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Saturday Bonus: The Gentleman's Guide To Free Speech and Pug Etiquette

If you say something that is unarguably contentious or provocative you must accept the consequences for that.

If you cannot justify a context for such speech then by default that speech is intended to offend and I question the value of such vacuous speech.

If you are simply out to cause offence then you are sowing division, particularly in the case of a racially motivated call to genocidal violence.

Therefore I assert that a community should have the right to rule on issues of free speech. This authority should come from the community and be directly answerable to the community, and not come from a top down hierarchical structure - i.e. a state.

The notion of free speech, per se, is meaningless. Humans exist socially, cheek by jowl, as communal animals. What we say is broadcast, whether directly or electronically, and thus impacts our neighbours and their neighbours. Thus to argue that speech should be free is no different than arguing I should be able to slap or punch you without consequence.

A case must be made for the speech in question. As communal animals our morals and rights are arrived at continuously through sustained conversation dialogue and agreement. This conversation cannot be maintained in the presence of unjustified hierarchical structures and authorities. If you assert the right to speak freely, I assert the right to impose consequences: to be offended and to impose or impart the consequences thereof (shame, for instance) upon you.

The idea that one cannot ever offend, that offensiveness is only perceived or taken, is arrant nonsense. Clearly I can intend offence with a particular statement: I can make a call for racial genocide to a person of said race and intend that person to be hurt or affected and traduced as a result. In response is he not free to give form to his displeasure? If not then we give up all pretence of rights laws and justice. Words, like actions, have consequences. Words give rise to actions.

"Free Speech" has become a shrill flag waved by a desperate, mainly online, community who wants to be taken seriously in public discourse. They appeal to a reductionist social dynamic that contends everyone is entitled to a seat at the table. What they actually advocate, surreptitiously flown in under the radar of "freeze peach", is enough to disqualify them. Why?

Because fascism - white supremacy, misogyny, homophobia and racism in general - is anathema to a functioning society. This is the paradox of freedom: there is no universal freedom for all. Where we bump shoulders against each other, as a communal beast, we must negotiate what's right. The idea of free speech is important, the reality of granting it to fascists is unreasonable.

They argue that everyone should be heard because they want a seat at the table, all the while advocating views that, are not only repugnant and destructive, but have already been defeated.

The conversation with and about fascists has already been had - including at gunpoint. There is no good argument for white supremacy, misogyny, homophobia and racism in general. We've had this conversation and we must not let those who think these things are acceptable take an inch on this.

But the internet makes this difficult. Now any keyboard warrior can be the equal of Chomsky by learning how and uploading basement invective with the merest nod to facts evidence or understanding. Then they can appeal to the confused bedraggled and misunderstood of this world who will fund their program of easy answers and simple explanations by giving them a monthly stipend in the thousands (if they're lucky) on Patreon. Those who administer that service seem to care little who they are enabling. Fascism is ok if it follows the rules? That's just an appeal to authority.

So when some wingnut from Scotland uploads a 'comedy' video where he repeatedly says "gas the jews" to a dog, we are meant to laugh, not be disgusted that someone thinks reaching for, of all things, that phrase, is acceptable. Because free speech innit. Comedy knows no bounds. Bollocks. Good comedy makes a point.

I refer to the case of Mark "Count Dankula" Meechan and his comedy racist dog.

And when you aren't a million miles away from people who do genuinely hold that view, you can't be surprised when people impugn your character.

It isn't a free speech issue when you seek, however misguidedly, to abuse it, and then claim it was meant as a private joke (uploaded on a private platform then later defended as a deliberate attempt to shock or offend).

There is no positive aspect to the phrase "gas the jews". It has only one connotation and only one, gruesome, historical context. To say it once might be forgivable - I don't think this guy should spend the rest of his days staring through bars - but to repeatedly say it with abandon and then argue, in his defence, that he should be able to say this consequence free is so childish as to be laughable.

But don't worry, gentle reader, those same people, the ones he isn't a million miles away from are happy to pay his legal bill in appealing a fine (a fine that, given what he's accrued thus far from said donors, he could have paid ten times over and just gotten on with his ridiculous life).

What these far right scumbags want isn't free speech, it's legitimisation. This is not a slippery slope fallacy to say: giving them that is the first step in the real curtailment of freedom. Maybe not for you, or me, right now, but in time. But certainly, initially, for a significant number of human beings, targets of their persecution based on ignorance sown by their ability to proliferate their views online.


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