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Newsbyteblog: the blog of newsbyte regarding all things IT, free speech, copyright and patents and other things deemed interesting.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Outlawing Books

This is a copy of a post I made some time ago, but still is worth mentionning because it directly relates to free speech, of which, you will notice, I am a stark proponent in the finest (cough) libertarian sense :

Well, this may be a bit off topic, but what the heck. I've just been out with some friends, and, as always when we get moderately drunk, we talked about politics, religion, philosophy etc. (when we are real drunk or when no babes are present, we usually talk about sex ;-)

Well, anyhow, being all european, and all friends (birds of a feather) we fully agreed on a lot of topics. Israel, Iraq, USA, etc...opinions didn't differ much there. But then it came to a typical european concept of free speech, which, I presume, may strike USA-citizens as a bit weird. While, seen at large, we have the same concept of free speech as in the USA, this opinion, curiously, always seem to shift to a more restricted idea of free speech when it concerns things as racism. In this respect (one of the few, I might add), I think the usa concept of it is much more honest and fair. This has undoubtably to do with our historic heritage, notably WWII.

I was argumenting that revisionistic books, as an expression of an opinion, should be allowed. Thus, not agreeing with the law(s) in most euro-countries, where such books are forbidden. To my astonishment, many of my friends agreed with this censorship, however. This is something I do not understand; you CAN NOT claim to be for free speech and expression of opinion, and then say "exept when it's *that* opinion". Allowing free speech only if you agree with it, but forbid it when you totally disagree with it, is not allowing free speech at all. I've tried to argument it, but it just didn't seem to get through to them; they started with the premise that it's wrong, and therefor it should be forbidden, whatever. The fact that this leads to hypocrytical contradictions was something they ignored too. One said: 'it's a fact, and thus it shouldn't be disputed' another said 'it hurts the jews'...but, are that, on itself, enough reasons to forbid an opinion? Is there a 'fact' so absolute, it can't be disputed? Can't anyone feel hurt be an opinion of another dude, and should we thus, forbid everything that someone claims is hurting their feelings?

These arguments do not make any sense, and what's more, to forbid an opinion is EXACTLY what ultra-right wing or despotic governments would do with the opinions that my friends (and I myself) hold dear; that of being non-racist, etc. The difference is, they start with the presumtion that they (the idea they have about it) are right, and thus oposing views can be forbidden, while I think people are allowed to have racist opinions, even when I totally disagree with them... After all, that is EXACTLY what a dictator (or ultra-right-winged-government) would do, if he ever got the power: claim something is a 'fact' and forbid oposing views. The REAL difference, thus, between a democracy and a dictatorship is that that the one alows (or should allow) diffirent opinions, while the other does not. Thus, in conclusion, this is a treat, not of democraccy, but of a dictatorship, and unworthy to be used in a democracy, IMHO. It also shows that laws are not always justified, and, again IMHO, should not ALWAYS be regarded as an absolutism, something that should be followed blindly. (Of course, it happens to be my opinion that revisionists are telling crap too, but the point is I think they have a right to express that opinion).

I got a bit worked up about it, really, because, after all, it restricts other people, because of the mere opinion of others, who think they have the right to forbid it (and have the power - which is the dangerous part, because; what if the power shifts?). Why am I writing all this? Well, because it made it clear to me again, why I'm doing all this trouble for a project such as Freenet. Sometimes, with all the tech babble and the problems and all that, I ask myself why I'm doing all this. And I guess, this is the answer. I'm doing this, because everyone has a right to express his opinion, and I can't stand it that others would try to impose their will on others, even with the best of intentions (as with my friends).

This project (Freenet) has the ultimate potential: it deprives people, and, as an extention, governments, of the *power* to impose their will/censorship on others. Are people telling crap? Well, make something that debunks what they say, point. But don't forbid it, because that's exactly what THEY would do if they are in power.

Yes, it's the potential of making the power that the government (and corporations, and, yes, my friends) seem to think they have the perogative of, to become totally obsolete, that made me interested in Freenet. With a system as Freenet (when it will be fully working ;-), they can shout and do all they want, my ideal of a free society with a free flow of opinions will be there (at least in cyberspace). There might be drawbacks, as with any technology (and it's consequences), but all by all, it's worth it.


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