IEET > Rights > HealthLongevity > Contributors > Joern Pallensen > FreeThought
“Crimethink” – the Legacy of Totalitarianism
Joern Pallensen   May 1, 2012   Trans Humanisten  

In the Western – post-Breivik – world, there appears to be an increasing support for anti-hate speech / “crimethink” legislation. The idea  that you can – and should – control people’s minds – and thus behavior – through prohibitive measures, in combination with proper re-education, is taking hold.

Meanwhile, all over the non-Westernized world, in China, in Russia, as well as the entire Muslim world, thousands of dissidents are fighting for  their right to Freedom of Expression, – or, in Orwellian terms: “crimethink…

“If you’re in favor of freedom of speech, that means you’re in favor of freedom of speech precisely for views you despise”. 
Noam Chomsky

Jacob Mchangama, lecturer in international human-rights law at the University of Copenhagen, traces the origin of hate speech laws to the Soviet Union and allies.

A fierce debate preceded the adoption of the (unbinding)  1948 Universal Declaration of Human rights (UDHR), with the Soviets pleading for the inclusion of “hate speech” laws, and the majority of Western nations giving priority to the protection of free speech. At this occasion, the Soviets lost their case, as no explicit duty to prohibit hate speech was included in the UDHR, and article 19  simply secures “freedom of opinion and expression.”

Then, in 1966, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) was adopted as  a legally binding human rights convention, and is currently ratified by some 167 states, – (including the U.S., where, however, it does not form part of the domestic law).

In addition to article 19 of the UDHR, article 20 of the ICCPR states: “Any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.”

Voting in favour of this article were  “primarily the communist states of Eastern Europe, as well as non-Western countries with very questionable human rights records such as Saudi Arabia, Haiti, Sudan, and Thailand.”

Thus, – the voting record “reveals the startling fact that the internationalization of hate-speech prohibitions in human rights law owes its existence to a number of states where both criticisms of the prevalent totalitarian ideology as well as advocacy for democracy were strictly prohibited”.

The role as dubious defenders of right minds and behaviours has now been taken over by the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC).

Religion instead of Communism...

The 1990 OIC / Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam,  Article 21, states that “everyone shall have the right to express his opinion freely in such manner as would not be contrary to the principles of the Shari’ah.”

That is bad enough as it is, but the problem for us is, that Islamic countries perceive  “in Islam” as including (Western) infidels, which became blatantly clear during the 2005 Mo-toon crisis.

As a result of said crisis, the 5.5 million Danes became bitterly divided into the indignant, apologetic, dialogue-seeking  I-am-better-than-you-you-are-a-racist club, whose mantra became “we should not criticize /offend unnecessarily”, – the “freedom of expression, yes, but”.. adherents,  and the uncompromising and proud free speech fundamentalists, the “crimethinkers”, – each grouping firmly believing  the others to be the bad guys..

I am not quite sure who is winning this ongoing battle in the local duckpond, but in an international perspective, the constant shaming of “crimethinkers” appear to be shifting sentiments in favour of further limitations on free speech, even in the U.S., – and even within.. progressivism.. , and, dare I say.., Transhumanism...

This apparent.. neo-puritanism perhaps..  in the Western world appears to have  gained momentum from a number of hate-crimes, exemplified in the U.S. by the shooting of Congress-woman Gabrielle Giffords, although in this case, after 300 exhaustive interviews, the feds “remain stumped” about the lunatic’s motives.

Anyway, a number of proposals have been put forward. In Arizona, for instance,  bill 2549 is awaiting Governor Jan Brewer’s signature. It states:

“It is unlawful for any person, with intent to terrify, intimidate, threaten, harass, annoy or offend, to use any electronic or digital device and use any obscene, lewd or profane language or suggest any lewd or lascivious act, or threaten to inflict physical harm to the person or property of any person“.

Oh yes /no.. – then – seemingly out of the blue – came the Breivik mass murders, – a national – and international at that I guess.. tragedy, that has led to a veritable witchhunt and inquisition of each and every even slightly “Islamophobic” crimethinker in all of Scandinavia, as well as abroad. Above all, these cold-blooded killings have been directly linked to the writings of one blogger and commentator in particular: "Fjordman", who is quoted frequently in Breivik’s Manifesto.

If you care to read Fjordman’s own report of the first week of the ongoing Breivik trial, you may do so Here. (I highly recommend it)

A month ago, in Sweden , – a country Julian Assange has called the “Saudi Arabia of feminism” – the Swedish LO, – (umbrella trade union organization), -  initiated an ambitious project that aims to train 150,000 of its members in monitoring suspected racists at work. According to “Agenda” – weekly program on Swedish State TV, – anyone reported for criticism of immigration policies risks being excluded from a number of LO-affiliated trade unions. This giant.. committee for the promotion of virtue.., with its 150,000 informants employees, will be significantly larger than the Stasi, who had 100 000 informers all over East Germany. Its aim is to keep track of people’s frustration over immigration policy and to ensure ordinary people know they are under surveillance and therefore afraid to exchange views with their colleagues and friends.

Anyone “caught” questioning immigration and saying racist things, must face intervention, and according to “Agenda”, workers may not even say that there are “too many immigrants” in Sweden without risking expulsion from the union.

