‘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