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Why on earth is Anjem Choudary invited to speak at Hay philosophy festival?


7:17 pm - May 10th 2011

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contribution by Lucy James

Over the last week a few complaints have been levelled against the invitation of Anjem Choudary, a founding member of the banned Islamist organisations al-Muhajiroun and Islam4UK, by How the Lights Get In, the philosophy and music festival at Hay.

They have, unbelievably, invited him to speak at two of their philosophy sessions at the end of this month.

The first of these sessions, ‘States of Emergency’, examines the role of terrorism as a political tool. Step up terrorism-supporter Anjem Choudary, described with no apparent irony by the festival organisers as a ‘Sharia law advocate’.

This is a man who, only last week, led funeral prayers for ‘Sheikh’ Usama bin Laden outside of the American Embassy in London – the leader of al-Qaeda who has been blamed for the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians around the world.

The second of these sessions, ‘When Women Rule the World’, seeks to ask what a world would be like where women, not men, are dominant. Step up hard-line chauvinist Choudary, described in this instance by the festival organisers as a ‘controversial Islamist’.

This is an individual who has declared that women in the UK (whether Muslim or non-Muslim) should be forced to be covered, and who should be punished for adultery by being stoned to death.

This is what he said about women back in 2009:

Every woman, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, would have to wear a traditional burkha and cover everything apart from her face and hands in public. In matters to do with the judicial system and the penal code, one male witness is sufficient to counter the testimony of two females. People who commit adultery would be stoned to death.

Let us not forget that this is also a man who led the protests against the British troops in Luton back in 2009, where protestors called the returning soldiers ‘murderers’ and ‘baby killers’, and a man who has publically called for homosexuals to be stoned to death.

The festival’s director, Hilary Lawson, has defended their decision to invite him, saying:

Inviting controversial figures isn’t about selling tickets or causing outrage. Instead we aim to address current topics that are central to our lives.

However, it is unclear how inviting such a fringe loony, who supports acts of terrorism, wants to eliminate the rights of women under a male-dominated dictatorship and stone homosexuals to death, is helping to address current topics of interest in any meaningful way.

Of course, however vile Choudary’s beliefs, he is entitled to his opinion. In the name of free speech, he should also be entitled to publically air them (where they don’t incite violence – which many of his arguably do).

So far, the invitation has been challenged by a Welsh UKIP PPC and the father of a soldier who was killed in Afghanistan. But the lack of response from left-leaning groups and individuals is indicative of the levels of liberal paralysis that subsumes some left-leaning circles when it comes to Islamists.

However, his opinions do not deserve recognition by – and defense from – the Left. It is also patronising to the vast majority of Muslims who find the ludicrous rantings of Choudary and his ilk at odds with everything that they believe in.

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Reader comments


1. Mr S. Pill

Absolutely agree with this article. We on the left need to be a lot noisier when condemning utter twats like Choudary.

Which bell-end thought inviting Choudary was a good idea? Or was someone hoping that the notorious rent-a-rant whose number is on the Daily Star’s speed dial, might produce a bit more interest for the festival.

3. Chaise Guevara

Have to disagree with you for once, S. Pill. Most of this article is dedicated to the ancient philosophy of Those I Dislike Should Be Silenced. The contradictory mention of Choudary’s freedom of speech thrown in towards the end does nothing to ameliorate that.

I suspect Choudary’s been invited because it’s a philosophy festival, and if you’re going to limit the voices at a philosophical debate to those you’ve deemed acceptable, there’s precious little point having one at all. I’m also at a loss to understand where we should find the irony in the phrase “Sharia law advocate”. He IS a Sharia law advocate.

Yes, Choudary’s views go beyond offensiveness. He’s possibly the most unpleasant person in this country to be regularly given media space. But to drag out that tired old point: if you only support freedom of speech for some people, you don’t support freedom of speech at all. And before someone pulls the “liberals always defend Muslims” card, I’d say exactly the same thing if it was Nick Griffen, or Fred Phelps.

More pragmatically, I think it’s better to keep people with insane views out in the open, where we can recognise them and laugh at them, than push them underground and give them a justification for playing the victim.

4. Mr S. Pill

@3

The way I see it it’s like debating with a holocaust denier. You automatically give their views credibility by allowing them an esteemed platform. There are plenty of outlets for Choudary’s hate-speech, why does Hay have to offer one to him? At least with Griffin he represents a legal political party who (much as I hate the fact) representatives at EU level. Choudary represents no-one but his own sickening ego. He’s a real-life troll – and we all know the policy when it comes to trolls…

5. Mr S. Pill

Also @3 (again)

There’s a difference Chaise, between saying “this person should not be allowed to say such things” and saying “this organisation should not be giving this platform to this person”. It’s more nuanced than saying “everyone can say everything everywhere” – hence why (for example) this blog has a comments policy.

Broadly agree with Chaise. This is an issue of free speech so I find it difficult to condem Hay on the grounds that this persons views are just too offensive. I’ve always been a subscriber to the fact that such unsavoury views musn’t be silenced – otherwise I might not chance to ridicule such beliefs for what why are.

Personally I’d find someone like like Tariq Ramadan far more interesting and making for a more meaningful discussion – but that is not the sort of criticism this piece puts forward.

7. Chaise Guevara

@ 4/5 S Pill

I agree that there’s a difference between refusing someone a platform and gagging them. But this is meant to be a philosophy festival, and while I’ve never been to such a thing, it sounds like the sort of place that all aspects of an issue should be debated. I think it detracts from any debate if certain viewpoints, no matter how ugly, are declared off-topic.

Choudary doesn’t exactly need to go up against some serious thinkers or skilled debaters to look like a complete and utter tool. Letting him get up on stage and get his arse handed to him by whoever he speaks to good is a good kind of publicity for the sane point of view. Pressuring people to make sure he doesn’t speak is a bad kind of publicity – it just convinces his sympathisers that Muslims are treated as second-class citizens in Britain (regardless of whether that is actually a fair assessment).

Remember, Islamist terrorists have a history of radicalising more mainstream believers. I really don’t see any point in handing them ammunition and restricting the range of the debate in one fell swoop.

All views should be recognised. (Yes, including Holocaust denial.) How else can we demonstrate their validity? Where and how they should be recognised is another question. I wouldn’t invite Choudary myself because unlike other would-be totalitarians, bigots and loonies he’s a transparent attention seeker, and when the attention he’s seeking is for a group more tangled up with terrorism than a cat with a ball of string I don’t see the value.

Good to see their crass plan to sell tickets or cause outrage (the fact that they have to deny this just proves that) didn’t work, and no-one is giving them free publicity!

10. Chaise Guevara

@ 5 S Pill Again

Regarding the free speech / platform thing, I should clear up where I stand as regards this article, because I haven’t been clear so far. Choudary and every other wanker is entitled to freedom of speech, we’re agreed on that. That doesn’t mean people have to give him a platform – agreed as well. In the unlikely event that Choudary submitted an article to LC, for example, Sunny would be well within his moral rights to refuse.

However, this article isn’t an example of him being refused a platform – it’s a condemnation of someone else ALLOWING him a platform. Which is a different thing entirely, reminiscent of the Griffin/Newsnight thing. The message seems to be “he has freedom of speech, but I’m gonna yell at anyone who actually allows him to use it”.

11. Chaise Guevara

@ Neuroskeptic

“Good to see their crass plan to sell tickets or cause outrage (the fact that they have to deny this just proves that) didn’t work, and no-one is giving them free publicity!”

Firstly, saying someone proves their guilt by denying it is a pretty silly catch-22. Secondly, going around the internet smugly telling people that they’re giving their opponents free publicity by condemning them is not clever and rather boring. Perhaps you think the Tories should avoid running a campaign in the next election rather than give Labour free publicity?

“it’s a condemnation of someone else ALLOWING him a platform. Which is a different thing entirely, reminiscent of the Griffin/Newsnight thing. The message seems to be “he has freedom of speech, but I’m gonna yell at anyone who actually allows him to use it gives him a big flashy platform from which to broadcast it”.

Unless he’s being arrested for what he’s saying, his right to free speech is NOT being impinged.

@12 – But would you prefer Hay to provide a neutral platform that respects freedom of speech – or a santisized platform that bends to the will of the mob?

14. Chaise Guevara

@ 12 Cylux

I’m not sure it’s as simple as that. For example, do you really have proper freedom of speech – with all that is meant to entail – if the entire media only ever report one viewpoint? (And yes, that’s an extreme example, I’m not going for equivalence.)

No, I’m not arguing that saying they shouldn’t have invited Choudary would be some form of fascism. But if you agree that he’s got a right to speak, why be outraged that somebody invites him to do so?

This festival isn’t the BBC, it isn’t owned by the people. As I’ve said, I’ve never been to a festival like this, but it sounds like somewhere where they invite people with a range of views to debate them. You and I find the views of at least one of those people deeply offensive, but so what? Why exactly should we condemn the Hay organisers for failing to limit the opinions on offer to those that most people will find acceptable?

15. Chaise Guevara

*Alternatively, and with far fewer unnecessary words: what Geoffff said.

Choudray has the right to speak, although it’s not supposed to be absolute and the promotion of violence and provoking it seems to cross a line. The organisers of this Hay festival have the right to invite him, although it appears to be a monumentally stupid idea. Lucy has the right to condemn him and them, and is not actually saying that he should be silenced. We have the right to agree or not, and to boycott Hay or whatever. So I’m confused as to how this is somehow an article that is attacking Free Speech.

The principle of free speech is that the government does not suppress opinion. It doesn’t mean we have to avoid criticising people we don’t agree with, or that non-governmental organisations have to allow free speech, or that private individuals have to let people say whatever they like on their own property.

I don’t think that Hay should give him a platform, unless perhaps the intention is to put him up for ridicule and demolition.

The best way to weaken these loons is to expose them to interactive debate, rather than a series of soundbites. The BNP is still struggling to recover from Griffin’s appearance on Question Time.

But would you prefer Hay to provide a neutral platform that respects freedom of speech – or a santisized platform that bends to the will of the mob?

I’d prefer it to be an impartial platform ta muchly.
Remember the days before spineless neutrality when newspapers used to fact check and say bullshit was bullshit, rather than ask a spokesperson from the tinfoil hat group for an opposing comment?
No?
Neither do I it’s been that long.

Will we really learn anything of worth from a man that regards 50-odd percent of the population to be worth less than half of the other, or that a minority group should be executed in as painful a fashion as possible as a matter of course?
Will his contributions be at all in the slightest enlightening?

The obvious answer is – no. So why even bother?

