We should let racists speak. THAT is freedom, after all

voltaire.jpgMaybe it’s just me, but being a politically aware Malaysian nowadays is a very confusing place to be.

We have a Government that seems uncertain on its stand against racism: officially, the PM condemns it, but when leaders with racist leanings speak, the PM won’t confront them. Instead, he sends his attack dog to do the barking for him. Is that enough? No, it isn’t.

We have an Opposition that wants us to embrace the ideals of freedom of expression and liberty. Those exact words appear in their Common Policy Framework (CPF), but it seems this only applies when what you say agrees with them and not when it doesn’t. Case in point, PKR Youth’s call for police action against the PERKASA anti-Namewee demonstration a few nights ago.

“The police should have arrested them immediately. Even for the Teoh Beng Hock vigils, the police simply arrested sympathizers who weren’t do anything rowdy. They just grouped together to light candles in his memory but they still got rounded up and roughed up. Why did the police not give the same treatment to the Perkasa group? Their behavior was violent, they incited fear and should be detained under the Sedition Act,” PKR Youth leader Badrul Hisham Shaharin told Malaysia Chronicle.

The logic being, since the police “roughed up” the Teoh Beng Hock demonstrators, they should give the same treatment to the anti-Namewee demonstrators; don’t use the Sedition Act on us, but use it on them. The faulty logic is simply mind-boggling — if anything, the PKR response should be to applaud the police for showing restraint, and making a point for them to do the same the next time a demonstration organized by the Opposition is called. That would be the reasonable, rational and positive position to take.


Furthermore, right of assembly and freedom of expression is a two-way street, surely PKR realizes this. Just as PKR has the right to say good things about freedom, liberty and all of that, the racists have the right to say “bad” things about Malay supremacy, rights and power. 

“Good” and “bad” are relative terms, you see. I might agree with you that racism is “bad”, but to the next guy, maybe someone among the crowd of the 50 that demonstrated against Namewee, what they’re doing is not even being racist, let alone “bad”. In his mind, Ibrahim Ali probably thinks that he doing a great service to the nation. The fact that we disagree, doesn’t necessarily negate his position. The fact that thousands agree with him, means that this is not simply the irate and nonsensical musings of a deranged mind.

When we champion the rights of individuals to express their feelings and thoughts, this doesn’t include the right to control how they feel and think. If we believe that we have a monopoly on defining what is “good” and “bad”, then we’ve gone down the same slippery slope that we’re fighting to defeat. 

Take the United States for example. The recent hoolabaloo surrounding pastor Terry Jones and his intention to burn a heap of Holy Qurans on September 11. To me, that’s a nasty, nasty thing to do. America has millions of Muslims, and such an act would certainly inflame their sensitivities. But did the Federal Government, or anyone else, have the right or even spoke of the possibility of forcibly stopping the pastor from carrying out his plan? Perhaps arrest the man for inciting hatred against Muslims? Perhaps send the police to break up his party, and ban the event? No, they didn’t.

The “sensitivities” of American Muslims were tempered by their respect for their Constitution, which interestingly enough, says many of the same things that our own Malaysian Constitution says, many of the same rights that we see the Opposition in Malaysia fighting so strongly to obtain for its people.

We really can’t have it both ways. We can’t be selective about the types of ideas we’d give freedom to express and the types of ideas we will lock away in a jail cell. The battle of ideas was never won with the heavy handed hammer of the law. Especially in a democracy, which really boils down to a competition of ideologies between political parties, the debate of ideas, pleasant or otherwise, needs to be allowed to flourish unhindered. 

If we’re going to be serious about the freedom of expression, and the liberty to assemble and demonstrate against what we feel strongly about, then PKR needs to walk the talk and not only be happy to defend it when it suits their purposes.

I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it. – Voltaire

Let the racists speak. If we are of sound mind and body, let us condemn their ideas in equal measure. Good ideas will always float to the top, eventually. Bad ideas will sink to the bottom and disappear. Have faith in that process.

