Miko Peled on free speech and Zionism

Middle East
on 20 Comments

Yesterday we posted a piece by Jonathan Ofir on a controversy surrounding Miko Peled’s statements at a Labour Party conference event in Britain mentioning the Holocaust. Peled’s response follows.

I appreciate Jonathan Ofir’s piece re my comments at the Labour Party conference fringe events. I am in the process of writing a piece about it myself, but I do want to provide a short clarification.

As I see it, there are three issues here:

1. Discussing/denying the holocaust while claiming to believe in free speech.

2. Providing people with racist perspectives a platform to express their views.

3. Anti-Semitism.

1. I really do not understand how anyone can claim to believe in free speech yet claim that “holocaust deniers” are criminal. If someone is ill informed or ignorant or racist or stupid or all of the above – that is not a crime or a reason to vilify. It reflects their own racism, ignorance or stupidity – whichever the case may be but reflects nothing on the holocaust and its millions of victims. I would argue that denying current and impending disasters and crimes against humanity is far more serious.

Furthermore, the label “holocaust denier” is thrown at people by those who would have a monopoly on the discourse, on the discussion re the holocaust and that, I believe, is problematic.

2. There is a tendency to create spaces for and sow tolerance toward people who support Zionism and the state of Israel and allow them to express their point of view in an effort to show balance. My comment was, would we allow the KKK to do the same? The proponents of apartheid? – there are still a few of those around – or anyone else who wants to promote and help us understand the merits and virtues of racist ideas? I believe we should not provide that space, and I believe that this list includes Zionism. I see it as a racist, settler colonial ideology that was and is responsible for crimes against humanity and therefore they should not be given a public space in which to legitimize their ideology.

I did not, by the way, compare Israel to Nazi Germany as was reported at one point.

3. I do know what Anti-Semitism is. What I meant in my comment to Phil Weiss was, I don’t know what it means in this context. When in the UK and elsewhere people who have dedicated their lives to promoting tolerance and fighting racism are now called anti-Semitic and when people are called antisemitic because they support justice in Palestine and people are called antisemitic because they support BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions], then I don’t know what antisemitism is. Chuck Schumer – US senator from NY, says that BDS is a modern form of Anti-Semitism. BDS calls for tolerance, justice, and equality – what is antisemitic about that?

As I said I will write more about this and will post later. Once again I thank Jonathan for his thoughtful piece and for raising these important issues.

About Miko Peled

Miko Peled is an Israeli writer and activist living in San Diego. His book “The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine” (Just World Books) was published in 2012.

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20 Responses

  1. George Smith
    October 12, 2017, 12:40 pm

    Holocaust deniers and Zionists may be deplorable, but they certainly have the same free-speech rights as do righteous people like us (Miko Peled’s point 1). That certainly doesn’t mean we (the righteous) need to “make space” for deplorables every time we organize an event (part of Peled’s point 2). But what about disrupting, blocking, or otherwise shutting down an event organized by deplorables? We (the righteous) hate it when the deplorables do it to us, and the deplorables hate it when we (the righteous) do it to them. I think we ought to continue to protest vigorously when deplorables try to shut down our (righteous) events, and by the same token I think we (the righteous) ought to refrain from trying to shut down their (deplorable) events. That doesn’t mean we (the righteous) can’t ATTEND their deplorable events and vigorously contest their deplorable ideas.

  2. pabelmont
    October 12, 2017, 7:36 pm

    Peled:

    Furthermore, the label “holocaust denier” is thrown at people by those who would have a monopoly on the discourse, on the discussion re the holocaust and that, I believe, is problematic.

    Problematic? Claiming a monopoly on ANY discourse is “problematic” ? No, it’s a travesty.

    If I want to discuss the holocaust and say that, according to my arithmetic, 5,999,000 Jews were killed by the Nazis, and I present the “facts” that support my reasoning, who the devil are the bozos who will call me a “denier”? I’m denying their canonical “6 million” but not the holocaust.