Personally I think that events like Hay are well suited to this sort of ‘public debate’ – if one subscribes to the idea that a live ‘battle of ideas’ is benificial to a healthy society – one has to think about what sort of venues such debates can take place in. Hay fits the bill imo – and if that is the role it is to play then it needs to ensure that it remains unaffected by the pressures to self-censor in the selection of its speakers. In this regard, I find the attacks on Hay undesirable. I want to live in an envirnment where this sort of debate can take place – even when participants in the debate are extremist nutjobs. Crying foul, threatening boycotts, rallying your contemporaries is not condusive to such an environment existing.

This behavior suggests that Choundray’s ideas are so persuasive that it is just too dangerous for other people to hear them. I’d rather contend that the more people hear of (and from) Choundray, the more people will think him a intellectually bankrupt nutjob.

I assume they do it to get people to write about the festival. Job done apparently.

“But the lack of response from left-leaning groups and individuals is indicative of the levels of liberal paralysis that subsumes some left-leaning circles when it comes to Islamists.”

Erm, no. How about, we have more important things to worry about than whether some whackjob gets invited to a festival.

haahahaha Well I think it is hilarious and a great idea. I think it may do Mr Choudhary some good not preaching to the converted so much and being in an atmosphere which isn’t set up by his crew. They have invited him to similar stuff in Ireland before as I recall and noone there seems to feel compelled to make such a big fuss.

I never have any idea why you lot would go on about him. Its like shouting about that God Hates Fags group. There is a small bunch of people who meet up and have extreme views. Big deal. Go to a pub in Cornwall or Wales sometimes. A small number of people with extreme views.. err.. yeah.. and… so.. what? The UK is a nation of polite extremists. Mr Choudhary fits alongside the rest of them.

Chaise got there.

This is a free speech issue, pure and simple.

If Choundray were banned from speaking, how could we be so sure that he is a tosser?

I’m (very) sympathetic to the view that no position, no matter how controversial, should be ‘off limits’ in a philosophical debate – *if* there’s a serious philosophical case to be made for holding that position, a proper argument that deserves a serious response. (Similarly, holocaust denial or AIDS denial shouldn’t be ‘off limits’ in a historical or medical debate *if* there were serious historical or medical cases to be made for those positions.) But Anjem Choudary doesn’t have any such arguments, surely? He’s just a kook who thinks he has a privileged insight into the mind of God. How do you engage philosophically with someone like that?

26. Luis Enrique

so, we’re all agreed about freedom of speech, but also that festivals etc. get to choose who they invite and aren’t obliged to give a platform to nutters.

In which case, this article is simply criticising the choice they have made. Being a defender of freedom of speech etc. does not rule out saying: this was a bad choice for them to have made.

I see that A. C. Grayling, Philip Pullman and Mary Warnock are among the others attending. If they join this debate I expect Choudhury to experience a polite, reasoned and utterly exhaustive roasting. That would be something to see…

Why is Laurie Penny debating the future of the family? It’s a disgrace, grumble grumble…

The answer to your question – because they wish to sell tickets.

NB this is a relatively new “festival” piggybacking on, but nothing to do with, the more famous Hay Festival of Literature.

I agree with S. Pill @ 4 & 5.

There is a difference between saying that free speech is a good thing, and that unpleasant views should be tolerated, and saying that “everyone can say anything, anywhere”.

Chaise @3 says “Yes, Choudary’s views go beyond offensiveness.” The operative word here surely is “beyond”? Inciting violence and calling for homosexuals and adulterers to be stoned to death, or calling for women to be treated as second class citizens, is not something that we should feel constrained to tolerate in the name of an absolute right of free speech.

It is deeply to the discredit of the Festival organisers that they have invited this man; there are plenty of other “controversialists” who could have provided a foil for the contrary views of others.

Uneasy about this for all the reasons mentioned. Defenders of academic freedom, such as Dr Dennis Hayes,like to argue that not only is free speech robustly dialectical, but philosophers themselves maintain a certain integrity to their vocation by defending their ideas through discussion. However, this event seems to be based on inviting a highly eccentric religious dogmatist purely to act as a troll for the rest of the panel. Intelligent multiculturalism (or for that matter its intelligent critique) is not going to be well served by an encounter like this. So while I grudgingly accept the free speech argument, I am irritated with the organisers.

31. Chaise Guevara

@ 29 Galen10

““Yes, Choudary’s views go beyond offensiveness.” The operative word here surely is “beyond”?”

As far as I’m concerned, the operative word is “offensiveness”, as in the phrase “you do not have the right not to be offended”.

“Inciting violence and calling for homosexuals and adulterers to be stoned to death, or calling for women to be treated as second class citizens, is not something that we should feel constrained to tolerate in the name of an absolute right of free speech.”

Inciting violence is illegal, and if he does it he can be arrested. As for the other stuff, you seem to be leaning towards “free speech for views I find palatable” here, which is no free speech at all.

And yes, as I’ve said above, this is more nuanced than a straight free speech issue. But if you do want free speech, you do indeed have to tolerate things like people demanding the death penalty for adultery and saying that women are inferior to men.

I still don’t see why so many on this thread think that the Hay festival ought to limit its speakers to people they personally approve of.

32. Chaise Guevara

@ 25 G.O.

“I’m (very) sympathetic to the view that no position, no matter how controversial, should be ‘off limits’ in a philosophical debate – *if* there’s a serious philosophical case to be made for holding that position, a proper argument that deserves a serious response. (Similarly, holocaust denial or AIDS denial shouldn’t be ‘off limits’ in a historical or medical debate *if* there were serious historical or medical cases to be made for those positions.)”

Who makes this call? You? The majority? A panel of experts? You can prove scientific and historical facts, you cannot prove that someone is right or wrong on sexual and gender politics, any more than you can prove that I’m lying about my favourite colour. It’s subjective.

“But Anjem Choudary doesn’t have any such arguments, surely? He’s just a kook who thinks he has a privileged insight into the mind of God. How do you engage philosophically with someone like that?”

I’d start with “Give us a good reason to believe God exists and demonstrate that you know more about his opinions than anyone else present, or there’s no reason for us to care about what you say.”

33. Cynical/Realist?

@ Chaise, Pagar and Geoff.

I think most of us on this thread would have a large amount of sympathy for what you are saying – and certainly not many would say he ‘shouldn’t’ be allowed to speak, but just that its a bad call on the festival’s side.

A part of the issue is that he is ‘a intellectually bankrupt nutjob’. Its clearly impossible to have a festival where all sides of a debate and views are heard – I know its a bit (just a bit!) extreme, but to do that would need a panel of 6 billion people!

What a panel at a serious philosophy festival should do is reflect the range of opinion, and I can see how that would mean Choudary could be included. But he’s in because he’s extreme. Not because he’ll add to the debate, but because he’s a nutjob. He may well have views on this, and make it something he rants about as often as possible, but is he really representative of a significant enough range of opinion? Is it not likely that speakers representing much more people/groups are going to be marginalised and left out by including someone like him?

It seems the intellectual equivalent of the FIIIIGHT section on TV Burp. And ‘free speech’ becomes an easy front to hide behind because few rationally minded people argue against it.

Then there is the very legitimate concern that by picking the most extreame voice in any community/group you add weight to the pidgeonholing of that entire community.

Of course we should uphold the right of Choudary to speak, and of the festival to invite him. But accepting the rights of something does not take away the ability to criticise it.

34. Cynical/Realist?

@ Chaise – “As for the other stuff, you seem to be leaning towards “free speech for views I find palatable” here, which is no free speech at all.”

I don’t agree with this statement. In deciding a panel for a festival the organisers cannot adequately reflect the reange of opinion on the matter. So by blatently inviting such a marginalised radical they have made a decision to favour fireworks over proper debate – and face down any criticism with a charge of denying free speech.

It would be wrong to try to take away their right to invite Choudary. But we of course have the right to disagree with it, not attend the festival and openly air our criticism of the decision.

@ Chaise – “Inciting violence is illegal, and if he does it he can be arrested. As for the other stuff, you seem to be leaning towards “free speech for views I find palatable” here, which is no free speech at all.”

So in your “absolutist” view, free speech can be constrained / curtailed in some circumstances, i.e. if a person incites violence (in this instance killing homosexuals and/or adulterers), but not in any other circumstances. So would calling for non-lethal violence be OK, and is that more serious than calling for women to be treated as second class citizens because it involves violence, or equally, or less serious?

I’m genuinely intruigued whether people who tend toward an absolutist position that people can say “anything, anywhere, anytime” see any limitation on free speech as admissable. I’m not sure I see the difference between a religious extermist calling for adulterers and homosexuals to be stoned to death, or someone saying they should be able to kill trespassers on sight, or sacrifice the captain of the losing team at the end of an Old Firm game?

@ 32 Chaise:

“Who makes this call? You? The majority? A panel of experts?”

A panel of experts; how else could you possibly decide which papers to publish in journals, which speakers to invite to conferences, who to appoint to government advisory panels, etc.?

“you cannot prove that someone is right or wrong on sexual and gender politics, any more than you can prove that I’m lying about my favourite colour. It’s subjective.”

The fact that unassailable ‘proofs’ are hard to come by in philosophy doesn’t mean no-one’s arguments are any more worthy of consideration than anyone else’s.

For instance, here’s a good argument that’s worthy of consideration by anyone concerned with the basic principles underpinning a system of justice (it’s valid, and the premises are highly plausible):

1. The weight given to a person’s testimony in a court of law should be based on the likelihood that that person is mistaken about events, or is lying.
2. All else being equal, women are precisely as likely to be mistaken about events, or to lie in a court of law, as men.
Therefore:
3. All else being equal, a woman’s testimony in a court of law should be given precisely the same weight as a man’s.

And here’s a bad argument that is barely worth my taking the trouble to type it out (it’s not even valid):

1. A great scholar says that a great book says that a great prophet said that an angel said that God said that one male witness is sufficient to counter the testimony of two females.
2. God speaks the truth.
Therefore:
3. One male witness is sufficient to counter the testimony of two females.

Can I absolutely *prove* that the conclusion of the first argument is true while the conclusion of the second is false? No. Does it follow that the question of whether we accept one conclusion rather than the other is just ‘subjective’? No.

“I’d start with “Give us a good reason to believe God exists and demonstrate that you know more about his opinions than anyone else present, or there’s no reason for us to care about what you say.””

You’re right – that would be the only way to do it. But then you’d be debating questions about God’s existence and divine revelation, not about terrorism or gender politics. Why not simply make the perfectly reasonable assumption that he doesn’t speak with divine authority, conclude that there is therefore no reason for us to care about what he says on those issues, and not invite him?

I don’t have any problem with opinions like Sharia law being discussed (if that’s what people want to hear). On the other hand, inviting Choudary to propound them is like bringing in David Duke instead of, say, Peter Brimelow to debate race. It shows they’re not being serious.