In Saudi Arabia, of course, they have the “Committee for the promotion of virtue and the prevention of vice”, or, simply, the Religious Police…

So can you avoid extremism and atrocities through prohibitive /coercive measures ? – Let’s look at some examples:

In the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, anyone “inciting national, racial, or religious hatred or discord between peoples and nationalities”, faced imprisonment of up to ten years. Clearly, these prohibitive measures did nothing to promote a culture of tolerance, – nor did they prevent the latest European genocide…

The same can be said about the Weimar Republic (1919-1933) , where  leading Nazis were convicted under blasphemy laws. The Nazis themselves, of course, when they came to power in 1933, abolished freedom of expression, save for the official “truth”.

No need to mention following events...

In 1965, as part of its Race Relations Act, Britain prohibited incitement to racial hatred. According to Indian-born English writer, lecturer and defender of free speech, Kenan Malik,  the following decade  was “probably the most racist in British history”.

In the  US,  where the First Amendment protects even hate speech, except for cases where it can be established that there is “imminant danger”, this has not led to more racism, rather the opposite, and  according to FBI statistics, the number of hate crimes in the US actually decreased by 33.84 percent from 1996-2009.

According to  a report from the “Speech, Power, Violence Seminar” convened by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in February 2009, “There is no direct, incontrovertible evidence linking hate speech or propaganda to violence”.

The simple truth, which should be apparent to all rational minds, is that it is impossible to reduce or eliminate bigotry simply by banning it. All it does is letting the sentiments fester underground, and any psychologist will tell you how potentially dangerous that is. As Kenan Malik puts it:

“Hate speech restriction is a means not of tackling bigotry but of rebranding certain, often obnoxious, ideas or arguments as immoral. It is a way of making certain ideas illegitimate without bothering politically to challenge them”.

And that is dangerous.

Is it fair to say then, that proponents of hate speech laws are reacting rather irrationally,  i.e. sentence first, validation later, or, as in the good old days west of the river Pecos:  Shoot first, ask questions later.. , –  and is it going too far to suggest their constant shaming of their opponents amounts even to old-fashioned populism…

(Not sure if populism is old-fashioned..)

The head of the Social Democratic party in Germany, Sigmar Gabriel, has stated, for instance,  that the attacks in Norway were fostered by “xenophobia and nationalism” in the region,  and that “the center of society has to make clear that there is no room for this with us, even for sanitized versions”.

Thorbjørn Jagland, former prime minister of Norway and current chairman of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee, warns us “to be very careful how we are discussing these issues, what words are used . . . the words we are using are very important because it can lead to much more…”

Whilst not hesitating to point to an – in his view – obvious connection between Breivik and “far-right rhetoric”, Jagland begs us to stop using terminology such as “Islamic terrorism”, lest we get the idea that terrorism is about Islam…

Jagland’s Newspeak also requires us to use diversity instead of multi-culturalism, which would, of course, make it harder for Chancellor Merkel, President Sarkozy or Prime Minister Cameron to express their “hate-filled”, right-wing rhetoric accurately, e.g. "Multi-culturalism Diversity has failed..." ?...

Now that I have talked about Norway and Sweden, let me tell you about Denmark.

Although we too have an actively enforced hate-speech prohibition, debates are freer than in the rest of Scandinavia, in particular Sweden. Debates are often fierce, and we have a reputation of being rather rude.

Maybe that is why we supposedly are the world’s least gelotophobic (fear of being laughed at) nation, – (and the Islamic world, interestingly,  the most gelotophobic). Also, we experience far less shaming than especially Swedes, although we do have our share...

In the last 20 years, Sweden has experienced a number of violent crimes committed by right-wing extremists, while Denmark has remained rather more peaceful.

So.. – if “crimethink” laws are to no avail, – and may even be counter-productive, – if politically correct newspeak only confuses and prevents us from calling a spade a spade, – if “re-education” is an “offer” you can’t refuse, or else.., and if, indeed, the freer a society, – ie. the higher degree of freedom of speech, – the less extremism, – and the less hate-speech /crimethink, – then what does work ?

Well, – I said it, didn’t I: It’s the Freedom(s) , stupid ! – That, plus equal opportunities for all, and some of the worst roots-of-hatred will wither all by themselves.

Finally, I’d like to say this: If you feel you are one of  whom I have called “the freedom of expression, yes, but.. adherents”, please do not take offense because of me drawing attention to totalitarian crimethink-law proponents of either communist, nazi,  or religious observation. I am well aware that most, if not all of you are decent, (liberal..)  folks with the best of intentions, so.. no guilt by association !
Joern Pallensen studied psychology at University of Copenhagen and has had a lifelong interest in philosophy of mind, in particular ontology of self. He blogs at He was introduced to IEET when he was interviewed for the 2011 article, "Happiness, Freedom, Equality, Rudeness - welcome to Denmark!"


Very interesting article - It is from a European perspective and they have specific issues that are not the same as the USA’s…

I wonder… could “hate speech” apply only to certain categories but not others? I agree with Joern that it should not apply to cultures and religions, but I worry about “gay-bashing” if “hate speech” was discarded.

Truth is, I need to know more about Denmark, and it’s success in this area - I believe Joern is right when he says that outlawing Hate Speech does nothing to dissolve hatred and it quite likely increases it…

“could “hate speech” apply only to certain categories but not others”?

