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Freedom of Speech… but only if you don’t upset the Guardian reading classes

As Natalie Solent mentioned in a Samizdata.net article yesterday, Robert Kilroy-Silk is taking heavy flak for his remarks about the Arab world and has been brow beaten into a rather ignominious apology.

I was just interviewed on BBC News 24 to put my views on this affair and I pointed out that whilst I found his remarks full of nasty collectivist generalization, many of the points he made about what passes for civilization in the Arab world are simply facts… people do indeed get their limbs chopped off as punishment in Saudi Arabia, women are indeed second class citizens (if they are even citizens at all), human rights are ghastly across a great swathe of the Middle East, the last time the Muslim world was a hive of innovation was in the 12th Century etc. etc… all these things are simply facts.

Yet my point is not to defend Kilroy-Silk, of whom I am not a particular fan but rather to wonder why it is that Robert Fisk and John Pilger can make equally sweeping and egregiously collectivist statements about Israel and the United States without so much as a murmur from the Guardian reading classes?

34 comments to Freedom of Speech… but only if you don’t upset the Guardian reading classes

  • Mark

    This is a rhetorical question right. They hate an assertive America, whom they embody in George Bush.

  • Myzt1kal

    because america has NEVER EVER been THE victim…

    I believe the majority of people agree with such articles “against” amerika (or bypass it as a fair view), however, amerika’s “strategic” moves have never been fonded by the entire world! No one has gone to the extent of calling americans “suicide bombers, limb amputators, women repressors”

    If you are human, I cannot see how you can defend such “freedom of speech”

  • So, are you saying women are not repressed in many (most) areas of the Arab world? Are you saying most suicide bombers does not come from the Arab world? Are you saying amputation-as-punishment does not occur in the Arab world? if Kilroy-Silk is to be criticized, let it be for not differentiating between Arab societies which allow these things and individual Arab who should not all be collectively tarred with the same brush. But the real issue here is “is Kilroy-Silk allowed to express himself?”

    Well yes, I would say he is. I do not give a flying fuck if my, or his, opinions upset people. You have no right to not be upset, none whatsoever. No one has the right to call for people to drag you out and kill you, but they sure do have the right to call you a prat, an ignoramus, a bigot or a pustule faced twit. Don’t like that? Tough… that is what “free speech” actually means and without free speech, in all its splendour and ugliness, there is no free civil society, in fact no society at all, just a political state.

  • toshiro888

    “I believe the majority of people agree with such articles “against” amerika (or bypass it as a fair view), however, amerika’s “strategic” moves have never been fonded by the entire world!”

    Translation into English requested.

    “If you are human, I cannot see how you can defend such “freedom of speech””

    I can’t see how you can defend your own. Works both ways you see.

    “because america has NEVER EVER been THE victim…”

    What justifies, in your view, “victimhood?”

  • Steve in Houston

    Speaking as an American, I very much like that we’re never the victim. In fact, it’d be nice if we could get rid of that sense of victimhood on an individual basis.

    F that noise.

  • Chris Goodman

    Freedom of Speech? The “Guardians” do not even understand the concept.

  • Perry,

    In case you’re interested, you are quoted in another BBC report on this issue here.

    BTW, I completely concur with your point. Whether one agrees or disagrees with Mr. Kilroy-Silk, he was wrong to glom every Arab together with the nutcases, even as he has every right to look like an ass doing so.

  • Guy Herbert

    And for all its overgeneralisation, the offending article looks like a model of coherent and well modulated argument by comparison with the vox pop content of the Kilroy tv show that the BBC has now removed from its schedules.

    I wish they’d done so before this affair (for the reason that it is rubbish), because now I have to say they are utterly wrong to do so, and the program ought to be restored at once.

    When Anne Robinson was the subject of an incitement to racial hatred complaint under investigation by the police for being rude about the Welsh (American readers: as ever I am not making this up), did they cancel The Weakest Link?

  • Verity

    Kieran Lyons and others – It turns out today (Telegraph) that the offending article was originally published in April last year and had been written in response to the noisy anti-war appeaseniks. In the original article, Kilroy-Silk had referred to “Arab states”, not Arabs; he had not tarred every Arab with the same brush.

