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The Hypocrisy of the Gordon Brown fiasco

 
 
Reply Thu 29 Apr, 2010 07:59 pm
First some background on my perspective.

I am unabashedly politically correct, and I am religiously pro-free speech.

These two sides go together if you understand that society is a marketplace of competing ideas. Free speech doesn't mean you can't criticize, attack or ridicule what other people are saying... quite the contrary, Free speech means that you are guaranteed the right to attack what people are saying. Freedom means that you can't pass laws to squelch ideas. But freedom means that we can attack, ridicule or shame ideas that we consider too dumb, offensive or bigoted.

This is a big misunderstanding that seems common among conservatives. Freedom of speech does not mean that idiotic, hateful or dangerous ideas can't be drummed out of existence through public debate. The key is that this process is done solely through speech. Let the marketplace sort out which words, ideas or expressions are to idiotic to be considered socially acceptable.

For those who haven't heard-- Gordon Brown (the Prime Minister of England) was caught calling a constituent a "bigot" on a microphone he didn't know was live.

I have no problem with Brown getting all grief for a really stupid act. Politicians need to be political-- every politician, in their honest moments, think that some portion of their constituency are idiots. As a public servant who needs to be reelected, it is part of the job to feign respect. This is all fine.

Here's the hypocrisy...

Conservatives want to provide a blanket shield to public figures, where they can't be attacked for insensitive language or rhetoric. I don't understand why, if you think politicians shouldn't be criticized for using language that a racial minority finds offensive, or taken to task for using sexist stereotypes...

Why shouldn't Gordon Brown have the same blanket shield?

Here is my proposal... why don't we have true freedom of speech where everything is fair game, and let society figure it out. You can refer to me as a treacherous invader if you wish, and I can call you a bigoted hater. The beauty of this freedom is that it is self regulating, people who get too extreme are penalized politically and socially, but if there is perceived truth to what you saying... there is benefit.

I am consistent-- freedom of speech provides an arena for competing ideas; Attack Gordon Brown if you wish for what was a really stupid move (although in private conversation I may agree with him... but politicians don't always have the luxury of honesty).

But it goes both ways... if you attack Gordon Brown for insensitivity... then you should stop whining when people attack Palin, Boehner or the Republican Party in Arizona.

I say, if we don't agree on anything else... let's agree on freedom of all speech.

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Type: Discussion • Score: 4 • Views: 3,025 • Replies: 39
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mysteryman
 
  1  
Reply Fri 30 Apr, 2010 12:14 pm
@ebrown p,
I dont have a problem with free speech, I support it (within reason).
And I know you are gonna give me grief for that, so I will explain it by saying you shouldnt be allowed to say things that can cause a panic (yelling FIRE in a crowded theater).

Its your "political correct" part that I have trouble with.
IMHO, you cannot be politically correct AND pro free speech.

Political correctness has gotten military recruiters banned from campus, it has gotten people attacked and shunned for using the word niggardly, it has gotten people with different ideas attacked and ridiculed.

People that oppose PETA are considered politically incorrect, people that use words that someone else doesnt like are considered politically incorrect, etc.

I am 100% politically incorrect, and proud of it.
ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Fri 30 Apr, 2010 01:22 pm
@mysteryman,
I suppose the problem here is the definition of "politically correct".

When Gordon Brown referred to a woman he had just spoken with as a "Bigot", he was certainly using a word that people didn't like (and took offense at). By this definition, he was being politically incorrect, no?

You have the right to attack (verbally), ridicule and shun whomever you like-- in fact verbal attacks and shunning are part of free speech.

How could I possible prevent you from ridiculing someone without violating your right to free speech?

The distinction I am making is between expressing free speech in a way that may offend, ridicule or shame someone and using undue authority to prevent someone from expressing speech to cause discomfort, insult or offense. It is the use of authority that violates free speech. Criticism can't violate free speech because it is free speech.

