Category: Free Speech (Page 1 of 2)

Freedom of expression is for everyone in a democracy

Following the far-right terrorist attack at the Finsbury Mosque at 00:21 am on Monday, June 19, Tommy Robinson went on Twitter to say how he felt about the attack. Once again he put his foot in it by appearing to suggest that those outside the mosque who were run-over, while not directly responsible for their injuries, were nevertheless tangentially responsible as the mosque had a long history of creating and sheltering extremists and that a reprisal of this sort was just waiting to happen following the recent Islamist attacks in Manchester and on London Bridge.

Predictably, the Twittersphere sounded like the Twitterpocalypse had come, with scores of people slamming him for his tweets. I am not defending what Robinson said in his tweets, and think that they were poorly worded. I do however defend his right to tweet what he did. Robinson did say in later tweets that he didn’t want this to happen and that he’d been warning about it for years, but the damage had already been done. It made him look worse in many people’s eyes than he did already and confirmed other peoples’ suspicions about him.

Robinson then went in ITV’s Good Morning Britain, ostensibly to defend himself on national TV. However, the “interview” didn’t really turn out the way he might have hoped. What unfolded was extraordinary by any measure, and has caused more controversy than if Robinson had not been invited and just been left with his tweets for company.

He began by saying that there was no such thing as “Islamophobia”. A phobia is an irrational fear, and he said that it wasn’t irrational to fear these things, i.e. Islamist terror. 

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Don’t let Muslim women testify to Senate!, New Republic warns

Two “nasty” women are scheduled to appear in front of the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Homeland Security this morning, June 14, 2017, to share what they know from research and personal experience on Islamic extremism: Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Asra Nomani.

Their appearance has sent at least one New Republic blogger into a fury. Sarah Jones wrote, “The Senate is about to hear from two of the worst possible “experts” on Islam.” Interesting to note that of the four witnesses speaking at the hearing, two are men and two are women–Jones only pointed out the women for attack.

Jones’ reasons? Hirsi Ali, who has been oppressed by the fundamentalism of Islamic governments and societies as a youth and continues to be threatened with death threats, has made controversial statements about Islam. She also has worked with conservative groups that Jones doesn’t support.

Jones even cited Max Blumenthal as a source. Blumenthal is not without controversy himself, to put it lightly. He has made a career, if you can call it that, out of appearing on conspiracy shows like The Next News Network and Iran’s Press TV to talk about “Israel Cover Up[s]”, bemoaning “the Zionist gag rule,” and comparing Israel to ISIS. In the hours after Elie Wiesel died he said Wiesel “should not be honored” and called him a “supporter” of “war crimes.” No surprise Jones doesn’t seem to have much sympathy for victims of theocratic oppression if she cites Blumenthal.

As for Nomani, she’s even worse: she supported Donald Trump! “Asra Nomani is an outspoken supporter of Donald Trump,” Jones wrote. One need not search long to find that I was quite opposed to Trump during his campaign and continue to oppose most of his actions as president. But does my disagreeing with her about Trump mean that she doesn’t have anything valuable to say about Islam and extremism?

As a Muslim who has desegregated sex-segregated mosques–and also received threats for doing so–and who has written about issues related to Islam for The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, and elsewhere, it appears to me she should know a little more about the topic than Sarah Jones.

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The Women Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest – A Rebuttal to ‘Hope Not Hate’

In her speech to the nation after the London Bridge atrocities, Theresa May mentioned the urgent need for a more nuanced debate and that this, at times would mean having “difficult, and often embarrassing, conversations.” We Liberty Belles are five women from diverse social, ethnic, racial and political backgrounds who are attempting just that. For our efforts, we were recently targeted by a group calling themselves “Hope Not Hate” as “emerging voices of the far right.” The writer made no serious attempt to contact us for comment and made numerous inferences without any evidence to support them. The article contained zero quotes from us voicing far right opinions, because none exist. Accusations of racism are especially spurious given the fact that one of our founders – Natoya – is mixed race and another – Catherine – is from an ethnic minority.

None of us hold any “extreme right-wing views”. We as a group came together to discuss our issues with feminism and why we do not believe it works towards genuine equality. As such we have spent little or no time discussing far right ideologies. A look at our personal blog posts will confirm this. The statement that some of us are involved in the Men’s Rights community is true. However, as people are increasingly beginning to realise – particularly since The Red Pill documentary – the objectives and opinions of the Men’s Rights community have nothing to do with the far right.

