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Look Who’s Afraid of Free Speech Now

December 1, 2009 – 5:48 pm50 Comments

free_speech_1By Anthony Frosh & Rachel Sacks-Davis

Fascism has long been associated with far right-wing political movements.  Today, when it comes to suppressing the expression of ideas, it is getting increasingly difficult to distinguish between the so-called intellectual left and the far right.

Last month, The International Centre B5 left-wing German activists violently prevented the showing of a documentary film by a Claude Lanzmann, a prominent French Jewish filmmaker. The 1973 documentary film was Lanzmann’s first film, Why Israel, about the role of the Jewish state as a homeland for refugees. This is just one of many similar instances in Europe of late, and while this phenomenon has been most intense in Europe, it has by no means been limited to the old continent. 

At the University of California, Berkeley, where one might presume that freedom of speech is paramount, there have been significant attempts to violate the right of free expression.  For example, when Nonie Darwish, an Egyptian-American author and feminist who has become a Muslim apostate and strident critic of Jihadist Islam was scheduled to speak, she faced a well-organised tirade of constant heckling throughout her lecture in order to prevent her from expressing her ideas to the audience. Now you might think that a human rights activist and feminist of Arabic origin might appeal to the left-wing students at Berkeley, but it appears that if you have anything to say that might not be fully congruent with these students’ worldview, then your rights to free expression (and the rights of others who might like to hear you) are to be quashed.

Australian universities have similarly not been immune from this denial of freedom of expression. Anecdotally, at a university public lecture that one of us attended recently, the professor delivering the lecture could only cite her own intuition in defence of her argument, but nonetheless spoke in angry tones at audience members who dared to challenge her hypothesis. In our experience similarly dogmatic attitudes are regrettably all too common in Australian universities, and especially humanities departments.

In the Australian Jewish community, we can also see that the far-left have at times shown a disconcerting lack of pluralism.  One self styled radical left Jewish blog has in its mission statement

“We’re hoping people will disagree with us, pushing us to consider other ideas and ways of thinking.” 

However, this is immediately qualified with  

“…we’re not liberals – we’re not guided by arguments of ‘freedom of speech’. This is a blog… that we’re carving out for critical, progressive thinking.”

Got that? If you’re not what is deemed by the editors to be progressive, then your ideas are not worthy of being published, not even in the comments section.

As editors of a Jewish magazine, you might expect that we’ve received many requests to censor people’s comments because they were perceived as anti-Semitic or anti-Israel etc.  However, the fact is that up to this point (kineynahora), we have not received a single such request.  On the other hand, we have received several requests (and even the odd demand) from ‘progressive’ correspondents requesting that we remove comments that the correspondent deemed not to be ‘progressive’ enough.

As always, we remind the correspondent that we are not so wise as to be the arbiters of which ideas are valid or invalid.  After all, whole societies have accepted ideas that the majority of people now consider to be morally repugnant (and vice versa). It’s time these so-called progressives look in the mirror and ask themselves the question: what makes them so insightful that they feel they can arbitrate in this way?

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  • ariel says:

    The political spectrum is actually a circle where the two far points eventually meet…
    I’m continually astonished that neo-progressives advocate that we return to the 9th century under a caliphate. They should call themselves “regressives”, if anything. Yet neo-conservatives are the ones who advocate views which used to be considered progressive.
    So everyone has changed sides, but failed to admit it…
     

  • philip mendes says:

    Anthony and Rachel: you are not wrong. I always thought the Left stood for freedom of speech and pluralism, and the Right for the opposite. But in recent years – see my letter published in the current issue of Tikkun Magazine –  it has been apparent that there is a shrill, aggressive pro-Palestinian lobby out there which is intent on using any means possible (however fascistic) to intimidate and silence any views which don’t conform to the infantile anti-Zionist fundamentalist perspective. Unfortunately, a couple of the worst members of this lobby are Jewish.

    Philip

  • Chaim says:

    Israel also has a history of real problems limiting the free speech of the right although right now it is slightly better. You could see that with the R. Kahane memorial. Even if you disagree with his politics there needs to be open and frank discussion within acceptable parameters instead of denying it outright.
     

  • tobybee says:


    As the author of the quotes that you’ve taken from our blog (which is jewonthis.wordpress.com, for anyone who is interested), I feel I should probably respond. What’s particularly interesting for me here is that I first came across this idea of freedom of speech from Michael Lipshutz – someone who is certainly not a radical – in his approach to the case against David Irving’s participation in a forum in Melbourne in 2003 (I think). Lipshutz’s argument was that we always accept limits on freedom of speech – for instance, the Jewish community doesn’t want Irving’s words out there in the public; we also don’t, in a general sense want antisemitic ideas being published. And some of us don’t want any hate speech out there. I really hope we can all agree on that.
     
    From there, it’s about where you draw the line, and what ideas each of us personally wants to be responsible for contributing to public discourse. For me, in my blog, I want to create a radical leftist space. I have no desire to spend my time working on a blog which helps to proliferate conservative viewpoints. If you want to hear such ideas, there’s plenty of them out in the public domain. The blog that I write for has, quite proudly, a particular politics informing it.
     
