Friday, March 14, 2008

There Are Limits

Terry DavisOnce upon a time Terry Davis was a Labour Party apparatchik in Birmingham, but these days he’s the General Secretary of the Council of Europe. For most of his career he concentrated on parochial affairs in his Hodge Hill constituency, but now he gets to hobnob with the movers and shakers in Strasbourg and apply his mind to the larger issues.

Such as — just to pick a random example — the necessity for a little judicious reduction in European freedom of speech.

Yesterday Mr. Davis wrote a letter that was published in the Danish daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten. Interestingly enough, the letter was written in Danish, and neither TB (our tireless Danish correspondent) nor I could find an English-language version. Perhaps Mr. Davis availed himself of the translation facilities at the Council of Europe headquarters in Strasbourg…?

In any case, Jyllands-Posten, in the admirable Danish tradition to which we have become accustomed, responded to Mr. Davis’ letter by publishing a lead editorial on the same day. TB has translated both items.

First, the letter:

We should be cautious
by Terry Davis, General Secretary of the Council of Europe

Freedom of speech should not be exploited as a freedom to insult

The very controversial drawings of Mohammed, depicting the prophet Mohammed, were recently reprinted in several Scandinavian countries. This happened after the arrest of three individuals who had allegedly planned to murder one of the artists.

Indignation toward yet another case of extremist violence is completely legitimate, but we should be cautious about unconsidered reactions to these sorts of events. I would like to state three points.

First: One cannot make compromises on violence. What followed the first publication of the drawings in Denmark was completely unjustified and unacceptable. The reported attempt to murder one of the artists should not only be condemned but also it should be taken to court.

Secondly: Freedom of speech is important in order for our democracies and our societies to work properly as a unit. This is secured by the European Convention of Human Rights.


Of course I don’t think that the drawings should have been forbidden, but it is important to remember that unlike torture or the right to live, freedom of speech can be reduced under certain circumstances, which fact is mentioned in the convention it self.
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The European Convention of Human Rights has previously insisted on such reductions in connection with a piece of art that was regarded as an insult to a faith community. Maybe it is appropriate here to mention that the religion we are talking about was not Islam. It was Christianity.

Thirdly: The drawings that were published were insulting not only to the violent minority of Muslim extremists, but also to the majority of Muslims who don’t promote violence.

This is the reason why I do not agree with the way that the Scandinavian media have reacted to this matter, with this latest escalation of the story. We all agree that violence must be condemned.

We all agree on the necessity to respect and defend freedom of speech. But I cannot see how the publication of these drawings — which have once again insulted the whole Muslim population worldwide — has had any positive effect on either of these points.

Without making any analogy to the controversy about the drawings [Then why is he bringing it in? — translator] I would like to comment on the announced release of an apparently very provocative movie about Islam, produced by the Dutch politician Geert Wilders.

Want to wreak havoc

It is not clear at this point whether this is a real movie or a just a cock-and-bull story. It seems like a cynical and irresponsible attempt to wreak havoc — due to political motives — which potentially could have huge consequences.

It is not up to me to judge whether this movie, if it exists, should be forbidden, but I don’t think that we can just hide behind freedom of speech, close our eyes, and hope that the worst won’t happen.

The fact is that freedom of speech should not be used as a freedom to insult. I hope that we in the future will be capable of reacting in these kind of situations with more empathy, tolerance and understanding. It should be possible to de-escalate these kinds of conflicts in the future without undermining the foundation of our democratic society.

And now for Jyllands-Posten’s editorial response:

Editorial: Sombre speech

“Freedom of speech is not freedom to insult” the General Secretary of Council of Europe , Terry Davis writes in a letter to the editor in today’s publication of Jyllands-Posten.

This he has misunderstood.

Freedom of expression is exactly the freedom to insult anyone within the framework of the law. It is the very essence of freedom of speech as the foundation of the democratic way of governing, that one is able to come forward with points of view which some people may find insulting, and that one is able to come forward with information that some people would like to be ignored or suppressed.

