As a general rule I don’t blog current events, but I figured I should at least post a link. This is the second time in a little over 3 years that muslim radicals have tried to kill a Danish islam critic in his own home. Given what happened Hedegaard is incredibly lucky to be alive.
My guess is that this will lead to some talk where everybody agrees that this kind of stuff is unacceptable and so on and so forth. We have laws against murder in this country and most people don’t like to get killed, so the fact that it is considered unacceptable to try to kill another individual may not come as a big surprise. The Danish People’s party may gain some imaginary votes in the polls in the short run. Most people will have forgotten about it next year, and it will not impact current immigration policies in any way.
Incidentally in Denmark we do not have a death penalty, the most you can get is life in prison. On average people who are sentenced to life in prison serve a little less than 17 years (Danish link). The guy who tried to kill Westergaard a few years ago got 10 years in jail (
though they’ll also kick him out of the country after he’s served his time (on second thought they most likely won’t actually follow through on that part of his sentence)).
…It makes my head spin. So many things are turned upside down, if they aren’t just downright insane. Here’s a good sentence from Hvidberg and Mchangama’s recent piece in Reason illustrating this:
“Leading Danish human rights organizations, such as the government-sponsored Danish Institute for Human Rights, have expressed their disappointment that Jyllands-Posten was not prosecuted under hate-speech laws.”
A human rights organization which expresses open disappointment with the fact that a newspaper isn’t prosecuted for publishing a cartoon. Over the last couple of years we’ve also had a government that has doubled our national debt while the opposition has been criticising it for not spending enough money. Ect., ect. It doesn’t make any sense.
Yes, I know I just posted a post on the same subject in Danish, but I thought this deserved a post of its own. It’s your fault too: Unless a given post is nothing but a collection of links (like my wikipedia posts), the likelihood that someone – no wait, anyone – will follow more than one link in any given post (almost always, but not quite always, the first link provided) is going towards zero very fast in the total number of links in the post. Almost nobody follows that third link, even if I think it’s some very interesting stuff. So, yeah… Oh yes, the fact:
Currently, defamation lawsuits in England and Wales are approximately 140 times more expensive than the average defamation lawsuit in other European countries.
If you dislike the idea of foreigners dragging you, and other people they don’t like, to court in the UK, having you(/them… -ect.) go through a very expensive and long legal battle defending yourself against charges for doing stuff that’s not even remotely illegal in Denmark (or elsewhere, people living in the US are not much less vulnerable), and if you want to prove me wrong about people following the last links of a blog post, go here and sign the petition, if you haven’t already.
There are many ways to make people shut up, the legal system is but one of many and the others deserve attention too. Imagine anyone doing roughly the same sketch today, only replace the ‘confused old gasbag’ with a similar ‘confused old gasbag’ who also happens to be a middle aged muslim who didn’t like the show:
If I was the producer in question in a real world setting of the proposed ‘updated’ sketch, the main reason why I wouldn’t dare say what Fry says openly in this sketch would not be that I’d be afraid of a lawsuit; I wouldn’t say it because saying it would mean that somebody might attempt to break my legs or kill me. I think it’s fair to say that back then, it was easier and safer to simply ignore the nutters than it is today.
It’s against the law in Canada to publish anything that is: “Likely to expose a person to hatred or contempt.” Steve, that’s crazy. Exposing a person to feelings is against the law? I mean – according to that definition, if you go to Yat Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Israel, and you leave with hateful feelings towards Germany, Yat Vashem the Holocaust memorial is guilty of a hate crime…
Freedom of speech is the strangest thing, Steve, it’s a gift you’ve got to give your enemies, if you want to keep it to yourself. [...] It’s something we have to give to the folks we totally despise, people who are wrong and rude and offensive, because if they can’t have it, well then we won’t have our rigth to be dissidents.
From this 18 minute interview with Ezra Levant, who is still going strong (I was unable to embed the video, but I recommend it, especially to those of you who haven’t heard the name of Ezra Levant before). These two articles are great too – do follow the link in the latter to the Power Play episode – the whole setup is just hilarious.