    I don’t like people trying to shut other people up. And I don’t care if it’s 6 million or more or less. Why should anyone care, anyhow, about huge numbers like that? If it were only 3 million, it would still be a holocaust.

    • Mooser
      October 13, 2017, 1:14 pm

      “If I want to discuss the holocaust and say that, according to my arithmetic…”

      ..the Holocaust was partly or wholly caused by the Jews?(Not that you would, of course!) But that’s the nature of most of the “denial” I’ve seen. And it doesn’t dispute a single number.

      Or we can question whether genocide ‘solved the problem’. Is that a fair question, or is a denial inherent in the question? I think it is.

  3. Jonathan Ofir
    October 13, 2017, 4:17 am

    My response to Miko Peled’s clarification on his ”Holocaust: yes or no”

    Forward note:
    Yesterday, Mondoweiss published a response by Miko Peled http://mondoweiss.net/2017/10/peled-speech-zionism/ following my dissection http://mondoweiss.net/2017/10/problem-peleds-holocaust/ of the problem inherent in the words “Holocaust: yes or no” as part of his talk at a Labour fringe event a couple of weeks ago.

    Before I delve into Peled’s response, I want to say that I am aware that Mondoweiss and many others would not be inclined or interested to have this go on without end. I have seen and received many concerned comments on mail, article threads and social media, attempting to clarify things that they thought were not properly understood from my rendering. But let me make this clear: I know the facts, I know what was said, and now Peled has subsequently tried to clarify it. Even now, I am still clear, about an unclarity here. One possibility is that it is because I am not smart enough to see through the unclarity. The other possibility is that it is simply unclear. Actually, that has been my point, in that Peled’s message is confusing – on a serious issue.

    Such unclarity is of course a distraction, and it takes up our time. This is of particular concern, since the context of Peled’s words, inside the Labour party setting, which has suffered continuing distraction from those who would seek Corbyn’s demise, does not need to be added further distraction. I share that concern. But I think that merely quietening this down artificially will only solve the symptom, not the cause. And in this case, I believe, as I have written, that Peled did himself provide thee distraction. I also believe that the subsequent clarifications which I have detailed in my analysis, have not been particularly useful. Equally, I do not think this current clarification adds much clarity to it, and I will explain why, below.
    ——————————————–

    Peled writes in his clarification:
    “As I see it, there are three issues here:
    1. Discussing/denying the holocaust while claiming to believe in free speech.
    2. Providing people with racist perspectives a platform to express their views.
    3. Anti-Semitism.”

    Now, on issue 1, he elaborates, opening with the sentence: “I really do not understand how anyone can claim to believe in free speech yet claim that “holocaust deniers” are criminal.”
    But we were not discussing whether Holocaust deniers (and I do not need the quotation marks here) are criminal. Criminality is not the issue that was being raised – the issue that was being raised by Peled in his talk was “free speech, the freedom to criticise and to discuss every issue, whether it’s the Holocaust: yes or no, Palestine, the liberation, the whole spectrum. There should be no limits on the discussion”, as Peled said at the Labour fringe event.

    This is mirrored against those who are not provided a platform: “It’s about the limits of tolerance: we don’t invite the Nazis and give them an hour to explain why they are right; we do not invite apartheid South Africa racists to explain why apartheid was good for the blacks, and in the same way we do not invite Zionists – it’s a very similar kind of thing”, as he also said at that event.

    There is obviously a distinction between ‘free speech’ and who is invite to an event regarding Palestinian solidarity – but as I have pointed out, and as I will do here, the distinction is actually blurry.

    Peled continues the clarification of item 1, saying that “If someone is ill informed or ignorant or racist or stupid or all of the above – that is not a crime or a reason to vilify. It reflects their own racism, ignorance or stupidity – whichever the case may be but reflects nothing on the holocaust and its millions of victims. I would argue that denying current and impending disasters and crimes against humanity is far more serious.”