That freedom of speech should be used with grace and that you should avoid insulting people who react with wanton destruction, murder, and boycotts is now a well known point of view.

The sombre part of this affair is that it comes from the General Secretary of the Council of Europe.

The Council of Europe and its institutions, the Human Rights Commission and the Human Rights Court of Law’ have since their creation shortly after the end of WW2, been standing guard of freedom of speech, if anybody has. While national governments and national courts of law have tried to apply restrictions particularly on the media’s freedom to come forward and share controversial points of view. the Council of Europe has cut through and overruled wrong sentences and little by little changed the administration of the laws in the member states.

Denmark in 1992 appended the Human Rights Convention into Danish law, so that it is now immediately binding for Danish Court of Law.

Freedom of speech has had its best protection and defense in the human rights court of law. In this country we remember all the instances of the Danish courts were employed in the so-called Jersild case, where a journalist let some hooligans come forward with racist statements. The sentence of the hooligans was retained, but the journalist and the TV station were acquitted because it was in the interest of the public to know the very existence of the points of view that made up the foundation of the punishable statements.

The member states of the former East Bloc dictatorships have contributed to the movement of freedom of speech in the right direction. They know the consequence of suppressing freedom of speech.

Therefore it is extremely depressing that the General Secretary of Council of Europe argues for certain considerations to be upheld for people who let themselves be insulted on behalf of billions over some drawings which they could just ignore if they don’t like them.

The General Secretary also uses this opportunity to criticize the Dutch politician Geert Wilders’ movie about the Quran.

“It seems like a cynical and irresponsible attempt to wreak havoc — due to political motives — which potentially could have huge consequences,” the General Secretary writes, and continues “

It is not up to me to judge whether this movie, if it exists, should be forbidden, but I don’t think that we can just hide behind freedom of speech, close our eyes, and hope that the worst won’t happen.

“The fact is that freedom of speech should not be used as a freedom to insult. I hope that we in the future will be capable of reacting in these kind of situations with more empathy, tolerance and understanding.”

Thereby the General Secretary pathetically leans upon scared and irresolute European politicians who do not dare to stand guard on freedom of speech.

If Geert Wilders’ movie is so horrible, as some seem to think, it should be met by arguments, and if anybody should attempt to react in a criminal way this is a police matter.

The Catholic Church and parts of the UN seem to make a joint front with those who want to limit freedom and undermine democracy. The fact that the European General Secretary supports these forces is almost unbearable.


laine said...

There is not a paragraph one can utter that does not "offend" someone somewhere, literally. If you talk about the weather these days, there are people who will come to near blows over what the weather signifies for global warming.

If you try to be a Pollyanna and speak only good of someone, say a politician, then you offend his detractors.

How dense do you have to be not to realize that there is no reasonable way of cleansing speech of offense without instituting a spiritually deadening totalitarianism more complete than anything that has been achieved in real life? Since this is the caliber of what passes for "thinking" in the elite of the Western world today, no wonder the Islamists think we're easy pickings.

Mr. Davis has just grievously offended every rational person in the West who does not want to be dhimmi to Islam. The fact that he does not comprehend that he has been if anything more offensive than the original cartoonists, is unrecognizable by him.

The Danish cartoonists were no threat to ordinary Muslims, merely to the world caliphate project of the Islamists. On the other hand, Mr. Davis is a very real threat to my well-being and that of my children by trying to curb the speech necessary to identify and deal with an enemy determined to conquer.

babs said...

And, why does he do so? Is he really so scared by the calamity that might erupt from the screening of a 15 minute video. So frightened in fact that he needs to pen an entire essay about its evils?
Or, is there a greater political work at hand in which he computes that he will have more voters by speaking out about the "upset" that might take place and, of course, Brits that just want to get on with their lives and stop all the "trouble" are willing to agree with him.
Frog in warm water.Indeed, the water is getting warmer.

babs said...