Ezra Levant is back:
In her letter to me today, Dagenais says she’s finally [US: after two months have passed] going to pass my defence along to the commissioners who will rule on whether I’ve commited a hate crime by republishing an Op-Ed by an Alberta pastor named Rev. Stephen Boissoin. You’ll recall, Rev. Boissoin has been fined, given a lifetime ban on expressing his faith, and ordered to publicly renounce his faith, for daring to express a politically incorrect religious view.
If the commissioners find me guilty, they’ll prosecute me before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. In the thirty years they’ve been prosecuting section 13 “hate speech” cases, they’ve never lost. Political prosecutors in Iran and China would be impressed.
But here’s where Dagenais becomes a symbol of everything that’s wrong with the CHRC and its censorship fetish: she blacked out portions of my defence before passing it on to the commissioners. Seriously — she censored what I wrote in my own defence, before she passed it along to the people who will sit in judgment of me. She’s only allowing me to say things in my defence that she approves in advance.
I included a link to the passage in my “return post”, but on second thought I concluded that the first part of it deserved a post of it’s own:
There is a widespread delusion that the internet’s technology renders it incapable of being controlled. Of course that is nonsense. It is the same as saying the printing press is beyond control, because it allows anyone to print whatever they like.
All the state does is then arrest people for printing things it deems unacceptable. It’s no different. Technologies do not liberate, in that sense. You may be able to run an “underground” with complex encryption schemes and secrecy, but that is all. The control of the mass internet is as simple as a minister passing a law saying “you may not publish X on a website”. That’s it. Game over.
Ian B, in a comment on samizdata. Some people might say that admitting this is counterproductive, if not outright dangerous, because if we didn’t, politicians would never know how easy it is to ‘block the blogs’. My counter is this: If people don’t realize how much harm the government might be able to do, if it sets its mind to it, then why should they care? The way most Danes think is this: If regulation doesn’t matter, why oppose it?
Loss aversion is quite a powerful bias, why not take advantage of it? One of the best ways to make sure people oppose stupid policies is to make them realize that they have something to lose. And when it comes to the Internet and freedom of expression, there’s still a lot to be lost.
While prejudice is an attitude, discrimination is a behavior. Generally, discriminatory behavior is the result of a prejudicial attitude. However, this is not always the case. Ones behavior is, in large measure, a product of ones beliefs. Individuals generally act consistently with their inner values and convictions. However, there are other more external motivating factors which also influence an individual’s behavior. Some of these external factors result from particular societal influences distinct from ones own beliefs. In other words, just as not every prejudicial attitude or belief results in a hostile action, not every discriminatory practice is the result of personal prejudice.
There are examples of racism and sexism that result not so much from an active, hostile personal prejudice as from specific institutional practices that discriminate. These exist even where there is no actual intent on the part of a specific person to discriminate against a group. Consider the law enforcement agency that has as part of its physical requirements, a minimum and maximum height requirement: no less than 5′ 10″, no more than 6′ 3″. If these height requirements were not specifically related to the normal, everyday demands of the job, but intended to exclude certain nationalities as well as women, they would be discriminatory: racist and sexist. Even if this discrimination was not intended, the allegation of discrimination could be made. And so racism could be defined in two ways: It is the individuals prejudicial attitude and discriminatory behavior toward people of a given race, or it is an institutional practice, even if not motivated by prejudice, that subordinates people of a given race. Likewise sexism can be viewed in the same fashion. It can be either the individuals prejudicial attitude and discriminatory behavior toward people of a given sex, or an institutional practice, even if not motivated by prejudice, that subordinates people of a given sex.
From this gem: Training Guide for Hate Crime Data Collection. Very enlightening.
The following is an excerpt from the British Public Order Act of 1986 (link):
(1) A person is guilty of an offence if he (a) uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or (b) displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting, within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby.
(2) An offence under this section may be committed in a public or a private place, except that no offence is committed where the words or behaviour are used, or the writing, sign or other visible representation is displayed, by a person inside a dwelling and the other person is also inside that or another dwelling.
(3) It is a defence for the accused to prove (a) that he had no reason to believe that there was any person within hearing or sight who was likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress, or (b) that he was inside a dwelling and had no reason to believe that the words or behaviour used, or the writing, sign or other visible representation displayed, would be heard or seen by a person outside that or any other dwelling, or (c) that his conduct was reasonable.