38. Chaise Guevara

@ 34 Cynical/Realist

“I don’t agree with this statement. In deciding a panel for a festival the organisers cannot adequately reflect the reange of opinion on the matter. So by blatently inviting such a marginalised radical they have made a decision to favour fireworks over proper debate – and face down any criticism with a charge of denying free speech. ”

Check the context – it’s gone off at a tangent from the OP, as comment threads will do. Galen was listing a number of views that he feels we shouldn’t have to tolerate in the name of absolute free speech. I don’t actually believe in absolute free speech, but where it should be restricted I don’t think the popularity of the viewpoint should be a deciding factor.

Free speech has nothing to do with it.

Its the fetishisation of Choudhary, as if he’s more than just a mindless extremist windbag, is what pisses me off

Galen –

I only suppose the freedom of speech being constrained when there’s a serious risk of harm. There isn’t for a nutjob who wants women smothered in fabric because, well – they’re not going to be.

41. Chaise Guevara

@ 35 Galen10

“So in your “absolutist” view, free speech can be constrained / curtailed in some circumstances, i.e. if a person incites violence (in this instance killing homosexuals and/or adulterers), but not in any other circumstances. So would calling for non-lethal violence be OK, and is that more serious than calling for women to be treated as second class citizens because it involves violence, or equally, or less serious?”

I don’t have an absolutist view on free speech. And no, calling for non-lethal violence would not be ok: it’s still illegal, and I support that law. I’m not sure what you mean by “more serious”: one’s legal and one isn’t. If you mean “more serious” from my personal moral POV, I’d find that a hard call to make.

“I’m genuinely intruigued whether people who tend toward an absolutist position that people can say “anything, anywhere, anytime” see any limitation on free speech as admissable. I’m not sure I see the difference between a religious extermist calling for adulterers and homosexuals to be stoned to death, or someone saying they should be able to kill trespassers on sight, or sacrifice the captain of the losing team at the end of an Old Firm game?”

I personally believe in freedom of political expression: when I say “free speech”, I’m using that as shorthand. Some things I don’t cover under free speech:

1) Slander
2) Shouting “fire” in a theatre
3) Discussing your opinions when you’re being paid to do something else (i.e. at work… um, like I’m doing now…)
4) Children talking in school lessons
5) DIRECTLY calling for violence. In other words “I think murderers/adulterers/Muslims should be given the death penalty” should be legally acceptable. “I call upon you to go out and kill murderers/adulterers/Muslims” should not, in much the same way that a crime boss who orders an underling to beat up or murder someone should not be protected by freedom of speech.

Hopefully, the connection between these is clear: in each case, it’s not your POV that’s being outlawed, it’s something else (spreading malicious lies, ordering someone to commit a crime, whatever).

…Shouting “fire” in a theatre…

Unless, of course, there is a fire.

/pedant

43. Chaise Guevara

@ 36 G.O.

“A panel of experts; how else could you possibly decide which papers to publish in journals, which speakers to invite to conferences, who to appoint to government advisory panels, etc.?”

Let me clear this up: are we talking about a panel to make universal declarations of acceptability, or the panel of expert overseeing this particular event?

“The fact that unassailable ‘proofs’ are hard to come by in philosophy doesn’t mean no-one’s arguments are any more worthy of consideration than anyone else’s…”

Can I absolutely *prove* that the conclusion of the first argument is true while the conclusion of the second is false? No. Does it follow that the question of whether we accept one conclusion rather than the other is just ‘subjective’? No.”

I agree, but it’s still a judgment call. What I’m saying is that if you pass a law saying “Free speech is a protected human right with the exception of stupid arguments” you’ve got an unenforcable law.

“Why not simply make the perfectly reasonable assumption that he doesn’t speak with divine authority, conclude that there is therefore no reason for us to care about what he says on those issues, and not invite him?”

By all means do that, I’ve no problem with it. What makes me uncomfortable is when people who make a different decision – like the festival organisers – get haranged for it. The fact that your decision would be fine doesn’t mean that the opposite decision wouldn’t also be fine.

I’m more shocked that there’s people who seem to be under the impression that all public ‘free’ speech isn’t censored to a degree already. Print & television media, hell even moderation on online pages – someone, somewhere has made a decision as to what is acceptable for public view. That holds for free-speech worshiping America too.

Anjem himself is a prime example; if he were white, Christian, called Bill Peterson and expounded exactly the same views and tried exactly the same stunts – he would largely be denied the oxygen of publicity. He certainly wouldn’t be invited to philosophical debates at a festival. However since he’s Muslim, saying and doing the things ring-wing newspaper editors really want to see Muslims doing, his infamy now reaches across the Atlantic too. That wasn’t just his own doing, Richard Desmond et al decided that Choudary’s voice needed to be heard, above and beyond that of more inclusive and secular-leaning Muslim orgs. No doubt to fit in with their retrograde “narrative” on Muslims.

Giving him the unnecessary oxygen of publicity is a shitty decision and should be called out as such, and that is why I have no qualms with condemning the festival organisers for choosing to air Choudary’s views and give them the weight of having been engaged in a big public philosophical debate twice over.

@ 43 Chaise

“Let me clear this up: are we talking about a panel to make universal declarations of acceptability, or the panel of expert overseeing this particular event?”

This particular event; each conference, journal etc will have its own panel of experts deciding who gets invited or published. But in practice, of course you’re going to end up with some people who are regarded pretty much universally as credible, legitimate historians, doctors, philosophers etc and others who are regarded pretty much universally as kooks, denialists, pseudoscientists etc.

“I agree, but it’s still a judgment call. What I’m saying is that if you pass a law saying “Free speech is a protected human right with the exception of stupid arguments” you’ve got an unenforcable law.”

Good grief – I’m not suggesting people shouldn’t be allowed to express stupid arguments! I’m just saying that there’s no place for stupid arguments in serious debates. You don’t set up a debate on the future of the monarchy and then invite David Icke along to tell everyone that the Royal Family are all shape-shifting lizards; that point of view doesn’t deserve an airing and isn’t worth engaging with.

“What makes me uncomfortable is when people who make a different decision – like the festival organisers – get haranged for it. The fact that your decision would be fine doesn’t mean that the opposite decision wouldn’t also be fine.”

It depends *why* the organisers are being harangued. I wouldn’t see anything wrong with haranguing the organisers of a debate on the monarchy for inviting David Icke, and I don’t see anything wrong with haranguing the organisers of these debates for inviting Anjem Choudary for much the same reason.

46. Chaise Guevara

@ 45 G.O.

OK, cool, I thought I might be misreading you re the “panel of experts” thing.

The problem I have with the haranging is it seems like trying to silence people who disagree with you at one remove. Crucially, the OP is not directly aimed at Choudary, pointing out the flaws in his views – it’s aimed at the festival for inviting him to speak at all.

47. Shatterface

Totally disagree about his appearence on the terrorist panel: If you exclude supporters of terrorism from a philisophical debate on the legitimacy of terrorism as a political tool the whole exercise is pointless.

I’m less convinced about his inclusion on the When Women Rule the World panel because the issue itself is a non-starter. Hypotheticals are best left to SF writers like Joanna Russ who use such ideas to provide a critique of the real world rather than merely as compensatory fantasies about elsewhere.

@41 Chaise

” I’m not sure what you mean by “more serious”: one’s legal and one isn’t. If you mean “more serious” from my personal moral POV, I’d find that a hard call to make.”

I suppose I mean that it is apparently a given that “most” people would agree that calling for people to be killed for being gay, and adulterer, an apostate etc. was illegal and beyond the pale, and should therefore be subject to some sanction.

It would seem logical therefore that calling for particular groups to be denied rights and discriminated against (whether on the grounds of their gender, race, sexuality, religion, political beliefs, which football team they supported or which end of a boiled egg they opened) was also wrong, tho not as serious as calling for them to be killed.

Whether such discrimination and denial of rights is as “serious” is I admit a difficult call.

49. Tokyo Nambu

Both of the issues are nuanced and interesting, and in both cases a Muslim thinker would be an interesting perspective.

But instead, they get a nutter.

It would be like saying “let us discuss the perspective of Christians on modern society” and getting Steven Green in: rather than listen to the voices of those from (like it or not) large faith groups, you find a ludicrous extremist and imply that he somehow represents the faith group involved. As others have said, the people this really hoses are Muslims, the vast majority of whom want nothing to do with Choudrey, who are implicitly now represented by him, leaving the 99.9% white Hay audience with a poor impression, to put it mildly.

50. Chaise Guevara

@ 48 Galen10

It depends on the specifics of both: what level of discrimination are we talking about, are they calling for people to be executed lawfully or killed by vigilantees, etc. Obviously calling for an act to be made a capital offence is not illegal, but in this case (and in my view all cases) it’s wrong.

51. Chaise Guevara

@ 47 Shatterface

“I’m less convinced about his inclusion on the When Women Rule the World panel because the issue itself is a non-starter. Hypotheticals are best left to SF writers like Joanna Russ who use such ideas to provide a critique of the real world rather than merely as compensatory fantasies about elsewhere.”

Agree with you here. I suspect the conversation is going to devolve into a stereotype-based row (“women wouldn’t start wars!” “But they’d be unable to make tough decisions!” etc), especially given that, as you say, it’s a total hypothetical. Find it hard to imagine anything constructive coming out of the debate, though perhaps I’m being unimaginative.

I’m pulled in two directions (at least) here. On the one hand, the Hay festival doesn’t do itself any favours by asking a complete nutter to do a talk. On the other, now that he has been invited, it would look like moral cowardice or censorship to boot him off the bill.

I’ve never had a ‘don’t ever let them speak’ attitude towards these sort of people, although were I organising a conference I would be very wary of inviting them in the first place. My feeling is that the best way to deal with the Choudries of this world if they have been given a platform is to get people on the platform and in the audience who can demolish their ideas with sufficient knowledge and wit to make them look and feel complete idiots, and thereby encourage anyone in any way sympathetic to their views think again.

My fear is that in this age of uninspired speakers, there are few who can combine the erudition and witty oratory to do the job.

@52 Dr Paul

“My fear is that in this age of uninspired speakers, there are few who can combine the erudition and witty oratory to do the job.”

The list of attendees on the Hay website looks impressive so I don’t have that worry. I had some concern when Nick Griffin was going to be on Question Time because Auntie has recently seemed unable to do anything right. Happily I was wrong.

Of course, freedom of speech also means that anyone who wants to can protest at provocative decisions such as these.

54. Shatterface

I’d rather Choudrey speak here, where his arguments will be countered by intelligent, rational people, than elsewhere to a like-minded mob goading each other on. There he IS a danger, here he isn’t.

