Tuesday, 13 May 2014

How Free Is Our Speech? Six Reasons To Vote Pirate On 22 May

I've been plumping for the Pirate Party ever since I met Loz Kaye at an aborted anti-ACTA rally in 2012. One of the main reasons for this is their stance on freedom of speech. Since I'm naturally conservative, I tend towards a think-of-the-children view which is currently being challenged by the news of of the friendly visit by the police to a Green Party activist for poking fun at UKIP policies.

1. Freedom of speech means all speech is free

In an earlier post, I wrote that basically, we should all try to get along, it's better for everyone. However, when getting along means you're afraid to say anything at all in case Plod shows up at your door for making truthful, accurate comments that someone doesn't like, something is badly wrong. "We're really, really sorry," doesn't quite cut it, however polite and professional they are. The Pirate Party believes that we should have the right to read, hear, think and decide on matters for ourselves. This means no restrictions on even the most objectionable speech. Is there a single person or organisation to whom you would designate and allow the task of deciding, for you, what you can read and what you can hear from a fellow member of the human species? Name it. Is that the sound of crickets I hear?

2. Freedom of speech means all speech is protected

I love this video. It makes me laugh every time I see it. I chortle, giggle, snigger, and occasionally cackle. However, I've had to think again about the implications because it demonstrates the dangers of permitted speech. Go on, watch it.

The American Socialist White People's Party is a target for the furious Blues Brothers, who object to their racism. "But Wendy," I hear you cry, "that means Nazis and hate freaks in general are protected, doesn't it? Does the Pirate Party side with Nazis, or something?"

No, don't be silly. If anything, we're centrist. The thing is, while bashing right-wingers is popular (and I do it myself, to be honest), the trouble with putting in a censorship apparatus is the need to control who's in control of it. When a Left/Liberal trend is the norm, we can all hate Illinois Nazis with impunity. Okay, fine. But if I should advocate shouting, "I hate Cambridgeshire tree-huggers," and driving Green Party bloggers like Michael Abberton off of bridges, would you even smile?

NOW do you get it?

No? Okay, here we go: if the Illinois Nazis and their ilk aren't allowed to speak now because their speech is considered objectionable by people who are being insulted by them, a change in social opinions will put those of us who believe in a multi-cultural society in the same boat. I experience this as a moderate conservative Christian today, and I've been driven off the occasional bridge, metaphorically, for speaking out against Left/Liberal authoritarianism. And right-wing authoritarianism. Because I can't be dealing with authoritarianism, whoever is doing it.

3. Freedom of speech means does not mean "Free for all"

I've had this out with Pirate Party founder and bĂȘte noire Rick Falkvinge. See our exchange here. This is Rick trying to provoke a debate over the irrational overreach we've been experiencing due to knee-jerk reactions "for the children." If you read the article itself you'll see that he's complaining that just taking pictures of your kids can make you look creepy; taking pictures of your baby in the bath can get you arrested. Okay, fine. I argued that one knee-jerk reaction doesn't justify one in the opposite direction.

Cue Rick's response:
Rick Falkvinge

+Wendy Cockcroft Let me take the opportunity to express my highest respect for your first challenging me on this toxic subject, and then approaching it with open enough of a mind to see the point I was trying to make, then supplying more and relevant information to the discussion.

Tons of cred.

Contributor Dylan Maryk wrote on the UK Pirate Party's blog, line to what may be said or written in the public domain should be drawn... While this clearly cannot be extended so ruthlessly to the production of certain visual media due to potential victimisation or the demonstration of serious harm... it must be admitted that this is a form of censorship whether the vast majority welcomes it or not...

Pirates believe that speech must be free up to the point where it can cause actual harm or the threat of harm to others. It's one thing to say, "All Salfordians are idiots who live on benefits and don't want to work." As a Salford resident, I'd find it rude, but I can live with it. However, if I saw a post that said, "Let's go rioting in Salford this Saturday," followed by plans to actually carry out attacks, I'd be on the phone to the police faster than you could blink. No, I don't think it's funny. This is why. That's within walking distance of where I live. And damn it, I was there when it happened, gazing nervously out of my window, hoping it wouldn't come my way. They set fire to the flippin' Aldi and TJ Hughes shut down altogether. Real harm came as a result, people, so no, that's not the kind of speech we would consider protecting.

Opinion: protected. Plans to commit or promote committing crime: not protected.

4. Freedom of speech means welcoming dissent

It's no fun being on the wrong side of the popularity line. I'm a moderate conservative; American conservatives tend to be more right-wing than I and sometimes treat me with suspicion as a Socialist infiltrator. Meanwhile, I find I can't agree with many left/liberal viewpoints and have little desire to embrace weirdness in the name of being more
trendytolerant than thou.

*Impression of Family Guy's Al Harrington.* Hi, I'm Wendy Cockcroft and I'm here to tell you how you can share in the glory of being better than the other guy. Tired of being ordinary? Fed up of being normal? Now you too can be special, a member of an exclusive club in which you are among the favoured few who are actually right and, in fact, righteous. Yes indeed, you can be a big fish in a small pond right here, right now. All you have to do is pick a standpoint, choose a group to demonise and the moral high ground is all yours. But hurry, it's filling up with self-righteous jerks so choose your standpoint NOW!

High horses come in a range of philosophical colours, shapes, and sizes. Terms and conditions apply.

Just for fun, what was the first group to pop into your head while you tried to imagine a forty-something office worker doing an impression of this guy? Yeah... How do you know that your group didn't pop into mine, and for the same reason? We all do it. The trick is to be able to admit it. Dissent is not a threat, it's an opportunity to debate and to educate. Rick Falkvinge understands this. Dylan Maryk understands this, and so do Loz Kaye, Jack Allnutt, Maria Aretoulaki, and George Walkden. And Heaven knows I do, too. You know why? To be a Pirate is to be a dissenter, challenging mainstream political thought and the left/right dichotomy.

5. Freedom of speech means freedom to choose

Browse the Pirate Party's social policies, if you will. These are areas where we offer solutions to current problems based on ideas already being implemented elsewhere. Speech is not just about talking; writing and other forms of expression, even the choices we make to follow particular belief systems or engage in social activities are all covered by it.

Pirates support people's right to choose what to see, what to read, how to live and what to do with their lives, and we're not going to diminish one group's freedom or privilege to benefit another.

6. Freedom of speech means freedom to know

Due to "national security" concerns, we've been told we can't be told the extent to which we're being spied on. In some places, we're not even allowed to discuss the matter. A ridiculous situation is bubbling away across the pond in which the US Government has banned any current or former intelligence community officials from even discussing media reports of leaked documents. This is messing with teaching students about security issues. It's just as bad in Germany, where, I kid you not, the German Government has hired a DC law firm to threaten its own parliament with criminal prosecution for talking to whistleblower Ed Snowden, saying,
"...such acts give rise to criminal exposure under the laws of the United States. The United States would have jurisdiction to prosecute these acts regardless of where they occur."

Translation: "National sovereignty? You don't have no steenking national sovereignty!"

The Pirate Party understands the need to protect the public but the idea that we're all potential terrorists is deeply insulting, and certainly not true. There is no need to put us all under surveillance, and there's definitely no need to prevent us from finding out how much unnecessary mass surveillance is going on. The idea that we can't even talk about how much surveillance is going on or find out more about it is anti-ethical to the free and open democracy that the Pirate Party stands for. An informed electorate is an empowered electorate.

Vote for the Pirate Party on May 22nd 2014. I certainly will.

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