You know, anyone that has gone through Heathrow has seen the police on guard with uzi like weapons...
Is this the price Brit society pays for keeping their country free? As an American, I am always amazed by the heavy police faction I see on the streets and in the airports of London. Even if you don't buy into my mindset, you must admit that something has gone terribly wrong based on the police presence in public venues.

christian soldier said...

Hate Speech was the lable and legislation here in the U.S. We were warned and we warned that Hate Speech legistlation was an assault against freedom of speech - no one would listen. We were informed that laws were already on the the books to protect against slander-nobody listened.
Hate Speech was the "camel's nose inching under the free speech tent".
The socialist left uses the same tactics all of the time - and it never gives up. We just - constantly fall for it.
Obfuscate its true motive - call the issue by an unassuming name and viola!- the politicians and public buy it.
In Europe the ruse is; "we must not get anyone 'upset'"

Alexis said...

It is rather interesting how Mr. Davis is not recommending that limits to free speech be applied to Islamists in London. Far from encouraging responsibility, the Council of Europe is proposing selective enforcement. Does Mr. Davis propose to prohibit Muslims from blaspheming any other religion? How does he plan to enforce such a prohibition? From the point of view of some religions, Islam is an institutionalized form of blasphemy where contempt toward other religions is at the core of its belief system.

Selective enforcement of laws is a direct route to anarchy, however much such a route may be paved with good intentions.

Defiant Lion said...

Isn't it funny how Mr Davis deems cartoons as offensive to all muslims throughout the world but doesn't consider:

Jews as descendants from apes and pigs;

Non-believers as "najis", i.e. filth;

and the 164 verses of the Qu'ran that advocate jihad against non-believers until "the world belongs solely to Allah"

as being offensive to all people of multiple faiths and non faith throughout the word?

Is that because if the west discovers the truth about Islam, serious questions would then be asked of politicians like him who have imported this evil enemy into our midst?

Devilfish said...

Why do so many people seem to think they can speak on behalf of all muslims worldwide? I wonder if he ever considered the possibility, that plenty of muslims might not be insulted at all by the cartoons. I can imagine some would actually find it insulting, to be compared to people who burn down embassies or give death threats.

spackle said...

"I hope that we in the future will be capable of reacting in these kind of situations with more empathy, tolerance and understanding."

Could not this same statement be applied to the Ummah? Then again that would take a degree of maturity. I will never forget the first time I heard about the "piss Christ". I wasnt insulted, I just thought the artist was an idiot. Case closed.

Epaminondas said...

Freedom of the Seas as we have practiced it since 1789, eventually always means one thing, and one thing only.

Gulf of Sidra. 1986.

To ensure that freedom IS freedom one is compelled to trespass across what other consider theirs.

Skokie 1978. The ACLU and it's jewish lawyer wins the case to allow the nazis to march in a town with an extraordinary number of holocaust survivors. The ACLU's reasoning is the we protect the freedom of speech for all, when the most obnoxious and reprehensible among us can practice it.

Those who feel offended 'own' this problem, not those of us who believe that freedom of speech and expression as a real and practical reality in this world trumps faith in any other.

If we can withstand the indignities of the piss Christ, and feces Virgin Mary, I think those men who adhere to Islam can withstand the affront to a God who cannot be, after all, insulted by mortals. Only men can be so insulted.

John Sobieski said...

The dhimmis come crawling out of the woodwork, defending Islam and deriding the infidels for not worshipping Islam. UN SG Moonbat, now this clown.

I will be so glad when Fitna is released and these dhimmis start running around like chickens with their heads cutoff telling all the infidels they are doomed if they don't worship Islam. It is so frigging pathetic!

A_Nonny_Mouse said...