55. MonkeyBot 5000

I can’t help taking a small amount of offence every time someone claims we shouldn’t let Choudry/Griffin/Prat-of-the-week get anywhere near a microphone. The obvious implication is that proles like me will suddenly start following him if we are exposed to him without a nice middle-class person watching over me to remind me that he’s a bad man.

Nick Griffin didn’t gain credibility by being on QT, he was simply shown to be the prat he is to a wider audience. It’s just a shame all the questions were about immigration, I wanted to hear him flounder trying to answer questions about Royal Mail modernisation, or the pros and cons of PFI financing.

56. Mr S. Pill

@55

Oh YAWN. Do you automatically assume that people who disagree with you on this subject are middle class (and by proxy snobbish about who speaks where and when)? Let’s not get into the prolier-than-thou bullshit AGAIN, please. Enough discussions have been derailed by it already.

As an aside: the reason why I’m staying out of this debate for now is because I’m interested in its twists and turns…right now my position is the same as it was in my original comment.

@54 He’ll manage to squeeze both into his timetable you know.

58. Watchman

Cylux,

@54 He’ll manage to squeeze both into his timetable you know.

At Hay-on-Wye? He’d have a job…

59. Watchman

In answer to the title question, I suspect the theme of the festival might help. It is New Gods: Icons and Ideas in a Changed World, and much as we might wish to deny it, the views of Mr Choudary are a reaction to external forces threatening what he feels is his religion – basically an attempt to oppose change by personifying it as the west and retreating into a particularly dogmatic philosophical stance. It is historically and philosophically (and anthropologically and sociologically for that matter) fascinating, even if it has ethical implications. Philosophy is about thinking and thought, not about what is right or wrong (that is a subfield in philosophy).

Basically, if you wanted someone to represent the logic of a position that tried to hang on to old gods (and therefore created new versions of them) in the face of change, who better than Mr Choudary?

I can’t understand the people defending Hay on this thread. Next time George Osbourne makes an idiotic policy suggestion no-one’s going to defend his freedom of speech to do say what he likes, are they? Because it goes without saying, and such, isn’t the issue. The Hay organisers shouldn’t be imprisoned for hosting AC – if I really need to say that – but they very firmly should be criticised. It’s a disgraceful decision to gift this moron a platform and an audience.

61. Chaise Guevara

@ Larry

“Next time George Osbourne makes an idiotic policy suggestion no-one’s going to defend his freedom of speech to do say what he likes, are they?”

That’s a total non-sequitur. The freedom of speech element isn’t about Hay being allowed to announce their festival line-up, it’s about them being condemned for including views that the majority of people find offensive. And that’s the point: this article isn’t addressed to Choudary or his supporters, pointing out what’s wrong with his beliefs – it’s an attack on people merely for allowing his beliefs to be heard.

@58 Perhaps not on that particular day, but I’m under the impression that ranting to like-minded mobs is something he does on a regular basis. Whereas the festival gig might well be a once in a lifetime event for him. So being at the festival isn’t going to preclude him doing t’other.

63. Chaise Guevara

@ 62

True, but I still think it’s better to let him say his piece, then let other people show how wrong he is, than say (in effect) “of course, there are other opinions on this subject, but we’ve decided that you’re not to hear them”.

“Choudary and every other wanker is entitled to freedom of speech, we’re agreed on that. That doesn’t mean people have to give him a platform” What use is freedom of speech if one doesn’t have the right to be listened to and engaged with? Boycotting is no better than banning.

Chaise, well sort of. But “criticised” not “condemned”. And it’s not just offensive views. AC’s life is nothing but a string of PR stunts to maximise his own notoriety. He’s not a thinker with offensive views to be discussed or debunked, he’s just an attention-seeking cretin, and how any literary festival could possibly think he’s a suitable panellist is beyond me.

So all in all I think Hay have made a serious mistake. Now can you please explain how me saying that remotely threatens their freedom of speech?

66. Chaise Guevara

@ Briar

You’d be better off asking someone who’se critical of the festival. I’m not.

@ Larry

“Now can you please explain how me saying that remotely threatens their freedom of speech?”

I don’t think it does. That’s why I said your George Osbourne thing was a non-sequitur. I think people en masse attacking the festival over this threatens Choudary’s freedom of speech, and by extension anyone with unpopular views who wants a platform. The only thing Hay has done wrong, in the eyes of those critical, is fail to help censor an unpopular opinion. I happen to believe that unpopular opinions should not be censored.

This article is an attack on Hay for letting Choudary speak. If the OP doesn’t object to his right to express his opinion, what exactly DOES she object to? Read it again: despite the caveat on freedom of speech, it can be summarized as “I find this person’s views offensive, therefore they should be censored”.

67. Chaise Guevara

To clarify, Larry:

Obviously you disagreeing with the festival does not directly hurt anyone’s freedom of speech. Apart from anything else, you have the freedom of speech to express that opinion.

However, the opinion you happen to be expressing is a mildly anti-freedom-of-speech one, and I happen to disagree. If I said that all people called Larry should be silenced, the actual act of me saying it would not harm your right to freedom of expression. However, you would be quite right to see it as a censorious viewpoint and to criticise me for it.

This article is an attack on Hay for letting Choudary speak. If the OP doesn’t object to his right to express his opinion, what exactly DOES she object to? Read it again: despite the caveat on freedom of speech, it can be summarized as “I find this person’s views offensive, therefore they should be censored”.

Exactly.

And just to play devils advocate, one could argue that on a global scale – Choundary’s views aren’t that much divorced from semi-mainstream views. There are certainly many people that agree with him abroad. Similarly domestically, one would suspect that the high social costs of espousing such views, there are more in the UK that surverys would suggest that agree with him on various points.

“Letting” him speak? Try “inviting” him to speak. It’s a very weird idea that unless they provide him with a platform and an audience then they are somehow “censoring” him. I’ve not been invited – are they censoring me too?

@Briar

What use is freedom of speech if one doesn’t have the right to be listened to and engaged with?

Welcome to the rightful limits of free speech and expression.

If I start chuntering on and no cunt listens, is my right to free speech being impinged?
No.
If I paint a picture, has my right to free expression been trod on if the local Gallery refuses to put it on display due to it being shite?
No.
If I write my magnum opus which gives the seminal works of Cuger Brant a run for their money, should I cry foul when publishers tell me to fuck off?
No.
Has my right to free speech been curtailed because Adam Boulton hasn’t given me a call inviting me onto sky news so I can talk bollocks in front of cameras?
No.
If Sunny deletes this comment because of all the swearing, has my voice really been silenced?
No.

Free speech gives you the right to express yourself without censorship, it doesn’t mean people can’t then ignore you or refuse to engage with you. You can force attention onto what you’re saying however by either purchasing access to other people’s platforms, being invited onto those platforms, or by providing your own platform – like a megaphone and soapbox.
No one here has said that Anjem shouldn’t be allowed to say the things that he does, what has been said is that How the Lights Get In are making a terrible blunder by openly providing their limited platform to him. He’s hardly censored, if he was we wouldn’t already know that he’s a complete bell-end because we wouldn’t have heard it from the horses mouth!

71. Charlieman

Interestingly, the session “When Women Rule the World” also features Julie Bindel. Bindel has advocated lesbianism as a political choice and has provoked accusations of transphobia for other essays. As a consequence she has offended many across the LGBT spectrum. Beatrix Campbell acknowledges Bindel’s offensiveness in an article to her defence: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/jan/31/julie-bindel-transgender-nus .

I think that Campbell is right. Bindel deserves to be heard, in spite of her obnoxious attitudes towards transwomen. And Choudary should be allowed on the platform too if that is what the organisers wish. It is implausible that many (any?) visitor to the festival will be unaware of the attitudes of those two debaters at that session. Or s/he will have done some homework before spending a minimum of £6 for the ticket.

To criticise the organisers, or to demand censorship, implies a criticism of those who wish to hear Bindel and Choudary speak. Freedom of speech is not just a right for the speaker but a right for the listener or reader. Some attendees who find Bindel or Choudary offensive will vote with their feet; it is not as if they are compelled to attend an honorary degree presentation to Jeremy Clarkson (as happened at Oxford Brookes, 2005) before getting their own awards. Some attendees may wish to listen to Bindel or Choudary whilst holding their noses, and that is their right and their choice.

My best wishes to the third debater, Robin Dunbar, and the chair of that panel.

Bindel and Choudary? Oh my God. I can see why they’ve got an anthropologist to chair it.

73. Charlieman

@70 Cylux: “No one here has said that Anjem shouldn’t be allowed to say the things that he does, what has been said is that How the Lights Get In are making a terrible blunder by openly providing their limited platform to him.”

Choudary will not be making speeches but participating in debates. There is no open platform. The audience and fellow debaters will give him a hard time and he must surely know this. He has to talk within the context of the debate.

People who wish to see and listen to Choudary rant can attend one of his street protests. Is there anything on YouTube where Choudary debates with an audience of challenging minds? An audience that won’t be bullied?

I’ll return to my argument about free speech being a right of the listener or reader. People who wish to attend a debate between Choudary and anyone else have rights. Their right is to listen and watch, as long as Choudary trims his message to stay within hatred and terrorism law (which he has done thus far).

74. MonkeyBot 5000

@55
“Oh YAWN. Do you automatically assume that people who disagree with you on this subject are middle class”

It’s not about disagreement, it’s about the people who think that an opinion is lent validity merely by being expressed in places they find important. It’s arrogance pure and simple. I’ve never met anyone working class who thinks that way and I’m not upper-middle-class enough to meet the upper-class.

Are you annoyed because of what I said or because you consider yourself middle-class and feel offended?

75. Mr S. Pill

@74

I’m annoyed because you’re bring class into an issue which has little/nothing to do with the subject at all. You may not have met working class people with opinions expressed above but if that’s the case I politely suggest you get out more.

@ Chaise,

“But if you agree that he’s got a right to speak, why be outraged that somebody invites him to do so?”

There is obviously a difference between a ‘right to speak’ and ‘an invitation to speak at the Hay on Wye book festival’. Otherwise the 60 million other British people who haven’t been invited to speak there could argue their ‘right to speak’ their opinions had been contravened.

This is not a matter of free speech, it is, as Sunny has put it, a matter of fetishing an idiot. He has been invited there becayse he is ‘contraversial’ (i.e. a hate-preaching wanker), not because of any perceived expertise on Sharia Law, and you know it.

Larry puts it well:

“The Hay organisers shouldn’t be imprisoned for hosting AC – if I really need to say that – but they very firmly should be criticised. It’s a disgraceful decision to gift this moron a platform and an audience.”

That’s all that many of us are saying. I don’t think anyone’s demanding the police close down the festival and take away the organisers in chains. We are just saying they are juvenile twits who deserve scorn for shabby tactics. As they do.