That is a very good question Hank, and it is indeed crucial that we have the same focus when we discuss these matters. All too often we talk past each other, simply because the focus of (liberal) proponents of hate speech legislation tend to be the protection of minorities, e.g. homosexuals, whereas free speech fundamentalists - like myself - focus more on the right to criticize culture, religion, authority, etc.

So.. gay-bashing you say..

But how can we even begin to discuss people who don’t exist.. - Well, according to one Ahmadinejad, they don’t, and he even said so at Columbia University ! - Thank God for your first Amendment ! - Ok, we know he is a.. (self-censored..), but the fact that he is allowed to say such obvious nonsense is what gives us the chance to counter with something more sound, and gives him the chance to prove what an .. he is.

We should not be too self-righteous though.. - Consider this:

It’s hard to believe, but it is only 30 years ago that homosexuality was removed form the list of mental disorders by the Danish health authorities. Then, in 1989, Denmark became the first country to allow same-sex civil unions, and couples can now also be married in churches. However, one third of priests are against, and those who refuse will face no legal action.

This march, someone tried to arrange a demonstration /march through Copenhagen against the new law, - 19 turned up..  ha-ha-ha

By the way, one - infamous - priest, who became our favourite laughing-stock for months,  declared publicly a couple of years ago that he did NOT believe in God ( ! ) - that too had no consequences. It doesn’t make sense if you ask me, - what a “circus”..

My point here is this: As I said in the article, what really prevents hatred is equal rights and equal opportunities, not banning hatred / hate-speech. When you think about it, it is ludicrous to believe it will ever work. Countries where homosexuals have no rights are also countries with most hate crimes.

Then there’s religion.. - Even if you educate children - from, say, age 13 - about homosexualtity - and sexuality in general - it is problematic when religious folks brainwash their children with bullshit from “holy” books, but again, what we should do about it is COUNTER with sound scientific arguments, in combination with an insistance on equal human rights for all.

Or, would you suggest we ban these “holy”, hate-filled, homophobic scriptures..

I’ve said it before: Incitement to VIOLENCE is where I draw the line myself. Hate-speech as such.., - nope, - let all deluded fools expose themselves for what they are.

That would also be my policy here at IEET..

The fact that Assange sees fit to compare Sweden to Saudi Arabia says more about Assange than it does about Sweden.

Undercover Mosque

Tim Minchin lyrics : Prejudice

“This is a song about prejudice And the language of prejudice
And the power of… the language of… prejudice
It’s called..

Peter, - you have a point, but never mind Assange, - we are quite capable of evaluating Sweden ourselves, and I just might do that in some future article.. , - problem might be though,  that Danes and Swedes have what I would call a mutual inferiority complex.. , - a real love / hate relationship..

George Dvorsky, in his new article on Sweden and their gender-neutrality concept, asks a good question: Is it “....yet another imposition brought on by the political correctness police”...

Apropos Saudi Arabia: Listen to this new video by Pat Condell, in which he suggests Saudi Arabia is the capital of homosexuality.. - A lot of people view his videos as pure hate-speech, - and offensive they are, that’s for sure, but as Pat himself points out: The truth tends to BE offensive..

@Joern On the whole I agree with your “incitement to violence” benchmark…and yes, I enjoyed the Pat Condell video. I agree that someone needs to say this, and I agree that the simplest way to create the space for people to do so is to maintain a strong commitment to freedom of speech. The question is: how direct does the incitement to violence need to be, and is it at all relevant whether there is evidence to support the “offensive” speech? Condell’s video clearly has huge potential to offend, but it is also (allowing for some obvious rhetorical exaggeration) pretty evidence-based, which is more than can be said for “God hates fags” or “Immigrants should be sent back where they come from” - both of which can quite reasonably be seen as incitements to violence.

CygnusX1, - thanks for links, - I’ve heard the song at Youtube, and we can agree on one thing: Words ARE powerfull !

We can agree also, that there is A LOT of hate-speech to go around, including in Mosques, and as I said to Peter in another thread, courts would be overburdened, if hate-speech laws were applied with any consistency. - That, in fact, is one good argument against such laws: they are applied arbitrarily, which erodes people’s confidence in the judicial system.

In most.. or many.. not sure, - Muslim countries, Hizb ut-Tahrir, an organization with the declared goal of a unified, Islamic Khalifate, is prohibited, which has not prevented them from being very active. In Denmark, they were allowed to hold meetings at the Royal Library ! - A lot of people were really angry about that, but.. summa summarum : if people were not aware before of just how radical this group is, it helped a lot to have them expose themselves right out in the open, in no other place than the Royal Library.

The same goes for Scientology - (European headquarters in Copenhagen), - Nazis, etc. etc. - Wish to deny the Holocaust ? - Read Mein Kampf ? - “Inspire Magazine” ? - (hate-filled Al Qaeda magazine with declared intent to incite violence), - you may do so without looking over your shoulder.

Point is, of course, that all this hate-speech has absolutely no negative effect on us, rather the opposite..


“how direct does the incitement to violence need to be” ?