I don't think illustrating how Islamic terrorists are seen in the West should be considered "an insult" by all those allegedly moderate Muslims who have immigrated throughout Europe. Cartoons like the Bomb in the Turban, or "Stop! We've run out of virgins", etc, illustrate a Western view of an intolerant group. If co-religionists of the intolerant group want to take offense and behave offensively, well, perhaps that illustrates for us in the West that --maybe-- it isn't just the infamous "tiny minority" who can't get along here. If enough "tiny minority" sympathizers already in the West become truly obnoxious, perhaps the dense idiots in our governments who encourage their immigration will finally be forced to admit this wholesale disruption of our culture was NOT a good idea. THEN, maybe, we could find a way to encourage the anti-Western-Civilization group to pack up and return to their beloved homelands, where Sharia and Islamic customs are the acceptable norm.

A_Nonny_Mouse said...

Alexis said...

"It is rather interesting how Mr. Davis is not recommending that limits to free speech be applied to Islamists in London. Far from encouraging responsibility, the Council of Europe is proposing selective enforcement. Does Mr. Davis propose to prohibit Muslims from blaspheming any other religion? How does he plan to enforce such a prohibition? ..."
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This may be similar to the gun-control enthusiasts in the USA who (responding to crimes with guns) want to create new laws which deprive law-abiding citizens of THEIR guns. Law-abiding citizens by definition obey laws; criminals by definition don't obey the law. It doesn't occur to these people that in removing legal guns from the law-abiding, they are removing a means of self-protection against those who will continue to use illegal guns to commit more crimes.

I think it's the same thing with speech: Government poo-bahs know that Muslims won't stop calling Western society evil and immoral; their holy book (the literal word of Allah, perfect for eternity) asserts that we non-Muslims are "apes and pigs" so they will always refer to us that way; in addition, the true believers of Islam will never cease calling for our society to be destroyed to make way for the Caliphate. So, they can't ask the Muslims to change, now can they? The next best thing is to legislate against us, the plodding bourgeois who take pride is being good citizens and obeying the law. That way, they're "doing something" in response to the unrest the Muslims cause in society (without actually doing anything about the Muslims themselves, whose hostility to our society, whose endless demands for yet more accommodation to their all-encompassing "religious sensibilities", are the true cause of the unrest).

elf said...

Terry Davis doesn't have the courage to stand for Western values, he is a dhimmi. We don't need dhimmis to represent us at any level.

He want to smooth the rough edges the islamic way first with freedom of speech, then with human right like the UN, and then with our freedom, then we all live under sharia.

About sharia, boycott the banks that practice sharia banking as it is a way to advance the islamization of our society through economy. The charity money of those funds 3%, from any country, goes to terrorism through radical imams. Finally sharia banking participates to the weakening of the Western economy which is the primary target of Jihad. Remember 9/11 they target the World Trade Center, not the Liberty Statue. And now Saudians and comparses are buying stock exchanges. Even if they loose all their assets, they don't care, they are fanatics. Like in Iran, they ready to nuke Israel and West even if we nuke them in return.

Debbie said...

As Edward Norton's character, Alan Issacman, stated in the movie, The People vs. Larry Flynt, "Unpopular speech is absolutely vital to the health of our nation." He adds, "If that right is taken away, then we wither away as a people and our individuality is nullified."

Decatur said...

I believe it was Orwell who said something to the effect that if freedom of speech means anything at all, it must mean the right say what others do not want to hear.
Whoever it was I wholeheartedly agree and believe anything less to be meaningless posturing - which we see all too much of nowadays from certain quarters.

Charlemagne said...

Mr. Davis' comments, I think, highlight one of the core issues with the EU and superstates in general, the US federal government included. The further removed government is from the people the less the people are represented and considered. Liberalism gains power by pushing decision making higher up the food chain so it can hide in the bureaucratic mazes created by big government. When a government is supposed to represent hundreds of millions of people vs. thousands, hundreds of thousands or even a few million each individual voice grows ever more inconsequential. As a result many people give up hope of ever making a difference and therefore the state gains additional power by default.
As an example, the state if education in the US is embarrassing because the Dept. of Education assumed control from local districts, established overreaching, micromanagerial sets of rules and regulations that have stifled and dumbed down the once great system.
Liberals fear the individual and seek safety and refuge in collectivism. The EU and my own Federal government are perhaps the largest dangers to our freedoms. I am a strong supporter of states rights and I hope Europeans will come to their senses as to the dangers of the EU and retain local sovereignty or else the slide to soft totalitarianism will never stop.