Choudary is an idiot but his influence is far beyond a joke. He’s probably the single most hated person in the country and an absolute gift to anti-Muslim bigots because he actually exemplifies how they characterise Muslims. He’s probably done more for BNP recrutiment than any other individual. There’s nothing clever or insightful or helpful or brave or principled about giving him yet another bloody platform. He’s poison for Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

77. MonkeyBot 5000

@75
“I’m annoyed because you’re bring class into an issue which has little/nothing to do with the subject at all.”

The argument against allowing these opinions to be expressed is that they somehow become more valid by being expressed in the presences of respectable middle-class kids.

If they shout their opinions on the street, they can be ignored like the rest of us.

78. So Much For Subtlety

76. Lamia – “This is not a matter of free speech, it is, as Sunny has put it, a matter of fetishing an idiot. He has been invited there becayse he is ‘contraversial’ (i.e. a hate-preaching wanker), not because of any perceived expertise on Sharia Law, and you know it.”

I agree it is not a matter of free speech. He has that. He does not have the right to go to this festival to continue to have that. But I would like to think it is about controversy, but I am not so sure. I think it is entirely possible that the nice people who run the Hay Festival agree (or think they agree) with his world view. There has been a heavy overlap between the Islamists and the Left in recent times – as best seen in the Stop the War Coalition which was an alliance between the Trots and the Islamists. Or even the New Statesman which now runs very odd pro-Sharia articles.

“Choudary is an idiot but his influence is far beyond a joke. He’s probably the single most hated person in the country and an absolute gift to anti-Muslim bigots because he actually exemplifies how they characterise Muslims. He’s probably done more for BNP recrutiment than any other individual. There’s nothing clever or insightful or helpful or brave or principled about giving him yet another bloody platform. He’s poison for Muslims and non-Muslims alike.”

I disagree. I don’t disagree he shows anti-Muslim bigots what they think Muslims ought to be but I also think he has been a disaster for the BNP. Choudary is single handed estranging the Left from Islamism. If he was silent, the Left could pretend that Islamists were all nice, softly spoken, educated people like Tariq Ramadan. You know, the sort of people you could take home to introduce to Mother. Choudary is making it clear that what the BNP objects to is not a figment of their imagination. So a dislike of people like Choudary is becoming mainstream in a way it was not five years ago. By taking away the main recruiting tool of the BNP, the BNP suffers. We are all a little Islamophobic these days so they have no special platform. As can be seen by the fact that the Guardian no longer publishes as many Islamists for instance.

I think it is entirely possible that the nice people who run the Hay Festival agree (or think they agree) with his world view.

There’s been some rubbish spouted on this thread, but that really takes the cake.

80. So Much For Subtlety

79. Larry – “There’s been some rubbish spouted on this thread, but that really takes the cake.”

How can you possibly ignore the massive overlap in interests between the British Left and the Islamists? Which newspaper was it that employed Dipalzier Aslam? Faisal Bodi? Inayat Bungawala? You don’t think these men are a little bit close in ideology to the Islamists (even if not Choudary)? It wasn’t the Sun.

Go over to the London Review of Books. The people condemning the death of Osama this week are some Islamists in Pakistan, Osama’s sons and the LRB.

When the New Statesman runs article praising Temporary Marriages a la Iran, as it did, as well as urging them on the West, it is hard to ignore where a large chunk of the Left has gone.

Maybe they don’t like all his views, maybe they are poorly informed about some of them, but it is unlikely that they have nothing in common. You simply cannot assume Britain’s leftist chattering classes don’t think they have a lot in common with Islamists these days.

81. Chaise Guevara

@ 69 Larry

“It’s a very weird idea that unless they provide him with a platform and an audience then they are somehow “censoring” him. I’ve not been invited – are they censoring me too?”

No. But if you were invited to speak, and then a load of people who disagreed with you started telling Hay it was wrong of them to invite you, I’d accuse those people of censorious views.

You want the world (in this case, a small part of it called Hay festival) to be adjusted so that people whose views you dislike have less opportunity to express those views. You are objecting to certain types of views being expressed.

As I’ve said before, Hays has no responsibility to let Choudary speak, any more than it does you or me speak. My issue is with people (you and others on this thread) who object to the possibility of people hearing things you dislike.

Ultimately, if you don’t like what he’s saying, don’t attend the festival.

82. Chaise Guevara

@ 76 Lamia

“There is obviously a difference between a ‘right to speak’ and ‘an invitation to speak at the Hay on Wye book festival’. Otherwise the 60 million other British people who haven’t been invited to speak there could argue their ‘right to speak’ their opinions had been contravened.”

For about the fifth time, I’m not arguing that.

“This is not a matter of free speech, it is, as Sunny has put it, a matter of fetishing an idiot. He has been invited there becayse he is ‘contraversial’ (i.e. a hate-preaching wanker), not because of any perceived expertise on Sharia Law, and you know it.”

Actually, that’s pure supposition. But I don’t think their motives are all that important in any case. What matters to me is the hostile attitude people – many of whom claim to be liberal! – take towards the idea of views they dislike being expressed.

“Choudary is an idiot but his influence is far beyond a joke. He’s probably the single most hated person in the country and an absolute gift to anti-Muslim bigots because he actually exemplifies how they characterise Muslims. He’s probably done more for BNP recrutiment than any other individual. There’s nothing clever or insightful or helpful or brave or principled about giving him yet another bloody platform. He’s poison for Muslims and non-Muslims alike.”

So why, exactly, do you think he should be refused a platform? Because you don’t like the idea of his views being publically expressed. You’re not trying to take away his legal right to speak his mind, but you are advocating a system where only people whose views you find palatable can be heard (outside of how loud that individual can shout them in the street).

Lets say that all the newspapers in the country declared that they would only publish articles by pro-Tory writers. Would you say “that’s fine, not a freedom of speech issue, the anti-Tory writers can still express their views down the pub”? Or would you agree that there was an attempt underway to stifle debate?

83. Chaise Guevara

To those of you saying this isn’t censorship (or that it’s good censorship) on the basis that no freedom of speech has been removed by law, let me try another analogy:

None of us would agree, I assume, that banning books is a good thing. Also, I hope none of us would claim that banning books is analogous to this case.

Here’s what is analogous: let’s say someone publishes a book with a moral you disagree with. Perhaps it’s written by a banker who blames the poor for the financial crisis. Do you:

A) Criticise the arguments made in the book?
B) Write diatribes about Harper Collins (or whoever), condemning them for letting the book be published in the first place?

I think “B” is a lot more reasonable: it shows that you can defeat the unpleasant arguments being made, whereas “A” just shows that you want other people to change things in such a way that you never have to hear arguments you dislike.

84. the a&e charge nurse

[81] yup, agree with most of that – Freud no longer holds the cache he once did but I think his observation that suppression or repression serves to intensify experience still holds true – so it’s usually best to get stuff out into the open?

Most people might find it hard to stifle a yawn when the likes of Anjem Choudary get into top gear – even so, if we want to understand certain forms of religious extremism perhaps we need to pay attention to the drivers sustaining such unappetising views?

Presumably if AC abandoned his particular take on Islam there would be other zealots straining at the leash to have their 5 minutes of fame at a student gathering?
It is the level of support for such deranged clap-trap rather than AC himself that really matters.

The Hay committee’s job is to select people to speak at their festival. Like any other job, it can be done well or badly. Well, my view is they’ve done it badly. That is all I’m saying, and it is a perfectly defensible point of view. Even if you disagree that they have done a bad job in this case, could at least imagine a situation where you might think that, I presume. Since I seem to be struggling here, perhaps you could provide me with the correct phrasing with which to criticise them for cocking up their job – which strikes me as a legitimate opinion to hold – without it being deemed censorious.

At the moment, if I don’t like the festival I don’t go. But if I explain to anyone why I haven’t gone – because I think the committee ballsed up their selection of panellists – then suddenly I become anti-free-speech.

Does anyone else find it telling that the panel for “when women rule the world” consists of three men and one woman?

(And doesn’t “a religious extremist, an evolutionary psychologist, and a radical feminist” sound like the start of a bad joke?)

87. Chaise Guevara

@ 85 Larry

“Since I seem to be struggling here, perhaps you could provide me with the correct phrasing with which to criticise them for cocking up their job – which strikes me as a legitimate opinion to hold – without it being deemed censorious.”

Well, I can’t, because your viewpoint IS censorious. That’s like saying “I don’t like those clothes because I think they look ugly, but please help me to phrase that in a way that doesn’t sound aesthetic.”

That doesn’t mean your opinion is somehow illegitimate, and I don’t believe I’ve claimed that it does. I simply disagree with you.

88. Chaise Guevara

@ 86 CIM

“Does anyone else find it telling that the panel for “when women rule the world” consists of three men and one woman?”

It’s two men and one woman (you’re counting the chair: http://www.howthelightgetsin.org/2011-programme/philosophy-sessions/). And no, not really. A hypothetical shift in gender dominance would affect males as much as it would females – indeed, one of the topics for dicussion is what the implications would be for masculinity. And I think the organisers should be able to pick whoever they consider will create the most interesting debate without feeling that the speakers should be mostly women for some reason.

89. Mr S. Pill

@77

You’re coming close to claiming that Choudary is the authentic voice of the working class, or some such rubbish. He isn’t. He’s a vicious anti-women, anti-gay, anti-Jewish, anti-anything-unMuslim nutter. Your patronising assertions about what “the working class” thinks does nothing to change this.

90. Chaise Guevara

@ 89

Agreed. And for the record, arguments along the line of “sneer sneer middle-class twats sneer” are never very productive.

I find it odd that people who would be offended to see commenters dismissed as being “just working class” habitually dismiss other commenters as being “just middle class”. Well actually, I don’t – snobbery’s not so bad when it’s you doing it to other people.

Chaise/88: Yes, I know I’m counting the chair. Intentionally so, since their role in moderating the debate can be – if they choose to make it so – quite significant in terms of whose voices get heard from both the panel and audience.

And I think the organisers should be able to pick whoever they consider will create the most interesting debate

I didn’t say they couldn’t. I said it was telling that they picked the people they did, because of what it says about whose voices they consider interesting in a debate with that title.

And, you know, not that I expect anyone to have a particularly accurate answer – I find the question itself to be based on wrong premises – but a woman’s impression of what would happen if women were in charge is probably at least marginally more likely to be accurate than a man’s – the woman can at least think “what would I do” compared to the man’s “what would someone else do”.

(Choudary is clearly only on the panel for comic relief, which also says a lot about the sense of humour of philosophy festival organisers)

92. Chaise Guevara

@ 91 cim

“Yes, I know I’m counting the chair. Intentionally so, since their role in moderating the debate can be – if they choose to make it so – quite significant in terms of whose voices get heard from both the panel and audience.”