In 2007, the Hizb-ut-Tahrir spokesman was actually sentenced to 60 days in prison for saying to his followers: “Kill the Jews, wherever you find them”. On the other hand, he continued: “... and obliterate / destroy your regents if they stand in your way”, for which he was aquitted.
In the seventies, - as Jacob Mchangama points out, noone considered it a problem that a leading Danish Socialist declared:

“in order for the workers to live they must kill the capitalists. In order for the working class to seize power, it must send the bourgeoisie to its death.”

Point is: Whoever gets hate-crime protections depends on political favor. - (but please don’t say I am a postmodernist for saying so.. { ; - )

Anyway: If we really must have anti hate-speech laws, we need to first of all define as precisely as possible what we mean by hate-speech in the first place, and that may not be possible at all. - Next, the law(s) should be applied consistently, another major problem, so.. why not ALLOW hate-speech instead, - let hate-mongers expose themselves freely, giving us the chance to counter more wisely. If anyone can convince me this is not the right tactics, I will be willing to re-consider my stance..

ps. - and if anyone objects: yes, but not everyone are capable of defending themselves, I say: Then let US defend them, - with WORDS, not putting people in prison.

@ Joern..

Tim Minchin does tell it the way it is doesn’t he..

you’re right that we have to continually question and debate restrictions to freedom of speech on a “daily basis” and not become complacent. Therefore “we all” have a responsibility to voice opinion and not be blindsided by surreptitious legislation.

As to where we each individually stand on specific issues is another matter. And we cannot second guess each other’s standpoint by affiliation to political views alone - for example painting all liberals or conservatives with big brushes is not sufficient in “crowd sourcing” individual opinion and guiding the social narrative.

If you get my meaning?

For example, concerning the links I posted, can you tell what my own political/social opinion is? Have you guessed correctly?

Here’s a hint.. if one were to outlaw the term Ginger or similar and it’s use, (which I do not think we should ever!), then should it not be outlawed for everyone? - which is Tim Minchin’s point!

You’re also right that if we are too stringent with laws against freedom of speech, then incite to racial hatred will merely be driven underground, into the gutters where it resides and thrives anyhow, and we would thus all be ignorant as to the seriousness and extension of it?

However, I do also believe that any persons that do incite hatred or violence using words are complicit in the results of these actions, and that words are still actions “voiced” with incite to convince towards actions? The excuse that the use of words cannot be deemed as responsible or are unaffiliated with negative and destructive actions they inspire is not viable?



Can I guess what your own political/social opinion is? - Well.. you appear to be a hard case.. ha-ha, but, at the risk of making a fool of myself.. -  how about Social-Liberal ? - Anarchistic /Libertarian tendencies, but also sympathetic to a certain amount of authoritarianism / social responsibility.. - I think you either vote for the Liberal Democratic Party, or, - and this is a wild guess: the Independance party..

Actually, I’d never make the assertion that the use of words are not affiliated with negative and destructive actions, just as I would never say words cannot affect POSITIVELY. To do so would be foolish and ludicrous. What counts, though, is the NET-outcome of what is being said, and that is exactly why I find it best to allow almost any kind of speech, as it allows us to counter with something positive. All in all, I take note of the report I link to in my article, which states that “There is no direct, incontrovertible evidence linking hate speech or propaganda to violence”.

Nice research Joern. I agree with every single line (at least, this time 😊 )

It should be obvious to everybody that - you just cannot compress free speech, you cannot limit it even a small bit, without destroying it completely.  When certain linguistic expressions cannot be emitted publicly, we can be sure that some member of a sacred priesthood is behind the political wheel. 

There are certain, limited exceptions, of course. Immediate verbal threats cannot be protected by the idea of “freedom of speech”. This is obvious. They cause fear and distress in one (or more) concrete individuals. So, they should not be allowed. Nobody can pick up the megaphone and say “listen up everyone, let’s grab stones from the ground and let’s go kill Mr. X !”. However, milder verbal threats, or indeterminate ones might be tolerated. Phrases like “someday, someone should teach Mr. X a lesson…!” can be said, they might upset only paranoid, hypersensitive individuals.

Also, mere verbal commands issued within a violent organization should find protection under the umbrella of free speech. Those who cause death or pain to other men by ordering someone else to commit a crime are equally responsible. Take Eichmann for example. Or any mafia boss.
My point is that - to punish those cruel commanders only for what they said, they need to be functionally inserted into a violent human social structure. If some lunatic in the street comes and tells me “Now you go and kill that man over there! - the one with the red shirt!”, there is really no reason to punish him.

Peter agreed with me regarding Spike Lee’s unaccountability for his famous (yet idiotic) tweet, in which he published Zimmerman’s address. However, I am not sure Peter would have also pardoned a skinhead shouting “I know where that black woman lives! - her address is X!” during a Nazi rally. Or, imagine some priest shouting to his congregation “I know where those two sodomite men live! Their address is X. You know what to do…”. The homophobic priest in my example would not do anything different from what Spike Lee did. However, I assume many here would not be just as merciful with him, as they were with Spike Lee.

Obviously, some hate speeches are allowed, tolerated, or even promoted. Some are not. Even here in the “democratic” world, even now. This is my point. Nothing new under the sun. I suppose that also in Iran you can go happily around with a tag that says “down with the Jews”, but not with a anti-Islamic tag. We are really not different from barbarous theocracies - unless we resume applying simple, universal moral principles in our societies. Free speech is one of the most fundamental ones. I would not want to lose it because people forgot why modern revolutions have been fought, and why political correctness is not a synonym of democracy.