Interesting - my word verification word is 'quran'

CarnackiUK said...

Let's not forget what this same Terry Davis had to say about the Stop the Islamisation of Europe rally in Brussels on 9/11, 2007 - a rally at which dozens of peaceful demonstrators were brutally beaten and arrested in disgraceful scenes caught on video:

"European values are under threat, say the organisers of a protest march under the banner “Against the Islamisation of Europe” which was due to place today in Brussels in spite of the ban by the city Mayor. The fact is that Europe and its values are indeed under threat, but the danger is not coming from Islam. Our common European values are undermined by bigots and radicals, both islamists and islamophobes, who exploit fears and prejudice for their own political objectives.

The self-proclaimed defenders of European values say that the Mayor has violated their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights. The freedom of assembly and the freedom of expression are indeed essential preconditions for democracy, but they should not be regarded as a licence to offend. I will not enter into the discussion about whether the march should have been allowed or not, but I note that the protesters’ reading of the Convention is selective to say the least. It is very important to remember that the freedom of assembly and expression can be restricted to protect the rights and freedoms of others, including the freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This applies to everyone in Europe including the millions of Europeans of Islamic faith, who were the main target of today’s shameful display of bigotry and intolerance."

The man is clearly a political appointee advanced way beyond his competence and IQ.

Charlemagne said...

Liberalism/Leftism is the greatest danger to freedom that exists in the world today. The unfortunate thing is that rather than taking our liberties with guns they will take it in the name of protecting the rights of minorities. As has been observed already, any speech will be offensive to someone, somewhere. Who is it then that will get to decide what can be said by a "free" people? The danger of Islam is twofold, their goals to restore the caliphate and implement sharia AND the oppressive implementation of political correctness to shield voluntary immigrants from the disapproval of the host population. Political correctness will always dictate that the majority give way to the minority.
Political Correctness, multiculturalism both forms of neo-Marxism/cultural Marxism are the greatest threats to Western culture that exist today.
If we weren't threatened internally by these phenomenon then Islamization wouldn't be a threat.
Islamization is a secondary or parasitic threat that has attached itself to the Western body via the primary threat of cultural Marxism. Without the self flagellation over colonialism, white guilt, etc. that Liberalism has introduced into our culture we wold have the civilizational confidence to defeat Islamism. Islamism is only a problem because of our own internal weaknesses.
To defeat this sickness we in the West must be willing to stand up to the false charges of racism that are hurled at us in an attempt to manifest internal guilt.
I personally am not the least bit afraid to proclaim that Western culture is clearly superior to all other cultures and that I will never feel guilty for any sins my ancestors may have committed.
The best hope for this world is for the West to regain its confidence. If we lose that then the world will be left to those least afraid to exercise their raw, brutal power.

laine said...

I agree with Charlemagne that the primary weakness is the sapping of Western cultural confidence by marxist infiltration (dominating media and education, a main political party, and the so-called justice system). Islamism is an opportunistic parasite that colonizes an already diseased victim and hastens its death.

As far as sins, it is idiotic to accept the double standards foisted on us by the hostile colonists and their apologists: we are to feel guilty for all time for sins committed several generations, even hundreds of years ago but Muslims are not responsible even for the ongoing murder and mayhem they are committing around the world, let alone THEIR past sins as slavers and rapacious imperialists.

They have nothing to teach us, except how not to run a society or civilization.

bottehond said...

The Brussalians are a sad bunch. They do not appeal to a common ideal, but stick to manipulating the european civilian. I call that very bad management. Following a doctrine ( method Monnet) constructed in the '50s as adequat for European Unification is a gotspe! Certainly as long as "Europe" excludes Russia, which is most definitely Europe. Europe needs better than islam appeasing cowards!

Profitsbeard said...

First Rule of Free Speech:

If you're not offending idiots, you're an idiot.