"Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the Sultan of Johor are seen in a blue Proton Saga... "When asked whether there is any tension with the sultan, Dr Mahathir said: “No, I don’t see anything because I went to see him and he drove me to the airport. I don’t want to comment on the sultans because if I say anything that is not good then it’s not nice because he is the sultan”"

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Friday, December 25, 2009

"The most radical revolutionary will become a conservative the day after the revolution." - Hannah Arendt


Eight questions for Jonathan Rauch | The Economist

"DIA: Since your book "Kindly Inquisitors" came out, free speech has taken quite a few more knocks, culminating in a recent non-binding resolution from a UN body banning "defamation of religion". Have things gotten worse since 1995? And are free-speech advocates right to fight back by, for example, publishing cartoons of Muhammad in Danish newspapers?

Mr Rauch: Things are worse and better, depending where you look. Since K.I., free speech has learned to fight back against political correctness on university campuses. FIRE, for example, has made university administrators worry about getting sued or shamed if they cave in to repressive demands. That represents an important shift in the power equation.

On the other hand, campaigns by Islamic extremists to shut down full and frank discussion of religion seem to have made headway in Europe...

Freedom of expression and freedom of religion are the two great bulwarks of modern liberalism, and neither is self-enforcing. As we have learned in American universities, political correctness and other kinds of campaigns to muzzle dissent on grounds of sensitivity are really about power, not compassion, and the only thing power respects is power...

DIA: In the past you've had some critical things to say about the blogosphere. Do you see blogging as an inferior form of journalism?

Mr Rauch: I only wish more bloggers would do journalism. Meaning: independently check (alleged) facts before publishing them. Ask people for comment before printing claims about them or attributing hearsay to them. Leave the house and find things out, preferably things that surprise and confound one's initial predispositions. Try to provide some balance. Understand that people can be hurt or even ruined by what writers write, so there is some real need for compassion and caution. Understand that an all-purpose snarky attitude is no substitute for the specialised knowledge that comes from working a beat.

Newsrooms teach these values. The blogosphere seems, too often anyway, to teach contempt for them.

Luckily, he's Jewish and gay, so he's more or less immune to criticism.

From reviews of Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attacks on Free Thought:

"A compelling defense of free speech against its new enemies, who range from the mosques of Iran to the groves of American academe...

Rauch divides challengers to free speech into three camps: ``fundamentalists,'' who believe truth is obvious and not to be questioned; ``egalitarians,'' who think that the beliefs of all sincere people deserve equal respect; and ``humanitarians,'' who hold that one must never offend. But whether they are Moslems enraged at negative portrayals of Islam, creationists pressing to have their theory taught along with evolution, or minorities imposing university codes against ``hate speech,'' all these groups wish to revive the Inquisition notion that ``people who hold wrong and hurtful opinions should be punished for the good of society.''

Rauch's strength here lies in his relentless insistence that liberal science, though hurtful at times, is the best means of advancing knowledge and avoiding ``herdthink.''"
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