Dear Muslims, Let’s Explain Freedom of Speech

The video brouhaha seems to be coming to an end but I’ve been searching for a way to try and explain to Muslims why there’s a such a necessity for free speech, why it’s so important in the West and how mockery and insult differs from hate speech. Why mocking Muhammed (or Jesus or Buddha or anyone else for that matter) is different from holocaust denial.

There’s been a lot of talk about how much Muslims revere their prophet and comparisons with insulting family, calling someone’s mother a whore and similar comparisons. These don’t really work as a comparison with a long dead figure. Additionally violence simply on the basis of mockery or insult is still not acceptable. Ever heard the saying ‘Sticks and stones can break my bones, but names will never hurt me?’

Surely, if you truly believe, a god and is prophet can take care of themselves and take a little mockery without having anyone murdered, yes?

Here’s a way you might understand.

Western culture, whether it manages to uphold it or not, is heavily focussed on the concept of freedom. We revere freedom in many different ways in much the same way that you say you revere your prophet. Freedom, particularly of expression, is part of the warp and weft of our political and social culture and curtailing it is considered dangerous.

Freedom of expression:

  • Allows us to hold our government and public figures to account. Essential in a democracy and for a democracy.
  • Allows us to subject ideas to powerful scrutiny and criticism. That which survives such examination has proven its worth.
  • Allows societal values to progress, incrementally, through constant examination and discussion.
  • Allows innovative and amazing art, writing and ideas to come out.

There is a cost associated with this and that is that people do get offended and ideas do get challenged. Rudeness occurs. It’s a tiny price to pay for all the positive benefits we get from it and looking at the influence of theocracy and despotic leadership in many parts of the Middle East it’s something that the Middle East could definitely benefit from, while there are things in the Middle East we could benefit from (hospitality rules and importance of family being two that come to mind).

Someone making fun of Muhammed or taking issue with the history or beliefs of Islam doesn’t harm you and isn’t encouraging people to attack Muslims. However crude it might be, however rude it might be, however offensive you might find it, it can’t actually hurt you or lead to hurt.

The reason we punish holocaust denial and hate speech is that it the one case it is trying to pretend an horrific atrocity never occurred. An horrific atrocity that took place in no small part due to the propagation of hate speech such as conspiracy theories and blood libel.

Hate speech is direct appeal to do harm, the targeting of a group of people as subhuman or exhorting people to hurt them. Ideas such as blacks, or arabs or whoever else are congenitally dangerous/stupid/inferior. We don’t allow that because it can (arguably) be shown to actually cause harm.

Your actions in rioting and murdering people, putting out bounties on people’s heads etc do, directly threaten and prevent people from feeling free to express themselves and attempts to introduce blasphemy laws and guidelines nationally and internationally do the same.

Muhammed, long dead, cannot be harmed by a bit of mockery or honest, open and robust examination, criticism and mirth-making at the expense of the Koran. Surely a god, if one existed, could look after itself and could stand up to a little criticism?

Free expression is a foundational right upon which a great deal else hinges and as such it is part of the suite of rights that many, many people have died to defend and establish over the centuries. Your attempts to violently shut people up are as offensive to us as anything you claim to be offended by, but we don’t seem to resort to murder.

You want us to understand your reverence for Muhammed, try to understand our reverence for free expression because if you did understand then you’d know that reactions like this just cause people to value and exercise their free expression all the more.

Pitch a fit over a cartoon and people start Everybody Draw Mohammed Day.

Pitch a fit over these films? Well, I’m sure they’re being fileshared and mirrored a lot more than they would have been otherwise and you’ll also find a lot MORE (not less) criticism is Islam and Muslims as a result.

Don’t. Feed. The. Trolls.

Made to be Damned

This should save me some repetition.

So…

  1. Do you believe in god?
  2. Do you believe your god is all knowing?
  3. Do you believe your god is all powerful?
  4. Do you believe your god is good and just?
  5. Do you believe your god is the creator?

If the answer to these is yes, as it for most Christians, consider this.

IF we presume, for a moment, that your god exists:

  1. It created me (creator).
  2. With perfect foreknowledge of everything I would ever do, think, feel or know (all knowing).
  3. It knew I would be an atheist and had the means to provide me with the evidence I would require to believe in it (all knowing, all powerful).
  4. This deity then withholds said evidence, thereby condemning me of its own volition – nothing to do with me – to a hell of its own making.

Good?

Just?

I think not.

#MuslimRage – Hulk Smash

So, the aftermath of this nonsensical ‘Innocence of the Muslims’ film is rumbling on and it seems to be an all-star parade of bastards and shitty goings on. Today we get confirmation via one of the actresses involved (via Neil Gaiman) that the whole thing is a dubbed over (apparently intentionally) no-budget film that was originally a different – though with 20/20 hindsight obvious – story.

