The Importance of Being Offensive

‘What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist’,   Salman Rushdie.

Controversial Dutch MP, Geert Wilders, was recently invited to give a screening of his film, Fitna, to a private gathering at the House of Lords in London. Following threats made by Lord Nazir Ahmed to mobilise an army of 10,000 Muslim followers, the British authorities caved in and banned Wilders from screening his film.  Lord Ahmed declared the ban as a ‘victory for the Muslim community.’

The European Parliament has already banned the screening of Fitna on its premises.  One Dutch MEP, Maria Martens, welcomed the decision with these immortal words,

‘The film has nothing to do with freedom of expression. This freedom does not give the right to offend.’

Freedom of speech is generally regarded as a ‘good thing’ in most political circles. But the freedom to offend is increasingly being viewed as a ‘bad thing’ and needing of regulation.  This is wrong, stupid and dangerous.  Freedom of speech is nothing without the freedom to offend. 

But why is the right to offend so important?  After all, wouldn’t it be better if we could all just get along and cause no offence to each other?   Well of course it would, but once you strangle the right to criticise ideas, you lose the ability to progress. Idiotic ideas that go unchallenged fester and start to attract an underground following. 

Copernicus caused great offence to the Catholic Church in 1514 by challenging the long-held belief that the Sun revolves around the Earth. Yet, would anyone today rather if his offensive ideas had been banned?  Restricting the freedom to offend is an anti-progressive, arch-conservative reaction to a changing world.  

Let’s take an example closer to home.

Danny Nalliah (pictured) is a senior pastor of  the ‘Catch the Fire Ministries’. He believes that the tragic bushfires in Victoria which have claimed as many as 300 lives are a result of Victoria’s ‘incendiary‘ (a truly appalling choice of word) abortion laws.

‘God’s protection has been taken off the state, and Satan is having a go at the nation.’

Tons more of this crap can be found on their website here.

Mr. Nalliah is an idiot. And his views are deeply offensive to me and many millions of people across Australia. I will never respect this retarded view but i will fight for his right to express his opinions with my last breath. Had he called for his deranged followers to light fires in Victoria to exact revenge, then he should be prosecuted and charged, for this would amount to incitement to carnage. But he didn’t. He merely observed that, in his opinion, the fires are the result of divine retribution in response to the Victorian abortion laws.  

The absurdity of banning the freedom to offend is thus.  It is quite possible that under Victoria’s Racial and Religious Tolerance Act of 2001 that i could be prosecuted for inciting hatred towards the Catch the Fires Ministries. My view that he is an idiot and his followers are deranged morons could be construed as ‘offensive’ to his flock and i could be charged with the crime of ‘causing offence’ even though it is me who has been offended.

It is time for those of us who cherish the idea of liberty to make this argument loud and clear.  I have the right to speak freely.  I have the right to offend you and you have the right to offend me.  I seek not your respect but your tolerance.

Update – skepticlawyer awards Mr. Nalliah the Bent Spoon Award

23 thoughts on “The Importance of Being Offensive

  1. The Pastor would have been on firmer ground if the Victorian Parliament, which passed the legislation, had been the source of the fires, and been burned to the ground. THAT would have been a statement we’d have believed!

  2. I sent this idiot some money to help finance his defense.

    Would I still do it if I knew then what i do now?

    I’d like to think so, but he’s really fucked up.

  3. Frankly I find his comments no less disgusting than Hives Hamilton and (Where’s) Waldo Karoly getting wheeled out by the ABC suggesting the fires are associated with AGW. All three belong in a padded cell.

  4. jc – i agree.

    but there’s not so much difference between evangelical Greenism and evengelical Christianity – both are articles of faith not supported by scientific data.

  5. So the Ash Wednesday and Black Friday fires happened why?

    Abortion was still illegal then…

    These idiots don’t think things through, but I agree that idiocy is not something that should be illegal. Even when the idiots are quite vocal.

  6. “Had he called for his deranged followers to light fires in Victoria to exact revenge, then he should be prosecuted and charged, for this would amount to incitement to carnage.”

    I agree with pretty much everything you’ve said here Pommy except for this. If adults followed the advice of a nutcase posting on his website then they should be prosecuted for their actions, not the nutcase. As distasteful as it is I think free speech (well, property rights, and thus free speech) applies here too.

  7. As our American blogger friends regularly remind us, no one should have the right NOT to be offended.

    Communication would be virtually impossible if causing offence is an offence.

  8. We each choose our own attitudes, every day. Nobody forces them on us.

    Taking offence at something someone has said or done is nothing more than one of the choices we make. There is no such thing as “giving” or “causing” offence.

    If we choose to take offence, we must accept responsibility for it. Like all our choices, nobody else is responsible.

  9. I think it’s more a case of wanting to have our cake and eat it too. People love free speech, until someone else disagrees with them. I think the blame lays with the idiots in government who consider themselves social engineers and pass idiotic legislation that treats different people under unequal laws

  10. Ok than this freedom of speech right must also be given to those imams who spread hate in UK, Why should be freedom of speech only one way. They must also allow anti-semitic movies. Why is there selective freedom of speech ?

  11. Muslim Think tank, I agree with freedom of speech, including the right of muslim clerics to say what they believe. However, this freedom simply means you don’t need a government licence- there will always be consequences to your speech, including the right of others to sue you if you say things you cannot prove. Would Jewish Rabbis have the right to sue if untrue things are said about Israel?

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  13. As well as my strong objection to it on priciples, pragmatically speaking, the trouble with trying to ban the causing of offense is that it is ridculously subjective, and some people are very easily offended so you’d have to ban everything just to comply with the law. I find moccasins worn outdoors offensive, but I don’t seek to ban them.

    As for people like Danny Nalliah, I like Geoffrey Robinson’s take on them – let them say what they think; it’s clear that they are idiots, whereas if what they’re allowed to say in public is regulated, they come across as much more reasonable and electable.

  14. I like a quote attributed to Lincoln. “It is better to not speak, and have others merely think that you might be a fool, than to open your mouth, and remove all doubt.”

  15. There should be no law against giving voice to hatred. Saying “I hate Jews” or “I hate Muslims” or “I hate Indian Women” should not be a crime even if chanted in Arabic in large groups. However conspiring to commit violence, as in “Meet you all here at 8pm for some poofta bashing”, is a quite different matter. One is an expression of feeling or belief the other a tool used to fascilitate a criminal act.

  16. Quite right, TP! You should never leave evidence like that lying around, where the police can use it against you.

  17. Im sure those pooftas were asking for it though, what with their stupid sunglasses and Elton John records and all.

    In all honesty though, religion is stupid. Any law with regards to religion should be stricken from the books.

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