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Freedom of Speech Debate. Oxford 2015

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posted on Dec, 30 2015 @ 03:25 PM
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An interesting debate at Oxford University, UK (Aug 2015) on freedom of speech and the right to offend. Below are two speakers, one for the motion and one against. The videos are around 9 minutes each which I will summarise. Although the debate relates to Oxford academia I think it also has wider relevance.

One of the Speakers for the motion

Brendan O'Neill, editor of Spike on-line. Spike is a British Internet magazine focusing on politics, culture and society from a humanist and libertarian viewpoint. The magazine opposes all forms of censorship, by the state or otherwise (Wikipedia).



CAUTION: Some members may find parts of the video offensive.

Brendon uses history to demonstrate how civilised society has evolved through offensiveness giving numerous examples. One example he gives is The Necessity of Atheism, a pamphlet published by Shelley in 1811, with one historical account stating it caused maximum offence. Shelley was subsequently banished from Oxford University.

Brendon states that the oldest foulest form of intolerance is the intolerance of anyone that gives offence. He claims that every leap in history and the freedoms we enjoy today are the product of individuals giving offence against the orthodoxy of that age. He suggests that rather than begrudgingly accepting offence we should view as the motor of human progress, the instigator of liberty, modernity, science and understanding.

He attacks the view that intolerance relating to protecting the individual is progressive. This view is not about protecting individuals he says. It is about protecting an idea which is the mainstream status quo of the 21st century, the idea of human vulnerability. The poisonous notion that humans are fragile and therefore our speech and our actions need to be be policed. "This is a misanthropic, orthodox idea that they promote and protect from criticism in a similar way to how priests used to ring-fence their beliefs from ridicule."

He finishes with the need to move on from the right to offend towards a duty to offend. Anyone who cares for freedom needs to break out of the new form of conformism.

One of the speakers against the motion

Ruvi Ziegler is a lecturer in Law at Reading University, UK. He teaches International Human Rights Law, International Humanitarian Law and also International Refugee Law.



Zuri talks about freedom of expression often equalling actions in its effect. This has the potential for it to affect and also place at risk other fundamental human rights, values and freedoms. He highlights that freedom of speech, if allowed in its entirety, would necessitate a positive duty/obligation by government to respect, protect and fulfil an individual's right to offend, even if that speech has the sole purpose of offence. This duty would also negate the consequences of this type of speech.

Zuri informs the house that International Human Rights Law is firmly on his side of the debate. In all liberal democracies, except the United States, the state does regulate and inhibit the freedom of speech. He goes on to talk about harm from offensive speech highlighting the difference between intentional and incidentary offensive speech. The proponents of free speech need to demonstrate why offensive speech which has absolutely no form of social value, should be protected.

Freedom of expression is a right under International Human Rights law unless it clashes with other fundamental rights, especially if these rights enjoy a higher normative status. According to article 19 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the exercise of the right to freedom of expression carries with it special duties and responsibilities which therefore may be subject to restrictions including the respect and reputations of others.

Article 20 of ICCPR says that the states must prohibit all forms of advocacy to national racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination or hostility. The European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) says that any attempt to abuse the ECHR, including freedom of expression, which is aimed at the destruction of other rights or freedom is prohibited.

Zuri refers to the harm of speech in relation to that which causes violence. This shows that certain words can result in harmful consequences. He gives examples of both the short and long term effects of harmful speech that has no independent social value.

He demonstrates the difference between trying to persuade and trying to injure. Using freedom of speech to advance social legitimate purpose may result in incidental or ancillary harms. There is a relevant consideration with free speech in determining its scope and justifiability of infringement upon it.

He uses an analogy of armed conflict. It is recognised that purposeful harm and destruction of civilians is an evil so it is entirely prohibited. There is qualified prohibition when attacking an intended military target where civilians are incidentally harmed or killed. The reason we distinguish between the two is because we perceive the mere creation of offence through the purpose of action.

