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> Ban Ki-Moon suggests speech meant to "provoke" should not be protected, Chilling effects and cooling relations
Research Monkey
post Sep 24 2012, 01:50 PM
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(this is an outline of a blog post I've been writing, I'll probably post a flushed out and polished version later)

Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary General of the United Nations, has suggest that the freedom of speech should not be content neutral.

QUOTE
Freedoms of expression should be and must be guaranteed and protected, when they are used for common justice, common purpose. When some people use this freedom of expression to provoke or humiliate some others' values and beliefs, then this cannot be protected in such a way. My position is that freedom of expression, while it is a fundamental right and privilege, should not be abused by such people, by such a disgraceful and shameful act.


Mr. Ban supports a proposed push by the 57 largely Islamic nations to create anti-blasphemy laws, and with it seek to shave away the core of modern democracy. His stance here surely would be more appropriate in the context of his first diplomatic appointment under the autocrat Park Chung-hee than the head of the cornerstone of cooperative international democracy.

Now, what I need to ask is, what sense does it make to suggest that we have any reason to change the model upon which the free world was built? The reality is that the only way to fight speech is with more speech. Competition drives the markets for ideas just like it drives the market for goods and services, and to us denizens of the free Western world, the concept of content-based censorship should be downright repulsive. From Sullivan to Skokie , our courts have affirmed that free speech is the most important engine of our democracy. Why, then, would it make any sense to sacrifice these values to appease an overgrown group of aggressively backwards cultists? There can be no misunderstanding here: the path of liberal democracy is clear. Mr. Ban's position is no more ideological than it is pragmatic; which is to say it is essentially as vapid and uninspired as the rest of his leadership of the UN over the last five and a half years.

Our interaction with the dark underbelly of the Islamic world since the 11th of September 2001 is best framed as a crisis of our own identity, and it is one that we have unequivocally been losing. In the face of religious extremists attacking the most salient landmarks of globalization, freedom, and markets, we've not only lost these symbols, but also the underlying values driving our country. Our nonchalant embrace of torture, our use of Guantanamo Bay, the use of extraordinary rendition, the passage of USA PATRIOT Act all show us that the terrorists have scored major victories even when no money or lives are spent half a world away. They have pushed us to slowly abandon the principles that this country was founded upon, and which moreover have made every major modern power great. What this really means is that the terrorists are winning. The more we sacrifice, like this piece of our freedom of expression, the

Since September 11th, perhaps no story of terrorism has captured the global public's attention than the terrorist attacks in Norway committed by Anders Breivik. Stunning much of the non-Nordic world, an Oslo court sentenced him to just 21 years in prison (though that could be extended if the state could prove he is still a danger to society), whereas many suggested he deserved life in prison, death, or worse. The relatively posh accommodation he will experience also shocked many outsiders, give what prison conditions look like in much of the rest of the world. Yet what Norway proved was that they did not succumb to the terrorists. They did not believe that they their system was broken. They did not believe that this horrifyingly brutal attack by an undeniably grotesque man meant that they should change the rules. Norway's belief in itself overcame terrorism the day of Breivik's sentencing.

So while I'm reluctant to be so vehemently in favor of sticking to our guns as to sound jingoistic, I think it's clear that as the non-Muslim developing world becomes increasingly less religious, more irreligious, and more prosperous, their support is increasingly on the side of freedom. The surprising holdouts here are the Islamic nations that seem either slaves to a militantly religious faction of their population, or really just completely disinterested in the the Western model. Even the "progressive," "semi-secular" leaders of Turkey and Pakistan are adamant that these sorts of anti-blasphemy laws should be passed. But in reality, this should just underscore which nations have the desire to develop and prosper, and which nations do not. To those that do not, I see no reason why a cooling in relations is not a price worth paying to avert a chilling effect on our freedoms of expression.

This post has been edited by Research Monkey: Sep 24 2012, 02:46 PM


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“The attempt to develop a sense of humor and to see things in a humorous light is some kind of a trick learned while mastering the art of living.” --Viktor E. Frankl
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