Sunday, January 29, 2012

Dissent Will Not be Tolerated

Silencing dissent or attempting to silence dissent is something I consider to be a telling characteristic of fascist and authoritarian values.  It is truly a pernicious quality that some people possess.

It also has been and is employed regularly by religions to prevent critical examination of the doctrinal beliefs.  Sometimes it is used simply for the purpose of exerting control so that would-be dissenters think twice before expressing anything but utter deference to existing norms and authority.

Just recently, secular organizations at British universities in London had displayed a completely innocuous cartoon from the jesusandmo webcomic on their Facebook pages:

Does this offend you?  Then go fuck yourself.

Besides the fact that its a freaking cartoon of two guys at a bar, it doesn't convey any message that could be controversial at all.  You have to be a special kind of nutbag to find this in any way offensive.

So of course, there are a bunch of nutbags that are terribly upset, and the student unions are bowing to the pressure by some Muslims and ordering the secular organizations to remove the image.

Even if the image had some message that was critical of Christiantiy and/or Islam, that would not be sufficient reason to demand that the image be removed.  Why?  Its called free speech.  In the U.S. it is a First Amendment Right.  But more critically, it is a central principal of a free and open democracy.  Without generally accepted free speech groups have an incentive to claim offense by any arbitrary statement or expression by a group that they may see as a threat to their values.

In a democracy, the principal of a meritocracy of ideas should be the standard.  If an idea or proposal is of sound logic and reasoning, one should not be afraid of or offended by criticism; in fact one should welcome such criticism.  And welcome it not just for the sake of free speech (worthy enough in and of itself), but also to refine the idea and make it even more powerful.  Without constructive and critical scrutiny of ideas, progress cannot take place.

Another concept that some people - and it always seems that it is those people with the stupidest ideas that want to simply silence criticism rather than argue out the points - fail to understand is that you don't have the right to not be offended.  Just because you are offended by something I might say, does not give you the right to silence my speech.  For two reasons:
  1.  As mentioned above, if everyone had the right to silence speech or expression they found offensive, that right would inevitably lead to not just silencing, but complete silence until no one could possibly say anything that didn't offend someone (see The Heckler's Veto); 
  2.  It is antithetical to the principle of free speech.  If you don't like what I have to say, you are free to argue back.  You are free to call me names (libel laws notwithstanding).  You are free to completely ignore me.  You are not free to unilaterally revoke my democratic rights.
Finally, the implication of trying to silence opposing points of view is that you have no legitimate counter-argument.  Silencing tactics are the white flag in the war of ideas.  Its an admission of failure and cowardice.  I can't back up my beliefs with reason, evidence and logic, so the only alternative is to make sure you can't express yourself.  No one who takes this tact should be taken seriously - they are cowards.


All of which brings us to the Sandusky/Penn State scandal and the fallout that ensued with Joe Paterno.  The reaction to Paterno's firing by Penn State alumni has been intense, to say the least, with those that continue to support Paterno, apparently despite him passing the buck up the nominal chain of command, vociferously expressing their disdain of the decision to fire Paterno.

While I personally find such a reaction to be an embarrassment to Penn State and its alumni, I have no problem with the expression of dissent over the decision that was made.  See above - the merits of their respective arguments should be the standard of validity.

Yet that sentiment does not seem to be shared by some, if not many Penn Staters in the wake of Paterno's death:

I would never have the audacity to criticize where people draw on inspiration from - it is a very personal thing.  If you don't like that a vast majority of your friends finds [sic] inspiration from a humble football coach then don't sign on to Facebook for awhile.
There seems to be a misunderstanding of what it means to be private, regarding the first sentence: if you publicly declare what gives you inspiration, then it is fair game to be criticized.  If it is so damn personal to you, then keep it private.  You can't just expect the world to respect your crazy inspiration when the emporer has no clothes.  You don't want criticism, keep it private.  Its that easy.

There are two implications of the second sentence that require parsing, yet it is unclear which or both of the implications the author intends.
  • The first implication is simply, if you don't want to expose yourself to something that you find uncomfortable, then look away - and don't try to silence me.  Cool.  Agreed.  I wouldn't think of it.
  • The second implication arises by the fact that Facebook is not just a content consumption vehicle.  In addition, it is also a content creation vehicle.  So by telling others to get off FB if they don't like what they see, there is an implicit demand that they not freely express themselves in response to content they find objectionable.  
I strongly suspect that the author indents to imply that content shouldn't be consumed or created in reaction to something they find objectionable.

Which, if that is the case, is a despicable endorsement of the tyranny of the majority and intellectual cowardice.  I am at a loss that a college educated person would write this.

And then we have this doozy:

Agreed, [OP] - I actually defriended people due to their criticism and likely will continue.

You weakminded fool.  Can you not withstand the pixels that might suggest that someone in the world might disagree with you?  Are you so ignorant of history and the long list of tyrants that have sought to squelch dissent that you are actually willing to admit to such a petty tactic to protect your feeble mind?  And who are the two solitary imbeciles that actually 'liked' this response.

 I hope to sweet baby ceiling cat, that I would never actually be so intellectually insecure as to embark on the trivial and futile act of de-friending someone and then to boast to the world of my own ignorance and cowardice.


No comments:

Post a Comment