Sunday, January 29, 2012

Freedom of expression

I usually don't bother to explain entries in The Stupid! It Burns!; any reader with a triple-digit IQ a Google PhD will immediately get it. But Grizwald Grim has politely asked me why I think his post is burningly stupid. He won't understand the explanation, of course — if he were intelligent enough to understand the critique, he wouldn't have posted something so stupid to begin with — but his request gives me an opportunity to heap additional abuse on someone whose stupidity is exceeded only by his self-opinion.

The most obvious feature of Grim's post is that he himself is acting like an insufferable prick. I don't mind prickishness; I'm often a prick myself, and I'm being one now. But Grim is an insufferable prick complaining about other people being insufferable pricks, which makes him a hypocrite. I, on the other hand, am being a prick because Grim is a hypocrite (as well as being stupid). Not only is Grim being a obvious hypocrite, he is (incorrectly) condemning others for being hypocrites. Just by itself, two levels of clueless self-parody is enough to earn him a spot on TSIB.

But Grim is not only a stupid, hypocritical prick, he also so deeply misunderstands bullying and the concept of rights that I wonder how he's able to find his mouth with a spoonful of soup.

Bullying is coercion. Mockery and disrespect are not (for adults) bullying. Grim is correct: atheists are mostly immune to (legitimate) mockery precisely because we don't have many obviously stupid beliefs to mock. (Of course, that doesn't stop a lot of religious believers from inventing stupid things they think we do or ought to believe, and mocking those made-up beliefs. But that's grist for other TSIB posts.) Grim links to Paula Kirby's article, Worrying developments for freedom of expression in the UK, and highlights the case of Rhys Morgan, who, according to Kirby, "has apparently received veiled threats of expulsion or suspension from his school if he does not remove a Jesus & Mo image from his personal Facebook page" and has received threats of violence from his Muslim classmates. Morgan was not attempting to coerce anyone. He didn't harass anyone, he didn't threaten anyone, he didn't demand anyone be expelled or suspended, and he certainly didn't actually harm anyone. Morgan is, contrary to Grim's assertion, not a bully. And atheists in general do not engage in coercive behavior, except to insist on the ordinary social coercion to prevent harassment, threats, and overt violence prescribed by law.

Finally, Grim risibly completely fails to grasp the concept of rights. Regardless of their ontological origin — objective, subjective, or socially constructed — to accept a right is to accept a social obligation to protect that right. The connection between rights and protection is not just an entailment, it's an identity. So when Grim both asserts the right to free expression and in the same sentence implies that he will not protect those who exercise the right of free expression, he is blatantly contradicting himself.

When Grim says, "You're on your own when the consequences of being an insufferable prick come back to haunt you," he is essentially saying that if someone murdered a 17 year old for posting a cartoon on his Facebook page, he would give the murderer a round of applause instead of a lifetime in jail. I am a civilized person, so I will not harass, threaten, or harm Grim (and even this second post is at his explicit request), but I can with a clear conscience say that he is a stupid, contemptible, disgusting excuse for a human being.

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