It’s been turned into an anti-muslim film, but frankly however shifty, repugnant and dodgy the whole thing is and however much the guy behind it deserves vilification it’s hard to find fault with the principle points (that Muhammed was a violent, womanising paedophile) however crudely and insensitively that was pushed home.

Also, frankly, it doesn’t make any difference to what’s going on that the guy behind it is a scabrous shit-tick and it shouldn’t be remotely controversial that images of stuff that is actually happening should end up on the cover of a NEWS magazine.

This was a shitty, no budget film, privately produced, that NOBODY SAW and NOBODY CARED THE LEAST BIT ABOUT until it blew up precisely because of the fuss over it. Apparently the concept of ‘don’t feed the trolls’ hasn’t made it to the mullahs yet. You’d think that small piece of wisdom might be in a holy book wouldn’t you? Some version of turn the other cheek?

Whatever damage has been done, or has been thought to be done, by the film, fades into total obscurity next to the harm done to Islam by… ISLAM!

Riots? Deaths? Attacks on embassies? Calls for the US government to be held accountable?

Do what? Why should the US government be held accountable for something a private individual has done? I’m pretty sure the guy tailgating me on one of my recent driving lessons was Iranian. Should I demand an apology from the Iranian government because of that? Clearly not, don’t be ridiculous.

More than the sadly predictable violence and flag burning, what disappoints me is the lack of courage and devotion to what should be as important to us as defending the honour of a long dead bandit and child molester is to Muslims. Free expression.

The very same people who tell me how significant relatively small anti-cap demonstrations, slutwalks, anti-war demonstrations, occupy and so on are are trying to tell me that the tens upon tens of thousands of people raging across the Muslim world are a tiny minority that doesn’t matter and is non-representative.

Their own protests, it is argued, are representative of a greater number who can’t or won’t come out onto the street to express their displeasure. I buy that, I even think it’s true. More than just buying it, I buy into it. You cannot, then, ask me to ignore these kind of massive outpourings of primitive  and superstitious rage and pretend that its ‘not representative’ or you’re undermining yourself.

Salman Rushdie was on the BBC today talking about his experiences and when asked what the solution was, his answer was:

“Be brave.”

I agree.

He was also asked if he took any responsibility, any blame, for provoking the reaction he did. And quite rightly he said no.

Now, Rushdie wasn’t trying to provoke a reaction, unlike the epic tool behind ‘Innocence of Muslims’ but the only person really responsible for your reaction, is you. They’re just words, ideas. This kind of violence, this primitive, superstitious hatred that went out in the civilised world by the 18th century just confirms the very worst impression that people have.

This IS Islam

Make a Mo: Blasphemetastic!

A ways back when I made a card game for ‘Everybody Draw Mohammed Day’.

I present it here, again, in protest at Islams pwecious wittle feewings.

It doesn’t matter that this film they’re ‘protesting’ was crap, altered, made by a criminal fraudster or whatever. Religion should be open to criticism and outside of those Islamic nations or others with primitive, festering blasphemy laws – it is. The US government had fuck all to do with this, let alone the UK or German government.

Surely if Allah existed and was truly just and merciful, he could look after himself (and the Koran would be written a damn sight differently).

Make A Mo – MoCard

The Classroom

An atheist a theist and a militant agnostic are in class in primary school and the teacher is going over their times-tables. They’ve been taught the basic principle and their two, three and four times table when the teacher writes up a more difficult problem on the blackboard:

7 x 8 =?

The theist answers: “Three hundred and seventy two!”

The atheist answers: “I don’t know, but I’m pretty damn sure it’s not three hundred and seventy two. Can I check on my calculator?”

The militant agnostic answers: “I don’t know, and neither do any of you other fuckers!” Then storms off in a huff.

Why?

I’m an atheist because I don’t believe in god.

I don’t believe in god because there’s no need for a god, no evidence for a god, no reason to believe in a god. My reason leads me inexorably to this conclusion. I would change my mind, should evidence emerge.

I am a socialist because my reason leads me to believe this is the best compromise political system that provides the greatest good to the greatest number. Economy of scale, triage and the failures of capitalism and free enterprise lead me to this conclusion.

My atheism has nothing to do with it.

I am pro-choice because the medical evidence leads me to believe that a foetus is not concious and thus not a person until quite late in the gestation period and I value a fully realised and complete human being and their autonomy over a potential human being.

My atheism has nothing to do with it.

I am a libertine because I reject constricted social moral structures that have basis in superstition and not reality. I believe people should be free to conduct their sex lives as they wish so long as it is consensual.

My atheism has nothing to do with it.

I place my trust in science because it provides practical applications, because it places truth above all other considerations, because it has peer review and other safeguards.

My atheism has nothing to do with it.

