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Britain cracks down on freedom of speech

A Commentary

Timothy Kincaid

January 27th, 2011

Two men in the UK are being prosecuted for distributing leaflets that violate the law forbidding the incitement hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation. (Independent)

The men charged were named last night as Razwan Javed, 30, and Kabir Ahmed, 27. They are accused of handing out a leaflet entitled “The Death Penalty?” in Derby.

The leaflets, which were also pushed through letterboxes, are understood to have called for homosexuals to be executed.

What does this accomplish? Who wins when speech is stifled? Certainly not our community, who now appear to be intolerant of religious view. Certainly not Muslims, who now are cast as murderous. Certainly not people of good will, who now have to take sides and play the which-minority-do-we-support game.

I think it far wiser to allow haters to say outrageous things and then use that as an opportunity for dialogue and interaction. Give Muslim clerics in the UK the opportunity to side with the gay community through public discourse, rather than force them to take a ‘religious freedom’ position that calls for the death penalty.

I know that other cultures have other values, but I am glad that the US values freedom of speech over freedom not to be insulted.

Comments

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Eric Martin
January 27th, 2011 | LINK

Interesting comment. In the US very recently a certain unintelligent politician used her “freedom of speech” to incite violence against other politicians, possibly leading to the assassination attempt of one of them. Is this okay with you? In Canada we think it’s pretty nuts.

Do you think incitement of violence towards gay people is okay? I know you done from your other intelligent, well-written and researched posts. At some point, freedom of speech becomes threats of violence. Have we seen what exactly is on these pamphlets yet? I don’t see the research to come to the conclusions you’ve made that these were mere insults.

Emily K
January 27th, 2011 | LINK

Eric, Timothy used that incident to solidify his right wing “values” and disdain for “the Left.” I’m sure in his brain all speech is equal, even if it is at times vile, inciteful, and dangerous.

Oh, and OMFG, if it can happen in Britain, it can happen anywhere. Look out, everyone, 1984 is just around the corner. ¬_¬

Bruno
January 27th, 2011 | LINK

Freedom of speech is technically the protection of a U.S. citizen from persecution by the government. We don’t, nor have we ever, had the right to say shit-all we please here in the United States (fire in a crowded theater, personal violent threats, etc.). That is a pipe dream.

In this case, I feel that if the speech is a call to violence, it most certainly should be prosecuted, but it depends on how it’s said and what it specifically calls for. Upshot: people should be protected from violence, and sometimes that includes speech.

TampaZeke
January 27th, 2011 | LINK

So then why are you posting commentaries decrying the Rolling Stone paper in Uganda that did pretty much the same thing as these guys did.

So when is calling for the execution of gays OK on the basis of free speech and when is it not?

I personally don’t think calling for a person, or a group of peoples’ execution is EVER free speech that should be protected.

Priya Lynn
January 27th, 2011 | LINK

No country, including the States has absolute freedom of speech. Depriving someone of the right to call for execution of gays doesn’t deprive them of anything of any significance. No one can honestly claim calling for the death of gays in any way improves their quality of life.

Patrick Garies
January 27th, 2011 | LINK

@”Certainly not /our community/, who now appear to be intolerant of religious view.” (emphasis added)

I think it’s unreasonable to specifically ask gay people to be tolerant of someone making them a target for execution. That’s seriously just messed up.

Instead, you want me to “[g]ive Muslim clerics in the UK the opportunity to [decide that I should not be executed] through public discourse.” I should have to persuade them that I should not die? Really?

Brian
January 27th, 2011 | LINK

Free speech to incite violence and call for the execution of a group of people is ok with you? Telling a minority group to go and beg some religious group to allow them to live is ok with you? Sometimes I am so ashamed of this country. Britain and Canada actually learn from history while the US tries so hard to repeat it over and over and over.

T.J.
January 27th, 2011 | LINK

An argument can be made that freedom of speech was meant in the context of the freedom to speak against government and public officials without the threat of criminal and libel suits being brought against them by those very government officials (except in cases where there was clearly slander, etc.). The first amendment was limiting the power of the Congress to prevent them from making it illegal to speak out against the acts of public officials as was common law in England. For another example from the first amendment, the U.S. government has the right to protect its sovereignty against acts of sedition and thus limits the right of assembly if the purpose of that assembly is to plot against the government. The press could be regulated if they were reporting on things that were clearly false. These amendments had a context. They were to protect the citizery from the government taking away their right to information that could legitimately be used in the exercise of the public good such as deciding for whom to vote. If a press was publishing things that were deliberately false, the government has the right to regulate that press in order to protect the citizenry from false information (which they viewed as diminishing the citizenry’s freedom to make an informed decision). You do not have the right to threaten any person or group of persons or incite violence against any group or person. If the pamphlet was simply arguing for why there should be a law punishing homosexuality with death, then that’s a legal argument and is protected. However, if the article is accurately reporting the content of the pamphlet as calling for people to kill homosexuals, that is not protected by free speech.

Other Fred in the UK
January 27th, 2011 | LINK

Mr Kinkaid,

With the greatest respect calling for my execution is not an insult or ridicule at me, it is incitement to violence against me. I admit I have concerns regarding the new crime of inciting hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation and would prefer it if the accused were charged with the longstanding crime of incitement to violence. However to suggest that their prosecution endangers freedom of speech as it is recognised in Britain (or indeed in most parts of the world) is, in my opinion, quite wrong.

Gil
January 28th, 2011 | LINK

Man… your concept of freedom of speech is very Americanized. There is speech, speech that anyone can have and say… there is also hate speech, that must be regulated by the government. Speech that incites violence against any social group is considered Hate Speech and it’s simply wrong. The UK government is doing right by censoring that kind of speech… it’s getting its message across: “We do not tolerate haters and violent people”

Mihangel apYrs
January 28th, 2011 | LINK

Timothy
the freedom of speech in the US has potentially led to the deaths by suicide of many young Americans.

In the UK we don’t have untrammelled free speech, it has consequences. So you’re allowed to be as hateful as you like, but there ARE CONSEQUENCES.

The most significant curtailment on free speech is that it is illegal to say something that threatens someone else with death; the degree of freedom for most other things is extremely liberal. I appreciate that that right obtains in the USA and perhaps we ought to look to your country as a beacon of what free speech and the right to bear arms delivers. Unfortunately, in little old UK and western Europe we try to maintain civilised debate and discourse since we have found that words provide the structure for atrocity.