We are libertarians, classical liberals and one of us identifies as socially conservative. No amount of research and digging on us will ever suggest otherwise. We have no links with The National London Forum beyond one of our number speaking there on a platform about male genital mutilation. Had she known of any links with the anti-Semite David Irving, or any bigot, she would not have accepted the offer – in fact several other members of the group had never even heard of The London Forum until Hope Not Hate’s article. By David Lawrence’s standards, had Elizabeth found herself standing at the same bus stop as Irving, he would accuse her of “sharing a platform” with him. No reasonable person, never mind a serious researcher or a journalist, should be that ungracious or naive. We are five ordinary women not professional speakers with advisors and agents.

Elizabeth also did an interview with THA talks, an online radio station whose slogan is ‘free speech for open minds’. She had no idea that they had given a platform to far right and Holocaust denying guests but a quick glance at their front page shows that they have also interviewed members of the Socialist Workers Party so they cannot be described as a far-right outlet; they are what they say on the tin, something laudable in this day and age.

We were accused of associating with “Nazi apologist” Claire Khaw. Liberty Belle Natoya Raymond, a talented journalist, met with Claire Khaw personally to find out who the person behind the extreme online persona was and found a timid keyboard warrior. We find her opinions repugnant and have refused to share a platform with her in the past.*

We all support free speech however. We believe radicalism and hate can only be defeated by open, robust dialectic and that censorship only benefits authoritarian extremists. We have nothing to hide. Rather, we have a passion for true egalitarian values. To be as clear as possible, the values we stand for are:

Democracy, classical liberalism, free speech, civil rights, equality before the law, small government, free markets.

These are all antidotes to far right and far left authoritarianism.

Some of us personally now have a genuine fear for our own safety and the safety of our families, given that “Hope Not Hate” appear to have their own links with Antifa via Searchlight Magazine and Unite Against Fascism. Antifa extremists are currently on trial in the US for carrying out unprovoked violent attacks on women and men who they believe to hold right wing views. In the light of this, David Lawrence’s labelling of us in those terms without having done proper research or making any attempt to contact us individually to find out our actual opinions is a possible threat to our safety. His article effectively targets us as persons of interest for sinister and violent left-wing groups, such as Antifa and BAMN. We wonder in fact, if his article was written specifically with that cowardly goal in mind.

We hope that reasonable people will defend us from such thuggish attempts to intimidate and silence political dissent from centrist moderates like ourselves.

Every survey in the last 30 years has shown that while a majority of UK citizens embrace egalitarian values, only a minority identify as feminist.  There are many reasons we do not support feminism but perhaps most importantly we feel it represents a threat to the things we hold most dear; the well-being of our children, positive relationships between men and women and the stability of the family. We are five centrist women not a right-wing movement. We are not traditionalists and we are not radicals. We are individuals. We work, we write, we study and we care about the internal instability of West right now. We want to actively and positively contribute to the future.

As mothers to children of various ages, we also realise the value of a work-life balance, of having quality time with our children and partners – equal partners, not rivals – with a common life goal. With the help and support of our partners we willingly trade off a negligible “pay gap” for the profound gift of being mothers to our children when they most need it.

Life is measured in the legacy you will leave. For most of us – men and women – that will be our children. Feminism will never change that. If that’s “right wing”, we are in big trouble.

We set up our sub-group Ladies for Philip Davies in support of Philip Davies’ attempts to challenge radical feminist policies in UK parliament; policies which actually do little to help women, pay lip service to men’s issues and waste precious time and resources. Davies is constantly slandered by feminist groups as a misogynist, a lie which goes unchallenged by the mainstream media.  Other lies and misrepresentations which go unchecked are:  

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Careful of labels: The Tommy Robinson vs Quilliam story

On May 2, the Quilliam anti-extremist organisation in London was the site of an altercation between Quilliam members and Tommy Robinson, formerly of the English Defence League, and a cameraman. Tommy now works for the British branch of Ezra Levant’s right-wing Canadian news network, Rebel Media.

Tommy had gone to the offices of Quilliam to complain about an article in The Guardian newspaper by Quilliam’s researcher named Julia Ebner, about the rise in right-wing extremism in the UK, and how it and Islamist extremism feed off each other. This broad point is often well made and cogently put by Quilliam members like Maajid Nawaz, Adam Deen and Haras Rafiq who is Quilliams’ CEO. It is a convincing case for how extremism on all ideological fringes breeds a mirror image reaction on the opposite fringe.

The issue Tommy had with the article was with this specific paragraph, with the most contentious section highlighted:
That the far right has moved from the fringe into the mainstream demonstrates the massive support that white supremacist movements have attracted from digital natives. Their online followership often exceeds that of mainstream political parties: with over 200,000 followers, Tommy Robinson’s Twitter account has almost the same number of followers as Theresa May’s.

