I fear that Hari Kunzru is making the exact same mistake as Catherine Bennett (though his point is made much better) that we’re going after Rod Liddle’s speech by campaigning against him being editor of the Indy.
Catherine Bennett made the same accusations, and I replied to her here:
Being liberal doesnâ€™t mean you canâ€™t campaign against or for anything. No one is taking Rod Liddleâ€™s free speech away â€“ he still blogs away at Spectator and writes for the Sunday Times.
If they want to legitimise and help such an obnoxious misogynist and racist â€“ thatâ€™s their problem: I donâ€™t buy them.
But to say that liberals (Iâ€™m a left liberal, the name of the site is meant to be ironic) cannot campaign or criticise anyone because it somehow takes away their freedom of speech isnâ€™t an argument. Iâ€™m not like the Chinese authorities. Iâ€™m not calling for him to be imprisoned.
This is like saying Rock Against Racism and the Anti-Nazi League marches shouldnâ€™t have happened because they restricted the right of the BNP and National Front to say what they want.
To which Hari responds with:
@ Sunny â€“ I donâ€™t think youâ€™re answering my point at all. Iâ€™m not saying the same thing as Catherine Bennett. Iâ€™m asking you to think about the limits of campaigning. When does legitimate campaigning become something else? Iâ€™m not saying youâ€™re the Chinese government. Itâ€™s a silly comparison. I also donâ€™t buy the RaR analogy. Rod Liddle is an individual, not an ideology (afaik). Youâ€™ve already won the point about Liddleâ€™s unsuitability to edit the Indie â€“ this is very much in the public domain. Whatâ€™s the end/purpose of your campaign now? How â€˜non grataâ€™ do you want his persona? Iâ€™m not saying you canâ€™t campaign or criticise.
Iâ€™m saying that beyond a certain point, mass campaigns have a chilling effect on free speech. Is this the case with Liddle? Possibly not â€“ as you say heâ€™s robust, and has plenty of media outlets and allies. But itâ€™s something that needs to be thought about if you care about freedom. Would you be more circumspect if he was weaker or less well-known? Youâ€™re in the trenches right now (judging by an fb post you made today) and I wonder if your exhiliration at breaking the Millwall stuff is overtaking a sense of proportion. How do you respond, for example, to my charge that this is potentially damaging to your own politics â€“ beyond a certain point isnâ€™t this trivial? Doesnâ€™t it risk delegitimising the more important stuff you campaign about?
Frankly I don’t really care if criticising Rod Liddle means there is less casual racism and misogyny in public life – I’d welcome that, thanks. Is the fact there is now much less overt anti-semitism in public life a bad thing?
The purpose of the campaign is to say that Rod Liddle’s views go against those of the Indy’s principles and it’s readers. He is a troll and is only being considered because Simon Kelner thinks what the Indy really needs is someone who can make it talked about.
But that won’t bring it loyal readers and it will only herald the demise of Britain’s only other left-liberal newspaper. I don’t see that as a good thing. Hence the campaign. That’s how citizens roll.
This airy-fairy liberal thinking that if we’re nasty to poor old Wod Widdle then it’s going to make life difficult for others is frankly horse-shit. In the US, Colour of Change ran a campaign against Glenn Beck for his on-air racism. Was freedom of speech in the US curtailed?
Sorry, I’m not buying this argument at all. Sarah Ditum covered this quite well too – this liberal intelligentsia penchant for mixing up criticism and campaigning with censorship really should be ignored.
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Filed in: Civil liberties,Media