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19 thoughts on “We should let racists speak. THAT is freedom, after all

  1. Aiz some comments:
    1) I believe the PKR rep is right in asking for consistency of enforcement, though I take your point that if we believe in absolutre liberty (see point 2), then it would have been better to ask for similiar restraint instead of similiar crackdown.
    2) I do not beleive we can have absolute freedom,not even in the US. It has to be a spectrum of rights and liberty measured against public utility (though we should err on the side of liberty). The challenge is for government to define clearly what ‘public utility’ means and not clamp down on an ad hoc basis which is what happens in Malaysia (or maybe not so ad hoc, most opposition gatherings get clamped down…go figure). Even in the US, Imams who deny the holocaust as a way to incite hatred against Jews are prevented from speaking out and yes have been detained. The nuance with Terry Jones (though I disagree strongly with his plan) is that he was attacking the Quran, Islam as an ideology instead inciting hatred against Muslims per say. Even then no less than the President spoke out against him and the Defence Secretary called him personally. It may not have been an outright ban, but that is still using state’s influence and moral suasion to discourage and even call for him to abandon his plan (which he did in the end). My point being that I don’t believe absolute liberty exist, but the limitations have to be clearly defined and consistently enforced. Now whether PERKASA’s antics fall into a category that merits banning, I don’t know and is arguable both ways, but I would certainly say that banning it has more merits and can be easier justified compared to banning of a peaceful candlelight vigil for TBH. Individual’s perception that he is doing something good/”great service” cannot be the only criteria for state’s policies vis a vis liberty and freedom.
    3) Your notion that we should allow discourse of ides and different views and that good ideas always float to the top is a tad idealistic. This can only happen in a country where the media is free, independent and gives fair coverage to both government and opposition members. For an idea to prevail, the value of the idea is as important as the room given for the idea to float to the top. Such even handedness does not exist in Malaysia

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  2. Sani,
    On your (1) point,
    – the call should be, without question, similar restraint. Do upon others as you would do upon us (as in heavy handed crackdown, arrests, etc.) denies upon others the very same rights that we are fighting for ourselves.
    If we want to maintain the moral high-ground, this argument is simply counter-intuitive.
    On your (2) point,
    – its easier to justify banning organizations like PERKASA if we were trying to convince ourselves and others who may be like-minded. However, as i pointed out, PERKASA has tens of thousands of members, who arguably support their cause. Distasteful as it is to us, does that not make their cause “legitimate” and deserving of representation?
    Its a very dangerous place to go for us to try to decide what has “merits” and what doesn’t.
    On your point on “absolute liberty”,
    Yes, i do believe liberty cannot be absolute — however, the parameters of what is right and what is wrong will be determined by the people. In the case of racism, its not just one or two fellas that are being “deviant”, the cause of Malay rights is being championed by an ex-PM, and has thousands of followers.
    So what do you do in a case like ours? Let the racists speak, or, as PKR would have us do, let’s lock them up.
    It’s a challenge of consistency as well — PKR stands for liberty. Well, demonstrating in defense of the rights of my race is an exercise of liberty. Isn’t it?

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  3. Aiz, we agree on point 1 so no need to elaborate that point.
    On point 2, I was not advocating that government clamp down on PERKASA. My point is that liberty is not black and white, it does not follow that just because we oppose instances where freedom is restricted, we therefore must take the other extreme that everything goes under the name of liberty. That is being ideological without taking into account ground realities. In other words, it is entirely consistent for someone to advocate freedom in some cases and not in others. It is not an all or nothing choice. Liberty are restricted even in liberal democracies (through legislation and court decisions) as long as the ground for restriction is clear and consistently enforced. Yes, an individual or group may think what he/she/they is/are doing is right and is a “service to the nation”, but that is not the only factor to take into account in deciding issues of liberty vs restrictions. Number of followers are also either inconclusive or irrelevant. There are many other factors to take into account, freedom has to be balanced against societal interest. To give some easy examples, I may think shouting fire in a cinema is right but the government would be well justified to ban me from doing so and punish me if I were to do that. Ditto for cases of libel, slander and defamation even if I think what I am doing is ‘right’…many other examples. Of course the challenge for any government who wishes to remain democratic and respecter of liberty is to define these circumstances where restrictions will apply tightly and enforce them consistently, plus subject them to independent court or legislative review. You’re right it is difficult or as you put it “dangerous to decide what has merit and what doesn’t”, but it can be done and has been done by many democratic countries. Whether our leaders can do likewise is a question mark at best.
    Now if we accept that conceptually liberty can be limited in some cases, then the next question to ponder is what are those cases where liberty can be restricted? There is no easy answer here, 3rd party harm, inciting hatred and violence are several that has been used in democracies. Taking this into account, my opinion is that it would be easier to justify restricting PERKASA’s ‘demonstration’ using these grounds compared to TBH candle light vigil. Whether it can and should actually be banned depends on what actually transpired during the demonstration (unfortunately I don’t have the full details). I’ll leave you with one final thought, perhaps a potential test could be this, imagine what would have happened if Namewee suddenly appeared in the midst of PERKASA’s demonstration, would there be violence against him and compare this with let’s say, if an MACC officer suddenly appeared in the middle of TBH candle light vigil…would there be similar propensity for violence? Your guess is as good as mine.

