Posts tagged as:

freedom of speech

The Gazette’s Allison Hanes weighs in on the Andrew Potter debate:

We live in the age of the digital lynch mob, where our slightest missteps get magnified, stupid remarks snowball and ill-considered words live on in infamy. Potter is not the first to be scorched by the blowback from this vicious cycle.

[ . . . ]

The modern tools that are supposed to foster societal discussion have a tendency to drown out dissenting views and become echo chambers of outrage. It is regrettable there can no longer be criticism without consequences, that ideas can no longer be challenged without resulting in a chill effect.

I agree. I also thought Andrew Potter’s column was ill-researched, ill-advised and lame. But I don’t think he deserved to lose his job over it. Everyone — academics especially — should have freedom of speech, which includes the freedom to sometimes be wrong. And if you’re wrong, people can call you out for it. And you can admit you’re wrong and learn from it. That’s how we all get smarter. But to silence voices just because we don’t like what they say? That hurts all of us.

I’m not so concerned with Potter in particular. By most accounts, the guy is a jerk. But in what happens the next time a professor says something that people don’t like?

The “pile-on effect” is one of those unfortunate consequences of social media that is hard to keep in check.


A West Bank resident has been imprisoned for insulting Islam on Facebook:

A mysterious blogger who set off an uproar in the Arab world by claiming he was God and hurling insults at the Prophet Muhammad is now behind bars — caught in a sting that used Facebook to track him down.

The case of the unlikely apostate, a shy barber from this backwater West Bank town, is highlighting the limits of tolerance in the Western-backed Palestinian Authority — and illustrating a new trend by authorities in the Arab world to mine social media for evidence.

Residents of Qalqiliya say they had no idea that Walid Husayin — the 26-year-old son of a Muslim scholar — was leading a double life

Known as a quiet man who prayed with his family each Friday and spent his evenings working in his father’s barbershop, Husayin was secretly posting anti-religion rants on the Internet during his free time.

Now, he faces a potential life prison sentence on heresy charges for “insulting the divine essence.” Many in this conservative Muslim town say he should be killed for renouncing Islam, and even family members say he should remain behind bars for life.

“He should be burned to death,” said Abdul-Latif Dahoud, a 35-year-old Qalqiliya resident. The execution should take place in public “to be an example to others,” he added.

At a time when the United Nations is trying to pass a resolution that would make blasphemy illegal, it’s important that we see cases like these as cautionary tales of what we can expect when we allow political correctness to trump free speech. There is no free speech in the supposedly secular, liberal Palestinian Authority. None whatsoever. There is no free speech in Iran, or in Saudi Arabia, or in Egypt, or in Pakistan, or in most of the countries sponsoring the resolution. And while the supposedly pro-freedom left marches and protests against the supposedly imperialist Israel and in support of the poor, suffering Palestinians, it can never be pointed out often enough just where the free speech limits exist in that part of the world.

Nor is it only in the Arab world where these laws exist. Ireland passed anti-blasphemy laws last year. Laws against blasphemy or religious defamation exist, to some varying degree, in the Netherlands, in Germany, in Greece, in Finland… even Canada’s hate speech laws allow for a lot of grey areas and potential abuse depending on which way the political wind blows.

These types of “anti-blasphemy” resolutions and laws are just tools wielded by extremists to silence any voices of freedom or dissent. Speech – whether or not it’s offensive – should be protected, and the right to satirize, insult, offend or simply denounce religion is a right that we need to protect, for all our sakes. And that, in a nutshell, is the basis for my position on freedom of speech.


Google’s “new approach to China”


Big. Huge. Potentially game-changing. These attacks and the surveillance they have uncovered–combined with the attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the web–have led us to conclude that we should review the feasibility of our business operations in China. We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our […]

Read more →

That sounds like a threat to me


Islamist group Islam4UK, expressing outrage over their recent ban by the British government: Bakri said that the ban was ”the gravest mistake,” describing his group was peaceful think-tank whose younger members would be pushed toward violence if it were driven underground. [ . . . ] ”We (were) never involved with any violence, yet,” he […]

Read more →

Those goddamned Irish


Ireland’s anti-blasphemy laws came into effect on January 1st, setting a shining example of hypocrisy that should make the EU proud: The new law defines blasphemy as:  “publishing or uttering matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters sacred by any religion, thereby intentionally causing outrage among a substantial number of adherents […]

Read more →

Facebook blocked in Vietnam?


Is Vietnam the latest country to block access to Facebook? Since last week, it seems that way. Even though the Vietnamese government is issuing denials. Some Vietnamese Facebook users launched a Facebook group in protest of the blockage, but as of right now it appears to only have a handful of members. Hmmm, wonder why […]

Read more →

“Information wants to be free”


So says this Gazette editorial about the government’s case against Paul Bryan for posting election results from eastern Canada on the internet before the polls closed in western Canada: It was almost 1,000 years ago when Canute, king of England, Denmark and Norway, led his courtiers down to the Sussex seashore. Weary of their flattery, […]

Read more →

The new Iranian bloggers


Dissidents or secularist bloggers are still being gagged in Iran… but the clerics are blogging up a storm. This started off as merely an amusing tidbit but I wonder what’s in store. The blogosphere is one of the last arenas of freedom of speech, and it seems that Iran’s hardline religious leaders have chosen it […]

Read more →

"Educational crackdown" in Iran


Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is taking more steps to stamp out dissent and reform in Iran: Iran’s hard-line president urged students Tuesday to push for a purge of liberal and secular university teachers, another sign of his determination to strengthen Islamic fundamentalism in the country. With his call echoing the rhetoric of the nation’s 1979 Islamic revolution, […]

Read more →

The last straw


All right, that’s it: It was one thing when it was just getting Google to censor search results or other such “minor” infringements on freedom of speech. But now China has gone too far: It’s restricted the Simpsons: D’oh! China has banished Homer Simpson, Pokemon and Mickey Mouse from prime time. Beginning Sept. 1, regulators […]

Read more →