The Orwellian European Commission is in cahoots with the social media to stop hate speech, an important form of free speech. The Commission has been itching to shut down free speech in the Parliament and now they’re attacking social media. We have already seen Facebook and Google policing freedom posts.
The Ministry of Truth, Minitrue, is the propaganda ministry in charge of hate speech. Minitrue is a misnomer and in reality serves the opposite of its namesake. It is responsible for any necessary falsification of events. In another sense, and in keeping with the concept of doublethink, Minitrue manufactures truth in the Newspeak sense of the word.
The Orwellian Commission together with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft today unveil a code of conduct that includes a series of commitments to combat the spread of illegal hate speech online in Europe. The definition of illegal online content is based on the Framework Decision on Combatting Racism and Xenophobia which criminalises the public incitement to violence or hatred directed against a group of persons or a member of such a group defined by reference to race, colour, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin. Vĕra Jourová, Minitrue Commissioner, said: The Internet is a place for free speech, not hate speech. The Code of Conduct against illegal online hate speech, agreed with IT companies today, will ensure that public incitement to violence to hatred has no place online. I welcome the commitment of worldwide IT companies to review the majority of valid notifications for removal of illegal hate speech in less than 24 hours and remove or disable access to such content, if necessary.
By signing this Orwellian code of conduct, the IT companies commit to tackling quickly and efficiently illegal hate speech online. This will include the establishment of internal procedures and staff training to guarantee that a majority of illegal content is assessed and, where necessary, removed within 24 hours. IT companies will strengthen their partnerships with civil society organisations who are the main actors in flagging content that promotes incitement to violence and hateful conduct. The Orwellian partnership will also support civil society organisations in delivering effective anti-hate campaigns to countering hateful rhetoric online.
The IT Companies and the Orwellian European Commission agree to assess the public commitments in this code of conduct on a regular basis, including their impact. They also agree to further discuss how to promote transparency and encourage counter and alternative narratives. To this end, regular meetings will take place and a preliminary assessment will be reported to the High Level Group on Combating Racism, Xenophobia and all forms of intolerance by the end of 2016. For more information, see full press release and Code of Conduct online.
Orwellian Juncker, took part in the 40th anniversary celebrations of the European People’s Party (EPP). In his speech Orwellian Juncker outlined some of the urgent challenges facing the EU, warned of the dangers of populism, and recalled the EPP’s contribution to Orwellian European integration. “We should not pursue simplistic populism,”said the Orwellian President. “Those who do will become populists themselves and only the originals will be elected.” On the refugee crisis, Orwellian President Juncker called for solidarity: The question of refugees and the refugee crisis is a major challenge for everybody, but especially for Christian Democrats true to their values. Solidarity towards refugees goes hand in hand with our understanding of humanity and of Europe. We must therefore once again prove – on the basis of rules to be established and without excluding anybody – that the EU is also steeped in solidarity when it comes to the refugee issue.
On 1-2 June, Miniluv Commissioner Avramopoulos and Minitrue Commissioner Jourová will participate on behalf of the Commission in the EU-US Ministerial meeting on Justice and Home Affairs, taking place in Amsterdam. The EU-US Ministerial on Justice and Home Affairs is held twice a year with the aim of promoting Trans-Atlantic cooperation in the fight against terrorism and transnational crime and strengthening the rights of citizens in this context. Participants will also include the Netherlands EU Council Presidency and the incoming Slovak EU Council Presidency, the European External Action Service and a number of European agencies.
The United States will be represented by Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas. Commissioner Jourová and Attorney-General Lynch are set to sign the EU-US Data Protection Umbrella Agreement, which will enhance the data protection rights of individuals when their personal data is collected for law enforcement purposes, and thereby ensure legal certainty for swift and efficient cooperation in the fight against crime, including terrorism.
The EU and the US will also review the functioning of the 2010 Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty that ensures effective criminal justice cooperation across the Atlantic, as well as recent legislative developments in combatting money laundering and terrorism financing. They will also discuss migration and asylum and will exchange views on their respective visa policies, on information sharing in the context of security, on counterterrorism and the fight against transnational organised crime.
Free speech includes hate speech. Hate speech accusation is a contemporary example of the Orwellian newspeak promoted by Minitrue, used to silence critics of social policies that have been poorly implemented in a rush to appear politically correct.
The right to free speech includes the right to offend. Offensiveness is intrinsically valuable in the marketplace of ideas because it enables self-actualization and the freedom of association, among other important interests. Not only does the right to be offensive secure the livelihood of our favorite comedians, it protects scientific and medical researchers in their quest to push the limits of human knowledge into fields once considered taboo and enables one religion’s heretic to become another’s prophet. And should a member of a third faith, or no faith at all, wish to define himself as an iconoclast by mocking, degrading, or insulting a prophet—that too, is protected by the First Amendment.