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  4. Without going into a debate on how liberal should freedom of speech be I think we can take a simple example of how too much free speech affects a person on an individual level and see whether too much free speech is good…ie letting people shoot their racists mouths off.
    Let’s take an analogy; if someone insults, slights or unjustifiably accuses of doing something you didn’t do, what would your response be?
    There are a few possible responses but I shall only highlight the main ones;
    A) The violent approach is to soundly thrash the person, kill, beat and any violent acts in retaliation.
    B) Return the favour by insulting, making nasty statements back or the other person’s name in return.
    C) The dove approach is to take it like a sponge, rationalize with the person and hope the person understands (invariably bigots are just too narrow/small minded to hear other people’s opinions in which case you might as well be dealing with a brickwall). Apartheid in South Africa took over 50 years to resolve at the expense of many Africans lives. Discrimination will inevitably end up in violence. Either the racists whack or oppress the race they hate (Jews in Germany or Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda). the other party ends up taking up violence in retaliation for being discriminated. Hopefully before that happens the police steps in.
    D) Do all the above starting with C first then when that doesn’t work do B and when that doesn’t work do A.
    Looking at the responses above none of them is really a viable response to a racist comment made against you.
    Would you like it if a racial comment was made towards you? No.
    Is there severe ramifications if those insulting comments are continually made against you every day and every night and at every hour? I think you’d be getting REALLY REALLY upset. Enough to lash out at the person?
    Knowing Aiz he’d say I’d shrug off the comments and walk away. Unfortunately racists don’t leave you alone and will continually hound you.
    So would you still allow such freedom of speech? I don’t think so….. I have to agree with Sani that there should be clearly defined limits of what can and cannot be said in public.
    Letting racists speak isn’t freedom and liberty, it is oppressive and marginalizes individuals and destroys the idea of equality.
    Heck its like running into a bar full of drunk NewCastle fans and shouting Newcastle SUCKS!!! I mean you are just asking for it aren’t you!

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  5. Sabre,
    Except in this case, the bar isn’t full of Newcastle drunks. In a civilised society, you’d expect the bar to be full of sober people. So shouting Newcastle “SUCKS” should get you a negative response, of course. Except from the Sunderland fans that also happen to be in the bar too (did you forget about them?).
    In a civilised society, those who disagreed with you won’t beat you up, they’ll sit down with you and ask you why you think Newcastle sucks. You’ll give them a chance to speak their minds, just as you have yours.
    At the end of the day, if neither side is able to come to an agreement, you’d both go on your way, and wait for the next Newcastle vs Sunderland game to settle the score.
    In a civilised society, that’s what you’d do.
    Are you saying that our society isn’t?

