Where’s the freedom (of speech)?


by Al-Hack
21st September, 2006 at 11:34 am    

A satirical cartoon about Hitler, where he sits on the toilet complaining about Churchill, is causing controversy in Germany.

Illustrator Walter Moers is famous for his comic books depicting the dictator as a frustrated little man who throws fits every time the Jews are mentioned. But with the release of the short film “Der Bonker”, Germans seem to feel he has gone too far.

Despite thousands of Moers fans making the clip one of this week’s top internet downloads, many prominent German Jews have complained at the comic portryal of the mass-murdering dictator. Jewish author Ralph Giordano, one of those speaking out against Moers’ film, said: “You cannot treat the father of the Holocaust in this way.” [Guardian]

Yes you can.

Liberal Democrats look like they’re losing their spine for free speech too. Iain Dale says:

I’ve never understood why people take Jenny Tonge seriously. Even most LibDems share my view of her. Yesterday she was at it again at a fringe meeting…

“The pro-Israeli lobby has got its grips on the western world, its financial grips. I think they have probably got a certain grip on our party”

In January 2004 Tonge was was sacked as a front bench Liberal Democrat spokesperson after expressing support for Palestinian suicide bombers. Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel, Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Jewish Leadership Council and BICOM are nbow calling for her to be sacked from the Liberal Democrat parliamentary party (she’s now a Peer).

Tonge’s views veer into “Jews control the world” territory, traditionally used by anti-semites as an excuse for persecution. Or used by MPAC if you’re a paranoid mofo. But does that mean she should be sacked? Don’t think so.


              Post to del.icio.us


Filed in: Civil liberties,Race politics






55 Comments below   |  

Reactions: Twitter, blogs


  1. David — on 21st September, 2006 at 12:00 pm  

    Whether or not Tonge should be sacked from her party has nothing to do with Jewish groups unaffiliated to that party. But if her expressed views are incompatible or antipathetic to the Liberal party’s policies, then they are within their rights to revoke her membership. It’s not really a free speech issue, it’s a party political issue.

    The Hitler toon was cute, though.

  2. sonia — on 21st September, 2006 at 12:08 pm  

    party political issue – yep. highlights the difficulty of ‘party’ politics. how do you maintain a homogenous image of a group unless you suppress the indidviduals within it or ensure they ‘toe the party line’. perhaps in this context tony ought to be sacked to for giving the party a bad image..

    father of the holocaust?

  3. Leon — on 21st September, 2006 at 12:16 pm  

    Reposting what I posted on Iain Dales blog because I think his point about her suicide bombers was slightly misleading:

    ‘In January 2004 Tonge was was sacked as a front bench Liberal Democrat spokesperson after expressing support for Palestinian suicide bombers.’

    Strange my recollection was that all she said was she could understand why someone would become one not that she condoned it?

    This BBC report seems to back up my memory: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/3421669.stm

  4. Leon — on 21st September, 2006 at 12:25 pm  
  5. soru — on 21st September, 2006 at 12:56 pm  

    Freedland is quite right on that aspect of free speech.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/Columnists/Column/0,,1876423,00.html

    To be clear, we all have the right to free speech. In some countries that right is all but absolute, guaranteed in the US by the constitution’s first amendment. In Britain it is limited by laws on incitement, libel and the like. But essentially we have the right to say what we want. Still, we know instinctively that certain roles or positions of responsibility limit that right. Hoddle was free to believe the disabled were wicked souls trapped in damaged bodies, but he couldn’t voice that view and expect to hold a nationally symbolic job. Kilroy is now free to denounce Arabs, but he couldn’t do that while he was a presenter for the avowedly neutral BBC. The position we hold alters the meaning of our words.

    Anyone has a right to say, for example, that the top tax rate should be 90%. But it’s not a free speech issue if you get sacked as shadow chancellor as a consequence.

    See also, Galloway and the Labour party.

  6. Katy Newton — on 21st September, 2006 at 1:11 pm  

    With soru on this one. You can say what you like about anything, but if other people don’t agree with you they don’t have to let you use their platform to say it.

  7. Katy Newton — on 21st September, 2006 at 1:13 pm  

    That comment is in relation to the Lib Dem issue only, by the way – I haven’t seen the cartoon in question, but I can’t see why anyone would have a problem with Hitler being lampooned.

  8. Sahil — on 21st September, 2006 at 1:23 pm  

    anyone heard of the producers????