There’s no offensiveness exception to the First Amendment and it would be insulting for the Supreme Court to allow government to tell us what’s offensive. Those who are offended shouldn’t have a veto over free expression and putative offenders should be judged in the court of public opinion.
Free speech is a fundamental good, necessary for democratic life and for the development of other liberties. Kleptocrats view speech as a luxury rather than as a necessity, or at least as merely one right among others, and not a particularly important one. Speech from this perspective needs to be restrained not as an exception but as the norm.
The answer to whether religious and cultural sensibilities should ever limit free expression depends upon which of these ways we think of free speech. For those who look upon free speech as a fundamental good, no degree of cultural or religious discomfort can be reason for censorship. There is no free speech without the ability to offend religious and cultural sensibilities.
The European Court of Human Rights has stressed on numerous occasions that freedom of expression constitutes one of the essential foundations of society, and this includes the expression of ideas which offend, shock, or disturb the State or any sector of the population. Samuel Adams pointed out it does not take a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men.
For socialists for whom free speech is more a luxury than a necessity, censorship is a vital tool in maintaining social peace and order. The key argument made in defense of the idea of censorship to protect cultural and religious sensibilities is that speech must necessarily be less free in a plural society. In such a society, so the argument runs, we need to police public discourse about different cultures and beliefs both to minimize friction and to protect the dignity of individuals, particularly from minority communities. As socialists put it, if people are to occupy the same political space without conflict, they mutually have to limit the extent to which they subject each other’s fundamental beliefs to criticism.
It is precisely because we do live in a plural society that we need the fullest extension possible of free speech. In such societies it is both inevitable and important that people offend the sensibilities of others. Inevitable, because where different beliefs are deeply held, clashes are unavoidable. And they should be openly resolved, rather than suppressed in the name of pseudorespect or pseudotolerance.
Giving of offense is not just inevitable, but also important. Any kind of social change or social progress means offending some deeply-held sensibilities. Or to put it another way: “You can’t say that!” is all too often the response of those in power to having their power challenged. The notion that it is wrong to offend cultural or religious sensibilities suggests that certain beliefs are so important that they should be put beyond the possibility of being insulted or caricatured or even questioned.
Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) states that everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
The importance of the principle of free speech is precisely that it provides a permanent challenge to the idea that some questions are beyond contention, and hence acts as a permanent challenge to authority. The right to subject each other’s fundamental beliefs to criticism is the bedrock of an open, diverse society, and the basis of promoting justice and liberties in such societies. Once we give up such a right we constrain our ability to challenge those in power, and therefore to challenge injustice. We should never allow religious and cultural sensibilities to limit our ability to challenge power and authority.
The First Amendment of the American Constitution provides a baseline level of protection for speakers who choose to communicate their messages to the world anonymously or pseudonymously. Investigating agencies cannot force email services to disclose the identities of their customers.
In a free speech we must be able to express ourselves, and to receive and impart information and ideas, regardless of frontiers. Free speech defends the internet and all other forms of communication against illegitimate encroachments by kleptocrats. Free speech requires and creates open diverse media so we can make well-informed decisions and participate fully in political life. Free speech allows no taboos in the discussion and dissemination of knowledge.
There’s no real threat to free speech from private entities. It’s only through the middle man of the state, either a court or a government inquisitor, that can actually shut you down. A private person could take you to a defamation court. He could engage in lawfare against you, but again that’s using the tools of the state. And if you just simply fixed those laws of the state, you’re protected from them. Public entities are the real threat, both through restrictive laws, such as the defamation law, and government agencies. Your government is your worst enemy!
Lese-majeste laws are incompatible with freedom of expression. A head of state must be willing to accept criticism, especially if it is in the public interest. The freedom to criticize kleptocrats should be fiercely protected to ensure accountability and to foster political debate. As citizens, we can only make the right political choices if we have access to information.
Privacy is dead. Get over it. So long as we buy tabloids or visit those scandal-mongering websites, we encourage their misbehavior. If we disapprove in principle of such revelations, but read them with avid interest, we are hypocrites. Protesting readers’ emails say no-no -no, but their mouse clicks say yes-yes-yes!
What happens in free speech does not just depend on what governments, courts, or regulators do. It also depends on what we do. We can refuse to buy those papers, visit those websites, and feed intrusive social media. We can tighten our privacy settings, and demand better ones. Even in a world transformed and opened up by new technologies of communication, a degree of privacy remains not only an important limit on but also a condition for freedom of expression.