    Now let’s look at that closely – a Holocaust denier may be racist – indeed their Holocaust denial may reflect their own racism – but that is no reason to vilify. Indeed, it reflects nothing on the Holocaust itself. Now the question to be asked is, if a Zionist, or a Nazi speak – why are they not to be afforded the same forgiving attitude? Nazis would come to an event and “explain why they are right”, but it would reflect nothing about Nazism. Zionists would come and explain “why they are right”, but it would reflect nothing on Zionism.

    On the one hand, Peled seems to be making the distinction between Holocaust deniers being a ‘thing of the past’, whereas Zionists are a thing of the present. But this distinction seems weak, when it comes to current-day Nazis, KKK and proponents of South African Apartheid – which he also groups with Zionists in reference to those not to be offered a platform. The question becomes: If Holoacust denial is a “thing of the past”, why isn’t support of South African Apartheid?

    The ‘thing of the past’ argument about current-day Nazis is one that is being made by the most nationalist and racist pundits, the likes of Yoaz Hendel http://mondoweiss.net/2017/08/hendels-revenge-palestinians/ and Yair Netanyahu http://mondoweiss.net/2017/08/support-racists-israeli/ .

    Peled is not applying the ‘thing of the past’ notion to Nazis, but he’s applying it to Holocaust deniers.

    Peled ends his clarification on item 1 in a formulation which in itself is perhaps one of the most problematic ones:

    “Furthermore, the label “holocaust denier” is thrown at people by those who would have a monopoly on the discourse, on the discussion re the holocaust and that, I believe, is problematic.”

    Aye, the label “Holocaust denier” is exploited, just as “anti-Semitism” is exploited – but does it mean it doesn’t exist?

    Peled does not refer to this possibility at all – that Holocaust denial might actually be a real thing. In fact, all of his references to it are in quotation marks, so he appears to be relating to it SOLELY as an accusation, which might not even hold any substance whatsoever. Peled is actually suggesting an agnosticism on the subject in his formulation.

    I want to pause a bit with this one, and go to Joseph Massad’s excellent essay from 2004, “Semites and anti Semites, that is the question” http://www.masress.com/en/ahramweekly/18485 . Here, Massad relates to the ‘political’ aspect of Holocaust denial in the Arab world: “While holocaust denial in the West is indeed one of the strongest manifestations of anti-Semitism, most Arabs who deny the holocaust deny it for political not racist reasons.” Massad analyses that this sort of denial is a reactionary one, and concludes that “all those in the Arab world who deny the Jewish holocaust are in my opinion Zionists.” The full paragraph is worth reading to get this logic, here it is:

    “While holocaust denial in the West is indeed one of the strongest manifestations of anti-Semitism, most Arabs who deny the holocaust deny it for political not racist reasons. This point is even conceded by the anti-Arab and anti-Muslim Orientalist Bernard Lewis. Their denial is based on the false Zionist claim that the holocaust justifies Zionist colonialism. The Zionist claim is as follows: Since Jews were the victims of the holocaust, then they have the right to colonise Palestine and establish a Jewish colonial-settler state there. Those Arabs who deny the holocaust accept the Zionist logic as correct. Since these deniers reject the right of Zionists to colonise Palestine, the only argument left to them is to deny that the holocaust ever took place, which, to their thinking, robs Zionism of its allegedly “moral” argument. But the fact that Jews were massacred does not give Zionists the right to steal someone else’s homeland and to massacre the Palestinian people. The oppression of a people does not endow it with rights to oppress others. If those Arab deniers refuse to accept the criminal Zionist logic that justifies the murder and oppression of the Palestinians by appealing to the holocaust, then these deniers would no longer need to make such spurious arguments. All those in the Arab world who deny the Jewish holocaust are in my opinion Zionists.”

