Saturday, April 08, 2006

Censorship alert!!

Sorry, false alarm. Brendan O'Neill takes on Isaac Hayes' "supression" of free speech in the Spectator blog:

Speech - it's either free or it isn't

Brendan O'Neill

Isaac Hayes - the American singer who provides the voice for the Barry White-esque chef and love doctor in the not-for-kids cartoon South Park - has been rightly ridiculed for bolting from the show because it dared to criticise Scientology. To make matters worse, Hayes - who is a Scientologist, funnily enough - tried to tart up his exit as a principled protest against bigotry. 'There is a place in this world for satire, but there is a time when satire ends, and intolerance and bigotry towards religious beliefs of others begin', he said. 'As a civil rights activist of the past 40 years I cannot support a show that disrespects those beliefs and practices....'

Pull the other one. Anyone who has even a passing acquaintance with South Park will know that it takes the mick mercilessly out of Christians, Muslims, Jews (especially Jews) and Canadians. Yet Hayes, apparently a selfless warrior against intolerance, didn't protest about any of that. It is only now that his own religious beliefs are being ridiculed that he's got a sudden attack of the principles. As Matt Stone, co-creator of South Park, said: 'This has nothing to do with intolerance and bigotry and everything to do with the fact that Hayes is a Scientologist.'

And yet, as transparent as Hayes' stance might be, he is only doing what pretty much everyone does these days: going along with free speech until that free speech is wielded against him or anything he holds dear.


Hayes may be a hypocrite, but his refusal to participate in a program that ridicules his personal beliefs is totally in keeping with free speech: his. Is there some kind of consistency clause attached to free speech, that would require someone who ridicules one person or group must ridicule all groups? Hayes' voluntary departure from the show in no way hampers the show producer's right to continue to lampoon whoever they wish. There is no free speech issue at stake here.

Free speech is such an easy concept to grasp, how is it that so many people continue to get it so wrong?

18 Comments:

Blogger Harry Eagar said...

I get it. Hayes doesn't. Don't fuss at me, fuss at him.

April 08, 2006 12:12 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Is there some kind of consistency clause attached to free speech, that would require someone who ridicules one person or group must ridicule all groups?

No, but there is a consistency clause attached to principles, the absence of which is hypocrisy.

Speech is just that: speech. But it speaks directly to the speaker's intellectual integrity.

Hayes has none. He has revealed himself to be a hypocrit, stinking the place up like a week-old mackerel.

Besides, if there was ever a religious belief system deserving skewering -- granted, this is a low bar -- Scientology is it.

April 08, 2006 3:17 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

... going along with free speech until that free speech is wielded against him or anything he holds dear.

While this isn't a free speech issue in the strictest sense -- Congress isn't convening to pass a law on this as we speak -- it is in another way.

Either you play the free speech game, or you don't. Hayes did, then he didn't. Kind of like the kid (or blogger) who, on failing to get his way, takes his ball and runs home to mom.

Twit.

April 08, 2006 3:22 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

Skipper,
I acknowledge that he is a hypocrite, but we're all allowed to be. I'm just struck at how people ring the censorship alarm for no reason. Hayes' departure from the show doesn't impede the free speech rights of the show's producers.

April 08, 2006 3:30 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Well, actually, it does. Hayes is an enemy of free speech. Every enemy of free speech is just that much more trouble for the concept, which has little genuine support anyhow.

He had the right to quit the show and sulk. And he had the right to use his free speech rights to attack the free speech rights of others. But the second option was not neutral as regards free speech.

Want to see how that works in practice? Go to your local Borders and ask for a copy of the April/May issue of Free Inquiry.

They had the Feb/March issue, and may have the June/July issue. But not April/May.

Wonder why.

+++++

This is even coming up here only because Hayes is well-known for something else. As a poster at Tim Blair said, how will the producers ever find a low-voiced black man in LA. to replace him?

He's fungible.

April 09, 2006 12:35 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

Harry,

Are you required to be an equal opportunity dissenter in order to support free speech? If your editor required you to write an essay lampooning athiests, to balance off previous articles you may have written lampooning Christianity, Islam and the indigenous religion of the Hawaiian natives, are you obliged to do so?

Another way to describe hypocrisy is "having a point of view". Someone who has a point of view holds to certain things and not other things. If I'm a Scientologist, then I believe Scientology is the truth and all other religions are utter nonsense worthy of ridicule. It shouldn't be surprising that peolple act that way, it is the natural order of things.

Now I would cry foul if the networks pulled the episode lampooning Scientology and none of the others.

April 09, 2006 1:11 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Duck:

If I'm a Scientologist, then I believe Scientology is the truth and all other religions are utter nonsense worthy of ridicule.

Which is precisely why free speech can't be entrusted to religionists. They are the only ones who presume to possess The Truth, to the exclusion of all others.

To a large extent, the difference between this and the Koroon kerfuffle is only a matter of degree. Islamists regularly exercise their "right" to criticize, caricature and demonize all other faiths. But they throw a world-class hissy fit when it is their turn in the spotlight. Clearly, their goal is free speech for them, but not for others. (See Free Inquiry above.)

Similarly here. Isaac Hayes is perfectly willing to caricature other faiths, but has a tempest-in-a-teapot hissy fit when it is Scientology's turn. Clearly, if he were capable, free speech would be a right reserved solely for Scientologists.

Now I would cry foul if the networks pulled the episode lampooning Scientology and none of the others.

Start crying. Last I heard, the offending episode had been pulled from the rotation.

April 09, 2006 5:40 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

I said he had the right to be an enemy of free speech.