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  6. In a perfect world that’s exactly what we would expect to happen. Unfortunately planet earth isn’t such a utopia. Our society is a good mix of civilized and uncivilized people which is why we still have the conflagarations of bombings and killings. Our “society” is supposed to be civilized, yet there are some things that cannot be rationalized and touch us on a more emotional level.
    Humans aren’t Vulcans like in Star Trek. We behave and act in line with what we “feel” is right. Racism is a very personal assault both on an intellectual and emotional basis.
    There are few people out there who can take being insulted sitting down without going into a fist fight.
    My take on sober football fans especially in the UK is that there would be a few people who would want to thrash it out. The real hardcore fans won’t just sit with you and have a discussion over a cup of tea. They would probably take a stick and beat the living daylights out of you.
    We do not live in an ideal world.
    If you ask me if our society is civilized I would have to say “hardly” but a big improvement from the Dark Ages definitely. Otherwise we wouldn’t have impoverished people on the streets and people starving in various part of the African Continent while the European and American farmers are busy throwing away their crops to control the pricing.
    We wouldn’t have America behaving like World War 2 Germany and invading Afghanistan and Iraq on a false pretext. I believe when Germany attacked Poland it started WWII.
    So no Aiz our civilization is far from civilized and far away from ending all conflicts through rationalization and discussion. In particular Racism.

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  7. Allowing racist to speak is too dangerous an area to thread! Well and good when it is confined to adults in a civil society. Can one imagine what will happen when a racist teacher imbue such prejudice to young and innocent minds in a kindergarden or primary school? I fear to think of the consequences and the future of our nation when such situation does happen. On this same note, I strong disagree that teachers be allowed into politics.
    Racism in all forms should not be allowed and must be prosecuted for the sake of the nation. Racists must realize that no man or nation is an island and the world is a village. Racists exist because of own selfish agendas otherwise he/ she is a cave man/women.

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  8. Sabre,
    I was hoping you’d say what you did. Because it allows me to respond like this.
    Who defines what is the standard of the morality of the society? Who makes the decision that “this” is “bad” for us, therefore we can suppress it from being discussed in open society?
    The government? Do you really want to give the government the right to make that decision for us?
    What’s stopping the government from using this power to suppress any form of speech that they want?
    Its like a pandora’s box, if you’re fighting for freedom of expression like many people in our society are doing, i find it hypocritical for you to say that only what i say (and what is approved by me) is subject to the freedoms i want. Whatever you say (because i think you’re racist), should be suppressed.
    As i mentioned, on the issue of ultra Malay rights in this country, you’ve got a TON of people who think it should be protected. To them, what they’re saying isn’t racism; its a protection of their “rights”.
    Do you see the conundrum? By telling them that they don’t have a right to speak or to demonstrate, you’re telling them that their cause is invalid. Invalid to whom? You? Or them?
    If you want freedom of expression and speech for yourself, you have to fight for it on a matter of principal. That means that sometimes you have to accept that you won’t like what you’re going to hear.
    If you can’t accept that, then your fight for freedom, liberty and expression is invalid.

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  9. Aiz, we’ve come full circle with your comment to Sabre. I don’t get why you can’t see beyond that if you support freedom of speech that you have to accept every single exercise of such freedom as summed up in your last line “If you can’t accept that, then your fight for freedom, liberty and expression is invalid”. Freedom comes with corresponding responsibilities, freedom can be abused and in some cases should be restricted. Before you go to your super argument of “oh who defines what to allow and what to ban” or “who determines that their cause is invalid”, I have already explained that many democracies have successfully been able to draw this line, provided this restrictions are subjected to legislative and independent court review.
    How is it that many liberal democracies including US honor freedom in their Bill of Right and yet is able to have restrictions for some clearly defined cases. In fact most countries have laws against libel, slander and defamation or my earlier example of shouting fire in a crowded cinema. Do you think those well established restrictions are invalid?
    In these cases individual liberty is measured against societal or potential societal harm (i.e. causing a riot/stampede in the crowded cinema). In the case of libel and slander, the law and courts accepts that one’s freedom can infringe another’s right and seeks to protect an innocent person’s reputation from being tarred unfairly.
    So clearly freedom can be restricted based on grounds such as third party harm, inciting violence and hatred…etc. What you need to prevent the executive abusing such restrictions is an independent court to review them to distinguish executive abuse from genuine restrictions to protect society. Perhaps the problem is that we don’t have such check and balance mechanics in Malaysia.
    Now to racism…first off defending one’s race is different from racism. I can defend the need for the Bumiputera to receive affirmative action and defend such privileges intellectually with the use of statistics or international precedence perhaps. This is clearly different from me saying “Orang Cina babi semua mau balik negara babi” or “Hindu kaki botol mau balik India”. This is inciting hatred and even violence if accompanied with burning pictures of individuals. Freedom to defend affirmative action for Bumiputera should be protected at all cost but the racism as in the second category should be banned on the grounds already identified. Yes admittedly, it is a thin line but it can be done and has been done in many countries.

