Saturday, 29 January 2011

Fighting old battles

Following on from the clip of Janis Joplin performing on the Dick Cavett show, I came across an interview by the same gentleman with John Cleese from around the time of 'The Life of Brian', which caused a fair measure of outrage amongst certain people.

In the excerpt below at the 5:30 mark the conversation turns to the issue of people taking offence and censorship, and it's a reminder how the argument continues, but the competing sides have changed somewhat. Back then, and it is not that long ago historically, there was still a remnant of the old guard, decrying smut and blasphemy, who have now very largely died off, and their depleted ranks have been filled by many who at this earlier stage would have been resolutely on the other side of the struggle.

The argument, here expressed by John Cleese, has not, in contrast changed over the passing years. It is the libertarian position of live and let live, that says; 'by all means, be offended if you choose, but do not stop me exercising my freedom of expression'. The non-aggression axiom sets the sure boundary, not one's subjective measure of good taste.

However, there has always been and no doubt will there always be those for whom this limitation is not stringent enough. They may not reject openly the axiom I mention. More likely they will seek to evade it by a subtle re-working of its meaning. The concept of harm is where their syntactical alchemy will be applied. The example from the so-called Supreme Court (see below) shows this very well. An act of violence against someone by definition causes harm. If violence can be re-defined to include speech, then the justification for censorship is thereby made.

We must struggle against such verbal mission creep, and do so with blunted weapons, for we have the disadvantage of having to make our case in defence of unpopular causes.

UPDATE: Hat tip: UKK41 (who got it from Muffled Vociferation). This speech from Pat Condell is particularly relevant to the issue of free speech.


fraser said...

As i can see you like your music,and seeing your on the subject of the Dick Cavet show here is an interview with Jimi Hendrix...

Jimi plays at the end of the interview..

Trooper Thompson said...

Yeah man, I've seen that. I remember Jimi says something funny about trying to get up in the morning.

James Higham said...

To me, censorship is for the children, to allow them to grow up children.

Trooper Thompson said...

Right James, it is to stop people saying things, and by doing so, stop people having the power to think those same things. It is to remove the words which will express ideas deemed thoughtcrime.