freedom of speech and facebook

September 15, 2008

I just spent some time writing a note on the group Requesting having groups shut down? You’re against freedom of speech…, so I thought I might as well publish it here. The group was started by blogger Hugo, who’s blog I’ve been reading for a while, and whose thoughts I have a great deal of respect for, against groups such as Facebook Must ShutDown the group :”Fuck Jesus Christ” and Facebook please shutdown the Group “fuck islam”. Now, I’m no political philosopher, but in the name of dialogue, these are some of my thoughts which I have on this today:

I belief it was the philosopher Levinas (although I haven’t read him first hand) who said that ethics should form the foundation for philosophy. We tend to do the opposite, first develop a so-called objective philosophy, and then try to derive some ethics in time. What if, from a theological perspective, orthopraxy is taken more seriously, the search for the correct way of living, rather than correct way of believing (read: thinking)?

Absolute freedom of speech is a nice idea, we might even call it a value. But what about the value of dialogue? Within our pluralistic society, shouldn’t that be upheld even more? What should we do if freedom of speech break down the search for dialogue?

Even more important, if freedom of speech lead to a relativism of ethics, should that be allowed? Is that the post-modern ideal? Can we really separate speech from actions? Words from deeds? Work with the idea that what is said remain in a perfect little “idea world”, where we could experiment with whatever we want, and only once the experiment has succeeded within the idea world, is it allowed into the realm of praxis?

On other levels, how far are we willing to defend freedom of speech even when it is breaking down ethics? In a world where a capitalist consumerist culture, which is forcing millions into poverty and death, seem to have a near monopoly on communication services, is it enough to say that an alternative voice must be allowed (and yes, it is heard, on blogs, in books, sometimes even in our papers, and even on global television in small bits)? Is it against freedom of speech to fight for the end of speech which is leading to the oppression of others, in order that the voice of the voiceless can be heard? Is it against freedom of speech when I fight for the end of a marketing culture that drives a consumer culture which oppress the voiceless?

Maybe speech is happening on at least two levels, that of public rhetoric (which include the finely formulated advertisements, sermons, and groups crying out for the end of religions, or the end of groups that ask for the end of religions), and that of dialogue (the place where marketing must argue it’s value within the public sphere, where capitalism and communism should be allowed to dialogue, critique, and search together). When the possibility of dialogue, the possibility to argue the validity of a viewpoint is no longer recognized, history have taught us that our ethics will seriously suffer, since the oppression of other worldviews in order for only one to have a monopoly always tended to lead to the oppression of people. But when the possibility for me to call for the end of oppressive rhetoric is taken away, our ethics also tend to suffer, as the last 10 years of economic development has taught us, when capitalism was allowed to sell it’s cause by any means possible.

But then the possibility of private dialogue within a democratic and pluralist society should also be called into question, why should some closed group be the only privileged ones with access to any conversation? So: The call to end oppressive rhetoric need to be allowed, this guard the higher right onto life from the sometimes misused right for freedom of speech. To do this with integrity, however, the rhetoric of the oppressor need to be replaced with the dialogue. The challenge is not to kill the oppressor, but to dethrone the oppressor…


3 Responses to “freedom of speech and facebook”

  1. Francois Says:

    There’s a similar thing going on with people trying to shut down a South African blog that reeks of racism and hatred.

    I think freedom of speech should be treated like any other freedom.

    E.g. the freedom to walk around where you want and use your body.

    However, if you use your freedom to kill someone, for example, you should loose part of your freedom.

    People who are misusing their freedom of speech to abuse others should loose that freedom.

  2. Tiaan Says:

    “Julle is tot vryheid geroep, moet net nie julle vryheid misbruik as ‘n verskoning om sonde te doen nie…” Lyk my selfs ou Paulus het al hieroor gekontempleer in sy 1e eeuse blog…

  3. Johann Weber Says:

    Dit laat ‘n mense dink. Ek stem saam met coos “the challenge is not to kill the oppressor, but to dethrone the oppressor..” Partykeer wonder ek of iets soos demokrasie werklik ‘n oplossing is. Bv. as ‘n meerderheid oppressors is, is hulle dan vrygespreek omdat hulle die meerderheid is? Ek soek ‘n model waar mense in ‘n breë spektrum konsensus kan bereik en geen ruimte laat vir enige onderdrukking van enige aard. Ek sal nog lank soek.

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