Zuri concludes that freedom of speech is not an absolute right because it has the potential to affect competing values, in particular the right and freedoms of others, both in the short and long term. If the sole purpose of freedom of speech is to offend then on balance, the right to engage in this type of speech is socially harmful.

These two speakers made me question if freedom of speech infers unlimited speech. I have always believed that freedom of expression requires social governance in a civilised society. I used to think that the crux of this debate was positive social value. Mr O'Neill's examples of how society has progressed due to offence has made me question this stance.

Competing values in relation to human rights is another argument which does have merit in my opinion. The only problem I have with this is where is the line drawn where something which is offensive becomes harmful.

I have searched over 2 days for the result of this debate but could not find it. For anyone who is interested, further speakers can be found here and here. The last link you need to close the ad in the bottom right corner cross to access the video.

Speakers include Shami Chakrabarti, Peter Hitchens, Kate Brooks and Tim Squirrell.


edit on 30-12-2015 by deliberator because: (no reason given)




posted on Dec, 30 2015 @ 03:49 PM
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a reply to: deliberator

Great debate. Good 'ol tory Peter Hitchens nails it, in my opinion.



posted on Dec, 30 2015 @ 03:52 PM
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a reply to: deliberator

Brendan is speaking my language.

The other guy I find to be fascist and imposing an order that represents only one way of thinking is right. His talk gives me the creeps.

Marlon Brando's character Kurtz in Apocalypse Now speaks these words that have always stayed with me,

"They train young men to drop fire on people. But their commanders won't allow them to write # on their airplanes because it's obscene".

It is the hypocrisy that disturbs me. The state is deciding what should be right and wrong for us well beyond the boundaries of necessity. It is politically motivated, too. In cases of obvious incitement to violent action there is justification, but it is Orwellian dystopia to go policing language. I am even ok about Hitler's "Mein Kampf" being republished. Free speech in Academia is vital.

I notice a contradiction even in my own reasoning here. What if there was a necessity to revolt because the state were behaving totally inhumanely? Obviously any revolutionary literature would be incitement to proactive rebellion. The state could outlaw the literature on the grounds that it is incitement to violence.

We need a modicum of freedom to protest and even rebel enshrined in the state law of a nation. History has thrown up some vicious and monstrous heads of state who have been responsible for genocide and mass slaughter on a huge scale. We are threatening our freedom and laying ourselves wide open to possible future state abuse when we go censoring language and free speech.

Much better if people have broad backs and can take an offense or two. This is the healthier version rather than censor and political control of our behaviour beyond what is only absolutely necessary.

I'm afraid I am no lawyer and reluctant to define what is "absolutely necessary".

edit on 30-12-2015 by Revolution9 because: (no reason given)



posted on Dec, 30 2015 @ 03:57 PM
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a reply to: LesMisanthrope

I had difficulty understanding Peter Hitchens due to suffering from moderate to severe hearing loss. Tonight I discovered that Youtube has subtitles! I will listen and post my thoughts.



posted on Dec, 30 2015 @ 04:00 PM
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a reply to: deliberator




I had difficulty understanding Peter Hitchens due to suffering from moderate to severe hearing loss. Tonight I discovered that Youtube has subtitles! I will listen and post my thoughts.


He's quite the opposite of his more famous brother, being that he is a Christian, conservative, etc. but he has the same Hitchens' ire, which always makes for a good listen (or in your case, read).



posted on Dec, 30 2015 @ 04:19 PM
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a reply to: deliberator

Thank you for an excellent OP and for the quality of your presentation.

I would have to say that at this, my first review of this matter, I'm deeply offended by the thought that these pretentious pseudo-intellectual toads will decide the future of free speech for the whole of humanity.

However, rather than respond with a rant, I'll take the time to listen to more of the presentations such that perhaps, later, I can respond from a less emotional perspective. S&F



posted on Dec, 30 2015 @ 04:28 PM
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a reply to: TonyS
They are not deciding anything, just expressing opinions, and even their opinions may change when they come up against reality.
In a famous debate in the 1930's, their predecessors voted that they "would not fight for king and country".
When war stopped being an abstract possibility and became brutal reality, they fought along with everybody else.



posted on Dec, 30 2015 @ 04:50 PM
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a reply to: DISRAELI

Quite right, one can glue oneself to lofty ideals until necessity comes into play and we then have to face up to reality.

