

    No, the exact opposite. We should fight authoritarianism, defend the exercise of our rights ,and demand our government do the same when appropriate. We shouldn’t attempt to stop offensive speech but debate such with more speech.

    John Pieret writes:

    The freedom we crave is from government restrictions on our speech. If I join an organization, I accept the restrictions they may put on my actions. My choice is to not join … a choice I can’t really exercise when it comes to government.

    I’ve already addressed this several times. Your argument is a red herring to my argument since mine doesn’t rely at all on government intervention but instead is related to both the value of speech, especially speech about religion some might find offensive, and our reputation as freethinkers when a freethinking national event prohibits offensive speech regarding another’s religion.

    Me earlier in full context, I italicize the portion quoted by John Pieret:

    We don’t defend speech rights merely because it’s already legal. We instead defend speech rights because we think more speech promotes the well-being of humanity more than the suppression of speech. Particularly speech religionists might find offensive. The legality which protects speech is a mechanism to promote speech, in this case skepticon’s policy suppresses the very type of speech we promote – criticism of religion even to the point of it being offensive.

    John Pieret writes:

    Bullcrap! Is anyone, much less the government, suppressing your right to criticize Skepticon?

    I think you need to read what I’ve written on this topic more carefully. I never claimed skepticon is suppressing my speech unless you’re attempting to quote-mine me in order to misrepresent what I’ve written on this topic. Instead their policy explicitly suppresses the speech of all its registrants.

    Me earlier as quoted by John Pieret:

    I’m using the very standard we’re all celebrating today and which Ed continuously uses in his blog posts, not one of my own special making.

    John Pierot responds:

    Bullcrap again! No one is arguing that we have the right to intrude on mosques or churches to “exercise” our right to freedom of speech. We have the right to speech in public … we have no right to invade Muslim or Christian churches or homes, for that matter, to make our speeches. Nor does anyone have the right to invade Skepticon’s meetings to say whatever they want.

    Dude, you’re demonstrating a serious reading comprehension problem. Given the rage in your leading sentences I gotta wonder what’s motivating you. Defense of the tribe regardless of their behavior?

    And to directly respond, from the very first response in the first thread on this topic, the second thread (both are linked to @ 12), and this thread, I’ve explicitly and repeatedly stated skepticon’s organizers have the right to suppress speech. I’ve never argued they can’t, of course they do; I’ve instead argued they shouldn’t. I’ve had to repeat that point because people in this venue on this matter, with few exceptions, have demonstrated no willingness to debate the actual merits of my argument but instead go off on red herrings as you repeatedly do here.

  52. 52
    democommie

    What, no congratulatory note from Mr. Dongo for Ed’s “attack” on teh mooslims?

    Outlawing speech is something that the U.S. has chosen, in the main, not to do. What we do is for US to decide; what the rest of the world do is for THEM to decide. As for the U.N. forcing us, the russians, french, british or any other country that isn’t big enough to tell them to go fuck themselves (think Kyoto)…

  53. 53
    democommie

    “Voila! No more religious persecution or oppression. That guy from the Arab League is one smart cookie.”

    I was going to ask why you hate cookies but then I read your next sentence.

    “Almost certainly smarter than a bag of oats before adding the eggs and sugar.”

    Lacking shortening, flavorings, a soupcon of some leavening ingredient and some chocolate chips, craisins, raisins or chopped dates those would be some pretty shitty cookies and I would hate them too, also.

  1. 54
    Happy International Blasphemy Rights Day « Foster Disbelief

    [...] even the fools in the Arab League.  From Dispatches from the Culture Wars: (Bolding, as always, is mine.) I’ve heard people in the past wonder about the wisdom of [...]

  2. 55
    Blasphemy, a Day late and a Dalai short. « Raising Hellions

    [...] to Dispatches from the Culture Wars for good reading on this [...]

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