    Do I think this same approach goes in publications like The Age? No, of course not. Which is why I would never work for such a publication. Because I’m trying to spend my time working for a more just, less hate-filled world. Which is why I write a blog. I don’t want to provide space for people like Peter Costello, as The Age does today. We need more spaces for alternative thinking and writing, not less. Our blog doesn’t attempt to speak for or on behalf of anyone other than ourselves. We write for a particular audience, we know that. And that’s fine with us. 

  • TheSadducee says:

    Congrats to tobybee for illustrating the pride and arrogance some have in creating and maintaining their own intellectual ghettos. 

    Don’t bother engaging/confronting/resisting opposing points of view, discourse and ideology – thats way too conformist! 

    Its so much more radical to write for a particular audience who share  similar political views and are fine to be silenced if they disagree.

    Welcome to “1984” folks…

  • anzya says:

    Rachel and Anthony, I think it’s pretty disingenuous for you to imply that our blog is “fascist”. As tobybee pointed out in the “about us” section of our blog (from which you take a quote that is out of context, by the way), it is naive to argue for “freedom of speech” when talking about blog comments. By choosing to disallow certain comments which might be mean-spirited or counter-constructive to the ideas and discussions we want to raise in our blog, we are not repressing anyone’s “freedom of speech”. You cannot compare us to a government which violently represses dissenters to its will.
    As bloggers yourselves, surely you know that just because you don’t moderate comments, doesn’t mean that the comments you get reflect the full spectrum of opinions on a particular issue. This depends on who reads your blog, how comfortable readers are using the technology and replying, and on how articulate a commenter is, and so on. If a comment isn’t approved for posting on our site, there are COUNTLESS other forums which people are able to post on the interwebs, probably, I’ll admit, forums with much larger readership than our little blog.
    The way that you, unjustly, make implications of our blog being “fascist” and align our views, bizzarely, with anti-semitic protestors, is highly derogatory. It is more damaging, and undoubtedly more successful than our blog’s comment policy, in silencing points of view that differ to your own, or the mainstream Melbourne Jewish community.
    anzya, jew on this blogger

  • ariel says:

    tobybee and anzya, I’m glad you are contributing here.
    Could you please explain why the radical left stands shoulder to shoulder with Islamofascists who want to convert you or kill you? After all, as tobybee says, aren’t you supposed to be for a more just, less hate-filled world? Why are you tolerant of the most intolerant movement in the world, but hostile to the most tolerant?

  • Sara K says:

    Rach and Anthony,  I absolutely agree with you. This sort of behaviour is solely aimed at shutting down debate, which is the worst thing that can happen.  

  • I don’t understand why anyone with a blog that was there to promote their own ideas would moderate comments that were “counter-constructive to the ideas and discussions they wish to raise”. What is the purpose of such a blog? Simply to preach to the converted and find others who already subscribe to the same ideas? That does nothing to promote, develop (and test) those ideas. A very closed-minded approach to blogging, one would think. And this would apply equally to blogs on the left and right side of the spectrum.

  • rachsd says:

    Tobybee,

    I’m not sure that I would hold the same position as Michael Lipshutz on free speech, and I’m not really sure what his position is on the matter. However, whilst I do think that there are valid arguments for limiting freedom of expression in some specific cases – for example, limiting speech that clearly consists of either fabrication (in the case of David Irving) or incitement to violence – I do not think that this type of argument is comparable in any way, shape, or form to limiting the expression of ideas simply because they are contrary to your own (which seems to be the position that you are advocating on your blog).

    I would not expect a blogger such as yourself to publish full articles by someone that they disagree with (I am referring to your reference to Peter Costello). At Galus Australis, we specifically encourage a range of writers who have differing religious and political viewpoints to contribute; however, I don’t think that websites that do not do this are necessarily limiting freedom of speech. What I object to is preventing people from disagreeing with you in a robust fashion in the comments which follow each article. This is like giving a lecture but preventing people who disagree with your point of view from asking questions. To me this seems intellectually dishonest and cowardly. It promotes a politics of dogma, which I consider to be neither radical nor progressive. Far from it.

  • rachsd says:

    anzya,

    We didn’t say that your blog was facist, but made a comparison only relating to the attitudes to freedom of expression.

    I’m not sure what you are referring to when you say that that we align your views with antisemitic protesters.

    I don’t think that freedom of speech means having comments that “reflect the full spectrum of opinions on a particular issue.”

    It’s true that suppression of ideas by a government is much worse than preventing dissent on one’s own blog. Violent obstruction of a film showing is also much worse than preventing dissent on a blog. Nonetheless, all of these actions contravene the value of open and honest argumentation.

  • tobybee says:

    Rachel, I’m really not sure what has given you the impression that we’re stopping all comments that disagree with us. Nowhere do we say that. Nowhere is it said that if you write anything that we don’t like, we’re deleting it. We’ve deleted one comment only, and that was one which was antisemitic. I’m certainly not going to spend time explaining why I think it’s necessary to delete antisemitic comments everywhere, and particularly on a Jewish blog.