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  10. Obviously, i’m not arguing against laws such as slander and libel. I can’t say, “Sani is a dirty liar” and expect to get away from a law suit (well, unless of course its true and i can prove it! 😛 )
    But we’re talking specifically about speech considered to be “racist” here. Let’s not move too far away from that, and go to general articles of speech and the abuse of liberties. I’m not arguing that, of course.
    Should we allow racist speech? That’s the question.
    First of all, i’ve asked, who defines racism?
    Second of all, i’ve asked, even if it is racist, how is that different from anti-racist speech?
    In the US, you can print a newsletter saying, “Black pigs are trash” and get away with it. Or, a Muslim can express his hatred for Christianity by burning a Bible. That’s the freedom of expression and speech as protected by their Constitution.
    Obviously, their leaders come out and condemn such speech and such actions, but does that negate the fact that they are allowed to say and do those things if they so wish.
    Similarly, in Malaysia, we have organizations fighting for civil liberties such as these, but they draw the line at racist speech. I’m saying that they can’t really have their cake and eat it too.
    Mind you, racist speech doesn’t have to be the sort that incites hatred. Dr Mahathir’s recent speeches have been terribly racist (the classical definition of racism btw), but he says it in a mostly reasonable and rational fashion.
    Would you ban that too? Or would you allow it?
    So ban hate speech that incites hatred, but allow hate speech that doesn’t?
    That’s a weird distinction, and terribly hard to police fairly.

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  11. Sorry if I had to extrapolate the discussion to general principles of liberty and restrictions because at some point of your post when you say things like “If you want freedom of expression and speech for yourself, you have to fight for it on a matter of principal”, you do seem to imply that if you are pro liberty, then you have to defend freedom of speech in all instances. Otherwise you would be inconsistent or worse a “hypocrite”.
    Now that we’ve agreed that in principal I can defend liberty in some cases and not in others, let’s go directly to racist speeches. I’m not sure how accurate your depiction of US is in terms of free speech…there have been instances where Imams who deny holocaust having been detained (maybe that’s a special case for Jews only?). Similarly verbally attacking or inciting hatred/violence toward a group of people (based on race or religion) may result in criminal action in some states. Terry Jones was not attacking Muslims per say but the Quran as a holy book and Islam as an ideology.
    In Malaysia, I don’t think it’s a weird distinction to allow Mahathir’s version of ‘racist speech’ or KJ’s criticism of Namewee (I actually agree with some of KJ’s points) and yet ban racism which incites violence and hatred. For me Perkasa’s recent demonstration complete with burning of Namewee’s pictures falls squarely into the second category and does not deserve any protection under the guise of liberty.

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  12. Sani,
    it’s interesting that you keep on referring to the example of imams being prosecuted for hate speech. I’m not familiar with the cases perhaps you can share some links to show context of their cases. 
    What is quite clear is that racist speech is protected by the First Amendment. 
    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_of_speech_in_the_United_States?wasRedirected=true
    perhaps what you’re referring to is conventions against speech that pose an “imminent danger”.
    Flag burning is also protected by the US constitution, as is the burning of effegies and pictures too. 
    Obviously, that’s US law and not ours. But I think the principal remains consistent. 
    There is a curious thing about racist speech and democracies especially. If racism is supressed, how do we know who is really racist and who isn’t. This may strongly influence our vote.
    I think it’s a very thin line that you’re trying to advocate in allowing racist “peaceful” speech and not racist “hateful” speech. It just means that you’re ok with clever racists and not ok with stupid ones. Both types of speech potentially lead to violence, arguably “clever” racists might even have better success in their power to influence those that would otherwise be turned off by “stupid” racists. 
    If you’re going to advocate banning racist speech then I don’t think it’s defensible to make that distinction. 