  9. Chairwoman — on 21st September, 2006 at 1:28 pm  

    @3 Leon, you’re splitting hairs. I doubt if you would be posting your support to my right to free speech in the same way if I said I ‘understood’ the greater excesses of the IDF. But all that aside, should someone with views veering on the racist actually have been ‘honoured’. And however one feels personally about an ‘honours’ system, it is a public validation.

    However, I still feel that she has the right to her opinion, and her right to state it. By the same token, other people have the right to repudiate it.

  10. sonia — on 21st September, 2006 at 1:45 pm  

    ah – but ‘whose platform’ is it then? i think that’s at the heart of the matter. who owns the platform when effectively it is a collective one ( e.g. a party) seems like that’s the crux – if we knew that, we’d have worked out the problems with party politics.

  11. Leon — on 21st September, 2006 at 1:50 pm  

    Leon, you’re splitting hairs. I doubt if you would be posting your support to my right to free speech in the same way if I said I ‘understood’ the greater excesses of the IDF.

    It’s not splitting hairs; there is a distinct difference between expressing support for suicide bombing and attempting to understanding why someone would take that course of action.

    However her recent comments show that she wasn’t as innocent as her original comments implied. She’s, it seems to me, got a problem with Jewish people.

    That said I really can’t be bothered to go back and forth over Israel/Palestine again. Nor this paranoid nonsense about the Israel lobby’s ‘influence’. It’s simply a waste of my time.

  12. Chairwoman — on 21st September, 2006 at 2:00 pm  

    This isn’t about Israel/Palestine, it’s about reading between the lines.

    Anyway, I’m too busy trying to install cds, with no degree of success whatsoever, on my ward’s ipod nano, and frankly it is of greater immediate concern to me than the state of the world. Was just taking a sneaky ten minutes out.

    *Grits teeth and hurls herself back into cyber fray*

  13. Sunny — on 21st September, 2006 at 2:00 pm  

    I read Freedland’s article on the plane back, really liked it. I agree with him, but also with David on that it depends on whether Tonge actually violated any parts of the LibDem charter. Otherwise she should be allowed her freedom of speech. If her voters don’t like it they can vote her out.

  14. Chairwoman — on 21st September, 2006 at 2:04 pm  

    BTW should she be sacked?

    I do think so, and I would say the same if she had similar stereotypical ideas about any ethnic minority. There’s no place for people who don’t know when to shut up in public office.

  15. Anas — on 21st September, 2006 at 2:05 pm  

    doubt if you would be posting your support to my right to free speech in the same way if I said I ‘understood’ the greater excesses of the IDF. But all that aside, should someone with views veering on the racist actually have been ‘honoured’

    Jenny Tonge’s views were veering on the racist? How so? As usual with some of the absurd views I’ve read on PP, I would like you to back it up, Chairwoman.

    BTW,Kudos to Leon for pointing out that the accusation was little more than a smear.

    By the by, here’s a quick quiz for you, which racist, virulent anti-semite spat out the following piece of pro-Arab propaganda? (Don’t cheat by using a search engine!)

    “I imagine that if I were a Palestinian of the right age, I would, at some stage, have joined one of the terror organizations.”

  16. Chairwoman — on 21st September, 2006 at 2:14 pm  

    I don’t know why, but the name Cherie Booth comes to mind. I’m probably wrong.

    Any body who thinks that Jews rule the world, has to be racist Anas. I do however know who does rule the world, it’s the very rich. They are a race apart, composed of people of many different races. Certainly there must be some Jews amongst them, but also some of everything else. I don’t think they’re a neo-con conspiracy. I don’t think they’re a neo anything. I think they’re as old as the hills, and will be running things as long as there are things to be run

  17. Chairwoman — on 21st September, 2006 at 2:18 pm  

    The far right had no time for Catholics either.

  18. Catholic — on 21st September, 2006 at 2:21 pm  

    Hitler had a GREAT dislike for Asians especially Muslims. You all should thank God or the good ole USA because without them you lot would surely not be here now.

  19. Sid — on 21st September, 2006 at 2:23 pm  

    er, ok. thanks.

  20. Sunny — on 21st September, 2006 at 2:25 pm  

    Please ignore Catholic, he/she will have their comments deleted.

  21. soru — on 21st September, 2006 at 2:32 pm  

    Anas: on the topic of politician’s wives, if Hilary had decided to divorce Bill because she judged he had lied to her about marital matters, would that be a free speech issue too? Free speech doesn’t mean consequence-free speech.

