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The BBC at its very worst on the issue of freedom of expression

Allen Farrington drew my attention to this steaming pile of a BBC opinion piece entitled: What are the limits of free speech?

Read this bit and let it sink in:

Because what is becoming clear is that the fundamentalism of this new generation of radical Islamists risks provoking an extreme reaction from some of those espousing the cause of unlimited freedom and liberty.

Allen’s retort was so perfect I will just quote it entirely:

…which is so ridiculous as to require no further commentary, but I would nonetheless suggest: those radical Islamists make me so damn angry that one of these days I might just commit an act of drawing!

Indeed, Allen. Apparently sober opinion at the BBC holds that drawing opinionated cartoons and writing what you think constitutes an “extreme reaction” to radical Islam. I think nuking Mecca with a high yield air burst during the Hajj would be an “extreme reaction”, but personally I do not think explaining why someone might regard Islam (or indeed anything) as preposterous or the ‘mother lode of bad ideas‘ is an “extreme reaction”.

But alright, if saying what you think is what passes for an “extreme reaction”, then I would be honoured to be called an extremist by the BBC. I believe Barry Goldwater had something to say on that subject.

Extremism in the defence of liberty is no vice. And moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue

Not that I would expect anyone at the BBC to understand that, at least not without simply redefining what ‘liberty’ and ‘justice’ means in a way a certain well known chap wrote about in 1949.

32 comments to The BBC at its very worst on the issue of freedom of expression

  • joel

    At this time of debasement of the progressive left, it is good to remember the times when they came out strong for free speech.



    Of course the religious right in this country protested. They went so far as to say that the US govt should not support such “art.” They were derided by their betters, naturally.

    Our progressive left has sunk so low that they really are beneath contempt. I wonder if they are starting to suspect that? I doubt it. They are pretty clueless about most things these days.

  • Runcie Balspune

    This is not really a fight for free speech or freedom of expression.

    Islam regards itself as the only option, there is no other, and it must be elevated above all others, that is how it views “respect” whereas normally it means being treated as an equal, a concept most other ideologies (religious and political) seem to accept publicly without a problem, and just get on with it.

    The only way forward is for Islam to accept there are other ways of life with at least equal footing, not because anyone wants to oppose Islam but because that is just how the world is, and you just need to get along.

    Standing against the idea that Islam needs to be treated differently is not a freedom argument, it’s not a liberalism argument, it’s just the plain truth, it’s what “moving out of the middle ages” is actually all about.

  • Paul Marks

    R.B. – you say that Islam must do such-and-such.

    Islam is the creation of a person – Mohammed, it is his teachings and life example. Muslims are not at liberty to reinvent Islam.

    Mohammed was not like Jesus – Mohammed was a political leader and military commander (one of genius).

    At base Islam can not be other than the teachings, and life example, of Mohammed. Nominal Muslims (“Muslims In Name Only” MINOs), can never really be at the heart of this political movement (for that is what Islam is) – the movement of Mohammed.

    A man of genius – yes most certainly.

    But a nice person? Sadly not.

  • Runcie, I do not give a hoot about the opinions of Islamists, for me that is a non-story. It is what passes for sober opinion at the tax funded BBC that is the story. To allow this crap to pass unchallenged would be a mistake.

  • Paul Marks

    Turning away from the absurdity of “you just need to get along” about an enemy the West has fought for more than a thousand years.

    Joel and Perry.

    Yes – you hit on an important point.

    The “liberals” do not really believe in freedom of speech – they believe in freedom of speech for speech they AGREE with.

    Mocking conservative Christians (by “Piss Christ” – covering a image of Jesus in urine, or “Dung Mary” – a picture of the Virgin Mary surrounded by porn and covered in excrement) is fine, because this is what “liberalism” is about.

    Indeed taxpayers should be FORCED to pay for such stuff.

    But mocking an a “Third World”, “ethnic minority” like Islam – oh dear me no.

    The universities, and their products (such as the BBC and the New York Times) would be in favour of crushing such un P.C. (such anti “Critical Theory”) conduct.

