14 January 2008

Test your free-speech-commitment

Take this mini quiz to discover your commitment to the principle of free speech.

1) Think of a viewpoint which you personally find particularly offensive. If you're a member of a minority group, this should be easy. If you're not, you might consider views based on hatred of, and desire to rape/kill/torture: whites, Europeans, women, Americans, capitalists, etc. Or, perhaps, views in favour of paedophilia.

2) Now imagine a woman (for purposes of gender neutrality) promoting that offensive viewpoint via a newsletter. Or using advertising space, on a television channel or website, to do so. *

Choose your reaction:

a) Execution is too good for her.

b) It's disgusting and should not be allowed. She deserves prison. However, if she was slated for execution, torture or other cruel/unusual punishment I might object.

c) I don't entirely approve of her being imprisoned but, as I find her viewpoint highly offensive, I would not speak out against it.

d) I hate her viewpoint, but I might speak out against her imprisonment privately (not publicly).

e) I find her viewpoint highly objectionable, but I wholeheartedly support the sentiment attributed to Voltaire: "I disapprove of what you say, but will vigorously defend your right to say it."

(a) or (b) You clearly do not believe in free speech.
(c) You may like to think you believe in the principle of free speech, but if so you clearly don't understand it. 'Free speech' is not conditional on the viewpoint expressed being one which you, or others, find acceptable.
(d) You support free speech half-heartedly. The maxim "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing" was written with people like you in mind.
(e) You believe in free speech. Good luck with that.

* She does not explicitly advocate breaking the law, and she does not make statements about any specific named individual.