    We say that we’re “not liberals – we’re not guided by arguments about free speech.” In making this claim we’re clearly locating our approach in a critique of the politics of liberalism – surely a valid critique to engage in. We also say that “we’re hoping [the reader will] engage and contribute, recognising and reciprocating the spirit with which we offer our thoughts.” That spirit is one which is open and honest and doesn’t produce violence. The difference between your idea of writing and politics and mine is that I think there is great violence contained in conservative writing (it’s a whole other discussion to explain this violence). I seek to exclude that violence, yes. So our approach to comments (which is certainly not a ‘mission statement’, as you suggest – we would never use that type of corporate language to describe what we do) is that we’re open to being challenged in an intellectually honest, interesting way. I firmly disagree with you that that makes us intellectually dishonest, and I think people who have engaged with us and our work would agree.

    In our description of our approach, where we make clear that we are diasporists, we’ve said: “Living in diaspora means, to us, being open to new ideas, to complexity, to challenges and change. We start from the position that there is never one truth—there are always many truths. Not that we agree with all of them. Diaspora does not mean eschewing history and politics. It’s about bringing the history and the politics to the fore.” This, I think, is the difference between our approach and yours – you seem to believe in objective/universal/whatever freedoms and truths, in spaces which are beyond politics. I think that speech, expression, writing is always political. We make the politics clear, you employ a particular conception of freedom of speech which, I think, produces a rather conservative space, without being explicit about the political project you are engaged in.

    I also really think you should deal with Anzya’s point – the reason we devised our blog was because of the poverty of space for critical thinking in the Jewish community. I think this was partly the reason for your blog. Our ideas of what constitutes critical thinking are different, for sure, but I think we have that motivation in common. Yet you have now used your space to imply that others in this community are fascist (and you do make this implication. Read the first sentence of your piece and tell me how that doesn’t set up a situation wherein everything below is being shown to be fascist), hence creating more spaces in which we cannot exist.

  • TheSadducee says:

    “the reason we devised our blog was because of the poverty of space for critical thinking in the Jewish community.”

    – is that comment a joke?

  • frosh says:

    Tobybee,

    While I don’t want this whole discussion to be about you and your website (after all, we’d be even more interested to hear what you think about the current situation of the violent denial of freedom of expression in Europe – an example of which was in the article), I will say this:

    It is odd (and rather warped) that you would use a precedent of excluding David Irving as a justification for excluding Peter Costello. As RachSD has stated, Holocaust denial is form of fabrication, and this has been well established. On the other hand, while I might not agree with everything Peter Costello believes in, I see no reason why one couldn’t have civilized and worthwhile dialogue with him.

  • Francis says:

    I was just thinking about freedom of speech and expression when walking past the anti-Israel rally in Sydney at lunchtime today.  Why exactly is it that anti-Israel groups, including “Jews against the Occupation”, think it is appropriate and useful to use (or be associated with) banners with swastikas? 

  • ariel says:

    Francis, most people who attend “anti-” rallies are ignorant and have no idea what a swastika is or means.
    Many unemployed are paid to attend these rallies to make up the numbers.
    And those who use the swastika deliberately, with knowledge, are Jew haters, pure and simple.
    The Jews who hang out at these rallies are probably ignorant of the Arabic saying being hurled at them: “ikbat al-yahud” – “slaughter the Jews”.
    These Jews along with the white, never-been-oppressed, latte sippers who organise these rallies fail to realise that they would be the first ones to be jailed, tortured or killed once the (Islamic) revolution comes.
    As Menachem Begin once told a member of the Israeli Communist Party, “when the Soviets come, the communists are the first ones to be arrested!”

  • frosh says:

    Francis (or anyone else),

    Next time you see one of these rallies, please feel free to take a few snaps with your phone-camera, and if so inclined, even turn yourself into an improv journalist and do some interviews. 

    We’d be interested in covering this type of stuff on Galus.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    This article seems to have raised a lot of heat already on a range of  issues.
    There’s nothing like  a bit of exaggeration to make a point.  Sure, there are anti-semites at rallies, and I’ve had my words with them (as have Palestinians by the way), and seen Nazi pictures of Jews recycled & I have photos as well (there you go).  But I saw the same stuff 30 years ago as well.   These bastards are unstoppable and attract a loony fringe in our culture and have so for ever.
    However, to charactize all critics of Israel–and this is the implication of a lot of the correspondence above–representing some sort of dominant, nasty and craven hegemony on both the left and in academia is well, an exaggeration, contrary to what Philip Mendes asserts about support for ‘an Arab State of Palestine’, implying dhimmi status for miniorites.
    There are a lot of people far more sophisticated than that. There are plenty of people arguing about one state or two state solutions, but that doesn’t make them all, ipso facto anti-semites or anti-Israeli.
    In fact, I suspect that most people in academia in Australia don’t think about the issue at all (why should they?) –it comes down to a couple of hundred people with an interest in the issue, with a few very noisy and vociferous propononents at either end of the spectrum and they serve as the ‘examples’ for all sorts of truth claims.
    For the sake of this post, there’s really no need to recycle the old observations–a lot of people are angry about 40 years of occupation, and use Israel as a surrogate as well for a whole range of anti-American political sentiments related to American foreign policy over the past century in various parts of the world.  So any visual or verbal weapon is useful.  It’s regrettable and often sickening, but the price of living in a democracy.
    But to start censoring people for their ideas is truly dangerous stuff.  As we know with David Irving and Frederick Tobin of the Adelaide Instute, giving them oxygen through persecution only encourages their sick fantasies and supporter.
    And as for Anthony and Rachel’s example of what’s happended on the west coast to Jewish filmakers , various Palestinian/Arab/Muslim academics have been hounded at places like Columbia in the most unfair way possible by Jewish lobby groups. The bad behaviour extends to both parties in the US.
    And  pressure on Jewish academics to shut up –from Jews–has not been known in this community, for offering the most milk toast of observations with some nasty name calling involved.  And of course, people like myself have been declared as terrorist sympathizers, dirty tricks  and so forth, even but that I suppose is the price of free speech and living with disturbed individuals –if you doubt me–look at the experience of SensibleJew .
    What I suppose now, of course, is that we are going to go into another round of disputed histories (yawn).
    But I would be fascinated to know the truth of Ariel’s claims about the unemployed being paid to attend rallies.  Maybe he thinks I have been paid to attend as well?  Do his claims include rallies to defend the rights of working people against work choices? Is the source of funding some secret bank fund in the Cayman Islands, or Osama Bin Laden? Thus should political rallies be outlawed as well in defense of law and order?  If Ariel has the numbers on such unemployed people, is he willing to report them to Centrelink? I bet not.

