Freedom of expression sometimes seems to be a little out of fashion even among activists. Freedom of speech won’t feed my children. It’s only a Western value right? – we can’t force ‘our’ culture on ‘them’. Google (‘Don’t Be Evil‘) did evil. PATRIOTs understand that to protect our liberties, you must ignore them. If you’re anti-war, then you can ignore the bad deeds of countries who are anti-US and thus On Your Side. And we DEFINITELY can’t offend religious people, especially when they are Oppressed Groups and thus Always Right. Got that?
The Euston Manifesto (officially published this weekend!) makes it very clear.
We reject the double standards with which much self-proclaimed progressive opinion now operates, finding lesser (though all too real) violations of human rights which are closer to home, or are the responsibility of certain disfavoured governments, more deplorable than other violations that are flagrantly worse. We reject, also, the cultural relativist view according to which these basic human rights are not appropriate for certain nations or peoples.
And later on…
We uphold the traditional liberal freedom of ideas. It is more than ever necessary today to affirm that, within the usual constraints against defamation, libel and incitement to violence, people must be at liberty to criticize ideas — even whole bodies of ideas — to which others are committed. This includes the freedom to criticize religion: particular religions and religion in general. Respect for others does not entail remaining silent about their beliefs where these are judged to be wanting.
So. Why the lengthy quotes and the ranting?
Reason A is that I’ve been dealing with the Google-China issue in my current research. So it’s on my mind. Reason B is that I wrote an extended rant for a Labour newsletter defending freedom of expression in the context of the ‘cartoons’ hoohah (which I’ll add to the writings page soon). But reason C, and the best of them all, is the shiny new box appearing in the sidebar. It’s part of Amnesty’s new campaign, Irrepressible.info – launched today in the Observer newspaper, focused on online free speech.
Click on it, please 🙂