Saturday, April 4, 2009

Can We Listen to the HDJ?

LFAT tells the story of yet another group in Germany, (the Homeland-Faithful German Youth) who have been legally silenced. (The Nameless One picks up on this, as does DK.) They don’t appear to be people you would particularly care to hear, and I have heard enough. (I can't find their website; can anyone help?) But, as I have said before, I don’t like the idea of forbidding the holding or expressing of ideas. The debate seems to centre on whether they are entitled to state their beliefs, and to attempt to transmit them to children. In answer to the first point, of course they have the right to state their beliefs, policies and so on, and to engage in debate. In answer to the second, they first have to persuade parents to let them talk to their children. And they do have to persuade; that sort of person does not get easy access to children, unlike, for example, religious groups, and especially governments, who tend to think they are entitled to decide what children should be told is right and wrong (Hickory passim).

Those who seek to prevent this are far more dangerous than the HDJ. They don’t have a right of access to any forum they choose. No one does. Your right to free expression ends at my lughole. I don’t have to listen. I certainly don’t have to agree. I can argue with you, call you a fool, warn others against you, all of the things normal people do in situations which no one has told them are matters of universal principle (at least this week).

Freedom of speech is surely not such a difficult concept to understand. I think the problem is that most people think they believe in it, as a general principle, because everyone does, don’t they? But many do not in fact think about what it implies. When they do, they starting butting and unlessing. Most do not believe in it at all; they believe in agreeing with them, and to say certain other things within strictly defined limits. If free speech means anything it means saying things someone else doesn’t want to hear. And believing in free speech involves being grown-up. It does not mean condoning incitement to violence; this is a false argument, once well understood as such, but now being used to gain support for the prohibition of opinion.

Once the principle is established that the state can dictate what you can and cannot say, you can be sure that one day you will be prevented by force from expressing opposition to it. See the EU on xenophobia.

You do not give people the right to say certain things. You forbid them to say things, or to think things, or believe things, you probably don’t appreciate the difference, let alone care about it. And you cannot ban ideas. To ban the expression of them then invites the denouncing of people for their facial expression and body language.

Arantxa Quiroga, of the Popular Party, has been elected president of the Basque parliament. The background to this is very complicated- I shall try to explain it one day- but the point is that the Nationalist Party is no longer in control. Miss Quiroga has said that this is the first fully democratic Basque parliament, because the terrorists have no representation. Herri Batasuna (the Sinn Fein of Spain) and their successor parties, all with the same leaders and members, have been illegalized repeatedly. It is hard to do this, especially in a democracy which still fears its own debility, and it has been done with great care, but it has been done.

I have lived in Bilbao, I have known people threatened and extorted by ETA, I have been threatened myself for going to work when they have called a strike (because they control the trade unions), I have heard bombs go off, and seen the damage they cause, I have argued with supporters of the scum who are trying to destroy the place, and I still do not believe they should be prevented from speaking, or that people should not be allowed to vote for them. They will never have enough support for it to matter. The majority of us are not that stupid.

In the end, it matters far more to us to say what we think than to stop others from saying what they think, and that is a good thing. It means that without force we will tend to let other people do what they want.

(Harold Steptoe dixit: Everyone’s entitled to not like what they don’t like, and I don’t like wogs. Discuss.)

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