  • frosh says:

    Hi Larry,

    You wrote,
    “And as for Anthony and Rachel’s example of what’s happended on the west coast to Jewish filmakers , various Palestinian/Arab/Muslim academics have been hounded at places like Columbia in the most unfair way possible by Jewish lobby groups.”

    Actually, the incident with the film maker was in Europe – the incident at Berkeley was an Arab writer and human rights activist, only she was targetted by left wingers, not Jewish groups. I’d be interested to hear examples such as at Columbia (as you allude to). Given what hotbeds these campuses are for the far-left, and how intolerant they are of ideas outside this world view, it would be fascinating to know the details.

  • TheSadducee says:

    frosh

    I think Stillman is referring to the “Columbia Unbecoming” controversy?

    I too would be curious to hear Stillman’s explanation of what he means by “hounded…in the most unfair way possible”.

    As to Irving/Tobin – I disagree with Stillman.   Going after them through litigation and legal process ended in jail time for these guys which actually hurt them – they lost a portion of their freedom and life.  They wont be getting it back and they wont repeat their lies in public again in those locations.  It didn’t make them martyrs except in the eyes of people sympathetic to their lies. 

    Ignoring deniers/revisionists and/or trying to refute them doesn’t work as Stillman so eloquently put it:
    “These bastards are unstoppable and attract a loony fringe in our culture and have so for ever.”

    There is a difference between opinion and discussion, possibly even controversial, and fabricating, distorting and lying deliberately to harm people.

  • ariel says:

    Larry, contrary to your view, not everything is about you.

    When George W Bush visited Australia a few years ago to address Parliament, there was a violent demonstration in Canberra. A number of balaclava-clad thugs told police on arrest that they were paid to be present by the organisers. This is on the public record and the onus is on the police to report these people, not me.
    If you want to talk about WorkChoices (what it has to do with the price of fish in China is beyond me):
    Your  – quite frankly –  ridiculous suggestion that I would believe the money to pay protesters comes from some secret Cayman bank account is a pitiful attempt to portray me as a conspiracy theorist nut. It is on the public record that the Unions charged an “anti-WorkChoices levy” to their members in the lead up to the last election and used the money quite openly to fund their advertising campaign and protests. I’m not suggesting you or anyone else was paid to attend as the Unions are legitimate organisations with checks and balances, with a legitimate agenda, i.e. to demand higher pay for less work.

    Getting back on topic, it’s nice that you confront anti-Semites at anti-Israel rallies. It doesn’t change the fact that they are running the show and want to kill you. You are their Jewish fig leaf until it suits them to dispose of you.

    I once heard a rabbi say that he disagrees with many of Israel’s policies and he makes this clear to Israeli officials in a private forums. Why not publicly? Because he refuses to be a fig leaf for those who want to destroy Israel.

  • ariel says:

    PS Larry, the Chinese president visited Canberra 24 hours after GWB and there was not a peep from the so-called human rights activists. Why? Because if they led this country, they would follow the same policies as the Chinese regime in crushing all opposition (which tobybee is a fan of)

  • TheSadducee says:

    ariel

    I think it is unfair to suggest that tobybee would be fan of the Chinese regime crushing all opposition.  Can you back that up with some evidence to support your suggestion.

  • ariel says:

    the fact that he does not allow diversity of opinion on his blog is a clear microcosm of how he would run the country

  • Chaim says:

    Larry: At the G20 summit in Pittsburgh, university students were openly paid to protest and march. I was there (not protesting nor getting paid though…)
     
    Having said that at the “Town hall” “tea party” demonstrations by the right wing in the US against health reform, there were also unemployed people paid to be there…

  • Chaim says:

    Protest at the Palestine Solidarity Campaign Christmas Carol Service, London

  • tobybee says:

    oh ariel. nice way to jump to conclusions about someone you know nothing about. No, I am not a fan of a Chinese regime that crushes oppression. No, I would never seek to run a country, and my blogging practices are a model for nothing other than my blogging practices. And no, I’m not a man. Women blog too…

  • ariel says:

    tobybee, I default to the masculine as dictated by Italian grammar.
    Sorry to have offended you on that account. Although I wasn’t aware women had time to blog with all the kitchen duties…

    I have to say that you can run your blog anyway you want, but if you only allow certain views, then what intellectual challenge does that provide for you or your readers?

