Free Speech

Bob Geldof was fourteen at the time of the fiftieth anniversary commemoration of the Easter Rising. It revolted him. And I think, how wonderful at that age to see through the militarism and the infantilism of Irish Catholicism- Oh, Father! Yes, Father!

I wish I could say to you that in middle age I have my own opinions, because of my own experiences, but that is not the case; I am far more tolerant of the TERFs because of that peculiar relationship; we pick up our opinions, mostly, from those around us, which is a way of building community and bonding. You are more forgiving and tolerant of those close to you.

Rebellion can be as constricting as conformity, but I hope Sir Bob transcended that.

And it is because of my own experiences: hated and despised, at times, I am conscious of other hated groups. And I want to think the best of people, because I need hope.

In 1966, there were people alive who had fought in the war of independence and the civil war.

I started on this thinking of the question, why make holocaust denial illegal, but not insulting the Prophet Mohammed? I would say, because holocaust denial is linked to holocaust apologia. Because it is false. Lies have to be tolerated in free speech- who would get to say what are the lies?- but not this one.

As for Mohammed-

The tension, for me, is around the harm Islam does, and the way to mitigate that harm. Around the world, a large minority of Muslims believe that human beings have always existed in our present form since the beginning of time, rather than evolved. That is, they have defective means of assessing fact. Though for ordinary living it hardly matters that there are 1011 galaxies and the Earth is four billion years old. More serious is the moral belief. Overwhelming majorities believe homosexuality is wrong, and far too many believe “honour killings” may be justified.

Nothing is sacred, in liberal democracy, above human flourishing. We decide for ourselves what will fulfil us, and pursue it as best we may. Those who have found good ways, flourish, and others follow them. So society progresses.

And to this minority, Mohammed is the foundation and symbol of their way of life. Attack him, and you attack them. It may make them distrust Liberal Democracy more and drive them into greater extremism. This treats them as less than others? No, it treats them as having different and perhaps greater problems than the rest of us. Everyone needs looked after.

I disapprove of images of the Prophet. I am not Charlie. I would not make them illegal. I may change my mind on either of these things.

29 thoughts on “Free Speech

  1. The “infantilism of Irish Catholicism”? What of the infantilism of a religion stuck in the eighth century, whose adherents insist that we pretend to respect their primitive beliefs? We’re free to insult Catholics, but we mustn’t insult Muslims–they’re childlike, and liable to throw a violent fit.


    • I didn’t think you would like this one.

      I was delighted with the Equal Marriage referendum last year. Ireland is not smothered by Catholicism as it was. The Church now permits, say, Catholics to attend Trinity College, Dublin. In 1966, Sir Bob’s perception was different.

      As for Muslims, here I argue we should not insult the symbol at the heart of their faith; we should not insult that symbol, not we should not discuss it. Pointing out the paucity of contemporaneous references, one might argue one prophet called Mohammed did not exist, but not draw him with a bomb in a turban.


      • Yes, I’m half Irish and nominally “Catholic,” although I’m temped to stop the pretense altogether (the Catholic pretense, not the Irish one). The other half? My last name is the Anglicized form of Nowaczyk. In other words, I’m the perfect genetic combination.


        • Catholicism is different depending on time, place and person, but it can smother thought and freedom, and rule by fear of Hell. If you find something to love in it, emphasise that part. If you feel loyal to a group you have defined as “Catholic”, you could find another way to define them.


  2. Love my irish heritage and hope that in times to come we see an end of the divisions forever. Have family on both sides and we’re all people with families, love ones, and dreams. Sometimes we just need to remember that.


    • Welcome. It is lovely to have you here.

      Bob Geldof, of Catholic heritage, was presenting a programme about Yeats, a Protestant Irish nationalist: building unity across divides. As a Scot, I would question the word “Protestant”- Church of Ireland is different from Presbyterian; and support that unity.


    • We must find a way of opposing rabble-rousing and hate-mongering. We need a cooler public sphere, with respect for truth: about climate change, the Russian attack on the US election, tax cuts for the rich, etc.


  3. Clare Flourish, I recall you telling me that you are an anti-authoritarian socialist. There are 2 questions I have for you: 1: In the U.S. with the so-called Fairness Doctrine, which is code to silence opposing views on the issues, what are your thoughts about it? 2: Given the fact that we have freedom of speech, what are your thoughts about the double-standards of one political group trying to silence the free speech of another by legal means?


    • Protest is also speech. And it is irksome to read people complaining of being silenced- if they were silenced, how would I read the complaint?

      The fairness doctrine seems like a good thing to me. It should not apply to issues such as climate change, where there is only manufactured controversy: CO2 released by human beings is damaging the climate, and risking agriculture.


  4. I like listening to Rush Limbaugh, however, in this regard, he is wrong. He has reportedly been through 4 marriages. Now, some marriages collapse because of irreconcilable differences, some because of spousal and/or [added: drug] abuse and some because of a personality clash. I get that. However, what is truly sad is if a marriage that produces children collapses.


  5. I forgot the and/or part. Another thing: If you feel so inclined, an edit setting for comments that is actively available on your blog would be a good idea. This way if someone types or mistypes something, they can correct that themselves.


    • You wrote “some because of spousal and/or abuse and some because of a personality clash.” What did you want to say? I don’t think there is a setting where commenters can edit on wordpress, but I can edit for you if you wish.


  6. Clare Flourish, when you told me that you read on Unstoppable Maria’s blog about my report of experiencing Epilepsy, you told me something to the effect that it was a difficult thing to deal with. Do you have that yourself or know anybody personally who does have it?


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