    I believe that Peled is in some way applying this notion – a reactionary notion to cynical exploitation of the Holocaust notion by Zionists, but not providing it with counter balance. He is apparently being solely reactionary on this, which ironically, as Massad reasons, puts him on lime with Zionists – ostensibly on the other end of the pole – but on the same pole. It’s called ‘polarity’.

    Now let us continue to Peled’s point 2. Here he elaborates:

    “There is a tendency to create spaces for and sow tolerance toward people who support Zionism and the state of Israel and allow them to express their point of view in an effort to show balance. My comment was, would we allow the KKK to do the same? The proponents of apartheid? – there are still a few of those around – or anyone else who wants to promote and help us understand the merits and virtues of racist ideas?”

    Yet once again, if KKK are a ‘thing of the past’, if ‘proponents of Apartheid’ are (indeed, his comment that ‘there are still a few of those around’ only strengthens the notion that they are an aberration in Peled’s view), then why aren’t Holocaust deniers, who are being rendered a ‘thing of the past’, not also grouped in here? Here is where the supposed distinction between ‘freedom of speech’ and ‘giving a platform’ becomes even more blurry. Because now, those whom Peled was referring to in terms of ‘not giving them a platform’ (Zionists, Nazis etc.), are referred to with the words “allow them to express their point of view in an effort to show balance”. Peled is rejecting this notion. But once again the question arises – why is he not rejecting the notion of allowing Holocaust deniers to “express their point of view”?
    Indeed, Peled has spoken quite clearly about allowing them to do so.

    But let’s continue. Peled ends his elaboration on point 2 with the sentence: “I did not, by the way, compare Israel to Nazi Germany as was reported at one point.”

    And neither did I, by the way. I only quoted Peled’s words which related to Zionists and Nazis in rhetoric proximity and never referred to Nazi Germany. If anyone did that, it wasn’t me, so this note should be seen as external to this discussion – just to be sure no one got the idea that “as was reported” relates to MY reporting.

    Peled continues into point 3 to elaborate: “I do know what Anti-Semitism is. What I meant in my comment to Phil Weiss was, I don’t know what it means in this context.”

    But I did not say that Peled does not know what anti-Semitism is. In fact, I provided quotes which proved that he DOES know what it means, but that he is using rhetorical exaggeration to make a point.

    So Peled is using a form of speech. He’s actually saying that he does know what anti-Semitism means, but that when it is being misused (as in Chuck Schumer calling BDS a modern form of anti-Semitism, an example he brings), he does not accept it as being so.

    I think the lesson I’m getting is, that I need to understand Miko Peled’s words more as a FORM OF SPEECH. But when I try to do that in this whole context, I get confused. Even the clarifications make me confused. What I am nonetheless getting is, that Peled doesn’t really address actual Holocaust denial any real insidious value. It is to be permitted under ‘free speech’. He doesn’t regard it as actually relating to any kind of ideology, only possibly ‘stupidity’, ‘ignorance’, even ‘racism’, but only as ancillary issues, while other ideologies are more intrinsically racist, and shouldn’t be allowed a platform.

    Once again – let’s put the notion of criminality away here – we are speaking about Peled’s notions of what is legitimate to be given a platform under ‘freedom of speech’. Now if Peled was speaking for universal freedom of speech, he would allow all of these. But he’s not, he is precisely being selective and strategic about what should be invited to the debate. And here, alongside “Palestine, the liberation”, he puts “Holocaust: Yes or no”, as his selective and representative rendering of “the whole spectrum”. If you have to select three things to represent “the whole spectrum” of (permitted) ‘free speech’, that means that those three things are going to be very prominent, rhetorically. Each item takes up 33.3% of your ‘spectrum’. That’s how big a chunk Peled gave to the discussion of Holocaust denial (to be fair – with the “yes”, but with an obvious natural accent on the “no”) within the proclaimed boundaries of discourse in Palestine solidarity.