Fair enough.

“I said it was telling that they picked the people they did, because of what it says about whose voices they consider interesting in a debate with that title.”

OK, but why is that “telling”, unless you’re assuming that they’ve been picked (at least partly) because of their genders? Would it not make more sense to assume that they’ve picked two people they expect to be on near-opposite sides of the debate (a card-carrying misogynist and a radical feminist), plus a professor with some scientific understanding of the differences between the sexes?

I admit, I must turn slightly contradictory and say that I would think it foolish to not have a single woman (or a single man) on the panel. But if they decided that a 50/50 gender split was a priority, they presumably would have to get rid of one speaker (probably the professor) and replace them with someone they presumably considered less interesting.

“And, you know, not that I expect anyone to have a particularly accurate answer – I find the question itself to be based on wrong premises – but a woman’s impression of what would happen if women were in charge is probably at least marginally more likely to be accurate than a man’s – the woman can at least think “what would I do” compared to the man’s “what would someone else do”.”

Maybe. Personally I suspect that the differences between individuals would outweigh any improved accuracy due to gender. Nobody represents their sex, or an average of their sex. Still, this is one reason, to my mind, to ensure at least one male and one female are on the panel.

“Choudary is clearly only on the panel for comic relief, which also says a lot about the sense of humour of philosophy festival organisers.”

As above, I think he’s there for balance – although whether balanced has actually been achieved is another matter. I don’t know anything about the feminist who is presumably meant to be his opposite number.

Ok I think I get it now. If I say “Anjem Choudary is a poor choice of panellist for a philosophy festival” then I am anti-free-speech. I can hold that opinion, and act on it in a personal capacity, so long as I keep my motivation private, but if I say it out loud or type it where it can be read by others, then that constitutes an attempt to silence AC.

Presumably the same holds if AC is replaced by say Timmy Mallett or the tramp currently vomiting into my dustbin. If I offer an opinion on the suitability of any individual to discuss serious philosophical matters in public, then I am a censor attempting to rob them of their rights. Got it.

94. Chaise Guevara

@ 94 Larry

“Ok I think I get it now. If I say “Anjem Choudary is a poor choice of panellist for a philosophy festival” then I am anti-free-speech. I can hold that opinion, and act on it in a personal capacity, so long as I keep my motivation private, but if I say it out loud or type it where it can be read by others, then that constitutes an attempt to silence AC.”

No, you haven’t got it. That’s pretty much the opposite of everything I said. I never said thinking Choudary is a poor choice of panellist makes you anti-free-speech. And I specifically said, in direct reply to you (see comment 67) that you voicing your opinion was not in itself an attack on Choudary’s freedom of speech.

If you want to have a sensible conversation, please do so. If you’re just going to lie about what I’ve said to give yourself an excuse to do some self-righteous whinging, please bugger off.

But “Anjem Choudary is a poor choice of panellist for a philosophy festival” is nearly the sum total of the opinion I wish to express! (Along with some small explanation of why I think that.)

And – it seems to me – you have repeatedly criticised me for saying it.

96. Robin Levett

@Chaise Guevara #94:

I have to say, your 87:

“Well, I can’t, because your viewpoint [criticising the Hay philosophy festival organisers for ballsing up their job] IS censorious. That’s like saying “I don’t like those clothes because I think they look ugly, but please help me to phrase that in a way that doesn’t sound aesthetic.””

was poorly-phrased if it wasn’t intended to mean that criticising the Hay philosophy festival organisers for inviting AC wasn’t censorious.

97. Chaise Guevara

@ 95 Larry

My issue isn’t with whether people think he’s a good choice or not. That’s totally subjective anyway. My issue is the reasons that people say he’s a bad choice. If it’s because they think he’ll be boring, or skew the debate, then cool.

My problem is with people saying that he’s a bad choice because they personally dislike his views. This is a philosophy festival – presumably it doesn’t aim to put blinkers on the range of acceptable contributions. My issue is with people who, when faced with the question “should this guy appear at a debate?”, decide by asking themselves “Well, do I agree with his opinions?”

98. Chaise Guevara

@ 96 Robin

With respect, it was phrased fine until you, um, rephrased it by adding “[criticising the Hay philosophy festival organisers for ballsing up their job]”. See 95 above.

99. Chaise Guevara

@ Robin

See 97, rather!

92/Chaise: “Would it not make more sense to assume that they’ve picked two people they expect to be on near-opposite sides of the debate (a card-carrying misogynist and a radical feminist), plus a professor with some scientific understanding of the differences between the sexes?”

Actually, given that panel – and not being familiar with the professor’s research beyond a general familiarity with the field, my initial assumption was that the evolutionary psychology professor and the radical feminist were expected to present opposite extremes of the debate.

I don’t know, maybe he’s actually the rare exception to the rule about evolutionary psychologists, and your guess is more correct.

(Either way, it does seem to be the BBC approach to impartiality, which is rarely particularly conducive to a good debate)

Well my comment 65 made clear my reasons, and I specifically said that it wasn’t simply a matter of my disliking his views, but the broader point that he’s a complete moron.

102. Chaise Guevara

@ 101 Larry

“Well my comment 65 made clear my reasons, and I specifically said that it wasn’t simply a matter of my disliking his views, but the broader point that he’s a complete moron.”

The broader point is cool. All this stuff about censorship is why I (among others) are defending Hay – which is what you asked when you first entered the thread,

103. Chaise Guevara

@ 100 cim

“Actually, given that panel – and not being familiar with the professor’s research beyond a general familiarity with the field, my initial assumption was that the evolutionary psychology professor and the radical feminist were expected to present opposite extremes of the debate.

I don’t know, maybe he’s actually the rare exception to the rule about evolutionary psychologists, and your guess is more correct.”

Could be. I’d have to know what that rule is. But it seems to me that if the radical feminist is going to present the opposite extreme to a scientist, that would should suggest that she’s not going to say much that’s sensible. (That’s not a foregone conclusion, but I have a vision of one person explaining the current scientific understanding of this or that, and the other person saying that the science can’t be true because it’s sexist, or something.)

Either way, it does seem to be the BBC approach to impartiality, which is rarely particularly conducive to a good debate

True, in a “we need a flat-Earther on for balance” kind of way, and you could well argue that Choudary is one of those in this day and age.

104. Robin Levett

@Chaise Guevara ’98:

To be fair to me, it was the proposition to which you were responding…

While I can see your point if the other posters were simply saying “I don;t like his views, disinvite him” I do think you’re being a little quick to reduce their arguments to that.

105. Chaise Guevara

@ 104 Robin

“While I can see your point if the other posters were simply saying “I don;t like his views, disinvite him” I do think you’re being a little quick to reduce their arguments to that.”

It’s not that I’m reducing their views to that, but rather that it’s the only view here I disagree with! If people think Choudary was a bad choice because he’d be boring, or too stupid to engage with the debate properly, or something like that. I have no quarrel with them. It’s a subjective debate: who am I to say that the debate would be more or less interesting or productive if he was not involved?

I’m not arguing over whether or not he’s the best person for the gig, I’m arguing over whether Hay should hang its head in shame for letting him voice his unpopular views. If you think I’ve glossed over anything that people have said that is relevant to that, please point it out.

Chaise/103: I’d have to know what that rule is.

It’s very debatable whether “evolutionary psychology” as a field actually counts as “science” as opposed to a modern version of Kipling’s “Just So” stories.

As I said, I’m not familiar with Prof Dunbar’s work. From a quick glance at the titles of his recent papers he seems to be primarily an anthropologist anyway, so that may well not apply to him.

@103

But it seems to me that if the radical feminist is going to present the opposite extreme to a scientist, that would should suggest that she’s not going to say much that’s sensible.

And this statement comes during the week Richard Dawkins decided to ask the regulars on his site “if we should help instigate a continent-wide, religious civil war in Africa, likely leading to the deaths of tens of millions?”.

Scientists can say quite nonsensical things as well you know.

108. Chaise Guevara

@ 106 cim

“It’s very debatable whether “evolutionary psychology” as a field actually counts as “science” as opposed to a modern version of Kipling’s “Just So” stories.”

What’s your basis for saying that? If we accept that evolution is real (and I hope we all do), then it’s as relevant to psychology as it is to physiology. Why emotions such as love, fear, xenophobia, and confidence (to pick some at random) might develop under natural selection seems so obvious that it’s barely worth pointing out.

I’m aware that psychological insights are very easy to fake to the layman (I could probably convince people that I could explain their phobias, intepret their dreams or tell them how their upbringing made them the person they are today without having the slightest clue about what I was actually doing), but it is a real field… what is it about evolutionary psychology that makes you wary?

109. Chaise Guevara

@ 107 Cylux

“Scientists can say quite nonsensical things as well you know.”

Oh, I know. I was thinking more that it’s a bit weird to pitch someone arguing scientifically against someone arguing morally. Science informs morality but doesn’t dictate it. And I have noticed a tendency of people with certain ideologies to attack scientific data because it fails to match said ideology and therefore must be false (e.g. global warming) or evil (e.g. evolution).

It just seems to me that if you have a panel consisting of an Islamist, a radical feminist and a evolutionary psychologist, it’s likely that you’re expecting the first two to occupy the two poles of the debate and the scientist to provide some data and maybe sit roughly in the middle. “Feminist vs Misogynist” makes sense to me as a debate. “Feminist vs Scientist” doesn’t. Then again, maybe that’s because I’m thinking of it as a debate rather than a discussion.

110. Galen10

@107 Cylux

Perhaps you can point us to where Dawkins issues this call to arms…? All I can find is this:

“Given that Islam is such an unmitigated evil, and looking at the map supplied by this Christian site, should we be supporting Christian missions in Africa? My answer is still no, but I thought it was worth raising the question. Given that atheism hasn’t any chance in Africa for the foreseeable future, could our enemy’s enemy be our friend?”

So he’s actually saying exactly the opposite of what you claimed….?

And your point about people saying nonsensical things was…..?

108/Chaise: Oh, I don’t mean that the idea that our minds evolved along with the rest of us is rubbish – that’s obviously true – I mean that many of the studies in the field of evo-psych are just plain bad science along the lines of:
– perform a psychology experiment (which may itself be of good quality or not)
– produce a theory in which the results of this experiment would have been evolutionarily advantageous in prehistoric times.
– ignore any cultural or anthropological alternative explanations even if they’re far more plausible.

It tends to circular arguments of the form: Experiment shows X, which is because in prehistoric times P, which we know because of X.

It makes good press release copy, especially since stories of the “Science! shows common stereotype is true” are lapped up by the media, but it’s terrible science.

it is a real field… what is it about evolutionary psychology that makes you wary?