    As far as I am concerned, that’s nice, but not relevant to the issue, which, as Perry says, is freedom of speech. The officious moron Trevor Phillips has reported Mr Kilroy-Silk to the police for voicing an opinion. The binning of the CRE has got to be top of the Tory agenda for their first week in power. Then Mr Trevor Phillips can be encouraged to trawl around for another place on the public tit, but one where he can be less divisive and less of a towering fool. Meanwhile, perhaps someone can explain to him, in words of one syllable or less, what is meant by the ancient English right of free expression.

  • So on BBC terms you cannot say:

    “What has the Arab world ever done for us? ” and “They are suicide bombers, limb amputators and women repressors”

    But you can say:

    “American Jews settling on the West Bank should be all shot dead, they are Nazis, I hate them.”

    Is one worse than the other?

  • Verity

    Latest off the BBC site is, although Kilroy has apologised – although I think one should not apologise for exercising one’s right of free speech – ‘the Muslim Council of Britain’s Iqbal Sacranie said: “He has basically regretted some of the statements… but he has not made a full apology.” ‘ This, in case you hadn’t guessed, from The Today Programme.

    Sacranie, noting the “racist” nature of Kilroy’s remarks said nothing less than a full apology would do and “the matter can then rest and” chillingly, “hopefully not be repeated again”.

    Never apologise; never explain.

  • The Wobbly Guy

    In an interesting development in my country, similar to the BBC and British gvernment’s initiatives, the government is setting up feedback methods.

    The Wobbly Guy

  • Mr_Angry

    Verity …
    Q. ‘The Ancient English right of freedom of expression’ ??? … We ‘English’ or ‘British’ if you prefer, have no RIGHTS whatsoever other than that we are ‘allowed’ to do anything that is not actually proscribed by law … but which situation can be quickly remedied by our political masters should the twitterings of the proles become too much of an embarrassment to them. The right to freedom of association for instance … forget it ! this can be withdrawn at the stroke of a coppers pen. We are a ‘Constitutional Monarchy’ with no written constitution and therefore have no RIGHTS of any sort other than the right to be fleeced by whatever taxes the New Labour junta dreams up next.

  • Verity

    Mr_Angry – Yes. My mistake. I should have written “tradition of freedom of expression”. You are also right that this ancient tradition is being terminated.

  • The Wobbly Guy

    Well, at least you had a tradition. We’re trying to make one from scratch.


    The Wobbly Guy

  • Mark Ellott

    From the oft quoted Voltaire:

    “Sir, I disagree with what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it.”

    It’s becoming a bit of a cliché now, but is valid nonetheless. Myzt1kal will do well to bear it in mind…
    Like Perry, I really don’t care whether you are offended, it is of little consequence. If Kilroy is denied his right to freedom of expression (which is far more important) then so too will I. And that offends me.

  • And the rosette goes to Perry…I too do not give a flying fuck whom I upset. This is my mind, folks. This is what I think. If you think it’s crap, deride it, shatter my arguments or produce factual evidence to counter it but do not bore me with your egocentric crap that claims only your perspective has a right to be abroad in the world and, more, that I am somehow subordinate to you, that you actually have a right to control my mind, what enters it and what emanates from it. The routine hysteria that breaks out in some quarters in this country whenever someone speaks intemperately has to cease forthwith – and probably far more effective, not to mention more peaceable, than getting angry about it is subjecting it to constant mockery.

  • Supervixen

    Freedom of speech comes with an inherent repsonsibility. Otherwise anyone could publish an article about YOU saying nothing but their own opinion. He is quite patently wrong and to hide behind an argument about freedom of speech is to disguise the fact that he is an uneducated berk spouting an unimformed opinion.

    If I had publushed an article saying all men are closet wife beaters. Free speech or personal opinion. Should I be entitled to have it published? Would that then lead some of the more rabid feminists to beleive that as all men are closet wife beaters that they are entitled to throw kettles of boiling water at them? I beleive it would. That’s what I mean about responsibility. It’s about measuring the effects of your ‘speech’ before you publish it, which Killroy didnt.