This law is pretty close to making it illegal to insult other people in public. Also, a defence against a totally unreasonable law is that your conduct was reasonable??? Doesn’t sound like much of a defence to me.
Pajamasmedia’s John Stephenson has more here, via Glenn Reynolds.
Section 3.1 of the Alberta Human Rights law:
(1) No person shall publish, issue or display or cause to be published, issued or displayed before the public any statement, publication, notice, sign, symbol, emblem or other representation that
(a) indicates discrimination or an intention to discriminate against a person or a class of persons, or
(b) is likely to expose a person or a class of persons to hatred or contempt
because of the race, religious beliefs, colour, gender, physical disability, mental disability, age, ancestry, place of origin, marital status, source of income or family status of that person or class of persons.
Section 3.2 of the same law:
Nothing in this section shall be deemed to interfere with the free expression of opinion on any subject.
Ezra Levant calls section 3.2 “legal pixie dust“. That is exactly what it is. Those words don’t change anything the slightest, they don’t even mean anything, they just take up space, that’s all.
I shall not comment on the insanity of the law, how utterly stupid it is, ect. You know what I think. Instead, I will draw a parellel to the the Danish constitution. I think of course specifically about §77:
Enhver er berettiget til på tryk, i skrift og tale at offentliggøre sine tanker, dog under ansvar for domstolene. Censur og andre forebyggende forholdsregler kan ingensinde på ny indføres.
[Update: English translation added below, source]
Any person shall be at liberty to publish his ideas in print, in writing, and in speech, subject to his being held responsible in a court of law. Censorship and other preventive measures shall never again be introduced.
Danes are allowed to speak our minds – as long as we don’t break any laws. The problem is that politicians are still allowed to make all the laws they like ‘regulating’ free speech, as long as it isn’t ‘censorship and other preventive measures’. But if politicians can just write it in the laws that what they are doing isn’t censorship, even if it is, and get away with it, then how does §77 help us? This is what has happened in Canada.
Today ‘racist remarks’ and ‘blasphemy’ are both illegal here in Denmark. Now my question is this: If disallowing ‘racist remarks’ and ‘blasphemy’ are not ‘preventive measures’, what is? Either a) the laws we already have are in conflict with the constitution – which would be quite bad, as such an interpretation would make it obvious that our current constitution actually doesn’t protect our freedom of speech at all, as unconstitutional laws are passed just the same – or b) they are not: Which is also bad, as this interpretation obviously means that our constitution doesn’t protect our freedom of speech, even if we think it does.
The point being: Don’t feel too certain that the stuff that takes place in Canada will not come to Denmark. Or at least don’t delude yourself into thinking that it will be our constitution that will save us from this madness.
The last part of the hearing, his closing argument so to speak, is now online:
This guy is amazing.
In Saudi Arabia, Fouad al-Farhan has been thrown in jail:
Farhan, 32, who used his blog to criticize corruption and call for political reform, was detained “for violating rules not related to state security,” according to the spokesman, Maj. Gen. Mansour al-Turki, responding to repeated requests for comment with a brief cellphone text message.
Farhan’s Dec. 10 arrest was reported last week on the Internet and has been condemned by bloggers in Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco and Bahrain. The Saudi news media have not yet reported the arrest, but more than 200 bloggers in the kingdom have criticized Farhan’s detention, and a group of supporters have set up a Free Fouad Web site.
Farhan, who was educated in the United States and owns a computer programming company, was arrested at his office in Jiddah and then brought home, where his laptop was confiscated, said his wife, who spoke on condition that her name not be published to protect her privacy. “They arrested him because of his blog. I haven’t seen him since. We don’t know where he is,” she said.
Saudi Arabia, an absolute monarchy that restricts press and speech freedoms, does not allow political parties, civil rights groups or public gatherings.
‘Rules not related to state security’ – gotta love that, very specific… Bastards!
The Free Fouad site is here. The beginning of this Amnesty International report on Saudi Arabia (in Danish), even if it is a few years old, probably explains pretty well what al-Farhan is going through at the moment.
HT: Glenn Reynolds.
Update til danske læsere: Kommer lige i tanke om, at DR2 i aften sender dokumentaren Kvinder i Saudi-Arabien, måske er den værd at se, hvis man har tid til det. At den er kommet gennem statscensuren peger i den modsatte retning, men hvis man læser mellem linjerne, vil der sandsynligvis stadig være lidt virkelighed tilbage under al sminken.