    Peled may not have been providing a physical platform for Holocaust deniers at the fringe event, when he said this. This was not a debate as such either – Peled was making a philosophical-ideological statement of what he thought should be discussed, and what not. Thus, HE was provided a platform to promote these views, and this is what he promoted. The distinction between ‘free speech’ and ‘providing a platform’ here has been blurry, and has become even more blurred with his clarification.

  4. Sibiriak
    October 13, 2017, 9:34 am

    It’s still not at all clear: is Peled for no-platforming ( not criminalizing) genuine Holocaust deniers, skeptics and trivializers, as he is for no-platforming Zionists? If not, why not?

    • echinococcus
      October 13, 2017, 12:44 pm

      [Just to make sure the usual suspects don’t seize on it, it is clear that I am certainly not responding for Mr Peled but offering a passersby’s remarks]

      Zionists are criminals against humanity and they have wrought enough damage. Why should we listen to them, ever? Current law cannot oblige anyone to hear the sh|ts out. “Holocaust”(TM) deniers, trivializers, shorteners etc., on the other hand, are just people talking and they are far from enjoying government support with murderous armies. What is “genuine” for you? Some pitiable, others erudite. Others yet are branded “deniers” for exposing the multibillion-dollar scam making money out of the memory of genocide victims (and the intentional dumbing down of the American public.)

      • Antidote
        October 14, 2017, 2:02 pm

        “Zionists are criminals against humanity and they have wrought enough damage. Why should we listen to them, ever? Current law cannot oblige anyone to hear the sh|ts out. “Holocaust”(TM) deniers, trivializers, shorteners etc., on the other hand, are just people talking and they are far from enjoying government support with murderous armies.”

        How does that not also apply to Americans? And yet you would immediately be branded as a virulent and unhinged anti-American if you made that point, even though it is perfectly valid. It’s the same with Anti-Zionism=Anti=Semitism

      • echinococcus
        October 14, 2017, 7:15 pm

        Antidote

        You are assuming, incorrectly, that I am on speaking terms with the US Gov, its Nuremberg bait administrations, or its Demolican and Repucrat pigs.

        I am not. It’s true that the (overwhelmingly Zionist-dominated) commanding managers of the US Gov are forcing me, under threat of armed intervention, to comply with their commands and to pay taxes. They cannot force me to absorb their propaganda.

        As for the Zionist entity, it cannot force me, or any association I might control, to give it a public tribune, to give them the time of the day, or to have any kind of non-hostile communication. They started the war and do not call it off.

        As I said, I am still against any legal limitations to any speech by anyone (including those who breach the BS “incitement” or the fascist “calling fire” nonsense.) That, I suppose, includes anyone with a humanoid anatomy, including even Zionists.

  5. Citizen
    October 13, 2017, 10:57 am

    Glad everything is cleared up for us onlookers.

    • Mooser
      October 13, 2017, 12:21 pm

      “Glad everything is cleared up for us onlookers.”

      I’m not sure it is. Certain Holocaust questioning can involve Holocaust denial without ever questioning a single number.
      That would be questions about how the responsibility or blame for the Holocaust is apportioned.

  6. MHughes976
    October 13, 2017, 2:33 pm

    There is a distinction between a) thinking it one’s duty, or at least thinking it reasonable, to provide a platform on one’s own initiative for the exponents of certain ideas to express those ideas b) thinking it reasonable to provide a platform concerning other matters for people who in fact favour those ideas c) by contrast, refusing to provide such d) going further and forbidding or disrupting any attempt by anyone else to make that provision.
    Only the last, d), is rejection of free speech. The third, c) is really a form of boycott, which is in general an exercise of free speech: it becomes a personal boycott, we might say, if it extends to a person regardless of subject under discussion – if the Rabbit Society will not invite an authority on the mating habits of the British Blue because he frequently lauds apartheid.
    The first, a), extends the right of free speech into a right to be listened to or not to be ignored – which isn’t generally valid but might be in some cases.
    Whether MP would accept this list I’m not sure. But if he means that view d) should not be taken (maybe apart from certain emergencies, like the well-known ‘fire in the theatre’; presumably apart from privately run discussions, like Mondoweiss) of anyone, even of Holocaust deniers and of Nakba deniers, I would agree, for the usual liberal reasons: these deniers have their freedom of speech. (To say this is not to drop even a hint that either the HDs or the NDs actually have a point.) If he also means that HDs, NDs and sundry others have no right to be listened to and that everyone has a right to abstain from inviting or publicising them I’d agree with that too.