  • Terrye

    What a bunch of cry babies. I have heard Americans [with a ‘c’ for those of you who cannot spell] called every name imaginable and it is just the facts jack as far as the loopy left is concerned, but make a few honest statements about someone close to what passes for your hearts and you cry and cry and cry…….


  • Mark Ellott

    The answer to that question is, simply; yes.

    You’re right freedoms bring with them responsibility. However, far more dangerous is suppression of free expression no matter how wrong, ill informed or abhorrent. These can be seen for what they are when uttered. Any attempt to curtail them because they fly against reasonable opinion may ultimately lead to censorship of all utterances because whatever we say publicly may upset someone, somewhere.

    If Kilroy-Silk (or anyaone else for that matter) wishes to go on record as an ill-informed fool – then let them. After all, if those comments are either untrue, or not “fair comment” then those offended have recourse to civil law, don’t they?

  • S. Weasel

    Freedom of speech comes with an inherent repsonsibility.

    Nonsense. The freedom to express ideas as long as they conform to mainstream opinion would be a very poor sort of freedom indeed.

    I can’t even work up a good snit that he said “Arabs” instead of something more specific and less collectivist, like “Islamists and Arab governments”. As an American, I’ve become enured to being personally and individually blamed for every little thing that emanates from the US, like I owe the world an apology when this week’s Simpsons episode isn’t very good. Let the rest of the world shoulder responsibility for their whole cultures for a while. Feh!

  • The Wobbly Guy

    If somebody wanted to write a Nazi hate tract on annihilating Jews, in the tradition of free speech, he would be perfectly justified to do so without fear of the government coming down on him like a ton of bricks.

    But in reality, it’s rarely the case.

  • Guy Herbert

    On the contrary, Wobbly guy.

    Nazis (and their fans) do that all the time. Most of them, in Europe at least, have developed a fine technique in sideways suggestion that can’t quite be pinned-down as approving genocide. Others speak more plainly. And there are lots of equivalents, including Jewish nutcases who want to exterminate all the Arabs. In fact, find an identifiable group of humans and there’ll be someone, somewhere, agitating for them all to be killed–and being allowed to do so by a government that otherwise doesn’t give a fig for freedom.

    Governments tend to pick and choose who it is expedient to come down on like a ton of bricks. Being mildly rude about the wrong people in the wrong forum can get you dealt with harshly. Direct incitement to murder in other circumstances will be completely ignored.

    Tradition of free speech or no, you’ll always be free to speak what the state approves, or would find too much trouble to suppress.

  • Shawn

    Apart from the obvious freedom of speech issue, I cannot see anything wrong with the article itself. Arab culture everywhere produces little except violence, tyranny and hatred of Jews and the West. It is utterly false to claim that only Islamists are the problem. Islamists are a product of the culture that gave birth to them. One of the most popular programs in Egypt is a soap opera based on the ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion’. Arab culture has for too long been mired in victimology and conspiracy theories about the sources of its failure. Rather than take responsibility for themselves, Arabs blame Jews and the West (and sometimes the Turks), for the decline of Arab civilisation. The result of this is a breeding ground for terrorism.

    It has become fashionably politicaly correct to say that Islamic terrorism is the fault only of Islamists and Wahabists. This is false. The problem is Arab culture itself. It is not racist to say this. The problems that Kilroy-Silk identifies are not the product of race and nor are they absolutely inevitable. They could be solved, if and when Arab peoples choose to solve them. And there are a growing number of Arabs who see the problem and are taking great risks to speak out, notably Ibn Warraq. But lets not pretend that Arab culture right now is not what it is; a failed civilisation that breeds opression, tyranny and violence.

  • Sam Knecht

    I was dismayed to see the criticism Mr. Kilroy-Silk has experienced since the article reporting his anti-Arab comments was printed.

    My first reaction was: There goes free speech. (And I thought the British were as good in defending free speech as we Americans). My second thought was I wonder what the British had to say about Hitler and the Germans in the early 1930s. I would bet my bottom dollar that there were many who said that the world had little to fear from the Nazis because the German people would never support the evil policies which the Nazis espoused. I think that World War II proved that mostly “good” Germans turned out to be very enthusiastic in helping the Nazis bring a great deal of harm to the world.