The other side of the coin. From Flemming Rose’s latest post:
Flemming Rose: You defended the publication of the Mohammed cartoons by Jyllands-Posten. But don’t you think that the critics have a point when they say that one has to avoid offending religious feelings, and therefore the newspaper should have refrained from publishing the cartoons?
Ibn Warraq: No. What kind of right not to be offended are they talking about? No one cares about my rights when the words of the Koran are being spread all around. I see the Koran as an extremely offensive book.
Flemming Rose: How come?
Ibn Warraq: It’s an extremely violent book. It’s filled with hate against non-Muslims. It calls for the killing of infidels and calls on Muslims not to have Jews and Christians among their friends. It gives men the right to beat women, and it proscribes the most cruel punishment for theft. It’s a barbaric document, that is deeply insulting.
An important point from Johan Nordberg:
A lot of people describe Vilks´ attempt to make fun of religion and people who want to ban his drawings as a conflict between free speech and religious freedom, even journalists and some people who defend free speech. That is a total misunderstanding of the concept of religious freedom. Having the freedom to believe in whatever you want does not include a right to dictate what others think and say about those beliefs, just like free speech does not include the right to dictate what others print and say, and the freedom to vote does not include the right to force others to vote for the same party. In the western, liberal tradition, freedom is a “negative right” – it protects you from coercion from others, it does not give you the right to coerce others. Those who want to punish Vilks are opponents of religious freedom.
Whenever a journalist call this a conflict between those who believe in free spech and those who believe in religious freedom Iran has won a tiny victory.
Human beings have human rights, religions and ideas don’t.
Some people have apparently taken the freekareem-initiators advice, and have started their own campaign.
Next year, when thousands of foreigners will be gathering in Beijing to participate in the Olympics, Yang Zili, Zhang Honghai, Jin Haike and Xu Wei will in all likelihood still be in jail. Something to think about…
Apart from a clarification of his motives, Sandmonkey also has a proposal:
I am proposing creating an organization that deals with championing the causes of blogger and freedom of speech in the middle-east, at least as the first step, since it seems that 90% of the cases of blogger intimidation and oppression comes from this region anyway. This new organization / committee / coalition / whatever would exclusively bring focus to our causes, champion them and push for our protection. It would do so by utilizing a strategy that doesn’t only rely on bloggers and the media to pressure governments. This new coalition would include 1) prominent bloggers from the US on both sides of the political divide (cause one of the few things that I think the left and the right can agree and co-operate on is the importance of free speech), who will bring light, focus and attention of the American public and the media to the plight of those bloggers, and help mobilize their readers to start letter campaigns and pressure against those governments who do oppress bloggers, 2) prominent bloggers from each and every middle-eastern country, who will provide us with the news of who is getting arrested or persecuted, and help mobilize their local blogosphere and media to come to aid of those who are being persecuted, 3)Human rights organizations and interest groups, local and international ones, to help with the legal, physical and moral support for those imprisoned or charged with crimes due to what they wrote, and 4) Members of American and Europeans Think Thanks and Interest groups, who will help with spreading the word and lobbying their respective government or the select lawmakers who do care about freedom of speech to apply pressure on our governments to leave us the hell alone. This way we would cover all fronts and apply pressure from everywhere: The Media, the blogosphere, both legally and physically on the ground , internationally through lobbying governments and lawmakers, and not to mention, most importantly, through the campaigning of the thousands of caring people world-wide that do give a damn about our freedom and spend their time and effort writing e-mails to our embassies and their government respresentitives, forwarding letters and informing others, and raising money through online donations to support those bloggers affected and in need. If something like this gets created and gets operated correctly, the playing field would be drastically changed in favor of the side of the middle-eastern bloggers, and eventually persecuted bloggers everywhere. It would eliminate a huge part of the worrying associated with blogging and would stop people like me from quitting, and even eventually get me, and others like me who quit, started on blogging again. Such an entity is essential, necessary and its time has come.
It has indeed, and it would be in everyones interest, including Western bloggers, to make this idea come true. Whiteberg is right: “The web – unfortunately – only gives us the freedom that the state decides to give us. Or more correctly, the freedom that we are willing to fight for.”
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