  7. Tony Greenstein
    October 13, 2017, 8:13 pm

    The longer this ‘debate’ goes on the more heat than light is generated. In essence Jonathan and Miko are arguing not with each other but over each other.

    I will concentrate on Miko’s article.

    There is no such thing as ‘free speech’ in the abstract. All speech carries a cost. Freedom of speech for someone to say they want to kill me might mean an end to my free speech. Freedom of speech for Nazis ends up in Charlottesville with the death of an anti-fascist woman. So I’m definitely NOT in favour of free speech for fascists and neo-Nazis.

    Robert Tawney, a social democrat put it best when he said that ‘Freedom for the pike means death to the minnow.’

    Miko becomes even more confused when he says of holocust denial that it ‘is not a crime or a reason to vilify.’ No it isn’t a crime in the sense of an infringement of the law, at least in the UK or America, (it is in Germany and Austria) nor should it be. But politically I consider holocaust denial or indeed Nakba denial a crime. And I definitely want to villify all those who propose such ideas.

    Miko says that he ‘would argue that denying current and impending disasters and crimes against humanity is far more serious.’

    Again this is an absurd counterposition. Why not both? I see opposition to holocaust denial and neo-Nazi ideas as entirel compatible with condemnation of Zionism. It is Zionism which is now hand in glove with the far-Right alt-Right,which includes holocaust deniers or minimisers.

    Miko also says that ‘the label “holocaust denier” is thrown at people by those who would have a monopoly on the discourse, on the discussion re the holocaust and that, I believe, is problematic.’ It would indeed be problematic if anyone considered they had a monopoly on the holocaust. Zionism of course does claim ownership of the holocaust that they did nothing to help alleviate or prevent. To it the holocaust is unique, beyond history or in the words of Yehuda Bauer ‘inexplicable’.

    I believe that we should use the holocaust in our anti-Zionist politics and not shy away from it. Miko says that he did not ‘by the way, compare Israel to Nazi Germany as was reported at one point.’

    That demonstrates his confusion. People should compare Nazi Germany to Israel and Zionist ideology. There are many comparisons. The idea of the master race and untermenschen for a start. The belief that miscegenation should be outlawed. The belief in segregation. The fact that Israel’s own Palestinian citizens are not nationals of the Jewish state unlike Jews. The pogroms on the street etc. etc. Of course Israel is not the same as Nazi Germany. That is obvious. It is not, yet, a fascist state but it is an extremely repressive and racist state, especially for non-Jews.

    Miko also speaks about ‘a tendency to create spaces for and sow tolerance toward people who support Zionism and the state of Israel and allow them to express their point of view in an effort to show balance. My comment was, would we allow the KKK to do the same?’

    I’m not aware that anyone is in favour of creatin space for Zionists. The problem is we are fighting for such space for ourselves against the Zionists, hence why Miko spoke at a meeting organised by ‘Free Speech on Israel’!

    I don’t want to comment on Jonathan’s response except to say I agree with Joseph Massad. Holocaust Denial is not one single phenomenon. In the West it was the creation of the neo-Nazis in order they could gain some legitimacy again, though now it has gone beyond that. In the Arab world it is instrumental, a product of Israel’s use of the Holocaust to justify itself. It is politically stupid but not antisemitic in the traditional sense. The social roots of antisemitism in the Arab and European spheres is entirely different.

    • echinococcus
      October 14, 2017, 12:45 am

      Looks as if you’re trying to generate both heat and light –using heretics at the stake as fuel. In the name of antisemitism-and-denial-hunting. Again.