Tommy decided to confront the article’s author by going to see her at Quilliam’s London headquarters. As seen in the video uploaded to Rebel Media’s Youtube channel, Tommy tried to gain access to the building, was asked by Adam Deen if he had an invitation, and when he said he didn’t was asked to leave. Tommy then proceeded to interrogate Deen about whether he thought he was a white supremacist.

Once he was on his own, he re-entered the ground floor lobby, and given no-one was around, decided to go downstairs to see who he could find. Having done this, he ran into the various staff members and researchers who make up the Quilliam team, found Julia in a small conference room with other members, and proceeded to shove his microphone in their faces, while his cameraman filmed them all. A scuffle ensued when Deen tried to stop the incident by apparently grabbing Tommy’s microphone and recording equipment attempting to stop the cameraman filming. Tommy spoke to Haras Rafiq, and the police who were called then escorted Tommy and his cameraman off the premises.

Let me be plain. This was absolutely unacceptable conduct on Tommy Robinson’s part. He violated Quilliam’s security, and the organisation has now had an emergency relocation to new secure premises. He trespassed without permission, and intimidated members of their staff. This, despite all his protestations, made him look like the aggressor rather than the victim, the opposite of his aim. Also, he lost credibility in insisting he’s not an extremist when he copied tactics used by Islamist and other far-right organisations like Al-Muhajiron and Britain First. Added to this, the reaction of members of Quilliam’s staff, who understandably felt surprised and threatened was non-conducive to de-escalating the potential for physical conflict, as their snatching of the microphone and other film equipment only made the situation worse.IMG_0139

That said, let’s consider why Tommy was there, while in no way offering it as an excuse for his actions. Maajid Nawaz and Haras Rafiq have gone on record and repeatedly stated that they do not believe Tommy is a white supremacist, and that the article, which they had no editorial oversight over, was not intentionally worded to portray him as such. That’s all very well, but as Andrew Neill said on the BBC’s Daily Politics, the sentence structure and its chronology strongly implies that Tommy is a white supremacist. Despite Maajid Nawaz’s protestations to the contrary, there is no getting around this. Apparently English is Julia Ebner’s 3rd language, so it is perhaps understandable that her wording could be considered a little awkward in places. However, this is also little comfort as it shows the laxness of the editorial process both within Quilliam up to this point and at The Guardian. 

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Free Speech: No, CPAC disinviting Milo Yiannopoulos is not an attack on free speech

Milo Yiannopoulos’s brief history as an invited speaker to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) lasted less than a week. Given that Yiannopoulos is who he is, an attention seeker and an expert at victimization politics, he is sure to try to turn this into a discussion about free speech.

But make no mistake: This is no war on free speech, and it is nothing like the violence at Berkeley, which caused his speech to be shut down, or other attempts by anti-free speech radicals to silence invited speakers through intimidation or disruption.

CPAC, given that they are putting on the event, makes the decision over who it invites, and CPAC attendees decide whether to purchase a ticket or not. Even before videos of Yiannopoulos praising the potential of relationships between older men and minor children went viral, many conservatives were disappointed with the decision to invite Yiannopoulos, which was reportedly not made with the full approval of the CPAC board. CPAC, after all, is a “conservative” event, and Yiannopoulos offers no deep insight into conservative thought–or much of anything besides showmanship.

Free speech does not imply inviting anyone and everyone to give a speech. After all, CPAC had not extended invitations to Black Lives Matter activists, Lena Dunham, Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders, DeRay Mckesson, Shaun King, Brianna Wu, Anita Sarkeesian, or any other identity politics-supporting left-wingers.

They don’t have to extend invitations to anyone and everyone. CPAC, like the College Republicans, is a private group with its own viewpoints and agenda. In the past, CPAC has barred conservative-affiliated groups from being cosponsors for ideological disagreements (GOProud for its support of gay rights) and because of their radicalism (the John Birch Society). Those decisions can be debated, but it’s well within CPAC’s right to make them.

That many of their attendees and sponsors didn’t want to hear Yiannopoulos speak anymore than they wanted to hear DeAndre “Soulja Boy” Cortez Way speak doesn’t make them opponents of free speech–just people with values. In the end, the market place of ideas (and of money–CPAC sells tickets) determined Yiannopoulos’s fate.

Special Post: Lionel Shriver’s full speech

Editor’s Note: We usually follow a strict editorial line, of freedom of speech. The recent needless controversy regarding Lionel Shriver’s speech on Cultural Appropriation is phenomenal, and we at Bombs and Dollars believe therefore that it is our duty to repost and share the speech for everyone to read and share. (Source:The Telegraph, Photo Courtesy: Google Creative Commons.)


 

I hate to disappoint you folks, but unless we stretch the topic to breaking point this address will not be about “community and belonging.”