    Perhaps not by shooting cartoonists – but by “educating” such “sick” people (the cartoonists – not the people who try to murder them), in special hospitals – in order to “help” them.

    This is modern “liberalism” – as C.S. Lewis pointed out many decades ago.

    Indeed there are traces of it even in J.S. Mill – and I am NOT pointing to his atheism.

    J.S. Mill in his supposedly book of praise of freedom “On Liberty” says that people should not be allowed to “parade” their disapproval of conduct?

    What does this mean? Mr Mill does not explain in the text.

    What it means is that Mr Mill was accused of adultery (having sexual relations with another man’s wife) – and some people “paraded their disapproval” by turning their backs on Mr Mill and the lady concerned – and refusing to speak to them.

    Now Mr Mr Mill and the lady may have been totally innocent of the charges made.

    And even if they were “guilty” it may be utterly vile conduct to turn one’s back on them and refuse to speak to them.

    Certainly Jesus spoke to adulterers – so refusing to speak to them can hardly be considered Christian conduct.


    Is this not part of freedom?

    Why should people not be ALLOWED to “parade” their disapproval?

    Simple really – Mr Mill (like so many people) supported freedom of expression for stuff he agreed with (such as mocking Christianity, or attacking the so called “land monopoly”, i.e. big land estates), but he did not support freedom of expression for opinions he did not like – such as “parading” dislike for supposedly immoral conduct.

    Remember it is the “harm” principle NOT the non aggression principle of the Common Law.

    The “harm” principle gives Mr Mill lots of wiggle room.

    As does his utterly bizarre idea that commercial freedom (the freedom to sell ordinary products to willing buyers) is not under the general “principle of liberty” – as commercial activity is somehow different from (for example) literary work.

    Compared to modern “liberals” Mr Mill is actually good (wonderful even) – but the faults are already there.

    It is an entirely logical step-by-step process (via T.H. Green and other academics) to go from J.S. Mill to “Nick” Clegg.

  • Paul Marks

    The tax funded BBC is the intellectual product of the tax funded universities.

  • Cristina

    You haven’t seen anything yet BBC.

  • Tedd

    …whether cartoons that deliberately set out to offend are worth defending…

    This would seem to be the core of it. When it’s speech that offends someone else they defend the principle of free speech. (Refer to Joel’s links, above.) When it’s speech that offends them then they challenge the specific instance of speech. The Hebdo cartoons offend the BBC because they offend a group the BBC instinctively defends.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    As I like to point out, the US Supreme Court’s decision in Heller, that the right to keep and bear arms is individual but nevertheless subject to all the existing restrictions on it, opens the way to government licensing of journalists. This is something I’d hate to see adopted, but love to see proposed. Oh, the exploding heads!

  • Ljh

    Islam is incompatible with:
    Freedom of Speech
    Freedom of Conscience
    Equality before the Law.
    We should be promoting these core values of the Enlightenment instead of being defensive and accommodating whenever they clash with those of hostile colonists.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Lawrence Auster was, based on a cursory reading of wikipedia, a thinker with whom most people in this forum (including yours truly) would disagree on many things; but he had at least one flash of inspiration: Auster’s First Law of Majority-Minority Relations in Liberal Society:
    The more troublesome, unassimilable, or dangerous a designated minority or non-Western group actually is, the more favorably it is treated.

    Unfortunately, Auster seemed to blame the “troublesome” minorities for the resulting mess. (I might be wrong about that.) Given my Machiavellian turn of mind, i blame the ruling class instead. For instance, in the US, the ruling class NEEDS Black riots: without riots, nobody will utter opinions that can be interpreted as racist (eg that in this case the police is not to blame, that there is no point in destroying your own neighborhood, etc); and if nobody utters such opinions, then the media cannot say: there is still racism in our society, that’s why you must vote Democrat.

    I have deliberately chosen an example in which the minority as such is not to blame; but the application of the principle to the BBC and British Muslims is obvious.

