Defending bigotry is an unpopular and thankless task, but it is also necessary. The intent is never to condone or encourage any specific act, nor those who indulge, but rather to defend that which makes it possible: free speech.
Free speech is an imperative. For a better defence than I – and perhaps anyone – could muster, refer to this 20 minute video excerpt by the late, great Christopher Hitchens taken from a debate on the topic.
In 2014, Australian Attorney General George Brandis uttered what should be uncontroversial remarks to the senate, ‘People do have a right to be bigots, you know. In a free country people do have rights to say things that other people find offensive or insulting or bigoted.’
Brandis’s comments, and the man and his political party, were widely condemned by increasingly vocal progressives who are unwittingly those most in need of his principles withstanding their attack.
These ‘progressives’ are a new breed of the extreme left. They seek change like the progressives they purport to be, but that change is often misguided, poorly considered, unsupported and self-contradictory. The situation has become so toxic that their former allies on the left have coined for them a new dismissive label; ‘the regressive left’.
The regressive left are people who have become so enamoured by the goals of their politics that they have forgotten, or in fact never learned, the philosophical principles from which said goals are derived. As a result, they have abandoned the principles of free speech and non-discrimination. Censorship is their weapon, and by welding it anything becomes possible.
Online harassment is a growing concern in this interconnected digital age, although what qualifies for the term is more than a little vague. Gregory Elliot is currently being tried in Canada for ‘criminal harassment’, not for threats, intimidation or anything sexual, but merely for a political disagreement on Twitter. Elliott lost his job and his case will soon enter its 3rd year. Imagine the consequences for actual harassment.
The demand for censorship is a case of be careful what you wish for. Those seeking to criminalise bigotry place themselves in a bind.
The bigotry of the regressive left goes largely unnoticed as it benefits from community support, but the implementation of the law isn’t particularly concerned with community sentiment, it cares only for the letter of the law. Laws can of course be changed or reinterpreted but regardless of the prevailing standards at any given time one harasser is as liable as the next. Which takes us from Elliott to Bahar Mustafa.
Bahar Mustafa is an unashamed and blissfully unaware bigot of the ethnic-minority feminist variety. She is racist and sexist, and justifies her discrimination using sociological terms which conveniently define out of existence the notions of ‘sexism against men’ or ‘racism against white people’. It’s an abhorrent ideology from which any and all discrimination is permissible, even encouraged or compelled, whilst miraculously awarding moral superiority to the offender.
In her unlikely role as ‘diversity officer’ of the student union at Goldsmiths University of London, Mustafa organised an event which specifically excluded straight white men – a violation of anti-discrimination laws which strangely had no consequences.
However, Mustafa’s use of the Twitter hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen, or similar related online activity, has now resulted in two criminal charges, ‘sending a communication conveying a threatening message,’ and ‘sending a grossly offensive message via a public communication network.’
Mustafa is to appear in court on November 5.
This is a scandal. They are mere words, and words on the internet, at that. Words which she should rightly be challenged by any civilised and inclusive society or individual, but which should never result in criminal punishment.
One receives no thanks for following their own principles. After all, that is to be expected, and to not do so would be to invite legitimate accusations of hypocrisy. But to stand firm has its own dangers; the danger of endorsing the hypocrisy of the censorship brigade. Hopefully Mustafa will benefit from public sentiment but she and her ilk are unlikely to see the error of their ways. The integrity of her philosophical opponents, and their resultant support, will serve only to embolden her worldview – especially if she escapes punishment.
UPDATE: Charges have been dropped. Below is Mustafa’s response to the support she received from those of far greater moral character than herself.