Tuesday, September 04, 2007


Have you ever caught yourself having a thought that contrasted drastically with what you think you should think or with what you have thought about the same thought before? I realize that due to my horrible sentence structure, you might need an example:

I have always been a big believer in Canadian human rights. I think gay-bashers and anti-Semites and racist white supremacist groups, well, suck. I've thought that they pretty much have no right to breathe let alone spread their crap to other people and today, without any warning, I think I changed my mind.

I mean, they still suck. But I was listening to the CBC (that thing will make you think I tell you) and they had a lawyer on who makes his living defending the rights of these sucky people to say what they think in a public way. The counter argument to why they should not be allowed to do that is that we (as in the Canadian federation of peoples) must stop them before their rhetoric evolves/mutates into violence. Hmmm. That was sort of weak. And the whole thing started me thinking about the freedom of speech.

Even if the speech is appalling, it remains speech...or HTML depending on the specifics of the case. And speech shouldn't be silenced just because it's socially subversive. Now, it's not that I think any of these people are going to change the course of history or actually have anything convincing to say, but just imagine all the people who would have been muzzled over the last 100 years. Martin Luther King, Kevorkian, Malcolm X, Atheist groups, right to die advocates...Dave Rutherford. (One can only hope.) Who gets to determine what is hateful and what is not? What is socially acceptable and what needs to be hidden from the arena of social discourse.

The idea that advocating these beliefs is illegal because of human rights laws made me a little uncomfortable. (As uncomfortable as the recent proposal to ban smoking on film...Jesus, next thing you know, we'll be wearing knee highs and sharing a Thanksgiving turkey with the Indians.) At the same time, the ideas of these crazy people also make me uncomfortable...the question is, which one is most concerning? Do we truly have a democratic country if the social outliers do not have the liberty to say what they think?

In the end, I would rather hear a thousand stupid ideas voiced than witness a single valuable one silenced.


Craig Knox said...

I really feel quite comfortable with a government limiting the most basic rights of people who are seeking to limit the most basic rights of other people. Other than that I dont think the government should have a hand in silencing anyone. I say "most basic" for a reason too. I don't mind people advocating the removal of certain rights, like buying stupid useless plastic goods like omelet makers and salad shooters.

KneuroKnut said...

I can see your point, but don't you think that anytime you give a right to someone else you take away another's in a sense? By freeing slaves you took away the right (now I don't think it was a right but they sure as heck did) of someone to own a slave? Who gets to decide which rights are more important? Can you just leave it to society do you think or does that put us at risk of being too swayed by the constraints and attitudes of the time?

and then the_doctor said...

Isn't the line that the government has drawn in the sand such that you can Say what you want but you cant Incite. There's a pretty line between "I hate faggots" and "we should beat up fags at this bar tonight."
One is opinion which is Always harmless, the other is ontological which is usually Scary. As a citizen who is at the mercy of his governments definitions, I'm comfortable with it.

ps. sorry for the frequent Caps, it makes it look like an allegory I know.