Saturday, December 06, 2008

Political respectability

Pretty much every idea*, however stupid, false or abhorrent, deserves political (i.e. legal) respectability. No one ought to be punished in a strictly political sense for saying just about anything. Political respectability, at least in a free society, deserves to be taken for granted. The assumption of political respectability goes not only to the expression of ideas, but the criticism of others' ideas: just because I criticize an idea does not mean I advocate withdrawing political respectability from that idea. This position stands in contrast with the ethical criticism of actions: to criticize an action entails advocating withdrawing political respectability for that action and making it illegal.

*With the usual exceptions of libel, slander, conspiracy and shouting "Fire!" in a crowded theater.

Because of this principle I tend to find criticism of how someone says something to be tedious and irritating. If someone says something, they said what they wanted to say the way they wanted to say it. If you want to say something different in a different way, just say what you have to say in the way you want to say it. The whole framing debate fills me with aggravation and nausea; people such as Nisbet and Mooney simply do not understand freedom of speech in any deep, philosophical way.

5 comments:

  1. Because of this principle I tend to find criticism of how someone says something to be tedious and irritating.

    Join the motherfucking club, holmes!

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  2. Tedious and irritating, I may give you that. Especially when it comes from Nisbet. But a priori pointless, not at all. Communication is a nontrivial problem, so there's at least some room for arguing about optimal solutions.

    Anyways, organizations like FFRF are meant to represent an entire group, a group which includes me. What is wrong with wanting them to say what I want to say in the way I want to say it? I would hope that organizations are receptive to the wants of the people they're trying to represent.

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  3. Anyways, organizations like FFRF are meant to represent an entire group, a group which includes me.

    Well, the FRFF represents its members, not all atheists. If you're a member, bring it up within the organization. If you're not a member, join; then you'll have standing to bring it up at the next annual meeting.

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  4. Why is it especially important for something to given political respectability, as opposed to economic or social respectability?

    For instance, I see the point to some of the European laws against Holocaust denial. And I don't particularly feel like it's an injustice that such a thing is criminalized legally, being as it's already a punishable offense in academia and the publishing industry anyway.

    Guess my point is: we already live in a society which silences and punishes ideas. Why are political sanctions especially abhorrent as opposed to, say, economic or social sanctions?

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  5. Why is it especially important for something to given political respectability... ?

    I explain in this post why I think speech (and, by extension ideas) require political respectability.

    For instance, I see the point to some of the European laws against Holocaust denial.

    You hit a gray area dead center: Should outright lying about obviously verifiable facts be granted political respectability? It's arguable that a lie is not an "idea" in the sense I intended in the OP. You cannot support the idea that the Holocaust didn't happen without simply lying about the facts.

    On the other hand, one might hold the idea that the Holocaust did happen, but that it was a good thing. This would be the sort of idea that I would still maintain should be granted political/legal respectability even though it is abhorrent.

    ReplyDelete

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