    I just came across an anti-Semitc blog which used as its pretence a false quote attributed to a former Israeli PM about Arabs. When I pointed out, with proof, that the quote was a fabrication, my comment was deleted. This leads me to believe that the blogger has no intellectual integrity. I would say the same about any blogger disallowing views they don’t agree with.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    I could write reams about whattur has been raised, but I have other things to do.
    I find what Ariel and Chaim say about protest too complex and disputable to deal with here, I choose to remain silent.
    Frosh, as for the harassment of academics in a pretty nasty way, C ampus Watch in the US, backed by rightists David Horowitz and RichardPipes (obsessed with a view that Obama is really Muslim)  has been involved in a range of pretty intemperate activities against Palestinian acadedemics or people who share strong views on the Middle East. I’m sorry if I  got my location wrong with first  examples, but I was specifically intending to refer to incidents on American campuses by overzealous defenders of Israel’s interests (or what they perceive as Israel’s interests).  For one account, see http://www.thenation.com/doc/20071112/cohler-esses, and another http://www.thenation.com/doc/20071112/kaplan.
     
    The wars between Alan Dershowitz, Juan Cole and Norman Finkelstein (to name a few) show just how off-beam, idiotic and ego-driven a lot of the agression against Israeli critics is (with egos on both sides)  .  These fights have led to what’s called neo-McCarthyism on American campuses (well, if you think they are all commies, I really can’t do much about that, but others argue that this puritanism and desire for burning people is an unfortunate aspect of American culture that also appeals to the Jewish right).
    I also condemn such behaviour on the left, much as I despise some of the right-wing drivel which has been advocated with respect to race etc).   I don’t like Sparts and Trot activists who seize on to all sorts of causes in the interests of maximum noise and bugger the consequences.
    Locally,   it frightens me that some of the assertions made ‘in defense of Israel’ at least in Australia, appear to extend to a general condemnation of higher education and everyone involved in higher education, and there have been attempt to engage in similar monitoring here (with a Senate Inquiry to book that showed how specious were some of the allegations).   It only sets in place another set of perceived enemies in the Jewish communities.  The last thing we need is a culture and practice of book burning.
    And to set the record straight so I can’t be accused of what I am not–I do not support academic boycotts of Israeli institutions.
    With respect to the point that Frosh makes about Irving and others (including Tobin) and the legal penalties arising.  I don’t think it has stopped them.    I think that’s a point we can disagree on politely.  Tobin in particular, revels in his martyrdom and this crap and garbage is still published and widespread on the internet.  Eric Butler of the League of Rights was detained in WW2 but kept at his vile work for 60 years thereafter.  Norman Banks, a radio announcer from the 40s to the 70s pedelled anti-semitic crap on 3AW all the time, and it was disgraceful that he got away with his innuendo and nastiness which appealed to the old anglo middle-class. But charge him? with what? being nasty?  Bookshops are full of all sorts of not particularly reputable WW2 books that verge on the sado-erotic. What are you going to do, burn them?
    Today, there are a number of other absolutely crazy sites coming out of this country or at least contributed to by Australian residents.   Law and penalties do  little for such stange & perverted people.
    Much more imporant is to expose and educate against the fraud and racism they represent.

  • LN says:

    RachSD, whether you can recognise sloppy writing or not, you DID call the Jew On This blog fascist. 

    Frosh, since your primary example of leftist Australian Jewry gone fascist was JoT, I think they have a right to defend themselves from slander. That they were quick to distance themselves from idiots should speak volumes. Your patronising attitude is nauseating. 

    What I think should be made clear:
    – Jew on This is written by friends with mutual interests. This is a common editorial policy for a blog.
    – Such an editorial policy sets up no more of an “intellectual ghetto” than any other blog.
    – They don’t run a “magazine”. They are bloggers. 
    – They are not “editors”. They are bloggers.
    – When the RachSD and Frosh say your lowly opinions will not be published “not even in the comments section”, this is either false or a lie. Got that?

    This article shows a decided lack of clear thinking and it feels as though the authors were just tripping over themselves to expose an internal traitor. Any cursory reading of JoT would show just how ridiculous this article is. 

    Since you are self styled magazine editors, and apparently proud of your professionalism, I believe an apology is in order. 

    with regards,
    from a reader of http://jewonthis.wordpress.com

  • TheSadducee says:

    Couldn’t resist but I had to address a few of Larry’s errors/questionable assertions:

    1.  You mean Daniel Pipes, not Richard Pipes (his dad btw, who is a historian of Russia – you should probably post an apology/correction as I don’t think you could back up the view that you ascribe to him!).

    2.  Your characterisation of David Horowitz backing Campus Watch is misleading as he is not actually involved with it.  He might support its goals but he has his own outfit (Frontpage).   

    3.  I’m not sure what you mean by harassment in a pretty nasty way being conducted by CampusWatch?  They get feedback from students on the things that are said by academics which they consider incorrect etc and post this on the net.  Do you think academics are above criticism by their students and that reporting on what they actually say and teach is nasty harassment?  Wow – academics must have it pretty comfortable if criticism of their excesses is considered harassment!

