Don’t protest the thing you are protesting

There was an extraordinary discussion on the Rally for Free Expression Facebook page a couple of days ago. The rally, of course, is a project of One Law for All and Maryam. The discussion started when a KCL student asked, “Whose idea was it to use a Jesus and Mo picture to advertise this rally?” and when told it was One Law for All’s, said, “Bad move. Very bad move.”

Uh. Seriously? But that was the whole point – to say that Jesus and Mo is not the kind of thing that should be banned or bullied into silence or concealment.

Maryam replied, sardonically,

I decided to use it. I couldn’t find a photo of us kneeling down in submission and agreeing not to offend but that also showed a demand for free expression. I guess that’s because it doesn’t exist… Jesus and Mo is the point.

Along with a post on the subject.

But another student who thought it was a bad move entered the fray –

It was an idiotic, attention seeking, and potentially dangerous decision. The point of this rally is free speech. The point of this rally is not to inflame. The original publishing of the cartoons was satirical, funny and definitely not an attempt to offend, whereas this is either an attempt to offend or sheer idiocy. If the leaflets get onto campuses then it certainly won’t help Athiest societies’ causes, with the union and with fellow students. There’s no issue with saying, at the rally, “ooh look, this isn’t offensive at all, but some people got offended and tried to stop this being published” and showing the pictures, but distributing the pictures on leaflets in this fashion is, as [student #1] said, a very bad move.

So the rally shouldn’t advertise the rally with the picture that is the very issue the rally is about. So if there’s a violent racist incident and people call a rally to protest racist violence, the rally shouldn’t be advertised with photographs of the violent racist incident? War protests shouldn’t mention The War? Occupy Wall Street shouldn’t mention Wall Street?

It’s mind-boggling.

From Maryam’s post:

Some atheists are not happy with One Law for All’s use of the Jesus and Mo cartoon on leaflets to promote the 11 February Day in defence of free expression. They feel that since the Jesus and Mo cartoons have been deemed offensive, it is best not to use them.

But that’s the whole point isn’t it?

We’re rallying in order to say that the right to offend is part of free expression. No one needs to rally for inoffensive speech, do they?

And if I hear one more hypothetical on why we shouldn’t offend if we can avoid it, I might just scream. The latest one: ‘If a Muslim comes to your house you will not plaster the Jesus and Mo cartoon all over to offend them on purpose now will you?’

No, but I won’t hide them, either!
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