“I agree with every single line”

Ditto ! - What you just wrote is the most clear-sighted I’ve read in a long time and you really hit the nail on the head.

It made my day, “simply” - THANKS - (and that proves how powerfull words are, for good and bad..)

I also agree with much of what André has written, and I certainly agree that arbitrary or inconsistent enforcement of laws is a problem, which provides a good reason not to have them. “Good” doesn’t equal “conclusive”, however: you need to weigh the benefits with the disadvantages. I don’t think I said that Spike Lee was unaccountable, rather that going after him for this would be disproportionate. I would extend André‘s point about whether the hate-speaker is inserted into a violent organisation into a more general criterion: how likely is it that the incitement to violence will be effective?

Also, at the risk of being pedantic: is it really the case that no-one else has noticed the glaring inconsistency between “you cannot compress free speech, you cannot limit it even one small bit, without destroying it completely” and “there are certain, limited exceptions, of course”? Or is it just that no-one else wanted to point it out. Were you all leaving ot to me, perhaps? Well let me state the obvious, anyway. Either you can limit free speech without destroying it completely (this is the mature, balanced, non-slippery slope view) or there are no exceptions, period. You can’t have your cake AND eat it, André.


Thanks for the moral support! It is nice to find someone who agrees with me, at least occasionally. Next time you visit Italy, you should drop at my place for a coffee or two.

“Either you can limit free speech without destroying it completely (this is the mature, balanced, non-slippery slope view) or there are no exceptions, period.”
I am afraid you suffer from slippery-slope-phobia. You should try bobsled this winter, little by little, on increasingly slippery slopes. it might be therapeutic.
Now, jokes aside. Direct, immediate threats and violent, authoritative commands are the only two limits I see when it comes to free speech. They are not arbitrary limits. They depend on (what I believe is) a superior moral imperative - the absolute respect for everyone’s life, property, and will. If a man is not directly harming anyone else - there is no possible superior justification for any violent intervention to stop his actions. This is the moral ground upon which modern democracies have been built. Outside this minimal legislative framework, there is only theocracy. And all theocracies allow free speech - as long as people avoid blasphemy.

To make you better understand my point, I can also tell you that human life should be respected, absolutely and completely. Like free speech. Does this mean that I also respect the life of murders? Of course not. Maybe it sounds like an inconsistent position, at first. I imagine someone might superficially say “well, if you respect life, why don’t you also let serial killers be? You cannot both say that life should systematically be respected, and then make one or more exceptions”. The trick is that those who commit violent actions put themselves in the position of receiving the same treatment. I do not respect the life of murders exactly because I respect life absolutely. Same goes with free speech. It is really not a contradiction. Probably is just a matter of defining more clearly our terminology.

re: “contradictions” / “..can’t have your cake and eat it” :

As I see it, such “contradictions” are unavoidable, unless we accept total anarchy, or absolute moral relativism - (another “contradiction”). - I for one don’t, which is why I often say to people with whom I discuss the virtues of “tolerance” and “respect”: I cannot tolerate intolerance ! - which, of course, makes myself “intolerant”..

Peter, - don’t worry about being “pedantic”. I am extremely pedantic myself, and I am told so frequently. I LIKE being pedantic, and think it gives us the chance to really get to the bottom of things.. - so.. keep it up 😊  I really appreciate all your comments and think you are a very very sharp debater.

I’d have coffe with you all anytime.

Many thanks Joern - indeed it would be lovely for some of us to meet up one of these days and do our bickering face to face 😊

And yes, André, good idea about the bobsledding 😊

Your analogy between limitations-on-respecting-life-in-order-to-respect-life and limiting free speech in the circumstances you mention would work better if those circumstances involved protection of free speech, i.e. if you just wanted to ban calls to limit free speech. It would be a bit like when we ban political parties that are anti-democratic. But that’s not what you’re saying: what you are saying is something more profound and important, namely that there is a hierarchy of moral imperatives. In other words, there are just things more important than protecting free speech.

I would add to this (but perhaps you would not) that the moral imperative to free speech is a means to an end, the end being overall well-being. We’ve discussed this before, of course, and I know you have reservations about my strong commitment to utilitarianism, but it still remains my favourite way of providing the hierarchy of moral imperatives to which you allude. The point being, of course, that something cannot be a “moral imperative” just because you or I say it is. There has to be some kind of social consensus about it. This is the point that moral realists just don’t want to get. And I’m not saying that there is anything sacred about utilitarianism either - just that it works for me as a way of defining the common good, and this defining what I would like to see emerge as “moral imperatives” accepted by all. Unfortunately we’re a long way from that, currently.

I would never ban calls to limit free speech. This is why I did not put this idea in my argument. And I also do not think it is a matter of “hierarchy”. I would rather speak of - mutual, functional dependency. I mean, can you really give a speech while suffering an aggression? You can call for help, or protest vehemently. But these are not really linguistic acts. Your words would functionally equivalent to a series of unarticulated screams - to attract attention to your personal distress.

What I am trying to say is that “respect of live, will, and property” is a functional prerequisite to free speech. So, the only way we can really protect free speech is to limit those acts that boycott the integrity of our own life, will, and property.