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  13. Why is it not defensible? The difference is not between clever racist and stupid racist. It’s between racist speeches which incites violence and racism as a matter of fact which does not suggest any follow up action to the listeners. I think that’s not too difficult a distinction. Even if you think the line is too fine, that is surely a matter for the courts to decide. Just holding up our hands and saying we can’t make a distinction between the two and so let’s just allow everything under the sun is a cop out.
    Regarding the US, yes the courts have established certain tests to determine when a speech can be banned as a exception to the 1st amendment. The two strands of thought are to use either the “clear and present danger” test or the “immediate lawless action” test. Regardless there are specific tests or instances to ban hate speeches even in the US. Interestingly court decisions are not static and can evolve based on the view and makeup of the judges in the Supreme Court (which is why there is always a big hoohaa when a new Justice is going to be appointed in the US)
    See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clear_and_present_danger
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imminent_lawless_action
    On the example of the imam, I must confess that I’ve only read them on blogs and have not really verified the information. A quick search however shows that are laws against holocaust denial in Europe at least including many countries which we would consider liberal democracies
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laws_against_Holocaust_denial

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  14. Some good points but let’s look at what you’ve said so far in detail.
    Correct me if I’m wrong.
    You will allow racist speech as long as it doesn’t pose an imminent threat of lawless action. Your link to the definition of imminent threat tends to suggest this as your position (clear and present danger was for cases if war time, the principal evolved to imminent threat for social liability cases).
    Let’s also be clear that the principal of imminent threat cannot be applied unless the time frame is clearly specified by the person making the racist comment. I refer you to:
    “Under the imminent lawless action test, speech is not protected by the First Amendment if the speaker intends to incite a violation of the law that is both imminent and likely. While the precise meaning of “imminent” may be ambiguous in some cases, the court provided later clarification in Hess v. Indiana (1973). In this case, the court found that Hess’s words did not fall outside the limits of protected speech, in part, because his speech “amounted to nothing more than advocacy of illegal action at some indefinite future time,”[1] and therefore did not meet the imminence requirement.”
    So the parameters of the speech you will not allow are clear. If it’s the type of speech that will pose an immediate or determinable threat, such as speech to create a riot, then that’s bad. Did I represent you correctly? All other types of speech is allowed? (we’re talking about racist speech of course).
    If that’s correct then I invite you to apply this test to the anti-namewee demonstration.
    They burned his image and, ironically, called him a racist.
    Did they call for him to be abused physically in any way? They did ask for the ISA to be used to lock him up.
    Did they stalk him, follow him home, or throw stones at his car? Did the leaders of perkasa ask for him to be hurt in any way?
    In fact, the leader of the group asked to be allowed to engage him in dialogue.
    Was there an imminent threat here?

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  15. On your point of holocaust denial, the comparison is flawed because speaking against it (denial) is a denial of an event of significant value compared to racism which is a advocacy of an idea. Event vs idea, so to speak.
    If someone were to say that May 13 didn’t happen in Malaysia then the comparison would be valid.
    The problem with an idea is that not everyone agrees or shares the same definition or appreciation of that idea. In the case of Namewee, perkasa thinks HE is the racist! How to distinguish between the cops and robbers here? Or do you become consistent and stop everything that sounds remotely racist even namewee too (how dare a Chinese rapper insult a Malay headmistress).
    That’s one of the main points I’ve discussed and unanswered – who is racist? The racists don’t think they are racist, in fact the claim you’re racist. What do you do then?

