photo blog_head_zpsonl8fonu.jpg
Meesa gonna kill you!

Get email updates of new posts:        (Delivered by FeedBurner)

Monday, September 16, 2013

Fire in a Crowded Theatre

"Everyone knows the fatuous verdict of the greatly overpraised Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, who, asked for an actual example of when it would be proper to limit speech or define it as an action, gave that of shouting “fire” in a crowded theatre.

It’s very often forgotten what he was doing in that case was sending to prison a group of Yiddish speaking socialists, whose literature was printed in a language most Americans couldn’t read, opposing President Wilson’s participation in the First World War and the dragging of the United States into this sanguinary conflict, which the Yiddish speaking socialists had fled from Russia to escape...

What they say is it’s not just the right of the person who speaks to be heard, it is the right of everyone in the audience to listen, and to hear. And every time you silence someone you make yourself a prisoner of your own action because you deny yourself the right to hear something. In other words, your own right to hear and be exposed is as much involved in all these cases as is the right of the other to voice his or her view...

Rosa Luxembourg... said that freedom of speech is meaningless unless it means the freedom of the person who thinks differently.

My great friend John O’ Sullivan, former editor of the National Review, and I think probably my most conservative and reactionary Catholic friend, once said –it’s a tiny thought experiment– he says, if you hear the Pope saying he believes in God, you think, “well, the Pope is doing his job again today”. If you hear the Pope saying he’s really begun to doubt the existence of God, you begin to think he might be on to something...

[A Holocaust denier] doesn’t just have a right to speak, that person’s right to speak must be given extra protection. Because what he has to say must have taken him some effort to come up with, might contain a grain of historical truth, might in any case get people to think about “why do they know what they already think they know”. How do I know that I know this, except that I’ve always been taught this and never heard anything else?...

One of the proudest moments of my life, that’s to say, in the recent past, has been defending the British historian David Irving who is now in prison in Austria for nothing more than the potential of uttering an unwelcome thought on Austrian soil. He didn’t actually say anything in Austria. He wasn’t even accused of saying anything. He was accused of perhaps planning to say something that violated an Austrian law that says only one version of the history of the Second World War may be taught in our brave little Tyrolean republic.

The republic that gave us Kurt Waldheim as Secretary General of the United Nations, a man wanted in several countries for war crimes. You know the country that has Jorge Haider, the leader of its own fascist party, in the cabinet that sent David Irving to jail.

You know the two things that have made Austria famous and given it its reputation by any chance? Just while I’ve got you. I hope there are some Austrians here to be upset by it. Well, a pity if not, but the two great achievements of Austria are to have convinced the world that Hitler was German and that Beethoven was Viennese.

Now to this proud record they can add, they have the courage finally to face their past and lock up a British historian who has committed no crime except that of thought in writing...

I don’t know how many of you don’t feel you’re grown up enough to decide for yourselves and think you need to be protected from David Irving’s edition of the Goebbels Diaries for example, out of which I learned more about the Third Reich than I had from studying Hugh Trevor-Roper and A. J. B. Taylor combined when I was at Oxford...

Bear in mind, ladies and gentleman, that every time you violate, or propose the violate, the right to free speech of someone else, you in potentia [are] making a rod for your own back...

Isn’t a famous old story that the man who has to read all the pornography, in order to decide what’s fit to be passed and what is [not], is the man most likely to become debauched?...

Dr Samuel Johnson, the great lexicographer, complier of the first great dictionary of the English language. When it was complete Dr Johnson was waited upon by various delegations of people to congratulate him. Of the nobility, [...] of the Common, of the Lords and also by a delegation of respectable ladies of London who attended on him in his Fleet Street lodgings and congratulated him.

– “Dr Johnson”, they said, “We are delighted to find that you’ve not included any indecent or obscene words in your dictionary.”

– “Ladies”, said Dr Johnson, “I congratulate you on being able to look them up.”

... I have been the target of many death threats, I know, within a short distance of where I am currently living in Washington, I can name two or three people, whose names you probably know, who can’t go anywhere now without a security detail because of the criticisms they’ve made on one monotheism in particular. And this is in the capital city of the United States...

[These people making the death threats are] the people who are going to seek the protection of the hate speech law, if I say what I think about their religion, which I am now going to do...

Do [people who issue death threats to those who insult Islam] get arrested for hate speech? No. Might I get in trouble for saying what I’ve just said about the prophet Mohammad? Yes, I might."

- Christopher Hitchens, speaking at Hart House, University of Toronto, November 15th, 2006
blog comments powered by Disqus
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Latest posts (which you might not see on this page)

powered by Blogger | WordPress by Newwpthemes