Dom Post on free speech

The Dom Post editorial:

But the new administration should think hard about another part of the convention. One protocol therein requires signatories to make the dissemination of racist and xenophobic material via computer systems a crime. It might also outlaw Holocaust denial and what some groups, deeming themselves to be persecuted, call “hate speech” online. The United States, the UK and Ireland have refused to sign that protocol. New Zealand should, too.

When states consciously choose to ban the traffic in ideas, they take a giant stride toward control of their populace. Freedom of speech – one of the pillars that buttress democracy – is its most potent when its practitioners advocate the unpopular, the unconventional, even the downright nasty.

Informed public debate, which of necessity includes ridicule and derision, is always the most effective antidote to racism, sexism, xenophobia … Banning criticism – as this protocol would do, at least in cyberspace – merely drives racists, sexists, xenophobes underground and gives them cause to claim martyrdom.

I blogged on this issue a couple of weeks ago. The answer to offensive speech is not to ban it, but to counter it.

It is timely to repeat a quote from Noam Chomsky:

If you believe in freedom of speech, you believe in freedom of speech for views you don’t like. Goebbels was in favor of freedom of speech for views he liked. So was Stalin. If you’re in favor of freedom of speech, that means you’re in favor of freedom of speech precisely for views you despise.

One of the few Chomsky quotes I love.

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