The day after Holocaust Memorial Day we reflect what happened last time free speech got out of hand.

Donny D.
January 28th, 2011 | LINK

T.J. wrote,
“If the pamphlet was simply arguing for why there should be a law punishing homosexuality with death, then that’s a legal argument and is protected. However, if the article is accurately reporting the content of the pamphlet as calling for people to kill homosexuals, that is not protected by free speech.”

I’m reluctant to get into this whole matter until I know whether the two convicted men were advocating a change in the legal system or were calling for the extrajudicial murder of gay people. In both Britain and the U.S., the latter is a crime.

Throbert McGee
January 28th, 2011 | LINK

Without knowing exactly what the leaflets said, I have to reserve judgment on whether the Brit gummint over-reacted or not.

Would it be hate speech for Christians to publish a leaflet referencing Leviticus 20:13 (“If a man lies with man, as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death.”)?

And would it make a difference if the leaflet consisted entirely of the Lev. 20:13 quotation in gigantic 72-pt type…

…or if it instead quoted the verse but then followed it with an extensive gloss discussing how Christ’s New Covenant had abrogated the literal death penalty and that the verse should be understood as saying that homosexuality leads to “spiritual death” or loss of eternal salvation, etc.?

Boo
January 28th, 2011 | LINK

Certainly not people of good will, who now have to take sides and play the which-minority-do-we-support game.

For any person of genuine good will, it would seem to be a no brainer. You support the side that isn’t trying to kill the other.

Ben Mathis
January 28th, 2011 | LINK

The idea that America has freedom of speech is laughable when the only real means of communication are owned by 5-10 wealthy white conservative men who rigidly set the agenda of what goes on air.

I have no problem whatsoever with Britain’s approach in this situation. There is no slippery slope. Freedom of speech in the US has not prevented any number of hate based happenings. Contrast it to Germany’s harsh laws on celebrating WW2 and related events, and they have been far more successful at eliminating neonazis than the US has been with the KKK, even considering the FBI getting directly involved to usurp the KKK’s freedom of speech.

It’s just hypocrisy all around. Until the youth suicides end, civil rights are equal at the federal level in all 50 states, and no more GLBT bashings occur, and gender reassignment is not only codified but subsidized, I am perfectly ok with throwing these nutbags in (a safe, ie non-US) prison or slapping them with a fine, and I won’t lose a wink of sleep crying over some imaginary slippery slope.

Matt
January 28th, 2011 | LINK

As Throbert pointed out above, published the words of Leviticus 20:13 are possibly illegal under this law. Perhaps many people are fine with that, or the specter of that situation occurring at some point in the future, but my guess is that Mr. Kincaid is not, and I, for one, am not, either.

“I think it far wiser to allow haters to say outrageous things and then use that as an opportunity for dialogue and interaction. ”
Or an opportunity to mock them Daily Show-style.

TampaZeke, there’s a difference between saying that criticizing someone for writing something and calling for the government to arrest that person for writing that something.

Matt
January 28th, 2011 | LINK

“Contrast it to Germany’s harsh laws on celebrating WW2 and related events, and they have been far more successful at eliminating neonazis than the US has been with the KKK, even considering the FBI getting directly involved to usurp the KKK’s freedom of speech.”

This is absolutely untrue. What was formerly East Germany, in particular, still has a real neo-Nazi problem, which has been reported by numerous outlets in Germany across the political spectrum.

http://www.spiegel.de/fotostrecke/fotostrecke-40785.html

Priya Lynn
January 28th, 2011 | LINK

Throbert said “Would it be hate speech for Christians to publish a leaflet referencing Leviticus 20:13 (“If a man lies with man, as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death.”)?”.

Yes.

Throbert said “And would it make a difference if the leaflet consisted entirely of the Lev. 20:13 quotation in gigantic 72-pt type…”.

No.

Throbert said “…or if it instead quoted the verse but then followed it with an extensive gloss discussing how Christ’s New Covenant had abrogated the literal death penalty and that the verse should be understood as saying that homosexuality leads to “spiritual death” or loss of eternal salvation, etc.?”.

No.

The bible contains hate speech. If publishers are unwilling to remove the passages calling for gays and unbelievers to be put to death it should be banned.

Timothy Kincaid
January 28th, 2011 | LINK

And Priya Lynn’s final comment proves my point.

Priya Lynn
January 28th, 2011 | LINK

Timothy said “And Priya Lynn’s final comment proves my point.”

And your point is that people calling for gays to be put to death aren’t the bad guys, the people who don’t want to tolerate that are. Your point is that people who call for genocide shouldn’t be cast as murderous. Your point is that gays should be tolerant of those advocating their murder. Your point is that people of good will aren’t smart enough to take the side of those who oppose murderous talk over those who promote murder. Nice point Timothy.

Some LGBTs are so used to the assumption of religious privilege they think advocating genocide is respectable if its religious in nature – that’s absurd. It saddens me that they are so brainwashed by religion they can’t see right from wrong and what isn’t an acceptable trade-off.

TampaZeke said “So then why are you posting commentaries decrying the Rolling Stone paper in Uganda that did pretty much the same thing as these guys did.”.

I’d sure be interested in hearing your response to that as well.

Ben Mathis
January 28th, 2011 | LINK

Matt, I’ll forgive you for not understanding the differences between Germany’s system of government and the US’s. Germany has a system where it makes sense to vote for small parties where they are given representation in government. If the US wasn’t locked into a 2 party system, a racist faction would receive far far more than the 2% the neonazi’s in germany receive, and that’s discounting the fact the Republican party is basically the KKK lite in terms of how well they have continued the subjugation of non-whites and immigrants.

Rachel H
January 28th, 2011 | LINK

What other Fred in the UK said. Since I’m in the UK as well.

Timothy (TRiG)
January 28th, 2011 | LINK

To quote Joe.My.God on this issue:

The new law matched similar legislation against inciting racial and religious hatred.

I for one am not in favour of governmental hypocrisy. The laws against inciting hatred on racial, religious, and sexuality grounds should all be judged together.

TRiG.

AJD
January 28th, 2011 | LINK

Sorry, Timothy, but I think you’re off base with this one.

