Sunday, February 14, 2010

Freedom of Speech

I was reading Neil Gaiman's blog and I came across this article, which is essentially about freedom of speech as it pertains to art, and his thoughts on the subject. It's an interesting article and it got me to thinking.

I got into this a little bit with my post about the new Irish blasphemy laws, but I think it's something that needs further exploring, especially given the name of our site and the revolutionary nature of the original English Coffee House.

Gaiman's blog entry seems to have spawned from a question regarding his opinion on lolicon (a genre of manga and anime wherein childlike female characters are depicted in an erotic manner) and the banning thereof. What Gaiman points out is that regardless of your opinions on what is being said, depicted or printed, what it all boils down to is the right to free speech and free art. As he points out, the law can't be precise. It can't decide this is bad, this is good, this is passable.
The Law is a blunt instrument. It's not a scalpel. It's a club. If there is something you consider indefensible, and there is something you consider defensible, and the same laws can take them both out, you are going to find yourself defending the indefensible.
I don't think it should be up to governments to decide what people can and can't say. I don't think there should be a can and can't say. Laws are made by people, people have opinions, feelings and gut reactions, so unless those things somehow all magically start meshing, some people are going to be offended by other people's art. The solution: ignore it, speak against it, post it on your blog and trash it. But silence it? Isn't that what they did to people who thought the earth was round?
Freedom to write, freedom to read, freedom to own material that you believe is worth defending means you're going to have to stand up for stuff you don't believe is worth defending.
Personally, I think this lolicon stuff sounds a bit weird, and now that I know roughly what it is (I had to look it up), I'm not about to delve into it to see whether or not it's worth taking the time to defend its merrits as art. The point is, people should have the right to produce what they want*, regardless of who might be offended.

As soon as freedom of speech goes, we're out of a job.

*As long as no one (including animals) is hurt or exploited in the production.


Rhiannon said...

Well...we're out of a *legal* job. >:D

Seriously though...lolicon and the other one (with boys in), are on the tame end of the manga spectrum. They don't even feature actual children; for whatever reason, there are millions of Japanese people who get off on adults who *look* like children interacting with adults who look like adults, which isn't technically kiddie porn. Over here, all you really have to think are the words "Catholic School Girl" to understand.

Certainly doesn't float my boat, either way.

Now, if he was importing guro (don't look it up. Trust me, it's horrible), I could see the customs agents really getting huffy. Because...ick.

However. Just because people read guro manga doesn't mean they'll go out and actual people. And the ones that do are psychopaths looking for an excuse and anything would have sufficed. They should just be shot in the face on principle.

Art is in the eye of the creator/beholder. The Thought Police can STFU and go die in a fire.

E said...

You HAD to say "don't look it up", didn't you? Now I know it'll scar me for life but I REALLY...WANT...TO...

*hem* It's that kind of thing that got human rights commissions in Canada in hot water. I don't know if you guys heard about it, but the newsmagazine Maclean's ran a cover story about how Muslims were poised to, demographically, take over the Western nations (ohhh man, I don't mean that to sound so rude and prejudiced but I really really don't have a better way to say it), and a couple of students at a university read the article and complained to the Ontario Human Rights Commission. The magazine tried to compromise with the students, who wanted full editorial control of the next cover article in restitution, but the two parties couldn't reach an agreement, and the OHRC ruled that the magazine was guilty of hate crimes and should be banned from ever printing anything that even mentioned the Muslim faith again.

Maclean's took the case to court, and won. Because that's against freedom of expression laws. If we didn't have those, if we'd given them up in order to censor for taste or for more serious-sounding reasons, like keeping lolicon that smacks of child exploitation out of the country, we would be out a national newsmagazine, and it wouldn't be long before the whole of the press would have crumbled too.

Living proof that sometimes, you do have to defend things you find distasteful (or downright disgusting) in order that someone, somewhere, will defend you as well, no matter how distasteful or disgusting they may find you.

Athena said...

Wow. I hadn't heard about that, but it's frightening to me that anyone would consider Mclean's guilty of hate crimes. I'm glad they won, though; so much of what we base our society on is the right to free speech and free thought.