Freedom of Speech
Now, this article pissed me off. Everyone with even a sliver of brains knows that Griffin and Irving are complete arseholes. But they have the right to debate their views as long as they do not break the law, by, say, inciting racial or religious hatred. I know it's a tired quotation trotted out every time this debate is had, but I'll repeat Voltaire in saying "I disagree with what you say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it". Not that I'm actually sure I'd die for Nick Griffin or David Irving particularly, but, depending on circumstances, freedom of speech probably is worth dying for. I don't believe in absolute freedom of speech - laws that protect against incitement to racial or religious hatred, for example, are a necessity (though not where these apply to comedy, that's just idiotic). But it can be argued that these are not really laws against what you say, but laws against how you say it, marking the difference between self-expression and opinon proselytisation.
There are some laws which I find simply ridiculous. For example, in Turkey, there is a law about comitting crimes against Turkishness (Article 301), which has lead to the villification of great national writers like Orhan Pamuk. One must allow for criticism of a government, as long as it does not spill over into incitement to treason, which, sensibly, ought to be covered in any treason-based laws.
Equally ridiculous, though for different reasons, are laws against the denial of the Holocaust. These laws are, to my mind, patently absurd: if people want to be idiotic and ignore (what most of us consider to be) factual evidence to the contrary, then let them. We don't punish people for saying they were visited by aliens, because we can't prove that they weren't, and that aliens don't exist. Similarly, we can't prove with exact certainty that the Holocaust is not, in fact, an extremely elaborate hoax, however unlikely that seems (and it does), nor can we prove that it is not being misused by certain peoples as a source of gain. We don't apply this law to the first World War, or the Boer wars, or the 100 years war, to 9/11 or Rwanda, or any other conlict or tragedy in recent memory, so why is the Holocaust so different? Even if we did apply them to such events, the law would remain as Draconian, idiotic and unnecessary as it is now.
As relates specifically to the article, this MP throwing hs toys out of the pram is ridiculous. I in no way support the views of either of these cretins, but I wouldn't mind seeing them destroyed on a debating floor. The MP writes:
"Nothing which happens in Monday's debate can possibly offset the boost you are giving to a couple of scoundrels who can put up with anything except being ignored," he said.
"It is sheer vanity on your part to imagine that any argument you deploy, or any vote you carry will succeed in causing them damage.
"They have been exposed and discredited time and again by people vastly more qualified than you in arenas hugely more suited to the task than an undergraduate talking-shop, however venerable."
How fucking patronising and self-important can you be? It's almost like he has never heard of a process of attrition - it is entirely possible that under sustained pressure, one or both of these idiots may one day crack and give up their moronic views. But to assume that there is no point to such a debate before it has even occurred is ridiculous. It might well steer some people who were uncertain away from such lunacy when they see the arguments presented clearly, or, as is more likely, the demagoguery on display. Granted, it might push some people to support them, but if anyone has it in them to be a BNP sympathiser or Holocaust denier, better we know about it anyway than not. Otherwise we might mistakenly think we were engaging with rational and intelligent individuals. If they're that easily swayed, it's probably only a matter of time before they subscribe to some idiocy or other.
The position reminds me a lot of idiots like Jack Thompson (prominent anti-videogames campaigner), who is right near the top of my Most Hated list (and subsequently one of the principal reasons why I could never support Hilary Clinton, she being one of his biggest supporters). Jack takes a Tabula Rasa approach - he believes that there is no violence inherent within man, and that instead people are filled with the idea to go out and rape, steal, kill, or whatever, by games like Grand Theft Auto. I say bullshit. GTA is a cathartic process, a healthy channeling of aggression which is inherent within everyone, which would otherwise manifest itself in more damaging and disturbing ways. Even if there are people so impressionable as to take to the streets after playing GTA and go on a real life rampage, you have the same problem with the freedom of speech laws. These people were likely to get this informative input from somewhere eventually, be it film, television, music, art, even, dare I say it, literature. And until all those are banned, or about to be, any approach against video games specifically (probably because they are a famously interactive medium, in relative infancy compared to the other genres I've mentioned) is inconsistent and incoherent.
Ditto with drugs - alcohol and tobacco are two of the more damaging drugs, according to an actual updated, non Neolithic rankings system like the A B C Class system, (the new system can be viewed here), yet they remain legal while less damaging drugs are deemed high priority. Consistency is important for any argument, and if you're saying one can't allow the impressionable to come into contact with 'bad ideas', then you are left with no choice but to outlaw all ways in which they could come into contact with those ideas. Which, as far as I can tell, would be cutting off your nose to spite your face. Fuck the impressionable - this would be a classic case of levelling down, as you are significantly reducing the quality of life of the majority to cater to a few gullible, easily-led idiots. Violent games do not necessarily promote violence, drugs don't necessarily kill you, and racist wankers aren't necessarily invulnerable to criticism.