You write, “I think it far wiser to allow haters to say outrageous things and then use that as an opportunity for dialogue and interaction.” The idea is that allowing open expression of all that ugliness creates room for a discussion that neutralizes the effects of hatred over time.

The problem is that a lot of people usually have to have their human rights stripped away — sometimes through popular vote by people suckered by the mendacious “free speech” of demagogues — and be victims of assault and murder incited by the purveyors of hate speech before progress actually materializes. The “dialogue” of which you speak often bears resemblance to the proverbial sheep having a dialogue with a pack of wolves over what to eat for dinner.

The U.K. has had laws against hate speech for a long time, and it doesn’t take the same blanket view of free speech that the U.S. does. In fact, the United States is virtually unique in its protection of hate speech. So perhaps it’s no surprise that we have such a rich tapestry of hate groups in this country, while progress on civil rights has been pathetically slow compared with other Western countries.

There’s a big difference between simply being gay and/or Muslim and calling for people’s murder. If a gay man stood in the middle of Piccadilly Circus and called for Muslims to be executed, he would suffer the same fate as Javed and Ahmed, and I wouldn’t lose any sleep over it. These two guys were arrested because they called for people to be executed for who they are — a criminal offense in the U.K. — not because they’re Muslim or even because they think homosexuality is immoral.

As for this notion that our community appearing as intolerant of religious views and Muslims being cast as murderers, well, those two men SHOULD be cast as murderers because they were calling for us to be murdered. And I don’t know about you, but I feel no obligation to be tolerant or respectful of the views of someone who tells me I should be killed for who I am just because those views come from some religious book.

A.
January 28th, 2011 | LINK

“I personally don’t think calling for a person, or a group of peoples’ execution is EVER free speech that should be protected.”

ditto.

Timothy Kincaid
January 28th, 2011 | LINK

The laws against inciting hatred on racial, religious, and sexuality grounds should all be judged together.

I quite agree.

Aconite
January 28th, 2011 | LINK

I am honestly and sincerely confused about why any Christian would feel a moral responsibility to defend the free speech rights of someone calling for the murder of other human beings. Is it not a Christian belief that murder in one’s heart is the same sin as murder committed in the physical world?

TampaZeke
January 28th, 2011 | LINK

So then Matt, in your infinite wisdom, please tell me why screaming “FIRE” in a crowded theater should result in a person’s arrest as opposed to a good talking to about how inappropriate such speech is?

Or maybe you don’t feel it should result in an arrest and should be addressed through dialogue and opposing opinions.

And Timothy, I’m sorry but NO, Priya Lynn’s last post does NOT prove your point any more than the crazy man shooting the Congressman proves that sane, responsible hunters shouldn’t be allowed to own a shotgun. Her opinion that speech should be restricted to a greater (and some might argue extreme0 degree does NOT prove that speech should not be restricted to a reasonable degree like making incitement to violence and murder illegal.

Priya Lynn
January 28th, 2011 | LINK

TampaZeke, there’s nothing extreme about saying people should not be allowed to call for the death of innocents.

Bruno
January 28th, 2011 | LINK

After all these years, I don’t think censoring or banning the bible would really be an effective application of the law. Essentially, that cat’s already out of the bag. But anyone specifically inciting violence against any particular person or groups in this modern day should be prosecuted.

Priya Lynn
January 28th, 2011 | LINK

Bruno, TampaZeke, if you believe people should be prosecuted for inciting violance against any particular person or group why should such incitement in the bible be excluded? Religion should have to follow the same laws as everyone else, no special rights for religionists.

Bruno
January 28th, 2011 | LINK

@Priya. I agree that religious people should have to follow the same laws, but prosecuting/censoring a thousands-year old book is basically a waste of time and energy (and probably money). The writers are all dead and there’s no way you could actually effectively censor the text in this day and age. You could, however, with my agreement, prosecute any specific clergy who call for the violence towards, or death of, LGBT people.

Priya Lynn
January 28th, 2011 | LINK

Bruno, the writers are dead, but the people currently publishing it are very much alive and responsible for what they publish. It could be censored in exactly the same way Javed and Ahmed were censored. Your objection regards implementation but if you agree that people should be punished for calling for gays to be put to death there’s no way you can say such a call suddenly becomes okay when you put it in a bible.

Timothy (TRiG)
January 28th, 2011 | LINK

We’re so used to religion getting a free ride in the marketplace of ideas that the most mild criticism can sound like shouting. Religious people have special rights in most countries. You can get away with almost any vile behaviour if you can convince authorities that it is religious in nature.

I agree with Other Fred in the UK, who said that “incitement to violence” would probably be a better charge in this particular instance. Should Leviticus be banned for that reason? I feel it shouldn’t be, but I’m not entirely sure why. The verses which call for the deaths of gay people, witches, etc., in an of themselves, without context, are vile and disgusting and quite possibly do count as incitement to violence, as hate speech, and as harassment.

Leviticus 20:13 is not “protected speech”. It’s a death threat. And that’s not protected anywhere.

With context, as in an article arguing against it, it may be protected.

In the context of the Bible as a whole …. I don’t know. I’m inclined to think that the Bible as a whole is such an incredibly muddled book that it doesn’t really have any discernible overall theme or message. Generally, the morality people take from it is simply a reflection of their own. In that context, Leviticus 20:13 is probably not dangerous.

TRiG.

L. Junius Brutus
January 28th, 2011 | LINK

Mihangel: “In the UK we don’t have untrammelled free speech, it has consequences.”

Let me rephrase that for you, to make it more accurate: you don’t have free speech, period.

“So you’re allowed to be as hateful as you like, but there ARE CONSEQUENCES.”

Just like in the Soviet Union, you were allowed to oppose the regime, but there WERE CONSEQUENCES.

“Unfortunately, in little old UK and western Europe we try to maintain civilised debate and discourse since we have found that words provide the structure for atrocity.”

Not just Western Europe. The Soviet Union and its communist allies were particularly keen to enforce “civilized debate” (meaning: things that the ruling classes approved of).

“The day after Holocaust Memorial Day we reflect what happened last time free speech got out of hand.”

Yeah, you internalized the lesson of a German communist, alright: “Ideas are more powerful than weapons. We don’t allow our opponents to have weapons so why should we let them have ideas?”