Most people never think of the repercussions of their pet ideals on a fast moving world and have never factored change into their ideal which it cannot deal with.



posted on Dec, 30 2015 @ 05:12 PM
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Freedom of speech is up for grabs now?


*opinion censored*



posted on Dec, 30 2015 @ 05:38 PM
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a reply to: deliberator

I've always found the concept of debating something like freedom of speech to be incredibly odd. You're basically using a platform to say that you don't believe the platform should exist.



posted on Dec, 30 2015 @ 05:56 PM
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a reply to: SovietUnionist

Freedom of speech includes the right to abolish it which is like you say, a paradox.



posted on Dec, 30 2015 @ 06:16 PM
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originally posted by: deliberator
a reply to: SovietUnionist

Freedom of speech includes the right to abolish it which is like you say, a paradox.


I assume you mean that freedom of speech includes the right to challenge it rather than abolish it.
edit on 30-12-2015 by greencmp because: (no reason given)



posted on Dec, 30 2015 @ 07:24 PM
link   

originally posted by: deliberator
An interesting debate at Oxford University, UK (Aug 2015) on freedom of speech and the right to offend. Below are two speakers, one for the motion and one against. The videos are around 9 minutes each which I will summarise. Although the debate relates to Oxford academia I think it also has wider relevance.

One of the Speakers for the motion

Brendan O'Neill, editor of Spike on-line. Spike is a British Internet magazine focusing on politics, culture and society from a humanist and libertarian viewpoint. The magazine opposes all forms of censorship, by the state or otherwise (Wikipedia).



CAUTION: Some members may find parts of the video offensive.

Brendon uses history to demonstrate how civilised society has evolved through offensiveness giving numerous examples. One example he gives is The Necessity of Atheism, a pamphlet published by Shelley in 1811, with one historical account stating it caused maximum offence. Shelley was subsequently banished from Oxford University.

Brendon states that the oldest foulest form of intolerance is the intolerance of anyone that gives offence. He claims that every leap in history and the freedoms we enjoy today are the product of individuals giving offence against the orthodoxy of that age. He suggests that rather than begrudgingly accepting offence we should view as the motor of human progress, the instigator of liberty, modernity, science and understanding.

He attacks the view that intolerance relating to protecting the individual is progressive. This view is not about protecting individuals he says. It is about protecting an idea which is the mainstream status quo of the 21st century, the idea of human vulnerability. The poisonous notion that humans are fragile and therefore our speech and our actions need to be be policed. "This is a misanthropic, orthodox idea that they promote and protect from criticism in a similar way to how priests used to ring-fence their beliefs from ridicule."

He finishes with the need to move on from the right to offend towards a duty to offend. Anyone who cares for freedom needs to break out of the new form of conformism.

One of the speakers against the motion

Ruvi Ziegler is a lecturer in Law at Reading University, UK. He teaches International Human Rights Law, International Humanitarian Law and also International Refugee Law.



Zuri talks about freedom of expression often equalling actions in its effect. This has the potential for it to affect and also place at risk other fundamental human rights, values and freedoms. He highlights that freedom of speech, if allowed in its entirety, would necessitate a positive duty/obligation by government to respect, protect and fulfil an individual's right to offend, even if that speech has the sole purpose of offence. This duty would also negate the consequences of this type of speech.

Zuri informs the house that International Human Rights Law is firmly on his side of the debate. In all liberal democracies, except the United States, the state does regulate and inhibit the freedom of speech. He goes on to talk about harm from offensive speech highlighting the difference between intentional and incidentary offensive speech. The proponents of free speech need to demonstrate why offensive speech which has absolutely no form of social value, should be protected.

Freedom of expression is a right under International Human Rights law unless it clashes with other fundamental rights, especially if these rights enjoy a higher normative status. According to article 19 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the exercise of the right to freedom of expression carries with it special duties and responsibilities which therefore may be subject to restrictions including the respect and reputations of others.

