Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

Hate and free speech in the U.K. / Follow-up The power of a false consensus

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I just encountered a few pages that provide a good illustration of both the problem of The power of a false consensus ([1]) and of Tolkningsföreträde.

The Daily Sceptic, extensively quoting The Free Speech Union, writes that

Harry Miller, the ex-copper who refused to take it lying down when he was told by Humberside Police that retweeting a comic verse about transgendered people would be recorded against his name on the police database as a ‘non-crime hate incident’, has won a tremendous victory today in the Court of Appeal today.

As its noted on the page, the approach behind this database is chilling free speech and it is borderline absurd to have an official* registry of non-crime incidents of any kind that still is intended** to serve as a mark against someone.

*As opposed to a private one that e.g. tracks statement and behavior of sufficiently public persons, where those statements and behaviors are of relevance. Consider e.g. the value neutral tracking of the opinions of politicians on various issues for easy access by potential voters.

**The intent and the associated skew is of importance. Consider, contrasting with the previous footnote, a registry of just any allegedly xenophobic statements made by politicians, so that “the voters can avoid xenophobic politicians”. Also note that the intent behind the “non-crime hate incident” registry almost certainly includes turning a de jure non-crime into a de facto crime.

There might be a deeper problem, however: With what right was the original incident (and any other registered incident) deemed as hate? In all likelihood tolkningsföreträde. We on the noble Left decide what you mean when you say X. We on the noble Left decide what your ideology is. We on the noble Left decide what motivates your actions. We on the noble Left decide what is or is not offensive/hateful/racist/whatnot. Etc.

The application of “hate” to a registry like this is inexcusable.

(Similarly, but with a slightly lesser lack of justification,* the use of “hate” in phrases like “hate crime” is highly dubious, as it makes assumptions about intent that will very often be incorrect.)

*No, I will not speak of “more justification”.

I will not discuss the many other potential explanations in detail, nor (as my familiarity is too superficial) speak of this specific case in detail. However, I do note that the Left very, very often acts in bad faith when it comes to alleged hate, racism, sexism, …; and that this is very likely to relate to attempts to stamp out any dissent as discussed in [1]. Further, that there is a very wide range of statements and opinions that are negatively loaded without being hate (and are very often justified, at that).

As an example of the latter, consider many of my own writings and statements about the Left, e.g. concerning use of methods, disregard for the rights of the individual, censorship, whatnot. None of these statements are hate or motivated by hate—they are motivated by the enormous problems that the Left, and those who use similar methods, cause in the world. Yes, I am often filled with loathing and disgust when I encounter such problems, but these are not hate—and even had I reached the state of hate, it would just be a very natural and highly defensible result of the Left’s own behavior.* Nevertheless, someone on the Left could just throw out some nonsense about “anti-Left hate speech” and, sadly, convince many of those who (a) take such claims at face value and without any own investigation or critical thinking, and (b) assume that anything related to hate is automatically evil/invalid/whatnot.

*Interestingly, in areas like this, there never seems to be any reflection over whether the hate might be justified or justifiable. Considering e.g. the proportion of Leftist who profess to hate racists, Fascists, whatnot, even the Left should have an awareness for the possibility. I have noted the common hypocrisy on hate, especially on the Left, in the past, e.g. in [2]. (Note: I do not claim that justified hate would be a good idea—just that it would be justified.)

Similarly, note how often attempts by various serious debaters and persons with genuine concerns to discuss matters like immigration and crime or U.S. Blacks and crime have been silenced with blanket claims of “xenophobia” and “racism”, without any discussion of the actual merits of the case.

The Free Speech Union was not familiar to me, and I moved on to its Wikipedia page.

Here I find claims like “The organisation views itself as countering cancel culture […]”, which puts the own opinion of the organisation in doubt; and like “The group has been criticised by journalists and former student members who believe it has a right-wing agenda and that its stated aims are misleading.”, which prominently pushes a likely* Leftist and certainly partisan view of it.

*There is too little information for a certain claim, but the mixture of the sentiment, the use of the word “right-wing” as were it something automatically bad, and a source of “journalists” point very strongly in this direction. Also note that the lacking quantification is highly problematic—chances are that we can find two or three journalists who are critical of almost anything. (And more are not needed to speak of “journalists”.) Besides, do the opinions of modern day journalists, with their typical anti-journalistic approach, actually matter?

Or consider, to expand on the “student members”:

In January 2021, student members of the Free Speech Youth Advisory Board resigned after they discovered the board had close links to the Free Speech Union rather than being an independent grassroots movement that they had been led to believe. The students had hoped for a group addressing free speech issues around the world but found one dominated by Young’s right-wing perspective.

Here an account of some unspecified “student members” is stated as true, with no acknowledgment of potential differences in opinion and with no counter-statement by The Free Speech Union or any “student members” who did not resign. I note that a “right-wing perspective”, which the article does not explain, on free speech is typically nothing more than “free speech applies to everyone—not just the Left”. (To be contrasted with the typical Leftist view “Free speech is only intended for those with the correct opinions—and we, having tolkningsföreträde, decide what those are.”)

The entire article reads as one big attempt to discredit The Free Speech Union—not to give it a fair and unbiased encyclopedic treatment. This matches typical tactics well: Paint an image of any opposing organization as, e.g., a far-right hate movement. Discredit anything the opponent says, even e.g. in defense of free speech. Condemn anyone defended or supported by this opponent, because no-one not also a far-right hater would be supported by a far-right hate movement.

Note on language:
In some cases, I have adapted my own writing to match that of the quoted texts, e.g. by use of “right-wing” instead of “Rightwing” or “Right-wing”.

Note on quotes:
Some formatting might have been lost or altered in copying. References have been deliberately removed from Wikipedia quotes. See the original text for these.

Written by michaeleriksson

December 21, 2021 at 8:43 am

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