L. Junius Brutus
January 28th, 2011 | LINK

Priya: “Your objection regards implementation but if you agree that people should be punished for calling for gays to be put to death there’s no way you can say such a call suddenly becomes okay when you put it in a bible.”

It actually is, because the publishers aren’t endorsing that particular passage. If Aristotle writes (and he does) in one of his works that women should not own property, is it a “hate speech” crime to publish that, in your opinion?

Priya Lynn
January 28th, 2011 | LINK

Junius, if you believe any restriction on speech means “you don’t have free speech, period.” then you don’t have free speech in the States either.

L. Junius Brutus
January 28th, 2011 | LINK

“Unlimited free speech” is a strawman used by opponents of free speech to muddle and confuse the issue. “We don’t have unlimited free speech” is an excuse used by anyone who wants to criminalize anything, from China to Mihangel and Canada. Hey, if the US criminalizes shouting fire in a crowded theater, why can’t Canada criminalize publishing the Muhammad-cartoons?

Of course, the freedom to voice one’s opinions is intact in the US, and not in Canada or the UK.

L. Junius Brutus
January 28th, 2011 | LINK

And Priya, if you believe that you do have free speech, if there are “restrictions”, they you’ll have to say that Nazi Germany had free speech. After all, even the Nazis did not criminalize 95% of what people said or wanted to say.

An approving citizen of Nazi Germany might say: “In Germany, we don’t have untrammelled free speech, it has consequences. So you’re allowed to be as hateful as you like against the Fuehrer, but there ARE CONSEQUENCES.”

T.J.
January 28th, 2011 | LINK

Priya Lynn – the passage from Leviticus is a condemnation against male temple prostitution and not gay people in general. They didn’t know of our modern concept and to read it back into the text is anachronistic. The problem is not the text, but the people who misunderstand it and use it to incite violence. A passage from a text that is open to interpretation and, in accord with what Junius said, is also a historical document that gives insight into the thinking of historical peoples and time periods should not be banned. However, what should not be allowed is people using a religious text for the purpose of inciting violence.

Laws against hate speech are, in their essence, laws against inciting violence against other people. So, if a person stands up in a public square and states their personal belief as a matter of personal conviction that gays should be put to death for their lifestyle, that should be allowed, because he is not calling for people to actually act on it. Of course, if he said that he believed gays should be put to death and in some manner of speech, by tone, word, or inflection, was attempting to work some persuasion on the hearers to actually carry it out, then he crossed the line, not because of the WORDS, but because he was inciting violent actions against another person or group of persons WITH those words. Thus, it’s not speech that’s the problem, it’s what you do with it. And I believe that the Supeme Court has ruled favorably in the light of this very logic (as did the framers of the Constitution). So, yes, there are limitations on free speech and I believe what I and others on this page have laid out is the distinction that determines what is protected and what is not.

Throbert McGee
January 28th, 2011 | LINK

Priya Lynn – the passage from Leviticus is a condemnation against male temple prostitution and not gay people in general.

According to various writers in the Jewish Talmud, Leviticus 20:13 is very specifically a condemnation of male/male anal sex and not gay people in general.

(To be clear, the Talmud does disapprove gay and lesbian sex in general as “sinful”, based on the argument that Jews shouldn’t behave like those awful Gentile pagans — however, same-gender sex acts that stopped short of male/male anal sodomy were less egregious sins, and not regarded as “abominations worthy of death” per Lev. 20:13.)

Of course, I’m also aware of the “it was only about temple prostitution” reading, but that’s not the only way to de-harsh-ify the passage.

Throbert McGee
January 28th, 2011 | LINK

According to various writers in the Jewish Talmud, Leviticus 20:13 is very specifically a condemnation of male/male anal sex and not gay people in general.

In other words, the euphemistic phrasing “to lie with a man as with a woman” was taken to signify “using a man’s anus as a substitute vagina” — thus, according to this interpretation, while fellatio or mutual handjobs between men may be sins (and even serious sins), neither act runs afoul of Lev. 20:13, because they don’t “imitate” vaginal sex.

John
January 28th, 2011 | LINK

Of course, I’m also aware of the “it was only about temple prostitution” reading, but that’s not the only way to de-harsh-ify the passage.

Actually that’s an excellent point. There are more than one way to interpret the so-called “clobber passages”, of which Lev. 20:13 is one. Yet Priya seems to advocating for censorship regardless which frankly I find to be just as much of a threat to my civil liberties.

With regards to these pamphlets, I reserve judgment until I can see their content. I will say though that advocacy of the death penalty for gays wouldn’t be much of a surprise. Folks might this from the UK’s Channel 4 (broadcast in 2006) to be interesting: http://tinyurl.com/48arg87

T.J.
January 28th, 2011 | LINK

Throbert, thanks for the respone. The Talmud is just one interpretation and many Jews today understand the passage as I laid it out. I certainly will not argue with you that Jewish culture was against homosexual behavior (at least among males). Paul uses that point to set up the hypothetical objector in Romans 1 & 2. Yet, that specific passage is best understood (in the context of the whole chapter) as the specific activity involved in temple prostitution, in my opinion. Even the Romans passage that draws on the Jewish cultural ideas of the day is in the context of temple prostitution and orgies. However, their cultural ideas were based on a hyper-procreation view for the purpose of sex and, thus, a negative view of anal sex followed from that. This was also the justification for polygamy, which conservative Jews and Chrisians seem to want to gloss over. But it should be pointed out that no where in the scripture itself are those Jewish customs written down as binding. There are even good arguments that can be made for gay relationships in the Hebrew testament that were celebrated. Ultimately, as a progressive Christian, I believe Christ distilled the law down to “love your neighbor as yourself” and that if you do that, then you are right with God. It’s called the law of liberty in the epistle of James because that simple law makes things straightforward and liberates people from those aspects of the Mosaic convenant that people found burdensome that were only cultural and part of the Hebrew Testament religious system.

AdrianT
January 28th, 2011 | LINK

The problem is, that when debating with Islamofascists about their ludicrous faith, one has a gun to one’s head. (Look what happened to Salman Rushdie, Ayaan Hirsi Ali and the Danish Cartoonist, heroes, all of them.)

We have a real problem in the UK – faith schools spreading like japanese knotweed and poisoning children’s minds; wahabbi-funded hate preaching Imams, and hate literature in mosques and even libraries. There is a nasty subculture of hatred – exposed by Channel4’s Dispatches documentary. We really need to stop imams who are non-british nationals from entering the country.