    • Brewer
      October 14, 2017, 12:50 am

      “Freedom of speech for Nazis ends up in Charlottesville with the death of an anti-fascist woman.”
      Sorry Tony. Cannot agree. Apart from the fact that here is no causal link in your example (you might just as well assert that freedom of speech for MLK caused his death) creating a category of citizen excluded from a universal right is an abomination – utterly unworkable. You place yourself in company with the very people you deplore.

      The far right and the far left of Politics has been with us since forever, will remain with us forever. Ad Hominems such as “Nazi” “Holocaust Denier” and “anti-Semite” are the weapons of weak minds unable to discuss logically with civility. Such labels should be tossed on the garbage pile along with racial epithets and suchlike. Throughout History, every time such labels have become etched in the public mind, aberration follows. Consider the History of the labels “Heretic” and “Witch” for example.
      I view the advent of laws regarding Holocaust Denial and anti-Semitism with great concern, especially since the push from Israel and Israel-firsters in both Britain and the U.S. to have criticism of the Israeli State defined as the latter.

  8. JWalters
    October 14, 2017, 1:44 am

    A very good, recent article on Miko Peled here:
    “A Silenced Israeli Critic”
    https://consortiumnews.com/2017/10/11/a-silenced-israeli-critic

  9. JLewisDickerson
    October 14, 2017, 5:21 am

    RE: I really do not understand how anyone can claim to believe in free speech yet claim that “holocaust deniers” are criminal. ~ Peled

    MY COMMENT: I would like to point out one scenario to watch for. Namely, it would be a situation where the holocaust denial is part of a campaign designed to precipitate (or perhaps likely to precipitate) actual anti-Semitic attacks.
    In such a case the “holocaust denial” can no longer be defended as free speech, and this particular “holocaust denier” might indeed be a criminal.

    • MHughes976
      October 14, 2017, 10:02 am

      Restrictions on free speech in case of extreme emergency are generally accepted and the obvious likelihood of immediate illegal violence is generally accepted as a sufficient emergency. John Stuart Mill gave the example of the right to say that corn merchants starve the poor, which he says may be restricted when there is a crowd of poor people outside a corn merchant’s house. But these are still restrictions on free speech. It’s still freedom that you are restricting. But it seems to me that the whole idea of free speech collapses unless extremely stringent criteria are used to define the emergency. In particular the anger and distress arising from hearing words you hate hearing mustn’t be allowed in itself to constitute a social emergency. We mustn’t get to the point where you can’t say that corn merchants starve the poor in front of an audience of corn merchants. (All right, I find it harder to say that when the personal attack is against me or even some outrageous, repetitious and horrible things are said on Mondoweiss but I suppose I should still say it.) I would be very hard to convince that assertions referring only to the past would create emergency – negative assessments of the British Empire endangering British lives, perhaps. That could happen, surely, only if these assertions were combined with some more direct anti-British agitation and then it would be this direct agitation that caused the problem.

      • echinococcus
        October 14, 2017, 7:33 pm

        Hughes

        John Stuart Mill gave the example of the right to say that corn merchants starve the poor, which he says may be restricted when there is a crowd of poor people outside a corn merchant’s house.

        Give my regards to Mr Mill and tell him that it’s not good form to take people for total morons deprived of any agency.

        A crowd is composed of persons, every single one of them with personal responsibility, endowed with reason (or somesuch) and under a permanent obligation not to act on murderous “incitation”.

        [That said, in this particular example the corn merchants clearly deserve a riot…]

  10. Bumblebye
    October 14, 2017, 10:46 am

    I seem to be listening to ‘free speech’ on the issue of Trump and the Iran nuclear deal at the moment.
    LBC!
    Just tuned in, hearing callers pointing directly at Israel (host calls for israelis *and* Iranians to call in), yet several callers are keeping the emphasis in the Middle East.

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