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Är yttrandefriheten absolut?

Via min favoritblogg Why evolution is true får jag korn på två artiklar som försvarar yttrandefriheten som absolut. En artikel av Steven Pinker i the Boston Globe och en osignerad ledarartikel i the Economist. Först, Pinker:

Is free speech merely a symbolic talisman, like a national flag or motto? Is it just one of many values that we trade off against each other? Was Pope Francis right when he said that “you cannot make fun of the faith of others”? May universities muzzle some students to protect the sensibilities of others? Did the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists “cross a line that separates free speech from toxic talk,” as the dean of a school of journalism recently opined? Or is free speech fundamental — a right which, if not absolute, should be abrogated only in carefully circumscribed cases?The answer is that free speech is indeed fundamental. It’s important to remind ourselves why, and to have the reasons at our fingertips when that right is called into question.
[…]
Why do dictators brook no dissent? One can imagine autocrats who feathered their nests and jailed or killed only those who directly attempted to usurp their privileges, while allowing their powerless subjects to complain all they want. There’s a good reason dictatorships don’t work that way. The immiserated subjects of a tyrannical regime are not deluded that they are happy, and if tens of millions of disaffected citizens act together, no regime has the brute force to resist them. The reason that citizens don’t resist their overlords en masse is that they lackcommon knowledge — the awareness that everyone shares their knowledge and knows they share it. People will expose themselves to the risk of reprisal by a despotic regime only if they know that others are exposing themselves to that risk at the same time.

Common knowledge is created by public information, such as a broadcasted statement. The story of “The Emperor’s New Clothes’’ illustrates the logic. When the little boy shouted that the emperor was naked, he was not telling them anything they didn’t already know, anything they couldn’t see with their own eyes. But he was changing their knowledge nonetheless, because now everyone knew that everyone else knew that the emperor was naked. And that common knowledge emboldened them to challenge the emperor’s authority with their laughter.

The story reminds us why humor is no laughing matter — why satire and ridicule, even when puerile and tasteless, are terrifying to autocrats and protected by democracies. Satire can stealthily challenge assumptions that are second nature to an audience by forcing them to see that those assumptions lead to consequences that everyone recognizes are absurd.

Sedan Economist:

Begin with the obvious controversy: blasphemy. The pope last week sympathised with those who feel compelled to react to perceived slights against Islam. Disparage another’s faith, he said, and you “can expect to get punched”. Not only were his comments a little unChristian, they were also deeply mistaken. Few subjects demand scrutiny as urgently as does religion—which, erroneously or otherwise, is invoked in conflicts and disputes around the globe. Muslims themselves forcefully, sometimes lethally, debate interpretations of their creed. Any censorship regime that exempts Islam or other religions from searching commentary is perverse.

Fast menar de verkligen absolut yttrandefrihet – att alla får säga exakt vad de vill? Nej, båda artiklarna innehåller resonemang om gränssättande. Pinker:

It’s true that free speech has limits. We carve out exceptions for fraud, libel, extortion, divulging military secrets, and incitement to imminent lawless action. But these exceptions must be strictly delineated and individually justified; they are not an excuse to treat speech as one fungible good among many. Despots in so-called “democratic republics” routinely jail their opponents on charges of treason, libel, and inciting lawlessness. Britain’s lax libel laws have been used to silence critics of political figures, business oligarchs, Holocaust deniers, and medical quacks.

Economist:

That does not mean they should impose no restrictions at all. Even in America, with its admirable constitutional protections, free speech has limits. Child pornographers are rightly regarded as having committed a crime. Advocacy or incitement of violence is banned. Those caveats offer a sound precept: speech should be curtailed only when it is likely to cause serious harm—not including the emotional kind. The likelihood of harm will vary by time and place: in ethnically combustible parts of Africa, officials are entitled to be more stringent with rabble-rousing génocidaires than might be defensible elsewhere. But everywhere the rules should be as light as public order requires. The greater the leeway for suppression, the more likely rulers are to abuse it—witness the different cases of Russia, Saudi Arabia and Thailand.

Absolut yttrandefrihet – utom när yttranden kan orsaka allvarlig skada? Då återstår bara frågan varför dödliga upplopp i den muslimska världen inte räknas som “allvarlig skada”. Economist svarar:

A common objection to this liberal stance is that, in the internet age, a book or caricature published in Europe can lead to deaths in Japan or Nigeria, as during the furores over Salman Rushdie’s novel, “The Satanic Verses”, the cartoons of Muhammad published in Denmark in 2005 and Charlie Hebdo. Such butterfly-wing effects, this argument runs, mean all governments should be stricter. On the contrary: the globalisation of outrage is further evidence that striving to pre-empt offence leads to a spiral of censorship. Take into account every fragile sensibility or unintended consequence on the other side of the world, and public discourse will shrink to vanishing.

Absolut yttrandefrihet, utom när detta kan orsaka skada, om detta inte sker någon annanstans? Exakt så är svår är den här diskussionen.

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