A good minority of muslim youth think like this, and want to introduce Sharia-fascism as the law of the land.

(Sam Harris has some excellent things to say on this in his new book, Moral Landscape)

Throbert McGee
January 28th, 2011 | LINK

However, their cultural ideas were based on a hyper-procreation view for the purpose of sex and, thus, a negative view of anal sex followed from that.

Um, would you argue that dogs and cats don’t like to have their temperature taken at the vet because they’ve internalized hyper-procreative views from the dog and cat cultural milieu?

I think a far simpler explanation for why dogs and cats don’t like getting thermometers shoved up their butts, and for why so many different human cultures have “negative views” towards anal sex, is that mammals have evolved to experience anal penetration as naturally painful, and that this more or less automated pain response can only be overcome by a directed and conscious and learned effort to relax and tense the appropriate sphincter muscles in a sequence that’s contrary to their hardwired reflex.

I recognize that once you’ve figured out to do it right, receptive anal sex can be very pleasurable with only minimal and brief discomfort during initial entry.

But at the same time, it sounds freakin’ crazy when gay men downplay and dance around the hardwired physiological aspects that can make anal sex unpleasant, and try to blame “hyper-procreative” or homophobic cultural norms to explain why many people are averse to anal sex.

The reality is that there is far more “acculturation” involved when gay men make a choice to practice with fingers and dildos and whatnot so that they can gradually learn to not dislike the sensation of having something as large as a penis going through those paired sphincters from the outside.

(Similarly, it’s not acquired cultural biases that make Deep Throating very unpleasant for some otherwise eager “corksoakers”; the gag-reflex is hardwired, and one must learn how to overcome it.)

Throbert McGee
January 28th, 2011 | LINK

I recognize that once you’ve figured out to do it right, receptive anal sex can be very pleasurable with only minimal and brief discomfort during initial entry.

Well, at least if you’re a DUDE. Ladies don’t have the compensatory pleasure of prostate massage to balance against the discomfort of getting past the sphincters.

My personal view is that the only people who should be defending heterosexual anal sex are women who personally enjoy the sensation of being anally penetrated and are thus able to speak firsthand about its merits — and are able to make an informed judgment that the pleasures outweigh the pain and health risks. But women who’ve never tried anal sex shouldn’t chirpily endorse it just to sound liberal and open-minded; and heterosexual men should recuse themselves from defending anal sex because THEY get the lion’s share of the pleasure (“Oooh, it’s so tight!”) with utterly minimal risk to themselves.

And similarly, homosexual anal sex should be defended by men who personally enjoy bottoming, but “exclusive tops” who aren’t willing to deal with the disadvantages of bottoming should STFU. Also, men who have no firsthand experience with anal sex at all shouldn’t parrot the received wisdom about how the Prostate Is the Magical Male G-spot, just because that’s the fashionable thing for gay men to say.

Throbert McGee
January 28th, 2011 | LINK

(Sorry for going off-topic on the subject of anal and its pluses/minuses. But yesterday I got an appreciative email from a 19-year-old gay kid who’d seen some of my blog writings on the subject of frot, and expressing his frustration at all the pressure he got from peers and boyfriends to “give anal sex a fair try,” even though he’d already tried it and didn’t like it.)

T.J.
January 28th, 2011 | LINK

Throbert, if you throw up any more straw men, they’re going to cast you in the role of the scare crow the next time “The Wizard of Oz” comes to Broadway. I have to say I am amazed at such an ignorant example with the dogs and cats. It is beyond dispute that homosexual behavior, including anal mounting, is prevalant in hundreds of animal species. Also, you need to brush up on your cultural anthropology. Same-sex love has been celebrated in a vast number of cultures all over the world throughout human history. And my response to your argument against anal sex being unnatural because there is initially some pain involved is a question: Do you have any female friends with whom you have discussed the topic of sex and their experiences with “natural” vaginal sex the first few times in which they engaged in it? If not, ask them. You may be surprised to learn that, many times, it is painful and is not exactly the euphoria many men think it is for them. Furthermore, the stories of a great number of people are that the first time having sex for them (either overall or with a new partner) is extremely awkward, or, to put it another way, it is at once a learned behavior (to become comfortable at it) in addition to being a natural drive. Thus, your argument from “initial pain” is non-sequitur.

And then you make this statement: “[A]nd heterosexual men should recuse themselves from defending anal sex because THEY get the lion’s share of the pleasure (“Oooh, it’s so tight!”) with utterly minimal risk to themselves.” You repeatedly display your ignorance. Do you know how many hetersexual men engage in anal self-stimulation or anal play with their girlfriends/wives?

Finally, you folks who hold these positions are terribly inconsisent. Those of your persuasion are fond of trying to make the argument that anal sex is unnatural, but as soon as someone proffers an intelligent argument as to how it IS natural, you retreat and say something to the effect of “just because it’s natural doesn’t mean it’s right or moral.” You can’t have it both ways. You either believe it’s wrong because it’s unnatural or the “naturalness” of it is irrelevant, a red herring for the fact that you are merely grasping for arguments as a confirmation bias to your already decided upon religious/moral convictions to which you will adhere regardless of whatever scientific, exegetical, or philosophical arguments that are submitted to the contrary.

That being said, and in light of the fact that this short debate is a tangent, I suggest that we return to the debate topic of this thread, namely whether British authorities are violating the right to free speech in arresting these two men.

Other Fred in the UK
January 29th, 2011 | LINK

I agree with TRiG that the bible as a whole is too self-contradictory to be regarded as hate-speech. However I certainly would say that certain passages quoted out of the context of the whole book and printed on, say, a billboard would be an incitement to violence. (I have deep philosophical misgivings about hate-speech being a separate specific crime.)

L. Junius Brutus, by your standard of free-speech then as far I am aware no other country in the world has free-speech. The US is perfectly entitled to regard a very broad right to free-speech as one that trumps most other rights, however it (and you) should not be surprised that other countries do not want to emulate it.

L. Junius Brutus
January 29th, 2011 | LINK

AdrianT: “The problem is, that when debating with Islamofascists about their ludicrous faith, one has a gun to one’s head. (Look what happened to Salman Rushdie, Ayaan Hirsi Ali and the Danish Cartoonist, heroes, all of them.)”