In fact, you have to hand it to this festival’s organizers: inviting a renowned iconoclast to speak about “community and belonging” is like expecting a great white shark to balance a beach ball on its nose.

The topic I had submitted instead was “Fiction and Identity Politics,” which may sound on its face equally dreary.

But I’m afraid the bramble of thorny issues that cluster around “Identity Politics” has got all too interesting, particularly for people pursuing the occupation I share with many gathered in this hall: fiction writing.

Taken to their logical conclusion, ideologies recently come into vogue challenge our right to write fiction at all.  Meanwhile, the kind of fiction we are “allowed” to write is in danger of becoming so hedged, so circumscribed, so tippy-toe, that we’d indeed be better off not writing the anodyne drivel to begin with.

Let’s start with a tempest-in-a-teacup at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine.

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WHO DID THIS?!

Sad day for free speech

Gawker’s demise, Twitter’s quality control, and Milo’s ban are qualitatively similar. And the implications are dangerous. 

Gawker is toast. The company, which was mired with controversies, is finally declaring themselves bankrupt. The company came out with this release, and I took a screenshot, in case it is not archived. 18c5da01-8627-43f3-813d-96b481d78359

On the same day, Twitter declared that they will impose “Quality Control”, to stop Trolls commenting. The idea is noble, to stop random internet abuse. Mary Sue is of course happy.

However it should give us a pause. But before that allow me to trace some history.

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The curious case of Ladislav Basternak

After spending a recent year in Italy and stopping in the UK on the way back, the long journey to Slovakia necessarily felt a bit anxious. Not only that there would be a lot of studying for the upcoming final state exam, together with all PhD applications and job/internship search; I have been also particularly curious about the state I will find my homeland in.

This summer, Slovakia has taken over the Presidency of the Council of the EU, and Slovak representatives have started to unusually frequently inflect the adjective ´democratic´ in relation to the country. As if there´s the need to convince domestic and foreign publics of the nature of the Central European state. I am always suspicious when statesmen suddenly come to stress and overemphasize a single issue. And I have had a nagging feeling that instead of comforting increasingly distrustful Slovak citizens, leading politicians have rather been reassuring themselves of persistently democratic character of the Slovak Republic. Or, they have been painstakingly trying to conceal a maturing bummer. It would be a shame if a large- scale scandal in the Slovakia´s domestic politics breaks out right during the Council Presidency. Such an instance would deal a major blow to the country´s prestige and could even lead to a fragmentation of coalition. The growing incidence of and frequency with which the collocation ´democratic- Slovakia´ appears in the media recently calls for further investigation.

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There’s a simple way to stop this protest madness at the Universities

Barely a month since I came back after a short trip to Oxford, I read about Yale students protesting against their English courses; the courses being too colonial and White. The organisers of this movement, are helped and organized by a faculty professor, newly appointed, named Dr Jill Richards, her claim to fame is having done pioneering research on Queer resistance cells during Second World war and attending a “Commie camp”.

Without pointing out the statistically insignificant effect of any Queer resistance cells anywhere in any time, affecting the broader geopolitics, it is ironic that she rallies and encourages students against the same “Western civilization” which fought against the epitome of state terrors in both Marxist and Nazi societies, when they were systematically killing people on the basis of their freedom of speech and sexuality. But there’s a broader significance in all of it.

In Mizzou, the protesters were aided and their rage channelized by Professors, notable among them is the now discredited Dr Melissa Click, herself with post-structural far-leftist sympathies. In this side of the pond, the BBC’s new Midsummer Night’s Dream is unashamedly edited and altered in the light if the narrative of a director with a distinct and vocal social agenda. White lecturers cannot attend equality conference, simply because they are white, In UK. I am not white by ethnicity, and I say this now, if this is not racism, I don’t know what it.

Without going into any further orotund circumlocution, here’s the simple hypothesis. 

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Referendum on Human Dignity Déjà-vu

Being the new kid on the blo(g)ck essentially comes hand in hand with a nagging sense of responsibility to avoid an embarrassing failure at the very first try and so I better spent a full week contemplating and wondering about the topic for my premier entry. After victoriously fleeing from the post-exam Italy and halfway to completing the sleeping marathon, the world news solved the conundrum pretty much on my behalf. “Italy’s parliament starts long-awaited debate on gay civil partnerships.” (Reuters). Born in Slovakia and, I repeat, just flying back from Italy; and having published the very first article on Slovakia´s Same-Sex Referendum… I have been obviously somewhat fatalistic and paternalistic. Not talking about the MA thesis that should be written before anything else.

The first thing to notice- and simultaneously the difference of a significant resonance- is the way the referendum is framed.

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