I say that is not a hierarchy because speaking is an essential expression of my will. So, somehow, I cannot consider it as something less important than my will itself. I would not sacrifice free speech by itself for something - more important.

This aside, I agree with everything you said about moral imperatives and social consensus. You know we both agree on these issues. And you know I also believe it is important to discuss these matters in depth, possibly with a certain amount of controversy. Maybe it is just a waste of time. But maybe this helps us defining a better future, transcending the self-imposed limits to our well-being - and someone, someday, might just pick our suggestions up and make our visions come true. Who knows?

I completely agree with your last paragraph, André. That’s exactly why these discussions are important. But I don’t have the same radical attachment to free speech that you do. They can take away my “right” to speak my mind without fear of legal repercussions, just as society also severely limits my ability to speak my mind without various forms of social disapproval, but this does not compromise the integrity of my own will. It just constitutes one of the many constraints on my ability to exercise that will.

Don’t get me wrong: I believe freedom of speech is one of the fundamental pillars of our civilisation. I just don’t give it the primordial importance that you do, and yes, I do see (from my utilitarian perspective) a hierarchy of moral imperatives. Aggression is not bad because it effectively limits free speech. It is bad because it makes the world a less pleasant place to live.

On the subject of suppression of free speech, I’m wondering why Peg’s recent article on women wearing make-up has disappeared from this site. Too offensive for some, perhaps?

Re: (Missing) Peg Tittle article

Good question, Peter, and thank’s for bringing that to my /our attention. Peg herself must know, - and Hank of course, - so let’s ask, shall we..

I just read the article on Peg’s own site, and didn’t find it offensive in the least, rather.. amusing..

Dr. Tittle’s article was inappropriately titled, and didn’t reflect the IEET’s views. We often put up articles that test our ideological boundaries. But calling people who use cosmetics “morons” and trotting out ideological denunciations that were silly and ultraleft in the 1960s is not appropriate. This isn’t a public forum, we are an ideological thinktank promoting a point of view. We are selective in our promotion of the work of our fellows and affiliate scholars, and in this case we made a temporary mistake.

Thanks for the clarification, which I think was important to provide for IEET’s regular readers, commenters and contributors.

That said, I personally find this decision highly regrettable. It is one thing to redirect editorial policy, and another to summarily remove an article that was, in my opinion, much less silly than you are suggesting, and about which we had started to have a nice little debate. The “morons” of the title was a provocation, not to be taken particularly seriously…at least that’s how I took it.

Also, to me it is obvious that IEET’s blog IS a public forum, even if this is not IEET’s primary mission. I don’t think this is a good way to treat its contributors.


You will be happy to know then that Dr. Tittle is modifying her piece so that we will be more comfortable posting it, and the conversation can then continue.

I also want to make clear that I think this blog rocks, and it would be a real shame if we let this relatively trivial incident derail it.

Regarding Peg Tittle’s Essay - It was my decision to pull it, for a variety of reasons -
1. It didn’t reflect IEET’s position, in fact, it reflected a position quite counter to IEET’s.
2. The headline was offensive.
3. Numerous complaints were coming in about the article.
4. I personally disagreed with Peg’s position, quite strongly.
5. James asked me to either change headline, or pull it. I chose the latter option.

You can disagree with me if you wish, but personally, I think I made the right decision. Of course, I am the one who also decided to post it originally, so I am admitting that I had a big flip-flop, but I am not going to pretend that I am perfect, so yes, I made a big mistake, like human beings often do.

Peg has indicated a willingness to rewrite the article with a different headline.

For anyone who thinks Peg has been “Censored” I think that’s quite extreme. Commenters are welcome to post views that are directly counter to IEET, but IEET has a mission statement, with goals, and it is not in our interest to publish essays that express views that are antiethical to what we believe.

I made a mistake. I, IMO, remedied it. I will make more mistakes in my life, but hopefully nothing extremely serious.

I’m looking forward to reading and commenting on Peg’s modified article.

This topic is a tough judgment call; now that you’ve all put in your two cents worth, I’ll put in my one cents worth:
it is a tightrope to walk between free speech, and not shouting ‘fire’ in a crowded theater. Hate speech is difficult to define.. as you have gone into many times at IEET.  In real life, when the Reverend Jeremiah Wright says “whites are devils”, when David Duke says ‘mud people’ (nonwhites) are lazy and less intelligent, such speech—reasonably deemed hate speech—is First Amendment-permitted speech in America. Beyond that we move into a grey area.
If one attends a black gathering with a banner reading, “blacks ought to be re-enslaved and pick cotton on plantations”, one is pushing the envelope. “Gays should be castrated” will go down very badly at a Gay Pride rally. Still, the two random examples of (admittedly genuine) hate speech are also protected by the First Amendment.
Nevertheless, we can’t very well allow wild characters to visit nursing homes to yell “die, you are old and in the way”; or scream “f*ck you” in nursery schools and Kindergartens; One can say with certainty that if a wildman were to say to a family “I’d like to rape and torture all of you”, the result is 99 percent likely to be Big Trouble, with or without police being notified. Exclaiming at an orphanage, “your parents deserved to die” is also an extreme testing of boundaries to say the least.