Careful, lots of people will now call you a “racist” – even though what you are criticizing is not a race, but a belief system. But… race, belief system – what’s the difference?

L. Junius Brutus
January 29th, 2011 | LINK

Other Fred in the UK: “The US is perfectly entitled to regard a very broad right to free-speech as one that trumps most other rights”

What other rights? Someone’s right to not have their poor, tender feelings hurt? No such right exists.

“however it (and you) should not be surprised that other countries do not want to emulate it.”

I’m not. I understand perfectly that countries like Iran, China and the UK don’t like free speech much. Heaven forbid, you might actually hear something you don’t like! Obviously, you need laws to prevent that.

Other Fred in the UK
January 29th, 2011 | LINK

L. Junius Brutus: There is no need to mis-respresent my views, my post is perfectly clear. I did not suggest that there is a right not to have one’s feelings hurt. I do have a right not to be violently assaulted or threatened, therefore, I believe, it is perfectly reasonable for their to be a law against inciting others to engage in such acts.

Priya Lynn
January 29th, 2011 | LINK

TJ amd John, I’m aware of the claim that Leviticus 20:13 is about male temple prostitution and not gays. There are two problems with this. No bible currently being published has a Leviticus 20:13 that says it is about male temple prostitution. As the passage is always printed it is about two men having sex, so the claim that its about male temple prostitution is irrelevant. Further, even if it did specifically say male temple prostitutes must be put to death it would still be hate speech, an incitement to kill innocents and just as wrong as any incitement to kill gays. If you believe calling for innocents to be put to death should be punished that doesn’t suddenly become okay because its in the bible.

The idea that there are several (non-threatening) interpretations to the passage is a non-starter as well. Those interpretations simply aren’t credible given what a plain reading of the passage would mean to a rational person. Claiming the passage is about gay sex leading to spiritual death (for example) isn’t credible given that that’s not what the passage clearly says. To make this claim is the same as the claim the Ugandans make about their kill the gays bill when they falsely claim its not about executing gays, its about executing pedophiles. It does not matter what innocuous ‘interpretation” you claim for the passage, any interpretation has to be supported by the actual words of the text and the only rational interpretation of the text as is is that it calls for men who have sex together to be put to death. Any arguments about how the original Hebrew or Greek referred to male temple prostitution are irrelevant because we are not talking about such early texts, we are talking about the current modern publications of the bible which say no such thing.

Priya Lynn
January 29th, 2011 | LINK

Further, this talk about how in the context of the bible as a whole Leviticus 20:13 doesn’t mean men who have sex together should be put to death doesn’t fly either. Christians love to say “Christ’s New Covenant had abrogated the literal death penalty and that the verse should be understood as saying that homosexuality leads to “spiritual death” or loss of eternal salvation, etc.”.

The problem with that is NOWHERE DOES THE BIBLE SAY SUCH A THING. In fact it says the opposite, Jesus says in a couple places that no jot or tittle of the law shall fail until the universe comes to an end. Any claims that the passage doesn’t mean what it says given the context of the whole bible must be supported by text somewhere in the bible. Nowhere in the bible is their a text that directly repudiates Leviticus 20:13 and absent that it is a clear call to execute innocents and is, from an honest legal standpoint, hate speech.

Priya Lynn
January 29th, 2011 | LINK

I missed Junius’s claim that publishers aren’t responsible for the hate speech of Leviticus 20:13 because they aren’t endorsing it.

It does not matter whether they endorse it or not, what they endorse or believe is not what would be on trial, its what they publish that would be on trial. If hate speech is against the law then publishing Leviticus 20:13 is rationally against the law as well regardless of whether the publishers personally endorse or believe that viewpoint.

Junius asked “If Aristotle writes (and he does) in one of his works that women should not own property, is it a “hate speech” crime to publish that, in your opinion?”.

I only have a layperson’s understanding of hate speech laws, but I believe that would not be a hate crime because it does not adocate killing or violence against women.

Priya Lynn
January 29th, 2011 | LINK

Further to my last point. Junius’s claim that the publishers of Leviticus 20:13 aren’t guilty of hate speech because they don’t endorse it is similar to a person who’s libeled or slandered someone else claiming “I’m not guilty because I don’t believe what I wrote/said.”. No way is such an excuse going to fly in a court of law.

Timothy Kincaid
January 29th, 2011 | LINK

Interpretations of Leviticus are WAY off topic. (and Priya Lynn, it seems to me that your complaint is against the English translations of the Bible rather than Christianity, which makes your comments not only off topic, but without a target).

And, ironically, we actually have a thread dealing specifically with anal sex… so why is it on this one?

So lets get back on topic.

Mihangel apYrs
January 29th, 2011 | LINK

Thank you Brutus for pulling the Soviet Union out of you hat. While we have laws conserning limits on free speech (and you can say what the hell you like in private as long as it isn’t conspiracy!)

However the USA isn’t as free as you make out. Your “Patriot Act” would probably fit contentedly in the system of any dictatorship. Your McCarthy era where people were ruined for maybe thinking something slightly left wing isn’t admirable. It’s still the case that peer pressure and political influence can ruin people who speek out of turn.

We choose to exclude violence of speech from public discourse, and FYI we’ve had a balasphemy law for centuries that has been dusted off by the right wing to silence a gay paper and poet in the 70s. The “hate speech” does put sections of our commmunity in fear, and it can lead to worse things.

Now tell me, Brutus, does the US legal lexicon recognise sedition as a crime?

Why isn’t that covered by your much-vaunted freedom of speech.

Mihangel apYrs
January 29th, 2011 | LINK

that should have read:

While we have laws conserning limits on free speech (…) these are to avoid threats of violence and speech that puts an identifiable group in fear of such.

Sorry, the phone rang in mid-type

Priya Lynn
January 29th, 2011 | LINK

You’ve got it right Mihangel. Junius’s argument that Britain has no free speech is based on the fact that it restricts some speech. So does the U.S. so by his logic it has no free speech either. In fact by his logic he has no free will because he can’t levitate himself and walk through walls no matter how hard he wills himself to do so.

Jay
January 29th, 2011 | LINK

Whoa dude, just back that up a sec. Seriously? You’re actually advocating that threats be made against the lives of LGBT people but that’s okay because we should be able to say anything we like? Threatening and harassing a group of people is a crime, and I’m glad these men were arrested. It’s not a freedom of speech issue if you’re advocating violence. If someone were distributing fliers saying ‘Let’s kill all African-Americans’, I’m not sure if you’d be taking this with the same level of equanimity.

