Greetings and Salutations!

Welcome to the longest-running* yet least-read** blog on the internet! Here you'll find me writing about all the things that I write about, which strikes me, just now, as somewhat recursive. In any case, enjoy :)

* not true
** probably true

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Mr.Wang Said So...

...but I disagree.

Mr. Wang, who MercerMachine generally agrees with, hit a sour note with this one.

An excerpt:

"The ST Deputy Political Editor, Paul Jacob, has a rather sensible article on
the matter of the Seditious Bloggers. Mr Wang can nitpick a little here and
there, but basically he thinks that Paul has got the right Big Picture."

MrMachine can nitpick more than a little, and more than here and there. MrMachine thinks Paul Jacob missed the Big Picture entirely. With Jacob's first line, actually:

"THERE are some things, many actually, that are more important than freedom of speech."

Maybe so. Probably so. But to dismiss the entire issue of freedom of speech in the first line of the article is as ridiculous as George Bush saying that it's unimportant who was to blame for the failure to respond to Hurricane Katrina. Are there more pressing issues? Yes. In New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast, tens of thousands have to rebuild shattered lives. In Singapore (and indeed the rest of the world) the root causes of racism need to be understood and dealt with.

But both Bush and Jacobs are guilty of dodging thorny, messy, ugly, uncomfortable and above all IMPORTANT issues. For the ST Deputy Political Editor to be dismissive of the issue of free speech is not only baffling, it's frightening.

Let me be entirely, redundantly clear about one thing: Racism is something I've been blogging and commenting about passionately (sometimes overly so) since I began blogging. Like, the second day. I am not defending racists or their comments. Don't believe me? Look here and here and here, for a start. (The second one, you'll have to scroll a bit till you get to the heated discussion, but it's meaty.) Or do a google search with mercermachine and racism.

My point is, when I say freedom of speech needs to be discussed in regards to this issue, I do not say it blithely or easily. It costs me something to admit that racists might actually have a right to make racists comments. And spare me the semantics of 'they can say anything they want as long as they are willing to face the consequences'. I heard that one in the Army, and it wasn't funny then.

A discussion should be held, not on a political or legal level, but on an ethical and philosophical one. What is freedom of speech, and what if any limitations should be placed on it? What are the possible consequences of curtailing freedom of speech? What social responsibility should the blogging 'community' take for those who make wildly inapproriate, hateful, violent or racist comments? Should anything be done at all?

MrMachine says he doesn't know. But he does know that dismissing the questions isn't the answer.


The Informalist said...

Greetings. Encountered this blog on a random surf.

It costs me something to admit that racists might actually have a right to make racists comments.

And from where did this "right" originate?

Edan Bernardino said...

It's precisely because those questions cannot be dealt with effectively that Mr. Wang decided not to discuss the issue. The point being made was stated clearly- that Paul Jacob had written a good article.

The one-liner dismissal did no violence to the sacred ideal of freedom of speech.

And if you would care to start the discussion of the questions you raised, I'd be glad to participate.

The Facetious Cap'n Intrepid said...

Somehow, I don't think that philosophical discussions of this sort that ignore the realm of law and society can be relevant...

And I'm not quite certain about what's wrong with "they can say anything they want as long as they are willing to face the consequences". Should there be no consequences or is it alright that the person be unwilling to face them? Or maybe you're just advocating that the consequences be reconsidered...

MercerMachine said...

hi informalist. I'm not saying that the right does exist. note the use of the word 'might'. But if it does exist, it exists in my opinion in the interest of self preservation. It's easy to say racists shouldn't be allowed to make racist comments. From there it's easy to say that anarchists/terrorists shouldn't be allowed to make seditious comments. From there it's easy to say anyone questioning anything the government says is a threat.

And then nobody gets to say anything.

Hi Edan- I disagree. These questions can be dealt with effectively. they have been in other countries. The one-liner dismissal was, well, dismissive, and the subject deserved better from someone who is supposed to be an expert in political arenas, as well as someone who is a member of the press.

Uh, i think I just started the discussion :)

Hi Cap'n! sorry to hear you got ripped off. next time just be sweaty :)

Anyway, let me clarify the 'consequences' comment: on a practical level, anyone can do anything pretty much. as long as they're willing to face the consequences. that's just common sense. my point is, saying that chops the entire discussion off at the knees and it smacks of a bully's sense of humor. It doesn't give the issue the gravity it deserves.

And I didn't mean that law and society couldn't be discussed, just that one needs to extend the discussion beyond those borders in order to make an informed decision on what they think is morally/etically/politically/everything-elsely correct.