Thursday, February 09, 2006

Truly Offensive

Is an image of Mohammad offensive?

Is the burning of an Australian flag by Indonesians offensive?

Is the burning of a bad replica of an Australian flag by Indonesians in response to attacks on Australian muslims offensive?

Is an S&M laden image of Christ offensive?

Is an image of Jesus surrounded by gay men offensive?

Is a burnt Australian flag as artwork offensive?

Is the burning of an Australian flag by a minority group offensive?

Are dildos in the shape of religious figures offensive?

Is a homosexual Jesus offensive?

Is a sketch of Mohammad offensive?

As Tasmania's Shadow Attorney-General is quoted as saying:
Well I and all other Liberals believe in freedom of speech, freedom of expression, but you have to have some degree of propriety and this is simply beyond the pale and it causes grave concern.

Which, presumably, means he doesn't believe in freedom of speech or expression. What he's trying to say is "I believe in freedom of speech and freedom of expression, as long as you only speak about and express things that I want to hear and see. Nothing else. Or we'll have you publicly stoned".

The overreaction to these "offensive" items is an example of fundamentalism and tribalism. It's the difference between a creative act and a destructive act. The creative act adds something to humanity as a whole. If you don't like it, you don't have to look at it (this is like bad television - it's not compulsory to watch it and there's always the OFF switch). The destructive act is an example of humanity's baser nature. It adds nothing to humanity. And it's strange that it alway seems to be fired by things that their believers would argue are enlightening, ennobling and uplifting, like religion and state. Unfortunately, it seems to EoR to be an excuse to avoid thinking, and to avoid dealing with difficult issues in an adult manner.

Laws are made against the "tribalism" of football hooliganism (something with a long history), but these sorts of things are accepted?

Incidentally, EoR wonders just how many of the protestors against the Danish Cartoons Blaspheming M------d have actually seen those cartoons (particularly since it would be blasphemous itself to look at them, and then they'd have to stone themselves). He also wonders how many people in the world have seen the cartoons in total (and how few would have seen them if no one actually complained).


  1. Well said - I couldn't agree with you more.

    I've ben saying this over at my blog too. Most commenters seem to agree but there is a small percentage who think that "some things" should be excluded from free speech.

    Read this too:

    Another eloquent comment.

  2. This idea of excluding "some things" is interesting. When the row first broke out it seemed ridiculous. Then I had to ask myself what I'd like removed from publication. Things such as pro-creationist propaganda came to mind and medical scams and then certain depictions of women... Then I wondered if I was getting as bad as they are.

    Trouble is, if you have total freedom, does this mean lies must be tolerated? And what about child porn, snuff movies and such?

    Maybe the Muslim reaction is unjustified because it is based on a belief system, not a logic system.

  3. The only restrictions I can imagine putting on free speech, and these are by no means absolute:

    1. Classic "Fire!" in a crowded theater-type situation.
    2. Fraud.
    3. Expressions people are forced to listen to, such as super-pushy salesmen.
    4. Spam.

    I might be able to think of a couple more, but I doubt it.

    For stuff that's merely "offensive", well, if you don't like it, don't watch it. And don't burn down an embassy if you do. Adult human beings should be able to handle offense without resorting to potentially lethal temper tantrums.

  4. msprint: there's no such thing as a snuff film ( As for other questionable subjects, there aren't easy answers though, presumably, if there isn't a market for such things they won't exist (they're already illegal, yet they still exist).

    bronze dog: yes, EoR wonders why people who find anything offensive seem to enjoy looking at it just so they can express their outrage.

  5. No such thing as snuff movies?

    I feel cheated.


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