Sunday, September 16, 2012

Freedom of Expression: A Means to Oppression?

I was just wandering along the street in Copenhagen today when, at around 2.30pm I came across the merry little gathering  below:

That's Hizb-Ut-Tahri demonstrating outside the US Embassy. (Jakob Ehrban took the  photo above.)

The demonstration seemed to be peaceful, about 200 people I'd estimate. I couldn't understand what they were saying but one banner did strike me. It stated :"Freedom of Expression: A Means to Oppression".  Hmm.  Now, I know freedom of expression does not exist in  some Western countries. But oppression itself originates in censorship.  And thus I disagree with those who state, for example,  that Holocaust denial, however unpalatable,  should be banned. Such people should instead be countered with the force of argument.

But what about Hate Speech?  This is generally protected in the US under the First Amendment, but exceptions are made for incitement, and the movie that has caused all the fuss above must surely fall under this category.  However, to generally associate freedom of expression with oppression? - now that's a leap of faith.


  1. Are you trying to find logic in people that advocate violence as a response to an insulting video?
    (I know the protestors you saw may not have advocated violence, but their reasons to protest are the same as those that are invoked by the people that do argue for a violent response.)

  2. No, I'm certainly not trying to find any logic in people who advocate violence as a response to an insulting video. I think the response has demonstrated how absolutely crazy this world is. Certainly, I myself will never be able to understand why there were massive protests at this rather than things that to me would really seem to matter (overthrow of Mossaddegh, support of Saddam, Mubarak, invasion of Iraq etc). However, one must accept that people will respond in a certain way, and the production of the video was thus likely an incitement to violence i.e. it may have been deliberately made to try to incite the response it got, and in that case it was certainly unethical, if not illegal.

    1. I think I can agree with that assessment.
      If this was purposely inciting this response, it would put part of the blame for the deaths on the inciter.
      If this was means as a "joke" - then I guess we've seen a sense of humor isn't perceived the same way everywhere...