It is indeed a real field, and some researchers in it are doing good work. However, it is currently also stuffed to the gunwales with lots of people producing utter cack, which just happens to (a) find that our current social mores have an evolutionary basis, including the ones that have only appeared within living memory, and (b) be extremely headline-friendly when written up as a press release.

It’s not that all evo-psych is necessarily bad science, it’s just that a lot of it (quite possibly most of it) unfortunately is bad science at the moment. It makes economics look good by comparison. 😉

@110 You really don’t see it?
Islam is an unmitigated evil. – All Muslims are evil, therefore fair game.
Given that atheism hasn’t any chance in Africa for the foreseeable future. – Africans are too dumb to be persuaded to atheism, they need sorting out in some other fashion.
no, but I thought it was worth raising the question. – I’m not a war happy imperialist, but…
could our enemy’s enemy be our friend? – Lets you and him fight!

And really, what do you think will be the end result of throwing more weight behind Christian Missions to Africa with the aim of making that map all green? Is it really a question worth discussing?
A sensible person would have stumbled on that Christian website and thought “what a bunch of loons”, Dawkins thought “I disagree with this notion, but will have a nice discussion about why it might actually be a good thing”.

114. Chaise Guevara

@ 111 cim and 112 Dunc

Ah, ok. Genuine field in theory, much-abused in practice. I agree that picking the most convenient answer that presents itself then calling it a day is not in any way proper science.

@ 82

“What matters to me is the hostile attitude people – many of whom claim to be liberal! – take towards the idea of views they dislike being expressed.”

And what matter sot me is that a man who adovocates killing people like myself is feted by smug idiots at Hay on wye who think no doubt they are being super-liberal by tolerating someone else’s hateful intolerance of third parties.

If somene invited Nick Griffin to speak at an event I would say they are pandering to fascists. We know Hay on wye wouldn’t invite Griffin because it would be considered over the mark. They are doing the same when they invited Anjem Choudary and they deserved to be criticised as misogynistic, antismeitc, homophobic scum.

“views they dislike…”

Mealy-mouthed bullshit. Why should I welcome or tolerate someone’s supposed ‘right’ to advocate killing people like myself?

Do I have the right on here to advocate killing Anjem Choudary? No? Why not?

It’s easy for you to act all principled, you’re not one of the people he advocates killing. But as you indicate, they don’t matter to you.

116. Chaise Guevara

@ 115 Lamia

“And what matter sot me is that a man who adovocates killing people like myself is feted by smug idiots at Hay on wye who think no doubt they are being super-liberal by tolerating someone else’s hateful intolerance of third parties.”

Again: if you’re offended, don’t go to the festival.

“If somene invited Nick Griffin to speak at an event I would say they are pandering to fascists. We know Hay on wye wouldn’t invite Griffin because it would be considered over the mark. They are doing the same when they invited Anjem Choudary and they deserved to be criticised as misogynistic, antismeitc, homophobic scum.”

Oh, calm the fuck down. The fact that people take a liberal attitude to freedom of speech does NOT mean they share the prejudices of whoever happens to be speaking. I would allow, say, a pro-lifer and a pro-choicer to speak: does that make me a pro-life pro-choicer? Stop and think before posting such stupid and childish nonsense.

“Mealy-mouthed bullshit. Why should I welcome or tolerate someone’s supposed ‘right’ to advocate killing people like myself?”

You don’t have to welcome it. You should tolerate it – in the sense of not wanting them to be silenced – because freedom of speech is perhaps the most important part of human freedom. And because pushing these people underground gives them a genuine cause to claim victimhood, making it easier for them to recuit allies.

“Do I have the right on here to advocate killing Anjem Choudary? No? Why not?”

You have the right to do so to the same extent that he has the right to do the same, obviously (whoops, looks like you answered your own question a little too early!).

“It’s easy for you to act all principled, you’re not one of the people he advocates killing.”

Um, how do you know that? I suspect that under Sharia law I’d be up for execution on some metric or other. And anyway, you don’t know me, so spare me your assumptions.

“But as you indicate, they don’t matter to you”

Hmm. How do I put this? I know: go fuck yourself. You might not think that people other than you matter, but don’t judge me by your own selfish standards.

““Mealy-mouthed bullshit. Why should I welcome or tolerate someone’s supposed ‘right’ to advocate killing people like myself?”

You don’t have to welcome it. You should tolerate it”

Er, no, I shouldn’t. It’s illegal to advocate killing people. Choudary has got away with it for far too long. People like you trying to gloss it as mere ‘free speech’ don’t help.

““Do I have the right on here to advocate killing Anjem Choudary? No? Why not?”

You have the right to do so to the same extent that he has the right to do the same,”

No I don’t, and you know it. If I advocated on here killing Anjem Choudary the post would be deleted and I would very possibly be arrested. As you know.

“You might not think that people other than you matter, but don’t judge me by your own selfish standards.”

Eh? Where did I indicate that other people than me don’t matter? Nowhere.

You really are a twisted person to call someone ‘selfish’ for not wanting another person to be allowed to advocate their murder.

118. Chaise Guevara

@ 117 Lamia

“Er, no, I shouldn’t. It’s illegal to advocate killing people. Choudary has got away with it for far too long. People like you trying to gloss it as mere ‘free speech’ don’t help.”

Not true. If I call for the reinstatement of the death penalty, that’s not illegal. What’s against the law, as far as I can work out, is calling for illegal violence (vigilanteeism etc).

“No I don’t, and you know it. If I advocated on here killing Anjem Choudary the post would be deleted and I would very possibly be arrested. As you know.”

Er, yes you do, because I specifically said that you have that right to the extent that he does. He can demand that, say, killing adulterers be made a capital offense. You can demand that preaching fundamentalist principles be made a capital offense.

If you told people to go out and kill the guy, you might well be arrested – but then he should be arrested under the same circumstances. If the law has being ignoring illegal calls to violence by Choudary, that’s hardly my fault.

“Eh? Where did I indicate that other people than me don’t matter? Nowhere. ”

And where did I indicate that other people don’t matter to me? Nowhere. As I’d given no indication of that, I could only assume you were judging me by your own standards.

“You really are a twisted person to call someone ‘selfish’ for not wanting another person to be allowed to advocate their murder.”

And you are a lying little prick for claiming that I said that. Are you actually interested in a conversation, or are you just a troll who throws false accusations around all fucking day?

“And where did I indicate that other people don’t matter to me? Nowhere. As I’d given no indication of that,”

By saying I should tolerate other people advocating killing gay people. Easy enough when you’re not the one being singled out.

@113 Cylux

“You really don’t see it?”

I really don’t see it…. because it really isn’t there!

It’s a perfectly valid “thought exercise” to undertake; many people (particularly those in agreement with Dawkins, but not exclusively convinced atheists) would broadly agree that at present “militant” Islam is more of a threat to the liberty of more people than “fundamentalist” Christianity….. altho in truth neither is particularly palateable to anyone except their misguided adherents.

Since his conclusion (not surprisingly) is that they are much of a muchness, and it would be wrong to support either, your original post is still misdirected

@120 He doesn’t say militant Islam, he says Islam. Islam is an umittigted evil. There’s no wiggle room in that statement. Plus have a good old read of his comments history, he’s basically a more educated version of Davey Boy/When Bells Chime Loud who blew through this website a week or so ago.

122. Chaise Guevara

@ 119 Lamia

“By saying I should tolerate other people advocating killing gay people. Easy enough when you’re not the one being singled out.”

Ah, right. My belief in freedom of speech means I don’t care about gay people. I forgot to apply insane troll logic. Come back when you’ve got something to say that isn’t either irrational nonsense, an ad hom, or a straw man (top prize: the quote above is all three!)

“Ah, right. My belief in freedom of speech means I don’t care about gay people.”

No, your support for Anjem Choudary’s supposed ‘right’ to advocate the killing of gay people means you don’t care about gay people.

124. Galen10

@121 Cylux

You’re correct that the “militant” usage was mine; I wasn’t directly quoting Dawkins.

It can hardly be a surprise that Dawkins would believe that Islam is an unmitigated evil given his general views on all faiths. I happen to agree with much of what he says, although personally I’d say “unmitigated” is a tad strong, I also believe there is much to criticise even in the less extreme versions of major religions.

If you actually think he’s like Davry Boy etc, it suggests you know very little about his work or his beliefs.

125. Chaise Guevara

@ 123

“No, your support for Anjem Choudary’s supposed ‘right’ to advocate the killing of gay people means you don’t care about gay people.”

Straw man; ad hom; irrational nonsense. What did I just say?

For the hard-of-thinking: I do care about gay people, and would extend to them the same rights as everyone else. What I won’t do is extend you, personally, the right to decide what political beliefs can and can’t be expressed.

I don’t think that gay people have a right not to be offended. But then I don’t think anyone else has a right not to be offended either. I would respect the right for people to call for my execution, and I definitely care about me.

You’re obviously desperate to label anyone who disagrees with you as homophobic (you must be fun at parties!), but it won’t wash here, because I’m not stupid and I can see that you’re just making ridiculous leaps of logic to try to ad hom me.

Freedom of speech is vital: it’s one of the things that keeps us from sliding into fascism and means we can truly say we are a free country. Opposing it for people whose views you find offensive is extremely short-sighted.

126. Galen10

@ 122 Chaise

In general I agree with a lot of what you say, but it still troubles me that in this particular case (which I realise has gotten a tad heated) you seem to be….let’s charitably say… temporising about whether Choudary’s absolute right to free speech is more important than the fact that calling explicitly for individuals or particular groups to be killed is not permissable, and that he should be prosecuted for it, irrespective of the wisdom of inviting him onto the platform at Hay.

You say @118 above:

“If you told people to go out and kill the guy, you might well be arrested – but then he should be arrested under the same circumstances. If the law has being ignoring illegal calls to violence by Choudary, that’s hardly my fault.”

That’s fair enough, but what I’m not clear about is whether you are making a distinction between a person calling for another individual to be killed (which could and ought to lead to prosecution), and calling for say, homosexuals, adulterers, apostates, British soldiers, or Glasgow Rangers fans, to be killed?

“What I won’t do is extend you, personally, the right to decide what political beliefs can and can’t be expressed.”

It’s not ‘a political belief’, it’s a criminal statement.

“I don’t think that gay people have a right not to be offended.”

It’s not about being merely ‘offended’, it’s about having your own murder incited. Can you understand the difference?

“I would respect the right for people to call for my execution”

No one has such a ‘right’, and you well know it.

“Freedom of speech is vital”

Yes, and yet there are restrictions on it. You are not allowed to say absolutely anything you like if it conflicts with laws such as defamation, incitement of hatred, incitement to murder etc. Again, as you well know.

128. Galen10

@125 Chaise

“Freedom of speech is vital: it’s one of the things that keeps us from sliding into fascism and means we can truly say we are a free country. Opposing it for people whose views you find offensive is extremely short-sighted.”