    Now I am rational enough to know that there are millions of ordinary Arabs who have no wish to harm anybody. But I also know that there are many Arab leaders and Muslim clerics encouraging their followers to bring great harm to Westerners. And very few Arab leaders criticizing those who call for “jihad”. It is foolish for the West, with its tolerance and democratic institutions, to look the other way.

    I know enough about history to appreciate that the Arabs used to have great civilizations which produced significant knowledge in areas such as mathematics and astronomy. But an objective observer would have to admit that the Arab world has not produced anything significant in the last several hundred years except an abundance of despotic regimes and misery and poverty for most Arabs. (May I point out that there is not one even moderately democratic Arab government in the world today.)

    Perhaps Mr. Kilroy-Silk had to apologize to keep his job, or because he was pressured to go along with the current “politically correct” thought, but I for one wish the Western world would discard its democratic “rose-colored” glasses and see the Arab world for what it is. A backward world which represents a real threat to the West.

    There is a similar pressure in the United States to be politically correct, so I sympathize with Mr. Kilroy-Silk’s predicament. But here is one American who says: “Right on, Mr. Kilroy-Silk. Exercise your right to free speech and express a bitter truth which many do not wish to hear.”

  • Cobalt

    Arab culture is astonishingly mysogynistic, anyone with a brain knows that mysogyny runs rife.

    The Left has categorised the Arabs as “victims”.
    Victims can do no wrong in the eyes of the Left.

    When a female US Soldier is raped, the PC brigade, which regards all Arabs as victims, rubbishes the claims (and indeed the girl, who as an American icon, is a target of hate for the Left) with a venom which echoes the most repellent kinds of male chauvinism.

    I know women who have been appalled by the Left’s new found love of misogyny.
    “Multicultaralism” now takes precedence over women’s rights.

    The “stereotype” of Arabs as mysogynistic is not some nasty racist myth, it is a stereotype based in truth.
    They do not respect women as we in the West do, for all our faults.

    We must face hard truths, not live in pretend nicey-nicey fantasies, ignoring anything that is difficult or not “pc”.

  • nannette

    How strangely surprising it is that the Islamists in our midst here in the UK are so vociferous about facts given by Robert Kilroy Silk, but were hardly heard after 9/11 and there’s been hardly a whisper coming from them denouncing suicide bombings around the world.

    Are we to now take it as fact that the Islamists are fully in support of bringing their culture of blame, along suppression of free speech, to the west – in order to contaminate our free and tolerant societies?

  • Leon

    A senoir BBC correspondent joins extremist Hamas terrorists in a rally to show solidarity declaring- that journalists and media organisations are “waging the campaign shoulder-to-shoulder together with the Palestinian people.” REPEAT: A senior BBC correspondent attended a terrorist rally expressing solidarty for a bunch of murderers who kill innocent people in cold blood! So what happened to him? Did the politically correct BBC, fire him? Or is this ”impartial news service” only to conciese about upseting its Muslims viewers?

  • Verity

    Leon – What senior correspondent was this?

  • Sean

    This affair is a disgrace. What will it take to convince some people that the old adversary of the West (Islam) is back – a mushroom cloud over Paris? No matter, because when such a thing does occur (as it most definitely will), the gloves will be off and the Arabs can kiss their sorry asses goodbye!

  • steve

    Cobalt, I guess you missed when the ‘female soldier’ came out and disassociated herself from all the claims made by the US government to sex up her ‘capture’. Did you miss where she also was not raped but that the staff also gave her extra rations during her ordeal? Now I am far from being on the ‘left’ however the repetition of untruths does tend to piss me off. You seem to be a selective reader from the ‘right’ who just ignores truth just as much as those from the extreme ‘left’ to put forth an agenda. What happened to judging people on merrit?

  • Steve

    Sean, by “the old adversary of the west” do you mean the people victimized in France and Spain for being Moors and put to the rack or do you mean the victims of the Crusades? Not all actions taken by the west have been ‘just’.

  • Sean O'Callaghan

    I mean the movement that has been trying to make the rest of the world submit to its rule since 632!

  • Steve

    Sean, so how long has your culture been attempting to make the rest of the world ‘submit to it’s rule’?