Going further, things get complicated: when a few persons threatened George W. Bush with violence, they were put in prison for a year or two. Undoubtedly a few cranks have also gone to prison for threatening president Obama. Probably every POTUS has seen a penal sentence for making threats against them. So rightly or wrongly there are exceptions to permissiveness involving hate speech.
I don’t want to discuss Europe much, as it appears one has to live for decades in a nation to know it well enough for significant opinion… all the same if someone in Denmark were to threaten the crown or prime minister, the result might be a fine, jail, or possibly prison—probably a combination of a fine and short jail time/probation would be the Scandic way of doing things. Perhaps community service.

Guess I should throw in my x cents worth..

It will not come as a surprise to anyone I’m sure, that I agree with Peter and “find this decision highly regrettable”. Yet, - it does not pose a problem for me, and I would not waste my time making a fuss about it, which may come as a surprise.. 😊

My reasons for NOT making a fuss about it are:

The swift, honest and clear response / explanation from both gentlemen, - and bosses, -  James and Hank. - RESPECT !

My article is not about self-censorship, but about state-legislation, - what should and what should not be permitted in terms of hate-speech /“crimethink”. I do consider self-censorship to be a serious problem, and if I were to write an article on that, I might very well argue, that self-censorship and shaming of unwelcome views pose an even greater problem than actual laws themselves, but, and here comes the important part: Just as I advocate the right to free speech, I also advocate the right of private institutions, be it IEET, newspapers, etc., to publish - and NOT publish - whatever they see fit / not. Of course I do, - what else.

Also, Peg - Dr. Tittle.. - is of course free to write / publish whatever she wants elsewhere, including her own site, - she is free also to modify her article, - (and Like Peter, I’m looking forward to it), - and she is free to *~^#&?!...

What I’d really like to know is whether or not Dr. Tittle (hen-self..) has regretted anything hen wrote, or is hen modifying under some sort of protest..

re:  “if someone in Denmark were to threaten the crown or prime minister, the result might be a fine, jail, or possibly prison”

Yes, - if it was a direct threat / incitement to violence.

Copied from what I’ve written earlier:

In 2007, the Hizb-ut-Tahrir spokesman was actually sentenced to 60 days in prison for saying to his followers: “Kill the Jews, wherever you find them”. On the other hand, he continued: “... and obliterate / destroy your regents if they stand in your way”, for which he was aquitted.

“In 2007, the Hizb-ut-Tahrir spokesman was actually sentenced to 60 days in prison for saying to his followers: ‘Kill the Jews, wherever you find them’.”

A harsh sentence, considering the Hizb-ut-Tahrir spokesman uttered no specific threat, but rather a paraphrase from the Koran. However Joern, perhaps Scandic prisons are almost country clubs to vacation at? if the prisons are fairly pleasant, then 60 days wasn’t such a bad deal.

Only a moron can/should call a moron, a moron?

Yet how can a moron get their point across without posturing from some position of superiority? How can they draw your attention to it’s irrelevance?

What should preside here at IEET, (as I’ve highlighted before), is the application of integrity over and above posturing and egoism?

Is it not the aim of this site to be techno-progressive?

This superior attitude discussing how “WE” can instruct/influence others to do this/not do that, for the “Liberal common good” does little than to highlight one’s own hubris, and adds little to any progressive debate?

It’s not words that are offensive, it’s how we use them?

If you are wondering? NO, I did not complain about the article, seems it was not necessary?

Well done!



I agree. Unfortunately, some people take the Koran quite literally, for which reason we don’t ban / (burn..) that book or any other. These hate-speech laws are applied arbitrarily and inconsistantly, and I support only legislation against the most direct, person- and situtation-specific incitements to violence.

Scandic prisons ? - Think this article may interest you, - it poses this question:
Can a prison possibly justify treating its inmates with saunas, sunbeds and deckchairs if that prison has the lowest reoffending rate in Europe?—catch-UK.html#ixzz1uCku28BW

some clarifications—

1. P. Tittle said she was open to changing the headline, but I don’t think she has either agreed or not agreed to rewrite the entire article.

2. She is not a Dr., and I don’t think she is an Affiliate Scholar…

these are not important points, but to maintain veracity, I thought I should point them out.

Yes, P. Tittle has a blog called “Bite-Sized Subversions” and anyone can find the “controversial” essay there.

Would agree with hate speech laws if they were practical, and in some parts of Europe they do succeed, don’t they? but Americans are by and large too rebellious: if you tell many here what to do they do the opposite, tell them for example not to use racial epithets and they use every n-word they can think of.
But, having written that, it is best to attempt hate speech laws in the U.S. anyway, because contrarians here expect such maneuvering- so then we back off and try again later.. such is the back and forth manner we are accustomed to here.

“Can a prison possibly justify treating its inmates with saunas, sunbeds and deckchairs if that prison has the lowest reoffending rate in Europe?”

Saunas, sunbeds and deckchairs? Forget about the validity, how can a guy wangle his way into prison there? when does the next plane depart? 😛

Reading Intomorrow’s comment that begins:

“This topic is a tough judgment call; now that you’ve all put in your two cents worth, I’ll put in my one cents worth:
it is a tightrope to walk between free speech, and not shouting ‘fire’ in a crowded theater. Hate speech is difficult to define.. as you have gone into many times at IEET…..”

