I have been a bit of a business bore of late, so I will revert to my usual pondering this morning. Something topical perhaps – is freedom of expression an absolute right?
Freedom is all very well, but if I went round insulting everyone’s sincerely held beliefs, I would find myself ostracized in no time at all. The notion that disrespect is enshrined in Western philosophy as a human right is false. We all have to get along somehow and mutual respect oils the wheels.
On the street respect plays a vital role in gang behaviour, so why should we think that satirical provocation in the press won’t incite violent reactions in the gang mentality of religious extremists?
Obviously I am totally against violence, whether provoked or otherwise, but those who risk causing offence must be aware of the possibility that the extreme weirdos out there might resort to violence rather than enter into a reasoned debate.
I am well aware that this viewpoint will not be popular at this time, but truth gets lost amid all the emotional outrage. Voltaire was reported to be an atheist, but understood the need to respect the sensitivities of believers. The repeal of the blasphemy laws in post revolutionary France signalled religious freedom, not the green light for attacks on religion.
The legitimacy of Charlie Hebdo’s attacks on religious fundamentalism and and other forms of intolerance is not in dispute. Islamic State, Al Qaeda, Ku Klux Klan, National Front, West Bank settlers, Catholic priest paedophiles and the like are legitimate targets for satire, but be ready for the backlash.