    Free speech is a subtler concept than you’d think, but one well worth coming to understand.

  22. Leon — on 21st September, 2006 at 2:32 pm  

    Catholic – you make me want to burst into fits of hysterical laughter! That is to say, I’m laughing at you, not with you.

    Well said!

  23. Kismet Hardy — on 21st September, 2006 at 2:35 pm  

    If an alcoholic is addicted to alcohol and a workaholic is married to work…

    Does a catholic like to bum cats?

  24. Sunny — on 21st September, 2006 at 2:43 pm  

    Soru – To take this in the context of Inigo wilson, who said Palestinians liked to paint themselves as victims and Islamophobic was anyone who objected to their train being blown up – what consequence should he have faced?

    Or on another point… does suggesting the Foreign Office is under the influence of Islamists similar to saying the Pro-Israeli lobby controls the Foreign Office?

  25. Chairwoman — on 21st September, 2006 at 3:10 pm  

    There you go chaps and chapesses, the Catholic has proved the point I made a few weeks ago about how the indigenous population really think of us, whatever we are, and wherever we originate from.

  26. Anas — on 21st September, 2006 at 3:11 pm  

    Any body who thinks that Jews rule the world, has to be racist Anas. I do however know who does rule the world, it’s the very rich.

    When did she say that Jews rule the world? I disagree with some aspects of her statement (that “[t]he pro-Israeli lobby has got its grips on the western world, its financial grips. I think they have probably got a certain grip on our party”), but it is not racist to question the influence of the pro-Israeli lobby on foreign policy. It would be completely cuckoo to deny that they didn’t have some influence. The question is how much?

    In certain contexts there might be a good argument for its being anti-semitic(i.e., if someone with a known anti-semitic bias was making the statement and it was obvious that “the pro-Israeli lobby” was understood to mean “the Jews”). But it is not a priori anti-semitic or racist by any means, any more than criticism of intemperate elements of Islam is a priori Islamaphobic. If you’re assuming that Jenny Tonge has an obvious anti-semitic bias, I would call on you to give me more evidence than her previous statement “condoning” suicide bombers,w hich it clearly didn’t. Otherwise it’s just slander.

  27. Sid — on 21st September, 2006 at 3:13 pm  

    I’ve always thought of myself as an Unnaturalised Brit, anyway.

  28. Leon — on 21st September, 2006 at 3:14 pm  

    There you go chaps and chapesses, the Catholic has proved the point I made a few weeks ago about how the indigenous population really think of us, whatever we are, and wherever we originate from.

    Don’t believe it, we’re not all like that!

  29. Sunny — on 21st September, 2006 at 3:15 pm  

    I made a few weeks ago about how the indigenous population really think of us, whatever we are, and wherever we originate from.

    Chairwoman – And my response is always that we should avoid taking lessons on citizenship from racists / BNP people. We are British whether these neo-fascists like it or not.

    And please, everyone, avoid responding to Catholic. His/her posts are being deleted.

  30. Anas — on 21st September, 2006 at 3:16 pm  

    Anyone hear of the controversy over the paper The Israel and US Foreign Policy?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Israel_Lobby_and_U.S._Foreign_Policy

  31. Anas — on 21st September, 2006 at 3:21 pm  

    I imagine that if I were a Palestinian of the right age, I would, at some stage, have joined one of the terror organizations

    Since no-one’s even trying (Cherie Booth?), I’ll give you the answer it was one Ehud Barak that well known apologist for Palestinian terrorism.

  32. Amir — on 21st September, 2006 at 3:22 pm  

    Sid,

    ‘I’ve always thought of myself as an Unnaturalised Brit, anyway.’

    And so you should. Racism and bigotry are present in all communities, past and present, white, black, brown or yellow. Don’t let fcukers like ‘Catholic’ get you down, or make you think otherwise about your allegiences.

  33. sonia — on 21st September, 2006 at 3:25 pm  

    :-) yeah i don’t believe it can apply to ALL of the ‘indigenous population’..!

  34. Anas — on 21st September, 2006 at 3:30 pm  

    many prominent German Jews have complained at the comic portryal of the mass-murdering dictator

    Haven’t they heard that song about Hitler only having one ball; the other having been located in the albert hall?