Article 20 of ICCPR says that the states must prohibit all forms of advocacy to national racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination or hostility. The European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) says that any attempt to abuse the ECHR, including freedom of expression, which is aimed at the destruction of other rights or freedom is prohibited.

Zuri refers to the harm of speech in relation to that which causes violence. This shows that certain words can result in harmful consequences. He gives examples of both the short and long term effects of harmful speech that has no independent social value.

He demonstrates the difference between trying to persuade and trying to injure. Using freedom of speech to advance social legitimate purpose may result in incidental or ancillary harms. There is a relevant consideration with free speech in determining its scope and justifiability of infringement upon it.

He uses an analogy of armed conflict. It is recognised that purposeful harm and destruction of civilians is an evil so it is entirely prohibited. There is qualified prohibition when attacking an intended military target where civilians are incidentally harmed or killed. The reason we distinguish between the two is because we perceive the mere creation of offence through the purpose of action.

Zuri concludes that freedom of speech is not an absolute right because it has the potential to affect competing values, in particular the right and freedoms of others, both in the short and long term. If the sole purpose of freedom of speech is to offend then on balance, the right to engage in this type of speech is socially harmful.

These two speakers made me question if freedom of speech infers unlimited speech. I have always believed that freedom of expression requires social governance in a civilised society. I used to think that the crux of this debate was positive social value. Mr O'Neill's examples of how society has progressed due to offence has made me question this stance.

Competing values in relation to human rights is another argument which does have merit in my opinion. The only problem I have with this is where is the line drawn where something which is offensive becomes harmful.

I have searched over 2 days for the result of this debate but could not find it. For anyone who is interested, further speakers can be found here and here. The last link you need to close the ad in the bottom right corner cross to access the video.

Speakers include Shami Chakrabarti, Peter Hitchens, Kate Brooks and Tim Squirrell.



I find it interesting how the U.S. is used an example. The first amendment only refers to the Gov't infringing on the right of free speech. It doesn't infringe on society's abridging those rights, such as bringing offense. The consequences of offense are, I believe, assumed by the Founding Fathers.

Go ahead and call your boss a 'castrated, egg-laying son of a frost-bitten tree stump' and we'll see what it get you....

Addition. Much like the second amendment, having the right of ownership doesn't preclude consequence of misuse of that 'right'.
edit on 30-12-2015 by nwtrucker because: (no reason given)



posted on Dec, 30 2015 @ 09:18 PM
link   

originally posted by: TonyS
a reply to: deliberator

Thank you for an excellent OP and for the quality of your presentation.

I would have to say that at this, my first review of this matter, I'm deeply offended by the thought that these pretentious pseudo-intellectual toads will decide the future of free speech for the whole of humanity.

However, rather than respond with a rant, I'll take the time to listen to more of the presentations such that perhaps, later, I can respond from a less emotional perspective. S&F


I rarely see so many digital tumbleweeds rolling through important topics like this.

Maybe everyone is attentively watching all of the Oxford Union videos and formulating their comments.




posted on Dec, 31 2015 @ 05:47 AM
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originally posted by: greencmp

originally posted by: deliberator
a reply to: SovietUnionist

Freedom of speech includes the right to abolish it which is like you say, a paradox.


I assume you mean that freedom of speech includes the right to challenge it rather than abolish it.


You are right. It was late and I was tired. I meant the right to call for its abolishment.



posted on Dec, 31 2015 @ 06:06 AM
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a reply to: nwtrucker

I was reading an essay on freedom of speech from the Stamford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy which highlights this.

The United States is an outlier amongst liberal democracies when it comes to hate speech. The most famous example of this is the Nazi march through Skokie, Illinois, something that would not be allowed in almost any other democratic society. The actual intention was not to engage in political speech at all, but simply to march through a predominantly Jewish community dressed in storm trooper uniforms and wearing swastikas (although the Illinois Supreme Court interpreted the wearing of swastikas as “symbolic political speech”). It is clear that most people, especially those who lived in Skokie, were outraged and offended by the march, but were they harmed? There was no plan to cause physical injury and the marchers did not intend to damage property.