  • Snorri Godhi

    An interesting comment by Paul Marks on JS Mill. Just wanted to say that afaik JS Mill’s influence on _American_ “liberalism” was not significant. My narrative, for what it’s worth, is that Comte, Hegel, and Bismarck were the main European influences on American “progressivism”, and later the Frankfurt School and French postmodernism were grafted in.
    Whether modern British “liberalism” owes more to the Americans or to the JS Mill/TH Green tradition, i am not sure; but i suspect that the continental/American tradition is to blame for the current state of the BBC.

  • Snorri Godhi

    PfP: government licensing of journalists would mean free speech for the BBC and the NY Times, but not for Samizdata or PJMedia.

  • bloke in spain

    Just on the point of this: “Mohammed was a political leader and military commander (one of genius)” from Paul’s comment.
    I think you’re way overrating the boy Mo here. The economics & the communications of the time made it very hard to mount resistance to a determined aggressor. A standing army’s unsupportable & poor communications tend to give the initiative to the attacker. This was both the story of the expansionary Roman Empire. And during its contraction & fall stage. Whoever’s on the attacking side gets to bring their full weight to bear on a diffused defense. Local superiority of force wins most every time. No genius required. But hats off to the political leadership enabled him get his forces in the field & keep them there. Not go home once the looting’s been good.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Well, when I was in college 800 years ago, J.S. Mill was held to be one of the Shining Lights of Classical Liberalism (as we now call it), with “On Liberty” a seminal text; so, very much in the mainstream of the American ideal as taught (at that time, anyway).

    And as such a part of the Progressives’ cultural background … that might be as unacknowledged as the paint on the walls (or, of course, pointed to as part of freedom-loving creds), but still give a sort of unhealthy pea-soup green cast to everything in the room.

    As a matter of fact, isn’t it likely that Mill’s writings make it easier for people like Zwolinski to come to their square-circle ideology? (Not that M.Z. is a Progressive, although there’s a 2-ton gorilla in the room that one must ignore if one wants to pretend the gent is a libertarian.)

  • Thailover

    It’s funny what the press considers provocation and what they consider innocence. When people in Texas draw an image of Muhammad, a man that, literally, no one knows what he looks like, they’re considered to be provocateurs. When a sweet girl goes to school in Pakistan and has acid thrown in her face on the way by a member of the Taliban, no one suggests that she “asked for it”. The irony is, in both cases, the outcome, at least in general, is predictable, and in both cases the victims are acting perfectly within their rights.

    One little pet chestnut of the left is the absurd question, ‘what freedoms are you willing to give up for the sake of safety?’ The question is absurd because anyone’s full exercise of their rights does not infringe in the slightest on the rights of anyone else. (I’m talking about ACTUAL (“negative”) rights, not alleged “positive” rights that are false and contradictory in full context. The difference being, you have the right to earn, not the right to mysteriously ‘have’.) It also suggests that those less free are more safe. If that were the case then abject slaves would be the safest people on earth.

  • Thailover

    Paul Marks.
    Sorry, anyone who wrote the koran IS NOT a “genius”. (not even in the ancient Greek sense, i.e. being a daemon who whispers in people’s ears).
    Besides the fact that the Koran was obviously a hodge-podge semi-plagiarism of the Jewish and Christian bibles cobbled together AFTER this alleged to exist Muhammad fellow died and rotted (good riddance), please qualify your absurd statement that this self-professed illiterate was a “genius”.

  • Vinegar Joe

    I think nuking Mecca with a high yield air burst during the Hajj would be an “extreme reaction”

    Not me. I think it’s way overdue.

  • Mr Ed

    please qualify your absurd statement that this self-professed illiterate was a “genius”.

    Look at what he achieved, and his legacy. He set out to conquer, and achieved that. As did Lenin. What has literacy got to do with it? An evil genius is still a genius.

  • John Mann

    I loved the comment by Garry Trudeau in linked article:

    Traditionally, satire has comforted the afflicted while afflicting the comfortable. Satire punches up, against authority of all kinds, the little guy against the powerful. By punching downward, by attacking a powerless, disenfranchised minority with crude, vulgar drawings closer to graffiti than cartoons, Charlie wandered into the realm of hate speech.”

    Personally, I think that’s funny. Strangely enough, the article seemed to think it was a serious comment.