  35. Kismet Hardy — on 21st September, 2006 at 3:32 pm  

    Talking of Albert Hall and balls, went to the Mobos yesterday. Moballs seems an apt review

  36. Chairwoman — on 21st September, 2006 at 3:33 pm  

    Anas, there are buzz-phrases to point out Jewishness, when the speaker/writer hasn’t the inclination to come right out and say it. Things like ‘north London businessman’, ‘Family were refugees from Nazi Germany’, ‘Major contributor to Jewish Charities’. Well we all know what they are even if you don’t. If I said that someone had come here from Uganda in the 70s as a refugee, would you assume it was an Englishman, or a German. I doubt it, but I could be wrong. And when somebody says that they believe that the pro-Israeli lobby (and I have far too much respect for your intellect to believe that you actually think otherwise} dictates British foreign policy and has a grip on the Lib-Dems for G-d’s sake, they are antisemitic. And if that’s slanderous, so be it. It certainly is no more slanderous than her foolishly outspoken beliefs.

    Similarly a fair percentage of people who criticise Islamic hotheads are probably Islamaphobic.

    Sunny – though we are British, damn it, I’ve got the birth certificate and passport to prove it, it doesn’t mean that a fair percentage of them don’t agree. And just because I’m paranoid, it doesn’t mean that there’s nothing to be paranoid about.

  37. Chairwoman — on 21st September, 2006 at 3:34 pm  

    Anas, may I point you to my post @ 16.

  38. Chairwoman — on 21st September, 2006 at 3:35 pm  

    Yes she said too.

  39. Sunny — on 21st September, 2006 at 3:42 pm  

    I believe it was the head of Intel who once said: “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.”

    Heh. Though I find its a lot nicer to give people the benefit of doubt. Coming back from India, I find that I still love that country immensely and speak Hindi so fluently that people were completely caught unawares (my pale complexion you see), so I could say that India is also a home away from home (Britain) which would annoy the likes of Catholic even more. But what do I care?

  40. Sunny — on 21st September, 2006 at 4:31 pm  

    How many times do I have to ask other commenters to ignore this idiot before they get the message?

  41. Kismet Hardy — on 21st September, 2006 at 4:33 pm  

    There’s no need Sunny. Most commenters ignore me anyway

  42. Chairwoman — on 21st September, 2006 at 4:36 pm  

    Please excuse all the typographical rubbish I’ve been contributing today. My brain has exploded following the Great Jewish Nano Failure.

  43. Sunny — on 21st September, 2006 at 4:46 pm  

    the Great Jewish Nano Failure

    Haha!

  44. Leon — on 21st September, 2006 at 4:49 pm  

    There’s no need Sunny. Most commenters ignore me anyway

    HAHAHAHA!

  45. ZinZin — on 21st September, 2006 at 5:30 pm  

    Jewish author Ralph Giordano, one of those speaking out against Moers’ film, said: “You cannot treat the father of the Holocaust in this way.”

    Ralph is turning a genocide into a religion. Father is a religious term as God is called father and catholic priests are called father. Is he turning Hitler into an important figure in the Jewish faith and saying ridiculing him is blasphemous?

    He is obviously not a fan of The Producers a comedy in which Zero Mostel casts a hippy to play Hitler. I thought Jews had a sense of humour and face it after 2 thousand years of persecution they have certainly needed one.

  46. soru — on 21st September, 2006 at 5:32 pm  

    Sunny: inigo wilson is trickier, as he had a non-political job. I would certainly hold politicians to a higher standard of knowing what they say actually means.

    Secondly there is the whole ‘associated with the job’ issue. There is definitely some kind of moral right to privacy that is broken if someone pokes around in your private life and tells your wife, or your boss, what you do for fun.

  47. Chairwoman — on 21st September, 2006 at 5:42 pm  

    ZinZin – of course most of us have senses of humour. My mother’s sister however was totally devoid of any sense of fun or humour. she only laughed when she was embarrassed.

    As for The Producers, the first time I saw it was with my Catholic in-laws. Though fond of me, they obviously thought I was a little ‘different’. When the ‘Springtime for Hitler’ number started, I laughed till the tears ran down my face, as did my husband. We turned to look at his parents, and their faces were the replicas of the audience on the screen.

  48. Jai — on 21st September, 2006 at 6:45 pm  

    Sunny,

    Nice to have you back. I’m glad to hear you enjoyed your trip to the muthaland.

