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Free speech, vs itself

Wikipedia writes:

In March 2016, PEN America reported that the bounty for the Rushdie fatwa was raised by $600,000 (£430,000). Top Iranian media contributed this sum, adding to the existing $2.8 million already offered. In response, the Swedish Academy, which awards the Nobel prize for literature, denounced the death sentence and called it “a serious violation of free speech”.

Death decrees and death threats are wrong. I oppose them (as I do all capital punishment).

They are also speech acts. A فتوىٰ is a speech act.

The Academy is basically saying:

“We denounce this free speech as a violation of free speech.”

Ok. That’s fair enough. Self-harming, self-violating systems can and do exist, and if we take the Academy’s statement at face value, free speech is apparently one of those self-destructing systems.

There is this idiom I’ve always liked: “sawing off the branch you’re sitting on.”

“We denounce this own-branch-off-sawing as a violation of own-branch-off-sawing.”

A logically consistent and non-paradoxical statement. Technically. But that’s the worst kind of correct because it’s still wack. You can’t preserve it without destroying it.

Not only is all own-branch-off-sawing inherently a danger to the very act of own-branch-off-sawing itself. It’s a danger to other things as well, such as the sawer or any bystanders under the tree.

Ergo some speech acts are harmful and as such subject to legitimate criticism. I would therefore argue that racist caricatures (including those of religious figures) are also awful and meritless.

Nowhere near as bad as actually holding or firing a gun. We’re comparing speech acts to speech acts here.

Be cool and don’t make (or platform) these sorta gross Jyllands-Posten style disses. Not into it. Again, I disagree with using threats or punishment as disincentive. We don’t want a solution worse than the problem.

(I was reminded of this stuff as some people were lobbying for putting some of this imagery on display in the museum of modern art.)