  • jdm

    Besides the fact that the Koran was obviously a hodge-podge semi-plagiarism of the Jewish and Christian bibles cobbled together AFTER this alleged to exist Muhammad fellow died and rotted (good riddance), please qualify your absurd statement that this self-professed illiterate was a “genius”.

    Nicholas Wade in The Faith Instinct discusses the imperative of a national religion when trying to unite a people. As I recall, he presented the theory that when trying to unify Arabs to revolt against the Byzantine Empire, the leaders in Syria/Levant created a new religion, distinct from the Byzantine’s Christianity. A good description of that new religion is indeed a “hodge-podge semi-plagiarism of the Jewish and Christian bibles cobbled together”. To distinguish it more markedly, responsibility of this genesis given to a wholly or partially imaginary person, Muhammad, who was then given a back story.

    YMMV, of course, but this theory holds up just as well with the known facts as the usual one with Muhammed, prophet, conqueror and genius BS.

  • I don’t think it really matters, jdm, not as far as Mohammad’s personality and biography are concerned – be they real or imaginary. The demand of the True Muslims to follow and emulate that personality and that biography is what truly matters.

  • Thailover

    Mr Ed,
    So, spreading a cult by the point of a sword qualifies one to be a “genius”?
    Wow, who knew?

    Let’s examine some of this genius, shall we?
    The theory goes, the “koran” is divinely inspired, yet it’s message evolved from muslims being friends with people “of the book” (Jews and Christians), then to tolerating them, then to not being friends with, then to let them live along side you as long as you tax them to death, then to chase them away, then to murder them if they’re in your “holyland”. Muhammad became more and more radicalized as the screed continues until he finally makes his way to Medina (some say on a winged horse named Barack).

    Soooo…the “koran” was “written” by a self-professed illiterate who took a divine instruction and forced it to evolve into the exact opposite. Stop me when “genius” starts to make sense. And even worse, he had no official indisputible successor, which caused the major faction split after his death. Suni and Shia were already split BEFORE the koran was cobbled together from disparate writings. And of course the writing is so primitive that it’s anyone’s guess what it really said. Hell, they can’t even tell if martyrs will be rewarded with virgins or white grapes.

  • Thailover, as explained, an evil genius is still a genius. And you seem to be having an argument with yourself.

  • jdm

    Yes, indeed, Alisa. I just found it to be such an interesting theory.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    Snorri Godhi
    May 10, 2015 at 5:17 pm

    PfP: government licensing of journalists would mean free speech for the BBC and the NY Times, but not for Samizdata or PJMedia.

    My comment’s really about the quality of the majority opinion in Heller. But I still think it’d be fun to see journalism licenses proposed (not actually adopted), just so we could accuse the protesting MSM of being “First Amendment extremists.”

  • It is interesting, I agree, and may well be true, too. Same about other Prophets or even semi-deities 🙂

  • Thailover

    Perry, yes an evil genius is still a genius. However, the alleged person responsible for what I described hardly qualifies as a genius. More like a dictatorial cult leader. “Look at what he accomplished” is hardly genius. The same can be said for “Jesus”. You have to make yourself poor and destitute before you’re “holy” enough to go to heaven? If someone beats you in the face, invite the abuser to beat your other cheek also? Love those out to destroy you, (matt 5) and yet hate your family (Luke 14:26). Look at what “Jesus” accompished, yet…the aforementioned is not genius, that’s absurd cultism at it’s most irrational.

  • Thailover

    Runcie Balspune,
    Indeed, that Islamists regard ‘respect’ to mean fear and capitulation to a display of raw, unbridled power, (Ditto in regards to the “god” of the Jewish bible) tells the tale. That’s the brand of “respect” shown in deference to mobsters and terrorists. Anyone who believes this to be the meaning and only meaning of respect is incapable, on a fundemental level, of being civilized.
    Peace and be well.

  • Thailover

    Paul Marks,
    Brilliant post. Thank you for that.

  • Thailover

    Paul Marks,
    Sorry, to clarify…

    “Turning away from the absurdity of “you just need to get along” about an enemy the West has fought for more than a thousand years…”

    Brilliant post, thanks