    =>”my pale complexion you see”

    Just as an aside, you’d get lynched for saying that on a certain American desi group discussion blog I frequent (and you occasionally visit). Some of our North American cousins appear to be more than a little touchy about such matters ;)

    Yes I am speaking from personal experience, as you probably know…

  49. Jai — on 21st September, 2006 at 6:46 pm  

    Lynched by some of the commenters, not the people running the blog (I hasten to add).

  50. ZinZin — on 21st September, 2006 at 6:59 pm  

    Can i have it on record as a catholic that i love Father Ted.

    May i finally state that one of my ambitions is to kick a bishop up the arse.

  51. sonia — on 21st September, 2006 at 8:03 pm  

    jai – heh heh – yep they’d say – ah why are you drawing attention to your pale skin! as they’ve accused you of doing – oh and referring to Punjabis as Latin-looking – hmm they didn’t like that did they!

  52. sonia — on 21st September, 2006 at 8:04 pm  

    I love the Producers – it’s just so funny

  53. Amir Mohammed Khan — on 22nd September, 2006 at 12:27 am  

    For those who do not speak German (unlike me, she added smugly), there is a handy translation of the short film posted by someone called GAGAExtrem underneath the video. I liked the little singing Fuhrer rubber ducks, myself.

  54. Katy Newton — on 22nd September, 2006 at 12:28 am  

    must stop posting as Amir Mohammed Khan now.

  55. Jai — on 22nd September, 2006 at 11:40 am  

    Sonia,

    =>”ah why are you drawing attention to your pale skin! as they’ve accused you of doing”

    The crazy thing was that I never referred to myself at all but was just clarifying some misconceptions some people there appeared to have about the physical appearance of certain northwest-Indian/Asian groups, at least with regards to those of us in the UK. There have been other commenters there who have been a little triumphalist and insensitive about being light-skinned, but I’ve never been one of them. It’s guilt-by-association.

    =>”oh and referring to Punjabis as Latin-looking – hmm they didn’t like that did they!”

    Well I was talking about many British Asians as a whole but obviously it applies in particular to many Punjabis here (from both sides of the border). The hypersensitivity is quite curious; I don’t know if it’s jealousy, some kind of inferiority-complex, or just attempts at overcompensating for what they perceive to be the colour-obsession within desi society and the prejudice within wider American culture. Maybe a bit of both. There’s certainly a lot of reverse-racism going on, both against lighter-skinned/sharper-featured North Indians and against white people too. Good-looking dark Asian women are glorified, but God help anyone who indicates an appreciation for a good-looking Asian girl who also happens to be very light-skinned; some people have gone berserk in the case of the latter.

    Weirder still, the vast majority of the time I’ve actually been talking about facial features, not skin-colour, but it’s interesting how some of them are so preoccupied with colour-based racial notions that they immediately assume it to be the latter. Personally I think that the whole self-conscious “brown” thing that appears to be going on in some quarters over there doesn’t help matters either. To use the American term, I think they’re ‘fetishizing’ brown skin a little too much, and in some cases are trying to turn the tables by promoting lighter colouring as something to recoil from.

    This behaviour appears to be particularly pronounced amongst some (not all) commenters who are at the darker end of the spectrum themselves. There’s a hell of a lot of paranoia going on.

    I guess the fact that the desi population over there is disproportionately composed of “recent arrivals” from the subcontinent (with the associated prejudices and baggage) and, especially, the fact that unlike the UK there are far more people who are from regions which (on average) tend to be considerably darker, may have a great deal to do with it. As a result of this, what is rapidly becoming very clear to me is the fact that British Asian culture and US-Asian culture are diverging in some aspects and that the evolution they’re taking is heading in a different direction to what’s happened here in the UK. A large number of them are thinking and behaving in quite a different way to us, and it’s significantly due to their apparently-different physical appearance and their different “original” regional/religious cultures.

    Anyway, as I said before, I think this is mostly a reflection of some of the commenters on that blog and is not due to anything negative about the people running the website itself, who mostly tend to be a pretty decent bunch. However, lately I have been feeling very “British” (or, perhaps more accurately, “British Asian”) when commenting there due to the cultural differences which are becoming very clear, and the negative experiences I’ve had at the hands of some of their more neurotic and belligerent participants have played a significant part in this.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Pickled Politics © Copyright 2005 - 2010. All rights reserved. Terms and conditions.
With the help of PHP and Wordpress.