So you honestly believe that free speech is an absolute, and cannot be constrained under ANY circumstances? In the case of Choudhary it surely isn’t just a question of his views being “offensive” is it? There are lots of views I find offensive… but calling for certain classes of people to be killed isn’t just something to take offence over.

Chaise appears not to understand that such words are not merely’ offensive’, they help create and reinforce a climate of actual intolerance and violence. Like Gay Free Zone posters, They are designed to initimidate gay people and to encourage those who would attack them. And gay people do get attacked and murdered. If they were merely being ‘offended’, it would be much less of a big deal. We are used to that.

I suppose that someone who has never had to contemplate people like themselves being imprisoned or killed in other countries, and being subject to violence in this country, genuinely finds it hard to treat this sort of speech as something having real and often fatal consequences, as opposed to being a matter of intellectual debate, however hard they may try.

Saying something like “it would be a pity if something bad happened to your children” is not a direct threat, but it’s pretty clearly designed to intimidate, however much one could just say it’s merely a factual statement. It’s more than that, as is Choudary’s bland talk of ‘punishment’ for homosexuals.

The idea that any gay person would treat this subject as an opportunity for ‘trolling’ seems to indicate an inability to use basic logic.

130. Chaise Guevara

@ 126 Galen

“That’s fair enough, but what I’m not clear about is whether you are making a distinction between a person calling for another individual to be killed (which could and ought to lead to prosecution), and calling for say, homosexuals, adulterers, apostates, British soldiers, or Glasgow Rangers fans, to be killed?”

I covered this @41, but:

The distinction I draw (and I think the law does the same) is whether you’re calling for something to be made a capital offense or for people to go out and murder. In the latter case, you’re telling people to commit a crime, which should be illegal. Whether you’re talking about an individual or a group is irrelevant – so yes, if someone said “I call upon you to go out and slay homosexuals”, they should be prosecuted.

131. Chaise Guevara

@ 127 Lamia

“It’s not ‘a political belief’, it’s a criminal statement.”

Oh no it isn’t. Is calling for murders to be executed a criminal statement?

“It’s not about being merely ‘offended’, it’s about having your own murder incited. Can you understand the difference?”

I think inciting murder should be illegal (as it is). Can you please stop with the stupid straw man attacks?

“No one has such a ‘right’, and you well know it.”

Again: do you often see people arrested for demanding that the death penalty be reinstated?

“Yes, and yet there are restrictions on it. You are not allowed to say absolutely anything you like if it conflicts with laws such as defamation, incitement of hatred, incitement to murder etc. Again, as you well know.”

Yep. Covered this about six times now.

132. Chaise Guevara

@ 129

“Chaise appears not to understand that such words are not merely’ offensive’, they help create and reinforce a climate of actual intolerance and violence. Like Gay Free Zone posters, They are designed to initimidate gay people and to encourage those who would attack them. And gay people do get attacked and murdered. If they were merely being ‘offended’, it would be much less of a big deal. We are used to that.”

You could say that about any negative statement about any group. If I said “immigrants steal our jobs”, I’d quite obviously be contributing to a climate of intolerance, and indeed my words could be used as a (crap) justification for violence. Go down this road and you stop anyone saying anything.

“I suppose that someone who has never had to contemplate people like themselves being imprisoned or killed in other countries, and being subject to violence in this country, genuinely finds it hard to treat this sort of speech as something having real and often fatal consequences, as opposed to being a matter of intellectual debate, however hard they may try.”

Ad homs are boring.

“Saying something like “it would be a pity if something bad happened to your children” is not a direct threat, but it’s pretty clearly designed to intimidate, however much one could just say it’s merely a factual statement. It’s more than that, as is Choudary’s bland talk of ‘punishment’ for homosexuals.”

This is a genuine problem, and I’m not sure what the best way is for dealing with it. I guess you rely on a judge to make the call in each case.

“The idea that any gay person would treat this subject as an opportunity for ‘trolling’ seems to indicate an inability to use basic logic.”

Actually, constant ad homs and straw man attacks are a better indicator of poor logic – and that’s why I accused you of trolling in the first place.

@124 Sadly I’m all too familiar with his work and beliefs, his writings from the 70’s & 80’s are outstanding pieces of science, but he’s past his prime now. He likes to kid himself, much as Pat Condell does, that he hates all religions equally, but he reserves a special level of venom when talking about ‘that’ religion, with it’s largely brown-skinned ‘others’ with strange customs and clothing. If he were working class and not quite as eloquent he’d be branded an EDL-style bigot. It shouldn’t be any surprise that he supports the obscurantism of Geert Wilders & Condell either, he is what he is.

It’s not the first time, like fellow traveller Sam Harris, that he’s made the assertion that Christianity is soft and cuddly while Islam is like a storm of broken bottles either. As I said, his comment history is open on his website for perusal, for a fun game count how often he says “I really do believe Islam is the biggest threat to world today”.

Anyway this is getting away from my original point that just because a scientist opines on a subject, it doesn’t mean they’re automatically right. Well, maybe on their particular area of expertise. Probably.

“Ad homs are boring.”

If anyone looks back over this exchange, I think they will see there are far more ad homs from you than from me, including far more abusive language.

“Actually, constant ad homs and straw man attacks are a better indicator of poor logic – and that’s why I accused you of trolling in the first place.”

You are welcome to think what you like of my logic, as I am of yours, but that has no bearing on whether I am ‘trolling’ or not, nor why I would treat this as a subject for ‘trolling’ at all.

It’s a very serious matter to me, for pretty obvious reasons, whether you agree with what I have said or not, or how I have argued it. Can’t you at least understand that? What would be the point?

Do you honestly think I find this a fun subject for a wind-up?

135. Chaise Guevara

@ 134 Lamia

“If anyone looks back over this exchange, I think they will see there are far more ad homs from you than from me, including far more abusive language.”

I don’t think I’ve laid any ad homs on you at all (“abusive language” is not the same thing). You’ve been telling me that I don’t understand the argument because I’m in the wrong demographic for a long while now. Ad homs seem to be your second mode of conversation, after straw men.

“You are welcome to think what you like of my logic, as I am of yours, but that has no bearing on whether I am ‘trolling’ or not, nor why I would treat this as a subject for ‘trolling’ at all. ”

I don’t really want a row over the definition of “trolling”.

“It’s a very serious matter to me, for pretty obvious reasons, whether you agree with what I have said or not, or how I have argued it. Can’t you at least understand that? What would be the point?

Do you honestly think I find this a fun subject for a wind-up?”

No, I don’t, and I don’t think you’re trying to wind me up. What I object to is the way you keep putting words into my mouth so you can make wild accusations against me – including saying that I’m ok with people inciting murder, which I’ve told you several times now isn’t the case. That’s what I mean when I say “trolling”: if you object to the word usage, fine, but it doesn’t change the fact that you keep lying about what I’m saying.

136. Chaise Guevara

@ 134 Lamia

There seems to be genuine confusion over what “ad hom” means, so let me clear it up:

“Ad hom” refers to the logical fallacy of claiming someone’s argument is invalid because of who that person is. That’s what I’ve been objecting to for the last few posts, and it really would be helpful if you stopped. People sometimes confuse this with personal insults, which is a different thing entirely.

“Of course, however vile Choudary’s beliefs, he is entitled to his opinion. In the name of free speech, he should also be entitled to publically air them (where they don’t incite violence – which many of his arguably do).”

F*ck that, disrupt his talks so he can’t give them!!!!

A hint of a possible answer, or answers, as to how Choudary has been able to elude arrest/prosecution under anti-terror laws – used against tens of thousands of other Muslims since 2001 – is provided in comments by PH_UK in the following thread. As is now well-documented, Choudary’s predecessors in the al-Muhajiroun group had links to British security services – MI5/Special Branch at home, and the foreign secret service (MI6) for black operations in Kosovo. Followers of al-Muhajiroun fought alongside the CIA-sponsored KLA in a covert guerilla war to destablise the Kosovo government. The purpose, it seems, was to gain Algerian support for the trans-Balkan oil pipeline project. We harboured these dangerous radicals under a ‘Covenant of Security’ by which we tolerated their activities so long as they didn’t brainwash our kids into attacking *us*. Apparently their hate-filled tirades were deemed an acceptable price to pay for their strategic usefulness abroad. More here: http://vladtepesblog.com/?p=38511

CORRECTION: Algerian?! Apologies, the above should say “…gain *Albanian* support…”

Exactly what an extremist like chaudary wants – publicity, publicity and more publicity! If this low life was totally ignored by the media, he would give up his show. He’s just entertaining the media, helping them to sell papers and to encourage anti-Islamic feeling within communities. Anjem and his brainwashed followers do not represent the majority Muslims in the UK just like the English Defense League does not represent the Christian community in the UK!


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  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Why on earth is Anjem Choudary invited to speak at Hay philosophy festival? http://bit.ly/mcArHJ

  2. Remy Davies

    Interistik. I'm ambivalent. – RT @libcon Why on earth is Anjem Choudary invited to speak at Hay philosophy festival? http://bit.ly/mcArHJ

  3. Mohammed Ahmed

    RT @libcon: Why on earth is Anjem Choudary invited to speak at Hay philosophy festival? http://bit.ly/mcArHJ

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    RT @libcon: Why on earth is Anjem Choudary invited to speak at Hay philosophy festival? http://bit.ly/mcArHJ

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  6. Lucy James

    Read my piece on Anjem Choudary being invited to speak at philosophy festival in hay #disgrace http://t.co/PC26xU7

  7. Fiona Madden

    RT @lucyjames01: Read my piece on Anjem Choudary being invited to speak at philosophy festival in hay #disgrace http://t.co/PC26xU7

  8. Founder Fire

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  9. Founder Fire

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    RT @lucyjames01: Read my piece on Anjem Choudary being invited to speak at philosophy festival in hay #disgrace http://t.co/PC26xU7

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    RT @lucyjames01: Read my piece on Anjem Choudary being invited to speak at philosophy festival in hay #disgrace http://t.co/PC26xU7

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    RT @lucyjames01: Read my piece on Anjem Choudary being invited to speak at philosophy festival in hay #disgrace http://t.co/PC26xU7

  13. Political Scrapbook

    Islamist nutjob Anjem Choudary invited to speak at Hay philosophy festival (twice) http://bit.ly/lMeoBk

  14. Ben Archibald

    RT @psbook: Islamist nutjob Anjem Choudary invited to speak at Hay philosophy festival (twice) http://bit.ly/lMeoBk

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  16. Daniel Pitt

    Why on earth is Anjem Choudary invited to speak at Hay philosophy festival? http://bit.ly/mcArHJ #extremism





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