Priya Lynn
January 29th, 2011 | LINK

Jay, when that’s a “religious view” it somehow magically becomes okay.

Donnchadh
January 29th, 2011 | LINK

Prosecuting such people is completely counter-productive. The BNP has got plenty of free publicity from such lawsuits. And driving such people underground makes them more likely to actually carry out their threats.
And if your argument for prosecuting incitements to violence is that they might encourage people to do it, wouldn’t the same apply to any speech advocating something you don’t like?

Priya Lynn
January 29th, 2011 | LINK

Donnchadh, no one is advocating that speech be prosecuted simply because we don’t like it.

AdrianT
January 29th, 2011 | LINK

Junius – what is really dangerous, is the invention of the nonsense term ‘Islamophobia’, to attack anyone who criticises Islam (I will not be careful by the way), and equate it with racism. It is used as a way of silencing any debate.

It is stupid, because: there are Arab, Pakistani and Persian christians, jews and atheists. There are many people who leave their faith – look at the website of the Committe of Ex Muslims, run by the wonderful Maryam Namazie in London. Equally, there are many white caucasian converts to Islam, like the person believed to have masterminded the attack on Moscow airport last week.

To equate attacking, criticising islam with racism, is in itself racist as well as fascist. It is telling people of a certain origin: you are too stupid to walk away from your religion, too stupid to accept the theory of evolution, too stupid to think. And you will have no support if you dare to think for yourself.

Of course, the West has spent the last centuries keeping the ordinary people in servitude: from colonial rule, to maintaining control of oil and infrastructure, to supporting dictatorships to protect those interests, and most disgustingly, my arming, sheltering, funding extremists to stop democracy, to stop nationalists taking control. And now we are paying the price.

The people of Tunisia and Egypt are calling out for freedom right now – they don’t want theocracy, they don’t have beards. They want freedom, democracy, as well as affordable bread. Solidarity with all freedom fighters across the middle east.

Other Fred in the UK
January 30th, 2011 | LINK

Donncadh,

The BNP have not, as far as I am aware, advocated violence. Their views do resonate with a significant minority of the English population, with many more who think they should have a right to say what they do. You are quite correct that prosecuting the BNP was counter-productive. Those who argue for the killing of homosexuals are a quite different kettle of fish. While there are still many in Britain who regard homosexuality as wrong and a few who think it should be re-criminalised

Other Fred in the UK
January 30th, 2011 | LINK

Apologies, I accidentally posted my half written post above, my post continues…

… and a few who think it should be recriminalised, there are few enough who would agree with violence or the death penalty that I am confident a prosecution under incitement to violence would not be counter-productive. (I admit I am slightly concerned that prosecution under incitement to hatred might prove counter-productive.)

My argument that incitements to violence should be criminalised because they might work, could be generalised to incitements to any crime, but not to anything I do not like.

Priya Lynn
January 30th, 2011 | LINK

Other Fred said “My argument that incitements to violence should be criminalised because they might work, could be generalised to incitements to any crime…”.

I think in Canada it is a crime to incite someone to commit any sort of criminal action. I suspect this may be the case in Britain and the U.S. as well.

Throbert McGee
January 30th, 2011 | LINK

The question is, how high is the threshold for “inciting violence”?

Personally, I agree with what T.J. wrote above:

If the pamphlet was simply arguing for why there should be a law punishing homosexuality with death, then that’s a legal argument and is protected.

In my view, while it’s morally repulsive to even speculate about legally re-instating the death penalty for consensual adult sodomy, arguments along this direction from Salafist Muslims in the UK or Christian Reconstructionists in the US are not tantamount to advocating extrajudicial lynchings of homosexuals by God-addled mobs.

But it’s possible Priya Lynn would argue that a pamphlet saying “an ideal government would execute homosexuals because God says so” DOES cross over that threshold into inciting violence, even though the pamphlet stops short of exhorting: “Hey, everybody, grab a rope and a bunch of stones and let’s kill us some queers!”

L. Junius Brutus
January 30th, 2011 | LINK

Other Fred in the UK: “L. Junius Brutus: There is no need to mis-respresent my views, my post is perfectly clear. I did not suggest that there is a right not to have one’s feelings hurt. I do have a right not to be violently assaulted or threatened, therefore, I believe, it is perfectly reasonable for their to be a law against inciting others to engage in such acts.”

Your post was (a little) self-contradictory. I don’t think I misrepresented it. After all, it is not permitted to incite others to violently assault or threaten people in the US. But you presented that as a very broad right to free speech that trumps other rights. So what right would that be? The right to silence other people?

Priya: “its what they publish that would be on trial.”

You’re kidding? Did you draw inspiration from United States v. One Book Called Ulysses?

” hate speech is against the law then publishing Leviticus 20:13 is rationally against the law as well regardless of whether the publishers personally endorse or believe that viewpoint.”

How very strange. So if I engage in “hate speech”, would it be against the law for you to quote that and say: “This is what Brutus says about X: [hate speech]”?

“I only have a layperson’s understanding of hate speech laws, but I believe that would not be a hate crime because it does not adocate killing or violence against women.”

I agree that inciting people to killing or violence should be a crime. However, suppose that a Canadian “Human Rights Tribunal” found Aristotle’s insistence that women should not own property to be “hate speech”. Should publishers be forced to excise such passages from Aristotle’s works, or be subject to hate speech prosecutions themselves?

“Further to my last point. Junius’s claim that the publishers of Leviticus 20:13 aren’t guilty of hate speech because they don’t endorse it is similar to a person who’s libeled or slandered someone else claiming “I’m not guilty because I don’t believe what I wrote/said.”. No way is such an excuse going to fly in a court of law.”

In a situation that is actually comparable, it actually does fly. If politician A claims that politician B is corrupt, and the New York Times reports on this, there is no way politician B can sue the New York Times for libel, since the New York Times merely reported on the accusation made by politician A. Maybe in England (as it has very strict libel laws), but nowhere else in the world.

Mihangel: “Your “Patriot Act” would probably fit contentedly in the system of any dictatorship.”