    4.    Neo-Macarthyism?  Thats the terminology used by the people who are sympathetic to the people being criticised.  Why dont you refer readers to Martin Kramer’s work (Ivory Towers on Sand) which discusses the obvious problems with ME studies in the US. 
    Similarly, you talk about harassment of tenured academics in the US in like-minded faculties (eg. Columbia)?  Who has the power in these situations?  The tenured academic who is virtually unnaccountable and has the support of sympathetic colleagues in most faculties or an undergrad/postgrad student who has to work with openly ideologically biased individuals and tailor their work to those biases lest they be blackmarked academically, have their career destroyed and to boot has no support networks?

    I have no problems with academic material being monitored in Australia or elsewhere.  Only academics who are peddling sub-standard stuff have anything to fear from exposure – as you note, the Enquiry noted that a lot of the criticisms were rubbish.  Its the criticisms that aren’t which are of the concern.

    5.  Finkelstein is not an example I would use to make your point about Israeli critics being persecuted.  Finkelstein is quite robust and often attacks his opponents unprovoked – go and have a look at his site and writings.  He has no hesitation in mixing it up with people he disagrees with.  I mean, he made his career with a demolition of Peters’ work (I guess that it considered ok but if someone attacks his work its harassment?). 

    Cole is similar – including the infamous request for his readers to dig up dirt on Martin Kramer after he criticised his work (sounds like CampusWatch’s nasty harassment doesn’t it?).

    6.  Frosh didn’t make the points about Tobin/Irving, I did.
    7.  I never asserted that the legal penalties stopped them.  I advised that it hurt them.  Regardless of whether you engage or ignore with these people, like you noted earlier, there are extremists out there who will support them. 

    If they use their work to harm people through lies and it is against the law in the countries they do it in, they should be prosecuted and hopefully convicted and thrown in jail.  That is the only thing which really hurts them because they lose their liberty for a period of time and often get banned from the countries they were convicted in and others who wont permit them visas. 

    Exposure and education doesn’t achieve anything – the extremists who support them aren’t swayed by reason.  The middle-class aren’t interested anyways in these sort of issues. 

    Perhaps the educated elite might be swayed but they are a relatively uninfluential minority – though it might help if a few of them get their facts right (eg. yourself).

  • TheSadducee says:

    “When the RachSD and Frosh say your lowly opinions will not be published “not even in the comments section”, this is either false or a lie. Got that?”

    -not entirely false or a lie if you happen to be Peter Costello as tobybee notes:
     
    “I don’t want to provide space for people like Peter Costello…”

    Don’t you sockpuppets read your own people’s comments?

  • frosh says:

    LN,

    You wrote:

    “RachSD … you DID call the Jew On This blog fascist. “  
    and
    “Frosh, since your primary example of leftist Australian Jewry gone fascist was JoT”

    Could you please highlight for all of us exactly where we have called JoT a fascist?

    Disallowing others to voice their views is merely something JoT may have in common with fascists.  It does not necessarily make them fascists.

    Just because you operatate under a very simplistic form of inductive reasoning, it doesn’t mean we all do.

    It’s not necessary to apologise to us – we are not so thin skinned as to be offended.

  • schall says:

    Wow, just came across this blog post and was entranced by the sound and fury. But not at all by any exchange of ideas. Perhaps this is indicative of the “poverty of critical thinking” that someone referred to – vituperative criticism certainly does not equal thinking.
     
    My understanding of the enlightenment idea of freedom of speech is that its based on the notion best expressed by J S Mill that we (leaving aside that Mill was certainly not thinking of *all* of us) form a community of liberal, open-minded individuals who engage with each other and are prepared to change our minds if convinced of a better position. From this, he believed, the truth would emerge.
     
    I don’t necessarily accept this idea of how society works myself, but assume that many of the posters on this blog do, given your stern defence of “free speech”. But this vision is certainly not possible when people don’t engage with others’ ideas, and dismiss others’ positions by linking them to some political excesses we can all (I hope, though I fear not!) agree are reprehensible: “fascism”, “1984”, “the Chinese regime … crushing all opposition”, etc. How do various commenters justify this aggression and lack of openness? Perhaps you justify “free speech” differently, maybe you too reject liberalism? I’d be interested to hear.
     
    Another corollary of the liberal notion of free speech is surely a limit, as Raimond Gaita wrote somewhere a few years ago. David Irving has been brought up many times. Does anyone on this blog consider that they could be convinced by him, even if he did bring up points you couldn’t answer? How about other antisemites? If not, what would be the point of enabling them a space to speak?
     
    Speaking personally, there are a range of views that I could never be convinced of, however well someone argues: that the Holocaust is a myth perpetuated by greedy Jews; that the earth is flat; that a state that denies citizenship to many inhabitants and refuses them the vote is a democracy; etc, etc. I’m sure you could come up with your own examples. We tend to justify our rejection of these positions on the basis of our own judgement – the position we reject is based on evidence we could never accept, on prejudices we would hopefully never share, on a tenuous (at best) relationship with whatever reality we inhabit.
     
    This, though, might imply a limit to even the liberal idea of freedom of speech. It becomes a question of where one judges the boundaries. Or does it? What do you reckon?

  • ra says:

    Frosh and rachsd,
    Your argument here is ill-conceived and poorly executed.

