Saturday, January 16, 2010

A Different Take on Ireland's New Blasphemy Law

Readers are likely aware that Ireland has a new anti-blasphemy law. The response to the law has been understandably negative. It is hard to reconcile outlawing of blasphemy and modern notions of free speech. The law has been met with mockery and derision. See for example here and here. However, Whiskey Fire has an interesting piece up arguing that the law makes much more sense in context. In particular, an anti-blasphemy law is required by the Irish Constitution. The new blasphemy law helps actually minimize the chance that blasphemy prosecutions will occur since the large fines mandated by the law force any blasphemy prosecutions have to occur under the Irish High Court rather than the circuit courts. This effectively prevents local yahoos from filing blasphemy charges. Whiskey Fire's entire piece is very worth reading and is a good example of how political situations can often be more complicated than they first appear.

Hat tip to Almost Diamonds.


Anonymous said...
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Shalmo said...

There is significant hypocrasy in the West on matters of freedom of speech. Nobody opposes how denying (or even questioning) the Holocaust can send you to jail in Europe. Yet when the repulsive Danish cartoon fiasco happened, all of sudden everyone in the western world is up in arms about defending free speech.

That said free speech is indeed important. However there must be some forethought in how it is applied.

One ingenius idea is the "Speaker's Corner" in London, England. Which serves as an avenue of "absolute freedom of speech". You can go there and say what ever you like on any topic of your choosing without reprecussion. And it simultaneously prevents any offensive material appearing in the public places of wider society.

Perhaps other countries can accomodate free speech in similar manners.

Joshua said...

Shalmo, your first claim is simply not true: Many people have condemned Holocaust denial laws. I've done so on previous blog entries, and Ed Brayton who I have on my blog roll has repeatedly done so. Those are but two examples.

Moreover, the Danish situation simply isn't a very good comparison: First of all, people react to a change in status quo by nature more than an ongoing process. Moreover, there's a clear difference between a government restricting some forms of speech and people engaging in large scale riots and death threats directed at people over cartoons. Neither is good, but there's a clear difference in scale.

Your last remark is simply a bad idea and doesn't reflect the actual situation anyways: You will be just as held responsible under British libel and defamation laws for what you say at Speaker's Corner than you will anywhere else. Moreover, people shouldn't need to go to a certain place to say something. Speech is speech and shouldn't be restricted to certain locations.

Shalmo said...

I never said everyone in the West sticks with the Holocaust hypocrasy, and regardless until that ban is lifted people should shut up about the Danish cartoon scenario.

More to the point I understand secularists in the West feel that society must have absolute freedom of speech. However such a demand is simply not feesible in the practical world.

There is a differece between legitimate criticism (which I agree MUST be accomodated from all sides) vs. a freedom to slander. The Danish cartoons were clearly the latter.

A colonial mindset dominates such advocates who expect the non-western countries and individuals in them to adhere to these same Enlightenment values. Many of us simply put don't adhere to those values.

Case in point. If you say something nasty about a subject I take very very seriously. Then its ludicrous not to expect a reaction.

And to believe that any single individual has a civic right to print such offensive material that literally smears a fourth of the human population of this planet is as nonsensical as it gets.

Again I defend free speech. But there has to be a practical avenue for it.

Johan said...

Not all countries in Europe have laws against Holocaust denial, Denmark among them.

Anyway, while I do not support the criminalization of Holocaust denial, I still see a big difference between it and publishing some disrespectful cartoons.

Joshua said...

Shalmo, that's a classic tu quoque fallacy. Moreover, as I already explained there's a clear difference in degree and natures of the problems.

Frankly, all the rest of what you've said comes down to you not believing in free speech. And then having the incredible chutzpah to label it colonialism when people are upset about Muslims who live in Western countries and then proceed to riot and refuse to even try to accept the most of Englightenment values.

And, no they aren't slander. They haven't done anything other than reflect negatively on someone who has been dead for 1500 years. Sorry, that's not slander under any sane definition of the term.