Freedom is fundamental to prosperity. Those who cherish freedom most are often those who have not always enjoyed it. Thus the souls whose lives were blighted by Communist totalitarianism often rejoice at the simplest pleasures, even many years after the evils of the system were unraveled across Europe. Their joy in being able to travel has been hugely enhanced by that core Western value – freedom. Unfortunately, just as the European Union appears to have forgotten how to create prosperity, so, too, it seems to have gone somewhat patchy on the notion of freedom.
The latest developments on censorship expand upon the core carping of the politically correct – a group whose senses of humor, irony and objectivity were obviously removed when doctors meant to go for their tonsils during childhood.
The latest political insanity comes from meddlesome Brussels bigots and their judicial cousins at the European Court of Justice, or the statist loonies of Luxembourg, who upheld the utterly stupid right to be forgotten.
If a person isn’t free to say something stupid or ill-considered, he has no free speech rights. If one can be arrested for hate speech for saying something known to be true, there is no sense in which one can say there is free speech. In this emerging post-modern narrative, free speech becomes a mockery.
Constitutional rights have historically been defined as rights inherent in the person that exist before the state and ahead of the state. If Constitutional rights have to be restricted, then by whom, against who, and for what purpose? This novel constitutional standard has the effect of reducing the limits of dissent to what those with power would be willing to tolerate. This inverts the definition of tolerance to that which the powerful will tolerate — it becomes Orwellian. Don’t narratives concerning restricting Constitutional rights reflect facially neutral attempts to invert the very idea of rights into privileges granted by the state?
When directing hate speech strategies at politicians, doesn’t this give those in power the unlimited power to silence dissent by undermining the democratic process and, in the process, disenfranchising those in the population who would then become alienated — especially if the attacks on them are based on little more than stigmatization based on stereotypes by, among other things, calling them haters?
In EU, there seems to be an emerging tyranny of facially neutral narratives driven by ill-defined terms purposefully directed at the suppression of the very freedoms and liberties they superficially insist they promote. We recommend that EU and Member States rethink the Hate Speech narrative they seek to adopt that has the effect of undermining the very rights they claim to promote.
If we aren’t free to say what we believe, to express whatever emotion we like, including hate, and to hate whom we choose, then we aren’t free at all. Freedom only to speak inoffensively is not worth having.
Free speech is not divisible, and abhorrent ideas cannot somehow be disqualified from free speech protection. You either have free speech or you don’t. The right to free speech does not contain within it any prescription as to what the content of that speech will consist of. Such prescription goes against the whole meaning of the word free.
Free speech is a prerequisite for progressive ideas, but we must be clear that it will inevitably be put to use by those with ideas that appall us. It is incumbent upon us to contest ideas that appall us in the court of public opinion, rather than calling upon the state or private censor to suppress them.
Hate speech does not pose a clear, present, and imminent danger to society. The clear and present danger exception to the principle of free speech has been manipulated to various ends, but as originally conceived by the American Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr, it refers to those exceptional circumstances where rational individuals can be said to be compelled to act in a certain way. In Holmes Jr’s classic example – ‘a man falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic’ – rational individuals are compelled to act by immediate fear for their safety. In the vast majority of instances, however, the responsibility for an act lies with the individual who committed it, not with the individual who instructed the actor to do it.
There is a clear distinction between what people say and think on the one hand, and what they do on the other. It’s not possible to have an equitable system of law without this basic assumption. Nonetheless, a growing number of people dispute the distinction. Increasingly, it is assumed that speech can be directly harmful to its audience, that speech can compel its audience to act, and that speech is equivalent to any abuses that it describes and depicts.
Agency resides in human beings, not in the information that human beings disseminate. Speech has consequences only if its audience chooses to give it consequences.
It is not speech in itself that makes things happen, but the estimation in which human beings hold speech. And if people hold ideas that you disagree with in high estimation, then you’ve got a problem that you’re never going to solve by trying to stop those ideas from being expressed. The only way you’re going to solve this problem is by persuading people of your own point of view. This process is conventionally known as political debate. And those who use hate speech regulation to suppress ideas they disagree with do themselves and their arguments a disservice, by opting out of a proper political debate.
You can see quite clearly the corrosive effect of angst over hate speech in recent elections, such as the French presidential elections held and the European Parliament elections held earlier this year. The response by mainstream political parties, to the perceived threat of far-right parties, was to suggest that the main reason why people should vote is to keep the far right out. The idea is that if you don’t vote, then you’re automatically giving the far right a helping hand – a kind of electoral blackmail. This sends out an even more dangerous message than the bigoted rubbish put about by the far right. If the best reason you can give people to vote for you is to keep the other lot out, then that’s a tacit admission that you don’t actually have any ideas worth voting for.
