Posts Tagged 'rights'

In Defense Of Free Speech

This post has been updated and moved to the blog’s new domain,, and you can find it here.

One of the greatest shames of the modern world is that, despite all our progress, there are still people who would deny the holocaust, there are still groups who preach religious hatred and violence and there are still those for whom racial and ethnic slurs are a part of their common vocabulary. This lack of compassion, lack of tolerance and lack of understanding of the world around us is undoubtedly a great concern, but of even greater significance is that there are governments the world over who think that the best way to deal with these people is to fine them, throw them in jail, or otherwise use the weight of government to silence them. In Minister Ahern’s proposed amendment to the Defamation Bill, he wishes to add Ireland to that group, with a fine of up to €100,000 for “publishing or uttering blasphemous matter”.

The case for restriction of freedom of speech, in any manner, rests upon a fundamental distrust of the populace at large. It assumes that those of us who hear or read such material will be swayed by its very existence. It assumes that we are incapable of reasoned argument, of factual rebuttal and compassionate defense. It attacks the very basis of a liberal democracy, that out of disparate views a society can wield oratory, persuasion and debate to reach a common ground of respect and tolerance.

The appropriate means with which to combat extremism and hatred is not to shut down discussion, but to promote it. It is to allow the great majority of the public to act as defenders of peace and decency; to argue the case of those who have been attacked and offended, and to condemn those arguments which would breach any reasoned morality. Above all, it is the government’s duty to trust its citizens to have these debates and emerge on the side of compassion and sense. If a government ceases to have that trust in its citizens, as ours has indicated with this amendment that it does not, then I would suggest that they are no longer deserving of having our trust in return.


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