Thursday, February 07, 2008

Who will speak for Geert Wilders? Maybe not the Dutch bloggers

In the previous post, Dag raises the question of how we might stand up to defend the freedom of expression of someone, Geert Wilders, who knowingly provokes Muslims by making a film on the Koran, knowing full well that this is likely to lead to forms of mob violence around the world, with innocent victims. He and I have had a little discussion on this in the comments.

Now comes the news from Klein Verzet that Dutch blogs are in trouble from Dutch thought police who want to shut them down. At least one blog, representing the Dutch wing of the Stop the Islamization of Europe movement has been shut down by Wordpress after complaints which Wordpress took to be from the Dutch government but which, it seems, were simply from some self-anointed "Complaints Bureau for Discrimination on the Internet". While it now seems that the blog is back up, here, it remains noteworthy that Wordpress were willing to remove a blog simply on the basis of allegations from anyone, governmental or not, especially as Wordpress could not read the Dutch passages that were being claimed as illegal hate speech.

Those who require, for their own ability to overcome existential angst, some guarantee of their self-righteousness, become the kind of people who are keen to shut down blogs for alleged crimes against the Utopia of universal equality and brotherly love. The fact that the Utopians always end up being the worst oppressors of human freedom and dignity is a lesson some can never learn. I have not seen the blogs in question, but short of direct incitements to violence, there really is no good reason not to allow all ideas, good and bad, to be played out through free exchanges which are the only way for us to come anywhere close to guaranteeing that the good will eventually rise to the top and the bad will be marginalized. The case against the SIOE blog can be seen here, and it is not about incitement to violence, but rather about the alleged unfairness with which generalizations about Muslims are being made.

As bloggers, we should strive to become transparent and accountable to our readers, that people can know what we are about and debate us accordingly, that we all may show our faith that it is in the competition of a free speech environment that we make likely that real commitments to truth will develop, so that we may overcome our cowardice, and make ourselves capable of standing up for those who, whether we agree with them or not, are unfairly targeted by hate mongers in the guise of hate opponents.

Those who would try to circumvent this process of free exchange, by assuming they already have the special knowledge to know what is and is not acceptable to say or think need to be widely condemned. Those who would appoint themselves thought police with the right to shut people up are the enemies of transparency and accountability, for they encourage all bloggers and thinkers to hide behind various veils. We must all draw a line around the thought police and make it a mark of shame to be in their circle; as Dag says in the comments of the preceding post, we must stigmatize those who are for evil, those who would scapegoat their enemies, to bring about restraints on freedom of expression, that they may not hear things that make them crazily insecure about the very real cultural and existential conflicts that are a fact of life and history and that must be faced if they are to be successfully mediated. Let us face evil in a fair fight and not try to make it go away through legalistic sleights of hand.

To this end of keeping speech and thinking forever open, the Covenant Zone bloggers meet every Thursday, 7-9 pm, in the atrium of the central branch of the Vancouver Public Library. Please join us if you can. Look for the blue scarves we wear in solidarity with the freedom lovers of Europe.


Rob Misek said...

On another Blog, a literal fundamentalist, was reinforcing that the only path to truth is through his literal interpretation of passages from the Bible.

Here is how I replied.

"Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody."

Wise words in an environment of corruption.

While corruption is still rampant today, this wisdom hasn't changed, but the ability to expose corruption has.

With freedom of speech on the internet, we have the opportunity to expose corruption like never before in human history.

It couldn't have been imagined in Biblical times.

So learn your lesson, spread the word.

The corrupt recognize the threat and will oppose it.

The day has come when it is also wise to speak out against corruption.

tiberge said...

@ truepeers

Wordpress is known for doing things like that. A Spanish blogger named Lady Vorzheva also had trouble with them.

These "hosts" claim that they are obligated to act immediately on any complaint of discrimination. I often feel it's just a matter of time before sites like CZ and Galliawatch become targets.

Usually the blog in question is rstored if you can somehow show you are not discriminatory, or in some way talk you way out of the dilemma.

Once Lawrence Auster was shut down by his host - I forget the details, but it was harrowing trying to find a human being, and not an e-mail address, to converse with.

truepeers said...


Maybe they can shut down individual blogs; but not bloggers; and the stories and arguments we make are repeated all over the place. They can't be hidden unless the thought police can come up with a wide consensus for a move towards totalitarianism; and I just can't see them getting there, though I raise the fear from time to time that much violence will be done in half-witted attempts.

So, shutting down a blog is just a sign of desperation, a short-term tactic that will only reveal in the long-term that you don't have the intellectual means to face your opponent in free and open debate and win much support to your cause.

They can frustrate us personally, but they can't rob us of our desire to sacrifice for truth and freedom. And that is why they will lose.