It’s also the case that when politicians focus their attention and their policies upon the problem of hate speech and hate crimes, their concerns become a self-fulfilling prophecy. By constantly flagging up the problems of hatred and prejudice between people of different races, colors, or creeds, you encourage people to view their grievances in those terms. A vivid illustration of this was provided by the riots and violent clashes that occurred in the UK, in northern mill towns of Oldham, Bradford and Burnley.
The conventional view was that these incidents were stoked by the far right, but there is actually evidence to suggest that the racial tensions in these towns owed more to the blanket coverage and policing of hate speech and hate crimes. The police in these areas were so keen to demonstrate their commitment to dealing with hate, that they treated crimes committed by whites against Asians as racially motivated, even when they were not reported as such. It’s not so much that these towns had a greater problem with racism than other towns in the UK, but rather that in these towns, the authorities made racism into a higher-profile issue – with explosive consequences.
It’s important to make a distinction between forms of prejudice such as racism, on the one hand; and emotions such as hate, on the other – discussions about hate speech and hate crimes tend to muddle these two things. Racism is a wrongheaded prejudice that deserves to be contested, whereas hatred is not objectionable in itself – it’s simply an emotion, and it can be an entirely legitimate and appropriate emotion at that.
Society’s bad guys and extremists don’t have a monopoly on hate – hate is something that most of us experience at one time or another, and is as necessary and valid an emotion as love. Even David Blunkett, the UK’s home secretary and the country’s principal architect of initiatives against hate speech and hate crimes, has admitted that when he heard that the notorious serial killer Harold Shipman had committed suicide in prison, his first reaction was: ‘Is it too early to open a bottle?’ All credit to Blunkett for being honest about his reaction, but it’s frustrating that he doesn’t seem to make the connection with his own authoritarian policies, which would deny us the freedom to experience and express sentiments such as this.
Ultimately, the very idea that we might regulate hate speech and prosecute hate crimes is authoritarian, because it presumes to judge people’s private, internal thoughts, rather than their public, external actions. There are already adequate laws in place in most countries that prohibit intimidation, assault and damage to property. By creating the special categories of ‘hate speech’ and ‘hate crime’ to supplement these, and presuming to judge people’s motivations for action rather than their actions alone, all you’ve done is reinvented what the author George Orwell called thoughtcrime.
In Orwell’s classic novel 1984, thoughtcrime is the crime of thinking criminal thoughts, the essential crime that contained all others in itself. Hatred is permitted, indeed is mandatory, in Orwell’s dystopia, so long as it is directed against enemies of the state. But any heretical thought brings with it the prospect of grave punishment.
It is difficult to completely outlaw rebellious thoughts, so long as we are talking about thoughts and words rather than actions, nobody can be compelled not to hate. But Orwell demonstrates how, through the policing of language and by forcing people to carefully consider every aspect of their behavior, orthodoxy can be sustained and heresy ruthlessly suppressed. No hard evidence is necessary to hold someone guilty of thought crime in 1984 – as with hate speech and hate crime today, the authorities have unlimited latitude to interpret your words and actions as being motivated by the wrong sentiments.
The preoccupation with language and etiquette of those who object to hate speech, and the significance they ascribe to words, are reminiscent of the strategies employed in 1984 to reduce people’s capacity to think prohibited thoughts. As one character says in the novel, ‘in the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it’.
The human instinct to question received wisdom and resist restrictions upon thought is, ultimately and thankfully, irrepressible. But inasmuch as it can be repressed, the authorities must encourage a form of willful ignorance that Orwell calls crimestop – the principal means of preventing oneself from committing thougtcrime. In Orwell’s words: ‘Crimestop means the faculty of stopping short, as though by instinct, at the threshold of any dangerous thought. It includes the power of not grasping analogies, of failing to perceive logical errors, of misunderstanding the simplest arguments…and of being bored or repelled by any train of thought which is capable of leading in a heretical direction. Crimestop, in short, means protective stupidity.
Labelling speech that we disagree with hate speech, and seeking to prohibit it instead of taking up the challenge of disputing it, can only lead to a world in which we resort to protective stupidity to prevent the spread of objectionable ideas. Apart from anything else, this gives those objectionable ideas a credibility that they often don’t deserve, by entitling them to assume the righteousness of combating authoritarian regulation. Better to debate those we disagree with head-on, than make them martyrs to censorship.