    Firstly, jew on this doesn’t say they censor comments they disagree with and they don’t delete comments (bar one).  They only said they’re not liberals.  So what?  Some of my best friends aren’t liberals.  If you’re going to criticise jew on this, shouldn’t you critique their rejection of liberalism?  I find it hard to understand how you take their confession of rejecting liberalism and arrive at the conclusion that they shut down debate, when in fact they appear to have only deleted one comment.  Ever. (I’m taking their statement on this at face value).

    Secondly, why are you implying that jew on this has traits in common with fascism?  Sure, you didn’t say jew on this is run by fascists.  But Frosh did say, “Disallowing others to voice their views is merely something JoT may have in common with fascists.”  The problem is that there is scant evidence that jew on this has engaged in comment deletion, the only activity that jew on this can be linked to which has any sort of link with fascism.  Apparently it did so once to delete an anti-Semitic comment. It’s a bit of an intellectual stretch to relate the deletion of one anti-Semitic comment on blog, to the regimes of Mussolini, Hitler, etc.

    Thirdly, it appears you assumed that the ‘left’ (whatever that is) was once the traditional & natural home of the protection of freedom of speech.  I’m not sure what you’re referring to, given that the ‘left’ states of USSR or the GDR (for instance) hardly provided protection of freedom of speech.  Freedom of speech is an element of liberal individualism – not socialism, not communism and not fascism.  So to place freedom of speech as a core tenet of the ‘left’ is a misunderstanding of both history and political ideology.
     
    Fourthly, aren’t you guys friends with the people at that blog?  Wouldn’t you have asked them how many comments they delete, before alleging that they shut down debate?
     
    Finally, I note TheSadduccee says, “Welcome to “1984″ folks…”. Orwell’s depiction of the world in 1984 is however a far cry from what is being attacked here. In the circumstances I think it’s only fitting to ask George Orwell for comment.  In his essay, What is Fascism? Orwell wrote:
    “It will be seen that, as used, the word ‘Fascism’ is almost entirely meaningless. In conversation, of course, it is used even more wildly than in print. I have heard it applied to farmers, shopkeepers, Social Credit, corporal punishment, fox-hunting, bull-fighting, the 1922 Committee, the 1941 Committee, Kipling, Gandhi, Chiang Kai-Shek, homosexuality, Priestley’s broadcasts, Youth Hostels, astrology, women, dogs and I do not know what else.”

    Bandying about the term ‘fascist’ makes it harder for people to recognise fascism. Insinuations and comparisons of fascism without evidence or justification merely strip the word of its meaning and are no more than exercises in mock-intellectual thuggery.
     

  • TheSadducee says:

    schall

    tobybee’s argument strikes me as confused – they argue:

    1.  more space needs to created for alternative thinking and writing, not less.

    2.  there is a poverty of space for critical thinking in the Jewish community.

    3.  the authors of this piece have created a space where tobybee cannot exist and this is framed negatively.

    4.  tobybee admits that they are excluding people who don’t conform to their radical leftist politics thereby creating less space for those people – something which contradicts 1, contributes to 2 and is a parallel of 3.

    “doublethink” from “1984” does seem applicable here.

  • TheSadducee says:

    ra

    re. 1984 I’m not talking about fascism, read my last comment. 

    While we are quoting Orwell let me indulge your intellectual vanity:

    “Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism, as I understand it.”
    Why I Write, 1947.

    Since “1984” was written after 36′ and that a feature of totalitarianism is the regulation and restriction of free discussion and criticism I don’t think my critique of tobybee is that unfair.

    eg.  regardless of whether they have deleted one comment or not, note that tobybee has openly admitted that they don’t want to provide space for Costello and that they don’t want to work on a blog which proliferates conservative viewpoints and that they write for an audience with like-minded views –  isn’t that a restriction of free discussion and criticism?

  • ra says:

    To the eds,
    Thanks for cleaning up my previous post.
    I think I’ll need your help cleaning this one up too.
    This is what I wanted to write:
    Firstly, Jew on this does not restrict free discussion or criticism: anyone can start their own blog and say what they want on that blog. Freedom of speech protects the right of Jew on this to publish what they wish, regardless of what you would like. The same freedom protects your right to criticise Jew on this, as you have done.

    Secondly, tobybee’s reference to Costello is not an admission, but is a reflection of the blog’s publication criteria. Just because a blog has criteria for what it publishes is not an indication that it restricts free discussion or free speech. All publications have criteria for publication. Newspapers don’t publish every letter to the editor. Nor do they publish every op-ed article they receive. Newspapers have their own criteria for publication, just as Jew on this has its own criteria for publication. Some publications want to publish as broad a range of material as possible. Others don’t. The decision lies with the editors and proprietors.

    Thirdly, the comparison with 1984 is nonsense. In Orwell’s novel, no one could start a publication, write a letter, utter a sentence or even think a thought, without approval from The Party. Everything was controlled. The fact that you can criticise Jew on this is pretty strong evidence that they have no control over what you say or your ability to say it.
    Fourthly, your argument equating “regulation and restriction of free discussion and criticism” with “totalitarianism” is plainly wrong. All societies regulate and restrict speech, discussion and criticism. The difference between societies is a matter of degree. If you publish a defamatory statement in Australia, you’ll be sued.  If you make certain jokes in airports, you’ll be arrested.  If you criticise a judge during a trial, you could be charged with contempt of court.  If you lie under oath, you could be charged with perjury. All societies regulate and restrict speech in one way or another. Obviously not all societies are totalitarian.  Suggesting that Jew on this totalitarian because it exercises its discretion over what it publishes is silly.