Perhaps, perhaps not. I bet it’s a favorite trope of yours, but it’s completely irrelevant. After all, it has nothing to do with free speech. Perhaps it has to do with a sort of wounded pride on your part, and you are trying to lift up England by pointing to other (perceived) wrongs in the world. “Well, we may not have free speech, BUT LOOK OVER THERE! PATRIOT ACT! MCCARTHY! EMPEROR TITUS VESPASIAN!”

But here’s betting that you don’t know anything that the Patriot Act says (like most people who voted for it), and are merely repeating something that you’ve heard. Quick, look (or make) something up!

“We choose to exclude violence of speech from public discourse,”

Violence of speech? (George Orwell, is that you?) Send them to the Ministry of Love immediately!

“and FYI we’ve had a balasphemy law for centuries that has been dusted off by the right wing to silence a gay paper and poet in the 70s. “

Why, you object to that? You think that free speech should be UNLIMITED? And silence? NO! As you yourself said, the gay paper an poet were allowed to write whatever they wanted, BUT THERE WERE CONSEQUENCES.

AdrianT: “Junius – what is really dangerous, is the invention of the nonsense term ‘Islamophobia’, to attack anyone who criticises Islam (I will not be careful by the way), and equate it with racism. It is used as a way of silencing any debate.”

Only because they know that they can’t win the debate. Challenge them firmly and they’ll fold like a house of cards. On this very board, several people started calling opponents of the Ground Zero Mosque “racists”. When I challenged it, one of them made a very feeble and hilarious attempt to defend it (search for “Muslims might not be an ethic group” in http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com/2010/08/10/25267 ), but in subsequent threads, I never heard any of them say something similar, ever again. Instead, they turned to the word “bigoted”.

“To equate attacking, criticising islam with racism, is in itself racist as well as fascist.”

And it demeans victims of actual racism, to equate criticism of some ideology with hatred for people on the basis of the color of their skin.

“The people of Tunisia and Egypt are calling out for freedom right now – they don’t want theocracy, they don’t have beards. They want freedom, democracy, as well as affordable bread. Solidarity with all freedom fighters across the middle east.”

One can only hope, but I would point you to the fact that something similar happened in Iran. Islamists have a way of forcing their way into a power vacuum, regardless of what the people on the streets actually want. I’ll wait and see.

Other Fred in the UK
January 30th, 2011 | LINK

L. Junius Brutus,

I am sorry I don’t see the the self-contradiction. You appear to believe that if speech is curtailed in more than a few very specific circumstances e.g. incitment to violence then speech is not free. Most of the rest of the world does not see the issue in such black and white terms as you do and place Britain and Iran in the same category.

To answer your question I will give a single example, in the US the right of freedom of speech allows rich political candidates and businesses to pour huge amounts of money into political campaigning, whereas in Britain we see a right to a reasonably level political playing field and impose caps on campaign spending.

L. Junius Brutus
January 30th, 2011 | LINK

Other Fred in the UK: “I am sorry I don’t see the the self-contradiction. You appear to believe that if speech is curtailed in more than a few very specific circumstances e.g. incitment to violence then speech is not free. Most of the rest of the world does not see the issue in such black and white terms as you do and place Britain and Iran in the same category.”

I wouldn’t argue that Britain and Iran as quite as bad, but both criminalize speech that the political elites find undesirable in a manner that is not content-neutral, and therefore, both deserve a place in the “hall of shame” of enemies of free speech.

On the other hand, I wonder about the basis on which people who support criminalizing people for their opinions with “hate speech” laws would condemn Iran for similarly waging war on people’s right to free speech. Will they say: “Iran is even worse than we are”?

“To answer your question I will give a single example, in the US the right of freedom of speech allows rich political candidates and businesses to pour huge amounts of money into political campaigning, whereas in Britain we see a right to a reasonably level political playing field and impose caps on campaign spending.”

Riiiight. That is just a policy decision, which has absolutely nothing to do with a supposed “right to a reasonably level political playing field” – though you try to force it into that category. Rather, British policymakers probably (correctly) consider it undesirable that wealthy candidates could have a great advantage (though you’d have to check the legislative history to be sure). It is also not clear whether under US law, spending by wealthy candidates has something to do with an alleged right to “free speech”. It is more like a backdoor: the candidate’s campaign borrows money from the candidate and never repays it. As for businesses, under Citizens United, they can wage issue-related campaigns, not political campaigns – though I do understand that the line is often quite tenuous. Moreover, the English ‘restriction’ that you mention is content-neutral and does not unnecessarily prohibit free speech, just like restrictions on the basis of place are (you can voice your opinion, just not on my front porch if I disallow it), and therefore does not infringe on free speech rights. So on all counts, your example does not prove what you think it does.

Now I’d like you to show where political speech infringes on the rights of other people.

Tim
January 30th, 2011 | LINK

Enough!
Enough free speech. Now exercise your right to remain silent.

Adam
February 4th, 2011 | LINK

L. Junius Brutus:

Please indulge my curiosity again. From what we know (and this is provisional; dependent upon the actual content of the leaflets in question), the governmental action that is the subject of debate was in respect of incitement to violence against gay people. You have said yourself that incitement to violence is a crime in the US, and appear to hold that this is justified and does not compromise the right to free speech.

Are there other restrictions on “unlimited” speech – such as calling “fire” in a crowded theatre, slander / libel, sedition and so on – which might be imposed while preserving the right to “free” speech? If so, what is the underlying principle that justifies these restrictions without compromising that right? (And if not, I suppose, what is special about incitement to violence that it stands alone as the only justifiable restriction on unlimited speech?)

My view on it is that free speech is a right that must be balanced against other rights. As far as I can see, no-one disagrees that incitement to violence is a valid restriction on unlimited expression. I think there are other kinds of speech which ought to be restricted in order to protect rights other than freedom of speech – again, this seems uncontroversial. The only disagreement between people seems to be the degree to which speech may be restricted in pursuit of the protection of other rights.

In equating it to China and Iran, your condemnation of the UK as an “enemy of free speech” is pretty strong. We’ve established that the leaflets in question probably constituted incitement to violence, and possibly to murder, so this particular case does not support your conclusion about the UK’s position on free speech. What exactly about the UK’s regulation of expression does support your conclusion?

Incidentally, it may be of interest that, by incorporating article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the Human Rights Act 1998 creates a presumption in UK law of the right to freedom of expression.

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