The main argument for prohibiting the Skokie march, based on the harm principle, was that it would cause harm by inciting opponents of the march to riot. The problem with this claim is that it is the harm that could potentially be done to the people speaking that becomes the focal point and not the harm done to those who are the subject of the hate. To ban speech for this reason, i.e., for the good of the speaker, tends to undermine the basic right to free speech in the first place. If we turn to the local community who were on the wrong end of hate speech we might want to claim that they could be psychologically harmed, but this is more difficult to demonstrate than harm to a person's legal rights.

Link



posted on Dec, 31 2015 @ 06:30 AM
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a reply to: LesMisanthrope

Several minutes into the video I started to hear what he was saying so did not need the subtitles. Ironically the Youtube auto text could not make out what he was saying in the first few minutes either.

Censorship leading to tyranny. Ah the slippery slope argument.

Those who support the slippery slope argument claim that the consequence of limiting speech is the inevitable slide into censorship and tyranny. Such arguments assume that we can be on or off the slope. In fact, no such choice exists: we are necessarily on the slope whether we like it or not, and the task is always to decide how far up or down we choose to go, not whether we should step off the slope altogether. It is worth noting that the slippery slope argument can be used to make the opposite point; one could argue with equal force that we should not allow any removal of government interventions because once we do we are on the slippery slope to anarchy, the state of nature, and a life that Hobbes described in Leviathan as “solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short” (1968, 186).

It is possible that some limits on speech might, over time, lead to further restrictions—but they might not. And if they do, those limitations might also be justified. The advocate of the slippery-slope has to demonstrate how a restriction here and now will lead to some further (unjustified) restriction in the future. The usual slippery-slope claim is not that the proposed restriction will lead to minor adjustments in the future, but that a small change now will have drastic and tyrannical consequences. The causal mechanisms for how this must necessarily happen are usually unspecified.

Link in my post above.

I don't agree with this. The method being used is PC which is definitely censorship of free speech. That in itself is a form of tyranny.



posted on Dec, 31 2015 @ 06:39 AM
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a reply to: DISRAELI

I take your point DISRAELI but that was 1930 where the refusal to fight often led to being hanged. Remember when Churchill declared war the UK was not being attacked.

If Cameron declares war in the future where we are not being directly attacked there will be massive resistance against conscription. You only have to look at the youth of today to know this.



posted on Dec, 31 2015 @ 06:49 AM
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a reply to: Revolution9




Marlon Brando's character Kurtz in Apocalypse Now speaks these words that have always stayed with me,

"They train young men to drop fire on people. But their commanders won't allow them to write # on their airplanes because it's obscene".


Says so much doesn't it.



posted on Dec, 31 2015 @ 07:16 AM
link   
a reply to: deliberator

After giving this a lot of thought, I'd guess the problem is that America, being seen as at the extreme end of free speech, it has fewer restrictions on that which is deemed hate speech in the UK and Europe. This problem has been exacerbated by the Internet. So, I'd guess there's going to be a push to bring the US into line with the standards adopted in the UK and Europe. Where this will go, I have no idea but........I'd read, for example, that Twitter is going to take steps to identify hateful posts and posters and cancel their accounts.

The odd thing about this is that limiting free speech, or reigning it in, doesn't preclude freedom of "thought". When you limit speech, regulate it and such, you simply drive freedom of thought underground. So that has a peculiar consequence in that it undermines the effect of government propaganda. So for example, and its a bad example, if your government routinely engages in Public Service announcements to accept the Muslims in your midst, those who, in their minds and thoughts are suspicious of Muslims, say nothing, but mentally, they relegate the PSA's to the ash bin.

All of this is probably just academic because as the new trade agreements come into effect, speech on the internet will be more closely regulated and censored whether people like it or not. But that will of course render the idea of discourse and exchange of ideas to the level of the sound of one hand clapping.




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