Free speech doesn't have a lot of friends. It survives, where it does, because its enemies hate each other as much as they do it.

April 09, 2006 11:46 PM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

I agree with Duck that calling what Hayes did "censorship" is ludicrious. But does free speech cover lying? Because that's what Hayes did. If Hayes had just said "Hey, mocking others is OK but don't mess with Scientology" it would be a different matter. But Hayes himself put it in a general context, not his critics. It is Hayes who says that mocking everything except Scientology is free speech.

But I can't get worked up over it. No one except the fanatics like us will remember this in six months.

April 10, 2006 1:21 PM  
Blogger Flint said...

Like Duck, I see no problem here. Jokes that mock women are fine with me. Jokes that mock my wife, mother, daughter, etc. aren't. Even if they are the same jokes.

April 10, 2006 2:54 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Enormous discussion at Volokh Conspiracy about South Park self-censoring itself concerning Mohammed.

The argument, made by among others, Professor Glenn Reynolds, that if you don't resist, they keep coming, is playing out even faster than pessimists probably expected.

April 14, 2006 9:59 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Flint:

Jokes that mock my wife, mother, daughter, etc. aren't. Even if they are the same jokes.

Precisely.

However, while clearly theoretically possible, those jokes simply don't exist. You are able to accomodate a blonde joke without a ruffle, because you are easily able to distinguish between blondes as a particular set of humanity, while being completely capable of exempting any particular instances of blondes from that set.

Religionists in general, and Islamists in particular (although Scientologists seem intent to knock them off that pedastal) do not make that distinction.

Mark Steyn had a particularly depressing article in this regard recently (which completely substantiates Harry's point).

April 15, 2006 3:09 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

This Mark Steyn piece is even more to the point.

April 15, 2006 3:12 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

Me:If I'm a Scientologist, then I believe Scientology is the truth and all other religions are utter nonsense worthy of ridicule.

Skipper:Which is precisely why free speech can't be entrusted to religionists. They are the only ones who presume to possess The Truth, to the exclusion of all others.

Well, it can't be entrusted to un-religionsists either. Everyone has a point of view, so everyone is a hypocrite in this regard.

The Danish cartoon kerfluffle is a true challenge to free speech in that the Islamist thugs are threatening murder to silence the cartoonists. Hayes' spat with the South Park producers is just a case of "creative" differences of opinion. There are no explicit or implicit threats to censorship or violence in his decision to leave the show.

I don't usually watch the show, but the other night I tuned in as they were lampooining atheists. Apparently we are people who get everything bass-ackwards, as they say. The atheists were putting food in their rectums and vomiting out feces. Wow, that is some brilliant social commentary! It really made me take stock of my philosophy.

Now, such heated arguments regarding speech as we see in the Hayes-South Park melee are expected in a society that lives by free speech. They are a sign that free speech is working, not that it is breaking down. We do have to guard against the real threats, such as the Islamist reaction to the Mohammed cartoons. I just get irked when someone rings the alarm for the minor stuff.

April 16, 2006 9:05 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Bonhoeffer, schmonhoeffer, eh?

The hateful spew of a washed-up entertainer does not amount to much, it's true.

The confusion about what is and what isn't freedom does amount to a lot.

I see no hypocrisy in my irreligious viewpoint, which is that all speech is free.

When the largest bookseller in the country decides to live by sharia, we're in trouble.

At some point -- long past now -- when you're under attack, you cannot respond by hunkering down (not displaying the 'toons), you have to take active measures (show the 'toons).

Or the terrorists have won. They've taken Troy already.

April 16, 2006 3:20 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Duck:

Well, it can't be entrusted to un-religionsists either. Everyone has a point of view, so everyone is a hypocrite in this regard.

It isn't having a point of view that is at issue here. Rather, it is a claim to possess a point of view that embodies Truth. Those who make that claim will always be enemies of free speech, because they will attempt to accord their elevate their speech above all others.

In this regard, Hayes is an enemy of free speech.

I clearly have a point of view on many subjects, but until I endeavor to gain more favorable treatment for that point of view, or suppress alternate points of view, there is no free speech involvment whatsoever.

Further, when I note that Muslims are dictating to bookstores where their Book may be placed, or Christianists are attempting to get Harry Potter banned from school libaries, and fail to note any corresponding actions from areligionists, then I think I'm on fairly safe ground when I suggest religionists are inherently hostile to free speech.

April 18, 2006 4:49 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

Well, I assume that my opinions are more true than opinions that don't align with mine, or else I wouldn't hold those opinions. I don't think that we can sweep Hayes, the Islamicists and the enemies of Harry Potter into the same category of enemy status. And I don't think that the actions of some religionists should taint the "friends of free speech" status of all. You can see the same desire to control speech in some anti-religionists as well.

When I say that free speech can't be entrusted to anti-religionists as well, I mean that it can't be entrusted to any one group. Everyone has a personal interest in the defense of free speech, whether they realize it or not, so everyone has a responsibility to speak up for their own rights. Our democratic, constitutional system is based on the idea that we are all adversaries when it comes to what is truth, and we will all defend the general right to free speech out of our own personal, special interest. It's a quid pro quo.

I still don't think that Hayes' hypocrisy makes him an enemy of free speech. Unless I missed some statement of his saying that all shows that criticize Scientology should be banned from the airwaves, then I don't get it.

April 18, 2006 9:25 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

That's a pretty fine distinction.

He isn't as much of an enemy as, or as successful as, say, CAIR. But we're not counting him on our side, are we? Because he's not.

April 18, 2006 2:20 PM  

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