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April 18, 2012

When freedom of speech is perverse

Filed under: Uncategorized, Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism — news_editor @ 10:00 am

Media law expert Barry Turner argues that the trial of the mass murderer in Norway shows ‘freedom of speech gone mad’

The British press unsurprisingly gave a good deal of attention this week to the trial of the Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik. Some newspapers carried features on the Norwegian criminal justice system ranging from coverage of the five star hotel prisons to the ‘tradition’ of allowing defendants their say in court. Some of this coverage appeared in the form of a panegyric praising Norway for its humanistic approach describing ‘meeting hatred with love’ and rejecting retribution.

Retribution may be anachronistic and as the Norwegians might say will not help - but giving Breivik a say is freedom of speech gone mad.

Breivik opened his statement with a preposterous denouncing of the courts. Refusal to recognise the authority of courts has frequently been an expression of megalomania and delusion and a precursor to grandstanding. Breivik has made it clear from the outset that he intends to use the court as a platform for expressing his perverse beliefs.

While the British press have expressed some degree of anxiety that inevitably Breivik will cause great distress to the survivors and relatives of his victims there is still an expression of admiration for the Norwegian humanist criminal justice system. It is an admiration that is misplaced.

Freedom of speech is, and always has been a qualified right, indeed unbridled freedom of speech is a violation of human rights not an upholding of them. When Orwell defined freedom of expression as the right to be told things we did not want to hear he was talking of the responsibility to listen to unpleasant facts that in the public interest we need to discuss. Breivik’s pronouncements and behaviour in court do not fall into that category; neither does this latitude to have his say form part of any legitimate defence.

Breivik murdered 77 people to satisfy his own personal and perverse fantasies. The murder of innocent people including children is never justified even in the name of the most profound political belief. Breivik as a mass murder killed for pleasure not ideology. By giving him the opportunity to spout his vicious prejudices we are not acting in anyone’s interest but his.

We do not need to have Breivik’s fantasies played out in front of us especially since his killing spree could be an inspiration to others with his racist world view. Our newspapers should act with restraint and yes, even censor the opinions of a psychopathic mass murderer, not give them a platform for disseminating hatred.

Freedom of expression is a precious thing and must be protected even against its own expansion. Breivik has written a 1,500 page ‘manifesto’ of his disgusting self indulgent fantasies. He will no doubt use the enormous latitude of the Norwegian legal system to preach this hatred for many days to come. Our media must not give him a voice, nothing he has to say has any value in any concept of freedom of expression and we are not better informed for listening to his justification for an appalling act of savagery.

Barry Turner teaches media law at the University of Lincoln

1 Comment »

  1. I have to laugh at the comparison of the muroerdus scum of the third world being compared to a lovable stuffed bear.I have reservations about the practical viability of government controlled welfare agencies. Fundamentally, the power of government is to punish (and all punishments inflicted are backed with the threat of death, implicitly or overtly, as those who have ever seen a cop or a prison and thought carefully about the practical aspects of either can attest). It is not at all wrong to make an effort to ameliorate the vagaries of life on those who are unfortunate, but welfare has too much in common with letting a child drink milk through the barrel of a rifle.A rifle barrel makes a poor straw, milk is not good for the rifle, and the rifle is not something I want stuck in the mouth of a child regardless of the effect on the rifle. But all of this is probably beside the point.Islam is not in Norway for the sake of stealing your welfare half so much as it is there to wage Jihad. While the theft of your social services is indeed an outrage, they are planning to rape, loot, pillage, and then burn the entire country down in due time. It is terrible that the government is helping them do so at tax-payer expense, but cutting off the payouts isn’t going to be sufficient.Be ready for what happens when the servants of Allah realize that you have caught on to them. And remember that they’re allowed to lie about their allegiance to Islam when it serves the end of bringing about your subjugation. It’s one of their favorite tricks.Chiu Chun-Ling.

    Comment by Aprizen — May 27, 2012 @ 8:52 pm

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