You don’t believe unless

A philosophical aphorism seen on Twitter…

You don’t believe in freedom of speech unless you believe in freedom for speech that you consider ugly, offensive, deplorable, dangerous…


The first three adjectives are standard fare, and reasonable, and so on. But the last one? That’s a whole different category, and it’s far from obviously true. Depending on how “dangerous” we’re talking about, it’s not true at all. [Read more…]

Doin it rong

A guy from Greater Manchester, Barry Thew, wore a horrible T shirt right after two police constables, Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes, were killed. The T shirt said “one less pig perfect justice.” Nasty.

He was sentenced to four months in jail today. He “admitted a public order offence.”

A police spokesman said Thew, of Worsley Street, Radcliffe, had been arrested after being seen wearing the T-shirt in Radcliffe town centre “just hours” after the constables died in a gun and grenade attack in Mottram on 18 September.

Mr Williams said: “While officers on the ground were just learning of and trying to come to terms with the devastating news that two colleagues had been killed, Thew thought nothing of going out in public with a shirt daubed with appalling handwritten comments on.”

That’s very very unkind and unfeeling and rude. Barry Thew shouldn’t be like that. But – being unkind isn’t a crime. All his friends should give him a good talking-to, but he shouldn’t be convicted of a crime or sent to jail.

It’s a T shirt. With a handwritten slogan on it.


He will be sentenced later

No no no; doing it wrong. A Yorkshire teenager has been found guilty of “posting an offensive Facebook message.” Posting an offensive Facebook message is a crime?

Azhar Ahmed, 19, of Ravensthorpe, West Yorkshire, was charged with sending a grossly offensive communication.

Waaaaait a second – posting a message on Facebook isn’t “sending” it. It’s more like publishing it. And does adding “grossly” to “offensive” make it a crime?

Apparently it was considered so because it was posted two days after six British soldiers were killed in Afghanistan.

The offensive message, which said “all soldiers should die and go to hell”, was posted by Ahmed just two days later on 8 March.


Facebook has a reporting system. Perhaps the message could have been taken down. Perhaps it should have been – I don’t know enough to have an opinion. But prosecution and conviction? For posting a message on Facebook?

District Judge Jane Goodwin said Ahmed’s Facebook remarks were “derogatory, disrespectful and inflammatory”.

He will be sentenced later.

Oy. Doing it wrong.


“Satan’s representative” on the Michigan Student Assembly

More detail on the Andrew Shirvell case, because CNN has more.

Shirvell was fired from his job in the attorney general’s office in 2010 after targeting the student leader online and in person — then lying about his actions to investigators, state Attorney General Mike Cox said at the time.

Shirvell “repeatedly violated office policies, engaged in borderline stalking behavior and inappropriately used state resources,” Cox said, referring to Shirvell’s activities during his work day. [Read more…]

Insulting Islamic values in Twitter messages

Another entry in the annals of Persecuting and Prosecuting People For Having an Opinion That Reactonaries Dislike.

A court here on Friday charged Fazil Say, a classical and jazz pianist with an international career, with insulting Islamic values in Twitter messages, the latest in a series of legal actions against Turkish artists, writers and intellectuals for statements they have made about religion and Turkish national identity.

Mr. Say, 42, who is also a composer, is accused of “publicly insulting religious values that are adopted by a part of the nation,” the semiofficial Anatolian news agency said. A trial is scheduled to begin on Oct. 18, with Mr. Say facing up to 18 months in prison if convicted. [Read more…]

Measuring the distance

Another free speech issue, a tricky one.

France has barred a group of Muslim clerics, including one of the most prominent voices in Sunni Islam, from entering the country to attend a conference.

France’s foreign ministry said Thursday the clerics were invited by the French Islamic Union to speak at a congress in Le Bourget near Paris from April 6-9.

One of those barred, the Egyptian-born Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, says he refuses to come to France.

The ban also includes other high-profile Muslim clerics of Palestinian, Egyptian and Saudi origin.

The foreign ministry said in a statement that “these people call for hatred and violence and seriously violate the principles of the Republic, and in the current context, seriously risk disrupting public order.”

That’s the state banning a particular kind of speech, all right. Free speech liberals think the bar should be very very high for that. Is the bar high enough here?

I don’t know. I suppose I think it’s not high enough as a matter of principle, but as a matter of reality, it may be. I don’t know how to think about it any more coherently than that. As a matter of principle, it seems as if people should be able to hold congresses and invite clerics to speak at them. As a matter of reality, misogynist anti-Semitic xenophobic homophobic clerics can be very dangerous. This insoluble conflict tends to make me despair.


A bargain

It can seem strange how entirely alien the whole idea of free discussion can seem to people who (I suppose) have never had any experience of it.

A Bangladesh court on Wednesday ordered authorities to shut down five Facebook pages and a website for blaspheming the Prophet Mohammed, the Koran and other religious subjects, a lawyer said.

Judges at the high court in Dhaka ordered the telecommunications regulator, home ministry officials and police to block the offending pages immediately.

“These pages contain disparaging remarks and cartoons about Prophet Mohammed, the Muslim holy book of Koran, Jesus, Lord Buddha and Hindu gods,” Nawshad Zamir, a lawyer of the petitioner who brought the case, told AFP.

“They mostly targeted the prophet and the Koran. These pages hurt the sentiments of the country’s majority Muslim population and the followers of other religions.”

One, no they don’t, not necessarily. It’s not as if “these pages” by existing force themselves on the notice of all people everywhere. Two…well it’s Minchin’s fucking obvious again, but ok: if that’s your standard then nobody can say anything about anything, including you. The prophet and the Koran “hurt” my “sentiments,” but I don’t get to block them. I get to make disparaging remarks about them, instead.