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.