Banning military recruiters from campus is an interesting counter example-- I suppose you can argue that a school that uses its authority to keep military recruiters from recruiting is a restriction of free speech.

A clearer example is when authorities try, through the power of law, to prevent hate groups from marching through certain neighborhoods. It is the undue use of authority that constitutes the violation of free speech.

Surely you agree that the protesters who ridicule, express anger and attempt to shame the hate groups are not only well within their rights, they are using their rights to benefit society.

Sure you are politically incorrect-- as you express your opinion that some people find offensive. But then again you are no more politically incorrect then PETA is (many people find PETA offensive).

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engineer
 
  2  
Reply Fri 30 Apr, 2010 02:06 pm
@mysteryman,
I'm not sure we all use the phrase "politically incorrect" in the same manner.

To me, being politically incorrect means that you bring up a valid discussion point that might cause some group might take offense. One example: Is average intelligence as measured by IQ different for different races? This might be an interesting field of study for a biologist and worthy of debate, but almost any conclusion drawn from such a study will be preceived as a basis for future racism and therefore offend some group and be considered politically incorrect. Protesting the military's policy of banning homosexuals by banning their presence on campus is not political correctness, it is protest speech. Nor is any uproar around the use of the word "niggardly" as that is just ignorance. Opposing PETA is considered good form around here so I don't know where that comment comes from. Using offensive words is not politically incorrect, it is just incorrect. It really doesn't matter if you grew up using disparging remarks or ugly stereotypes for one group or another, it is wrong to do so.

I do agree that political correctness has gotten people with different ideas attacked. One recent example was a politician that mentioned on TV that legalizing abortion reduced the crime rate. That this is true is very much supported by crime statistics and a reasonable point to discuss in a debate about outlawing abortion, but anti-abortion groups howled.

Note that if you make specious arguments to support a position that one group or another is "bad", you are going to have a hard time demonstrating that you are not in fact bigoted. The operable word in political incorrectness for me is valid.
hawkeye10
 
  1  
Reply Fri 30 Apr, 2010 02:45 pm
@ebrown p,
Quote:
Here is my proposal... why don't we have true freedom of speech where everything is fair game, and let society figure it out.


as has been pointed out you can't be for free speech and also be for regulations on speech. I support free speech, I trust individuals to figure out for themselves the value of what has been said, to reward and punish the speakers based upon the content of what has been said. Political correct advocates do not trust people. In my opinion they should go into therapy to work on their trust issues and leave the rest of us alone.
ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Fri 30 Apr, 2010 02:45 pm
@engineer,
How is the word "valid" anything other than a subjective judgement?
ebrown p
 
  2  
Reply Fri 30 Apr, 2010 02:48 pm
@hawkeye10,
Quote:
as has been pointed out you can't be for free speech and also be for regulations on speech.


I am not (nor have I ever been) in favor of regulations of speech. Quite the contrary.

I am asking for you to accept that everyone has free speech.

Do you accept the fact that the people you are calling "Political correct advocates" have as much a right to free speech as you do? Or, are you hoping to shut them up through some sort of regulation.

engineer
 
  1  
Reply Fri 30 Apr, 2010 02:49 pm
@ebrown p,
If you can present reasonable data to support your position, I'd accept is as a valid argument even if more data can show that a counter argument is superior. Throwing out an opinion and demanding others prove you wrong opens you up to the specious argument clause.
ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Fri 30 Apr, 2010 02:52 pm
@engineer,
I am proposing a principle-- that everyone has an equal right to free speech. (And, I think the argument is centering around whether some group of people we are labeling "prolitical correct advocates" have the right to free speech.)

There is never data to back up a principle (unless you want me to reference the First Amendment).