Made me think about the issue of solicitation.

Intomorrow also writes:

“Nevertheless, we can’t very well allow wild characters to visit nursing homes to yell “die, you are old and in the way”; or scream “f*ck you” in nursery schools and Kindergartens”

So, what if a person says exactly the same things, but in the privacy of their own homes, or on their online blog, or even in a publicly shared space (such as a sidewalk, or public park)?

In the scenarios described, nursing homes and nursery schools/Kindergartens, there is a domain issue, where a person would be considered intrusive into a domain and where it might be expected that certain rights are inhibited temporarily while in this domain. The elderly in their nursing homes are not implicitly soliciting such treatment - it’s inherently implied that they are not by their purchase of the service. Likewise, the children in the school are there to receive their education - paid for in private, or by the public - and so intrusive, abusive speech becomes a solicitation problem - in other words, no one invited the abuser to the school in the first place, so they are in the wrong domain.

The only sticky issue concerns truly public, open access areas, such as sidewalks and parks.

For that, I believe that augmented reality filtration technology will solve the problem.

Just mute people, /ignore them. We will be free to customize our AR filters any way we choose.


re: “ some parts of Europe they (hate-speech laws) do succeed, don’t they”?

“How’s that ? - They do “succeed” in putting a few behind bars for a short while, and here and there they hand out sentences of a thousand dollars or so, but they don’t succeed in shutting people up. In France, for instance, although they have elected a socialist President, the “Front National” is going strong, and amazingly, 50 % of 18-23 year olds voted for them. Even in Sweden, the “far right” Sweden Democrats are steadily climbing in the polls. - This is not to say “hate speech” comes only from the right, - far from it, - but to say extremism has little or nothing to do with hate speech. Check also the “Greek Tragedy”, which has resulted in a serious division, with support for extreme right as well as extreme left being boosted considerably, not exactly a favourable outcome for social cohesion..

As for the US, - would you agree with this statement, - (quoting from the Daily beast):

“In the four-plus decades since Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, America has surely moved closer to a country where people are judged more by content of their character than the color of their skin—or their gender, religion or sexual orientation”.

If you do agree, and keep in mind that progress has “happened” without European style hate-speech laws, then why “import”..

20 most tolerant U. S. :

Joern, from the above it appears I know virtually nothing about Europe, haven’t been there since ‘89.


This is getting a bit (OK, completely) off-topic but I really want to respond to your point that discussing how “WE” can instruct/influence others to do this/not do that, for the “Liberal common good” does little than to highlight one’s own hubris, and adds little to any progressive debate.

I really disagree with this. Even if we just want to pursue a technoprogressive point of view - and I hope we can be a bit more nuanced than that - we are still trying to influence people. I quote jhughes: “[IEET is] an ideological thinktank promoting a point of view.” how is that not trying to influence people?

I’m not sure what you mean by the “Liberal common good” - you know from my recent discussions with André that I have reservations with neoclassical liberalism - but, as you perhaps also recall from my discussions with Abolitionist on other threads, I find some concept of the “common good” to be pretty essential. How can you be “progressive” if you don’t know in which direction you want to progress? And how can you progress if you don’t pay attention to how you are influencing others?

By the way, re technoprogressive advocacy vs public forum for the exchange of a variety of different points of view, I think this is blog is steering a pretty good middle course. In any case you need a bit of variety of opinion in order to effectively promote your own point of view: you need to smoke the rest of us out! Myself, I think I regard myself as a cautious technoprogressive. The problem with most people (from my perspective) is not that they are conservative, opposed or sceptical, but that they are basically completely unaware of the kind of future(s) we are heading for. It’s difficult to have intelligent discussions about important issues witht people who are wilfully ignorant or in denial. And currently, most people who are not tend to be technoprogressive (for fairly obvious, but possibly temporary, reasons).

“I really disagree with this. Even if we just want to pursue a technoprogressive point of view - and I hope we can be a bit more nuanced than that - we are still trying to influence people. I quote jhughes: “[IEET is] an ideological thinktank promoting a point of view.” how is that not trying to influence people?

I’m not sure what you mean by the “Liberal common good”

@ Peter..  without getting bogged down into debates over moronic subject matters.

There can be nuanced discussions. But let me say this quite clearly first off - there is discussing what is possible, offering/seeking solutions, and there is blatantly getting carried away in what “WE” think others should be doing/should do - this is the common failure with the over zealous Liberal position - that under the guise and self-deception towards the “Liberal common good” imposed upon others, (authoritarian), we are inclined to forget the freedoms that Liberalism is “supposed” to endorse and protect?

There are many examples here at IEET where the discussions take a posture of superiority, and new readers may view this in a negative light and be put off returning. So perhaps we should all reflect a little towards not only what we say, but how we say it?

With a little self-reflection Peg’s article could have been reworded easily to “attract” interest rather than seek some sensational headline. This is Peg’s choice and view towards the subject, and I respect this, yet rather than taking a stance of “instructing” others, perhaps we should pose the question and “possibility” for change and let folks make their own minds up?

Influencing others can be nuanced also.

Imagine this website, (even now), with twice the readership and twice the commentary/input, this is what we should all be encouraging here at IEET?

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