On September 3, 2011, and again on September 28, 2015, we posted an article that makes the case for free speech.
Today we repeat this vital part of it:
The greatness of the West began with doubting. The idea that every belief, every assumption, should be critically examined started the might of Europe. When those old Greek thinkers who founded our civilization learnt and taught that no one has a monopoly of truth or ever will have, they launched the intellectual adventure that has carried the human race – not without a long interval in the doldrums – literally to the skies.
Socrates taught the utility of suspicion. He is reputed to have said, “The highest form of human excellence is to question oneself and others.” He was not, however, the first to use doubt for discovery. Thales of Miletos, who was born 155 years before Socrates, dared to doubt that religion’s explanatory tales about how the world came to be as it is were to be trusted, and he began exploring natural phenomena in a way that we recognize as scientific. He is often called the Father of Science. With him and his contemporary, Anaximander, who argued with him by advancing alternative ideas, came the notion – for the first time as far as we know – that reason could fathom and describe how the universe worked.
Science is one of the main achievements of the West, but it is not the only product of constructive doubt that made for its greatness. Doubt as a habit of mind or tradition of thinking meant that new, foreign, even counter-intuitive ideas were not dismissed. Europe, before and after it stagnated in the doldrums of the long Catholic Christian night (and even to some extent during those dark centuries), was hospitable to ideas wherever they came from. …
Our civilization cannot survive without this openness. Critical examination is the breath that keeps it alive. But it is in danger of suffocation. It is more threatened now than it has been for the last four hundred years by dogmatisms: Marxism, environmentalism, religion – above all Islam which absolutely forbids criticism.
Now to those sources of destructive dogmatism we must add another: the European Union.
The ideas of Marxism, environmentalism, Islam most need to be criticized. Because they are inherently intolerant, terroristic, and totalitarian. Over and over again, unendingly, they need to be torn to pieces by critics who hate them.
And they are the very ideologies that the European Union wants most to shield from critical examination.
Breitbart London reports:
The European Commission has today [May 31, 2016] announced a partnership with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft in order to crack down on what it classes as “illegal hate speech” while “criminaliz[ing]” perpetrators and “promoting independent counter-narratives” that the European Union favours.
A press release from the Commission this morning claims the new initiative has been set up “to respond to the challenge of ensuring that online platforms do not offer opportunities for illegal online hate speech to spread virally”.
The move has been branded “Orwellian” by Members of the European Parliament, and digital freedom groups have already pulled out of any further discussions with the Commission, calling the new policy “lamentable”.
The unelected, executive branch of the European Union (EU) released a Code of Conduct today that “includes a series of commitments to combat the spread of illegal hate speech online in Europe” developed “together with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft (‘the IT companies’)” who have “signed up”.
That the bureaucratic dictatorship of the EU should try such a deplorable move is not surprising.
But why are Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft conceding to its authoritarian anti-freedom demands?
The commitments include “educat[ing] and rais[ing] awareness with their users” and building a “network” of “trusted reporters” to flag unwanted content. Facebook and Twitter are to provide “regular training to their staff on current societal developments” and work more closely with national governments and “their law enforcement agencies” to remove content the EU does not favor.
Most alarmingly, however, the platforms have also promised to engage in the active promotion of views and organisations the EU does favour, and the re-education of supposedly hateful users.
Facebook and others must, “recogniz[e] the value of independent counter speech against hateful rhetoric and prejudice, aim to continue their work in identifying and promoting independent counter-narratives, new ideas and initiatives and supporting educational programs that encourage critical thinking.”
Note that in current leftist-dominated jargon, “critical thinking” means “uncritical thinking” – ie. meek acceptance of leftist dogma.
Janice Atkinson MEP told Breitbart London: “It’s Orwellian. Anyone who has read 1984 sees it’s very re-enactment live.
“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 ‘policing’ so-called right-wing postings.
“If an MEP, such as the centre-right Hungarians, the Danish People’s Party, the Finns, the Swedish Democrats, the Austrian FPO, say no to migration quotas because they cannot cope with the cultural and religious requirements of Muslims across the Middle East who are seeking refugee status, is that a hate crime? And what is their punishment? It’s a frightening path to totalitarianism.” …
The Code of Conduct has also been slammed by groups who have been working closely with the Commission. In a sign of an impending backlash, one organisation which promotes privacy, data protection, and net neutrality has already vowed to break ties.
The European Digital Rights (EDRi) announced its decision to pull out of future discussions with the Commission today, stating it does not have confidence in the “ill-considered code of conduct”.
“Faced with this lamentable outcome, and with no possibility to provide meaningful input to this process, the Commission has left us with no other choice but to withdraw from the discussion,” said Estelle Massé, EU Policy Analyst at Access Now. …
What does Facebook have to say about it?
Monika Bickert, Head of Global Policy Management at Facebook, said: “We welcome today’s announcement and the chance to continue our work with the Commission and wider tech industry to fight hate speech.” …
Last September, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was overheard confronting Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg about “hate speech”, with Mr. Zuckerberg replying: “We need to do some work”
Now, the EU has described how: “The IT Companies support the European Commission and EU Member States… They share, together with other platforms and social media companies, a collective responsibility and pride in promoting and facilitating freedom of expression throughout the online world.”
Promote freedom of expression by censoring it? How does the Commission (ie. the bureaucratic oligarchy that governs the EU) reconcile these two contradictory activities?
The Commission argues that expanding censorship will somehow protect and expand free speech, because “[hate speech] negatively impacts those who speak out for freedom, tolerance and non-discrimination in our open societies and has a chilling effect on the democratic discourse on online platforms”.
Vĕra Jourová, EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, said the new measures would counter Islamist terrorism:
“The recent terror attacks have reminded us of the urgent need to address illegal online hate speech. Social media is unfortunately one of the tools that terrorist groups use to radicalise young people and racist use to spread violence and hatred”.
Some excuse! The Islamic terrorists use code. And it is primarily to protect Islam from justified and desperately needed censure, that this whole scheme is being hatched, anyway.
What do Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft have to say about it? We are given only a Twitter statement:
Twitter’s Head of Public Policy for Europe, Karen White, said: “Hateful conduct has no place on Twitter … We look forward to further constructive dialogue between the European Commission, member states, our partners in civil society and our peers in the technology sector on this issue.”
“Hateful conduct”? People express their opinions on Facebook. They argue for what they like and against what they don’t like. If they can no longer do that, there won’t be much use for it. What will Twitter be used for if not opinion? And how interesting will YouTube be, purged of argument?
Who will use the social media merely to repeat authorized opinions like mantras? By agreeing to carry only permitted orthodoxies, they are destroying themselves.