Free Speech: it includes the right to say things you don’t like.

25 05 2008

RenEv has a great post up about this right now.

You know, people are always really surprised when I say I don’t support hate speech laws.

I’m no fan of bigots. Really. In fact, I think racists, sexists, homophobes, transphobes, ableists, and other miscellaneous bigots are some of the stupidest, most dislikeable people on the planet. So, naturally, I’m no big fan of hate speech. Really. Especially since a lot of it targets me, being of the Jewish persuasion and a big ol’ gay and all.

But you know what? I’m a civil liberties advocate, and will defend your right to say stuff I don’t like. The way I see it, the harm caused by censoring speech usually outweighs the benefits.

The problem with censoring “offensive” speech is that it’s often a slippery slope. And, in a world that hates “non-conforming” people, guess who’s going to be the most frequent target of heavy-handed laws? I mean, most anti-pornography ordinances, allegedly to “protect women” (and I have ranted about this numerous times), end up targeting porn made for women by women. Oh, the irony.

My school just banned replica weapons, and cursing, in all school drama productions. While it is a high school, and therefore, different than say, a whole country, I still think the whole situation is stupid. Dumbing down theatre so someone’s feelings don’t get hurt? It’s, well, dumb. Not showing or talking about violence doesn’t get rid of it; it merely sweeps it under the rug.

Truthfully, there are quite a few things I find offensive. But what I find more offensive than anything is having my freedom taken away.

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On that UK porn law, and free expression

13 05 2008

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last couple of months, you’ve probably heard of the new UK porn law.

First: Overview of the new law. Essentially, it bans “extreme” porn, including acts that appear to be “life-threatening”, or likely to cause serious injury to certain body parts.

Never mind the fact that it’s overly vague, which is the kiss of death in terms of criminal law. And the fact that porn doesn’t kill people, people kill people. In fact, I heard that Graham Coutts had violent impulses years before even looking at porn.

I’m really worried about what this law means for free expression.

I’ll be perfectly honest – I would probably not be comfortable with porn that is overly violent (not in a consensual BDSM way, but just violent), or implies a clear lack of consent. While, personally, I’d be fine with a portrayal of consensual BDSM, I think “rape porn” is pretty socially irresponsible. And, if I were ever to watch it (I wouldn’t), I would probably find it extremely disturbing.

But then again, I find most graphic, gory violence disturbing. I once had to leave the room while we were watching “Saving Private Ryan”, because the blood and gore was making me feel ill.

But you know what? It’s a personal preference. And I hardly know everything, so I’d never want to make the rules for other people. Some people hate watching a lot of sex in TV or movies. I don’t mind it, and occasionally enjoy it. It doesn’t make me or someone who doesn’t like it right or wrong. It’s a personal thing.

As much as I might personally dislike much of the porn being banned, I think the freedom of speech and expression is a fundamental part of any democratic society. And, to the dismay of some, this freedom includes the freedom to say or show things other people may not like. I have a big problem with censoring any kind of cultural product (unless it depicts an actual violent crime being comitted, such as porn actually made without the performer’s consent), because it’s a huge slippery slope, in terms of restricting people’s basic constitutional rights. And, if the Butler Decision taught us anything, it’s that these kinds of laws tend to backfire. Horribly. They often target the people they were supposedly meant to protect – and my instinct tells me this is going to target a lot of stuff made for women, by women. Which is terribly ironic for a law that’s supposed to protect women.

As I said before, I have a big problem with restricting freedom of expression. So this law, even though it might seem like a good idea to some, scares the crap out of me.