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  16. Aiz said,
    “Obviously, i’m not arguing against laws such as slander and libel. I can’t say, “Sani is a dirty liar” and expect to get away from a law suit.”
    The problem with racist speeches is that most of the time, it is slander and libel. Which is why it makes it so wrong to begin with. For example statements like the Blacks are retarded and meant to be slaves are clearly slanderous and constitute libel.
    The fact that these statements made are unjustifiable and out right insults tends to spur people into violent action relatively quickly.
    Imagine if someone insulted your Chinese father or your heritage as a Malay how would that make you feel?
    Its really easy to take a step back and say it’s everyone’s rights but I think Sani has a point when he says that with individual freedoms come resposibilities to the state and society.
    Let’s take a look at government classified information. Although there is freedom of press/speech in the US, the media is restricted from giving out such info to the public. Similarly if an individual is caught leaking such info to others he will be tried as a traitor.
    Why? Because there is clearly an impact upon the security of the state and its people. In these situations we trust the government to do its job, limit freedom of speech and ensure our national security and at the same time not to abuse its power in limiting such freedoms.
    Or are you arguing that we should allow any Tom, Dick and Harry to release such information because we don’t trust the government in exercising its restrictive powers?
    We trust the government to capture criminals and restrict their freedom of liberty. You seem to be arguing that because we can’t trust the government lest it abuses this power lets let all the criminals loose.
    The courts are always there to determine what the fine line should be. In asking the question of who decides I think this is pretty clear no? Yes there will be some politicking involved here and there. In the US its Republican vs Democrats and in Malaysia its UMNO vs the rest. Hey nothing’s perfect.
    Event vs idea… eh sorry Aiz I hate to disappoint you but isn’t it kind of the same thing? Why deny an event unless its supposed to propagate some underlying idea?
    Deny the holocaust because the jews are liars and it never happened. Sounds quite racist to me and slanderous. Its a fact that Jews did die and were persecuted.
    In denying an event such as the holocaust there is an idea being propagated. People will always interprete it as such as well. The impression you will get if you talk to people and say that the holocaust never happened would be that you hav some sort of anti-Semitic agenda.

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  17. Really now? Did Perkasa just wanted to engage Namewee? If that is all they wanted why the need to burn his picture, could they not invite him to a forum for some ‘engagement’? I also wonder why there was a need for police escort wheh he left the venue if like you claim there was no prospect for violence?
    The whole point of the two tests in US was to two fold, first to demonstrate that even in the US, there was no carte blanch protection of free speech as you suggested originally repeatedly. Second to make the point that it should be the court that should apply the tests based on judicial precedence. The point being that there is indeed scope to limit racist speech.
    In pointing out those two tests, I was not suggesting that we should incorporate the exact same tests in Malaysia. Afterall we follow the Common Law. There is a strong case to argue that in Malaysia with increasing racial tension, that different or additional tests should apply, although these tests can certainly be the starting point. Importing US tests into Malaysian courts without taking into account local circumstances could prove disastrous. Let’s take an easy example, what do you imagine would happen if we allowed a priest to burn the Quran ala Terry Jones in Malaysia? Afterall he was allowed to do so in US right (the fact that he didn’t in the end is immaterial). Should the Malaysian government adopt the same libertarian approach that the US government did? and at what cost…racial riots?
    I’m not taking sides and neither am I suggesting that we should ban anything remotely racist. In fact I made it clear that Mahathir should be allowed to air his views, racist as it may be. The line I drew was racist speech that incites violence. If Namewee had done so in his rap and advocated violence against the headmistress, then yes ban his rap too. Ditto with Perkasa.
    Finally I agree with Sabre on the faulty distinction you tried to draw between event and ideology. Holocaust denial which is banned is several parts of Europe is not just denial of an event as a matter of fact, but a characterization of Jews as a race and often accompanied by hateful remarks towards them. In other words, speech which has the same make nup of a racist speech. Back to Perkasa, in their condemnation of Chinese race as an inferior race (ketuanan Melayu…etc), are they not denying an event or part of history, that the Chinese just like other races played an important role in our independence and economic development (which is what Namewee was pointing out in his rap)?

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  18. Obviously, i’m not arguing against laws such as slander and libel. I can’t say, “Sani is a dirty liar” and expect to get away from a law suit (well, unless of course its true and i can prove it! 😛 )
    Torts, libel and slander are laws that u have no problems with. In limiting free speech your main worry seems to be whether the govt can be trusted to make the distinction between what is libel and slander and what is not. If you agree that the govt can for these cases Why not for racist speech that incites violence?

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  19. Here is my 2 cents worth, basically right and wrong is not that hard to see. Why defend what u think is wrong ? There is enough “right” out there for us to defend, a whole life time is not enough.
    Walk the talk. Go do something that you can be proud of when you die. Look yourself in the mirror every morning and say “I am doing OK”, and please do not give excuses for all the wrong things. Try always to take the long view, what will happen in 50 years time ? 100 years from now ? How will what you support or fight against affect the country in the far future ? This is the best way to remove any personnel involvement – gain or otherwise. – the amount of excuses you can use will all go away.
    What goes around comes around, never forget that.

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