Unless I am missing something. What position am I taking in this thread that could be either supported or refuted with data?
hawkeye10
 
  1  
Reply Fri 30 Apr, 2010 02:54 pm
@ebrown p,
Quote:
"Political correct advocates" have as much a right to free speech as you do? Or, are you hoping to shut them up through some sort of regulation.
I intend to continue to ridicule them, to continue to charge them with attempting to violate my sovereignty, with the hopes that I can convince a majority to join me so that we can finally shut these assholes up.
ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Fri 30 Apr, 2010 02:58 pm
@hawkeye10,
Quote:
Quote:
"Political correct advocates" have as much a right to free speech as you do? Or, are you hoping to shut them up through some sort of regulation.
I intend to continue to ridicule them, to continue to charge them with attempting to violate my sovereignty, with the hopes that can convince a majority to join me so that we can finally shut these assholes up.


That is exactly the right thing to do. Ironically, that is the same method I use to respond to racists.
hawkeye10
 
  1  
Reply Fri 30 Apr, 2010 03:01 pm
@ebrown p,
Quote:
That is exactly the right thing to do. Ironically, that is the same method I use to respond to racists.
THat is exactly fine, but you play a weak hand because the charge of racism is leveled so often by so many with little or no foundation that the charge is increasingly hard to take seriously.
ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Fri 30 Apr, 2010 03:05 pm
@hawkeye10,
In my mind there is quite a bit of foundation... I suppose that is a matter of perspective.

The word "racial profiling" and even "racism" has gained quite a bit of traction in stories about the Arizona Immigration law.
aidan
 
  1  
Reply Fri 30 Apr, 2010 03:19 pm
@ebrown p,
Who did he call a bigot? Was he telling the truth? If he was - it's called the 'telling the truth' and not 'being politically correct'.
ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Fri 30 Apr, 2010 03:27 pm
@aidan,
Aidan,

There is no such thing as a "bigot-o-meter". Whether someone is a bigot or not is a subjective judgment. And I am not sure that it even matters.

For example, if someone calls someone of African descent a "nigger", isn't this an example of "telling the truth"? (seeing that, although this word is offensive, the term is understood by all to refer to someone of African descent.)

You can be quite offensive while you are telling the truth.

In the case of Gordon Brown, for him to attack a voter this was was is a pretty stupid thing to do whether it was "true" or not.
aidan
 
  1  
Reply Fri 30 Apr, 2010 03:30 pm
@ebrown p,
Quote:
For example, if someone calls someone of African descent a "nigger", isn't this an example of "telling the truth"? (seeing as this word is an, albeit offensive, term for someone of African descent.)

Okay, WHAT?! I'm sorry, but I can't equate the two terms as being objectively applied to any human beings.

Who did he call a bigot? And does she exhibit bigoted opinions.

(Sorry - I'm a little behind in terms of the news - working hard these days and don't have time to read the newspapers, as is my usual practice).
hawkeye10
 
  1  
Reply Fri 30 Apr, 2010 03:32 pm
@ebrown p,
Quote:
The word "racial profiling" and even "racism" has gained quite a bit of traction in stories about the Arizona Immigration law


UMmmm, that is because everyone who is against illegal immigrants being in our country is now considered a racist by those who like to throw that word around. The thinking amongst us know that this claim is bullshit. The word "racist" just lost more credibility.
ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Fri 30 Apr, 2010 03:32 pm
@aidan,
Give me a way to distinguish between "bigoted" and "non-bigoted" opinions that both Hawkeye and I will agree on, and then I will tell you whether this woman is truly a bigot or not.

Some people think President Obama is a bigot.
aidan
 
  1  
Reply Fri 30 Apr, 2010 03:36 pm
@ebrown p,
Please tell me to whom he was referring.
ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Fri 30 Apr, 2010 03:37 pm
@hawkeye10,
Hawkeye, I think you and I are in agreement as far as the topic of this thread.

As far as the role that charges of racism will have in the immigration controversy... we will have to see. We obviously disagree on this, I think the charge is justified and that it will have a lot of traction with many Americans (including just about everyone who has brown skin).

I don't know if it is worth arguing more about this (since we each have made our positions clear.

Except I will note that if you are correct that the racism issue has lost credibility, you don't need to be so worried that we keep bringing it up (since you seem to think it won't matter at all anyway).


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