Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Fascists, Hacking & Youth Defence

So we are here again. 
This place, where we see clearly the split between those who value freedom & the followers of every bad or mad idea which damages freedom.


Last night the site of an anti-abortion organisation Youth Defence was hacked. This article is not about Youth Defence, their aims, methods, critics or anything else because in the end the hacking was not about Youth Defence at all. The hacking of a website with which the hackers disagree is all about the hackers and their belief in their right to dictate the speech of others. Hacking a site in this manner is a direct attack on free speech, on the very underpinnings of a democratic society. This is the rule by mob, not by law, the fascism that creeps through the acceptance of evil in small doses. 

Sadly there was not a single voice raised from the pro-choice lobby to protest at this blow against free speech. Bonhoeffer's words might be remembered but doubtless the words of a Christian Pastor executed by Hitler have little purchase with people who set themselves up as the ultimate arbiters of what can or cannot be said. Yet, when the sites they establish, or with which they agree, are taken down and this has become the norm, we all will have lost much more than the right to have a site with which others disagree. 

Sadly, we are a long way down that road of limiting speech. Hacking of Youth defence was acceptable because they are "hateful", anything said about Same Sex Marriage is "hate speech" and Britain regularly prosecutes for twitter or FaceBook postings. This makes the defence of freedom far more vital, endangered species need more care. 

Free speech means just that, that speech should be free, whether we agree or disagree with the ideas expressed. If speech is to be limited by offense to some party, group or individual then no real freedom exists. It is the very freedom to express the unorthodox, the reverse of accepted wisdom, that makes free speech the valuable jewel in our freedoms.


I should not have to defend free speech as an idea but social media was full of gloating fools celebrating the discomfiting of Youth Defence. Reminders that this was a blow, not against Youth Defence but against a liberal democracy, were greeted with accusations of membership of the group targeted  There exists a body of opinion not just that freedom of speech is limited to those with whom the socially left agree, but that a defence of free speech has no place in our discourse. 


Voltaire was not much of a philosopher but his maxim "I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it" is vital to a functioning democratic society. If we use weasel words to explain that some groups should not have freedom of speech or some things should not be said or if  we don't even believe that a defence of free speech should be mounted, as many supposedly liberal people did today, then we have crossed a dark and lost society.

So many now believe that freedom of speech is a luxury or a fuddy-duddy notion which inflicts others unwanted opinions on them, abysmally ignorant of the value of intellectual diversity and how it is achieved and protected, that we may already have crossed over into that place. 

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