  • ra says:

    And that one should have been addressed to TheSadducee.   I’ll get there in the end…

  • frosh says:

    Hi Ra,

    We too took the bloggers at face value, and to us, their “about” section clearly implies that they will restrict comment that they do not deem “progressive.”  I’m guessing Peter Costello hasn’t tried to comment on their blog, but if he did…

    As far as I know, I am not “friends” with these bloggers.  Of course, since they are anonymous, for all I know, they’re my long lost twin brother/sister, separated at birth.

    Which leaves me to another curiosity: notice how these bloggers and all of their hardcore defenders are anonymous?  I’m genuinely not sure why that is, but it is curious.

    Finally, and this is key, the article is not about their blog.  They were just one minor example.  It is rather egocentric of these bloggers to make this all about themselves. We are much more concerned about the goings on in Europe, where freedom of expression is commonly suppressed through mob violence.  So I will say itagain:

    We want to hear what you and they (assuming not one and the same) think about the current situation of the violent denial of freedom of expression in Europe.

     

     

     

  • TheSadducee says:

    ra

    Thanks for spinning my comments completely out of the reality of what they were trying to convey.

    Anyways, going back to “1984” – reading your comments I feel like I’ve been placed in Room 101 and are being tortured by my own worst nightmare – considering your failures in reading comprehension being articulated in writing by you.

    frosh
    violent denial of freedom of expression (reasonable) is contemptible.  I suspect that the people involved have internalised the belief that the alternative discourse has no right to exist and consequently it is of benefit to others to actually prevent their rivals from articulating it. 

    It is quite bizarre when you consider that often this resolves around the concept of an injustice (perceived) and yet they are willing to commit injustice themselves i.e. the ends justifies the means type of mentality.

  • anzya says:

    Frosh, Ra has made some pretty sound arguments here. If you’re not willing to engage with ra, or any of the other commenters who are critical of your post, it doesn’t really lend much to your professed dedication to free speech.
    If what you really wanted to talk about in this post was, as you say, “violent denial of freedom of expression in Europe” then that’s really not clear from what you wrote. A cursory glance shows you have one paragraph about Europe, one much longer paragraph about UC Berkley, and the rest of the blog is focussed on Australia (the longest of which focuses on JoT).  Anyone’s who’s done basic high-school English (or not even) can see that. Maybe you should work on your writing style rather than expect readers to guess what you were thinking.
    What’s more, as the author of the post, isn’t it your role to respond to what your commenters take from your piece? Not to demand what comments people make??
    And Saducee, you may have read 1984, but you’ve clearly missed the point.
     

  • frosh says:

    Hi Anzya,

    I have engaged with Ra – if you can’t see that, then it is you who is in need of the course in basic English.

    Furthermore, I have made no “demands” on what type of comments people can make. I have merely asked people what they think of an issue – and clearly, it is you who have refused to engage this issue.

    It’s easy to dish out stupid and childish insults (as you have done here) when you are anonymous. People might take your insults slightly more seriously if you actually used your real name, or at least provided a legitimate email address. The same principle is applicable to your blog. There is little authority in anonymity.

  • TheSadducee says:

    anzya

    Thanks – perhaps I took something different from the novel than you did rather than missed the point?  (Presumably “the point” is your particular interpretation?) 

    Maybe that might be because I come from a completely different “space” from yours with a different education, history, culture, belief system, socio-economic circumstances etc – but eh, don’t let those sort of considerations get in the way of your arbitrating what is “the point” of novels.  Do you jump to those sort of conclusions often or have I just irked you into rashness? :)

     

  • TheSadducee says:

    Frosh,

    tobybee isn’t actually truly anonymous – she actually indicates who she is on her website.

    not quite sure who anzya is though (hasn’t bragged about their academic studies as much as tobybee) 

  • frosh says:

    Sadducee,

    Last time I looked (which was when we wrote the article), I didn’t notice any disclosure of the names of the bloggers.

    You may notice that when they have left comments, they both have the monster icon that is produced when a commenter does enter an email address – hence further reinforcing in my mind that their intention was to be completely anonymous.

  • TheSadducee says:

    frosh

    My bad – what I should have written was that it is not impossible to determine who tobybee is – their website reveals it inadvertantly. 

    I’m sure they do value their anonymity, but for what purpose when you can work out who they are is a mystery to me.

  • sdfaf says:

    maybe TheSadducee  (if that IS your real name), because there is no conspiracy, they are not hiding, and it is just one of those weird things people do on blogs.

  • TheSadducee says:

    Could be sdfaf, could be.  One of those mysteries of the universe best left for the puissant sages to consider.

  • frosh says:

    Exhibit A) Here is an example of someone who wants to limit freedom of speech in an absurd fashion.
    http://galusaustralis.com/2011/05/4460/australian-in-line-for-al-qaeda-top-job/#comment-35317

    Exhibit B) Here are a bunch of academics who misunderstand what the concept of freedom of speech is.
    http://www.jewishideasdaily.com/content/module/2011/5/12/main-feature/1/agitprop-in-america

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