Whatever side you’re on. Please stop conflating atheism with social issues, political issues or whatever else. All it means is that we don’t believe in god. Everything else is its own, separate issue and while logic, reason and the demands of evidence may lead many of us to these conclusions, that’s not always going to be the case.

Meanwhile, in Bizarro World…

I don’t mean for this blog to turn into an MRA blog or anything, a lot of those guys are just as bad as the far-out feminists they battle against. My main focus is still atheism but I did say I’d broaden to politics and social issues and man… the stupid just keeps flowing out of this whole A+ debacle.

This time it’s this bizarre and partisan Raw Story article.

I mean, really, what the fuck?

Of course, the reason it feels intolerable is that, from the cradle, men are told they are better than women and that women exist to serve them.

Where are you writing from? The 19th Century? Quite the opposite at least in my upbringing and hey, my anecdotal evidence is as good as yours. What about men’s role as provider and protector mandated down history. Can that not also be seen as servile?

The invention of the nonsense word “misandry” goes back to this.

If ‘misandry’ is a nonsense word then so is ‘misogyny’, certainly the way it gets used in these discussions. The opening paragraphs spew all this stereotypical nonsense and broadbrushing of hateful characteristics that are supposedly ‘male’ and then in the next breath you want to tell me misandry is nonsense?

Check your fucking privilege indeed.

Jen McCreight has hung up her marvelous blog Blag Hag, even though she loves writing, because of all the abuse she’s been getting due to the rest storm in the atheist blogosphere over whether or not women are required to give any man attention because he wants it. The feminists say no, and support policies at conventions that state clearly to men that women’s consent matters. If a woman declines to give you anything—sex, flirting, any kind of attention—that is her right, and exacting your revenge by harassing her is unacceptable. A loud minority of atheist dudes find this unacceptable, and refuse to budge from their belief that they are owed women’s attention.

Absolute, unadulterated bullshit from beginning to end.

Everyone gets harassment on the internet. The more contentious you are or the more obvious a target for trolling you make yourself, the more you get. Let’s STOP spinning out trolls into some assumption about the whole community shall we? Given that’s what got you into this mess in the first place.

The storm in the atheist blogosphere is over the pointlessness, divisiveness and insulting nature of the A+ movement. Some of this has manifested in the form of angry debate over harassment policies. Not seeing the need for harassment policies and seeing their negative effect does not mean you want free rein to harass women. It just means you see no point especially in a con culture where this is LESS of an issue than others and where creating the impression that these meetings are rape-a-palooza is counterproductive.

Men don’t think they’re owed anything from women, other than a fair shake and – given the nature of the movement – a rational argument.

Fat chance.

They grind their teeth over and over at the nerve of Rebecca Watson saying that it’s not cool to corner an unwilling woman in an elevator; their “right” to have a woman’s attention if they want it means that they are allowed any tactic, no matter how scary, to extract that attention, even if it means approaching a woman when she literally has no immediate means of escape.

Guy asked her up for coffee, she said no, end of. WHY ARE WE STILL TALKING ABOUT THIS? It was nothing, literally nothing. Why should we be expected to tolerate being treated as potential rapists all the time? Isn’t that sexist of you?

One of the most common microaggressions women complain about is walking down the street and being told by strange men to “smile”.

Really? I get that all the fucking time, from men and women and what’s more I suffer from depression. So it stings more than a little. Last time I checked, I had a penis.

I made a joke on Twitter about how my fate in life seems to be getting yelled at by men who still aren’t over the fact that they didn’t get laid in high school. I can draw a diagram for you showing why this statement in no way says that all men who didn’t get laid in high school resort to yelling at women, but this post is long enough. But of course, some dude started yelling at me about “generalizing”.

Would your joke be acceptable to you the other way around? No it fucking wouldn’t and that’s the kind of hypocrisy that makes people angry. The hypocrisy, the presumption, the misandrist sexism. Not the fact you have a vagina.

I just don’t see why so many men can’t open their eyes and see what five minutes of rational analysis can teach you: That women are discrete individuals, not support staff for men. And that means that you are not entitled to their affection, smiles, flirting, sexual favors, uteruses, or their submission. You aren’t even entitled to their attention.

And you are not entitled to immunity from criticism or scepticism and you don’t get to characterise anyone who doesn’t agree with you as a hater. You don’t get to lie with impunity either.

Update: Got into a Twitter spat with the author of this travesty, which I shall preserve here lest I get quotemined. I also suggest you go look at the comment thread and notice her steadfast refusal to actually engage with any criticism of the original article. She’s a great case in point of using ‘derailing’ and ‘privilege’ – and doubtless other buzzwords, to avoid having to actually explain, answer or excuse.

@humanadverb @AmandaMarcotte Angry reply to that on my blog. Again, the hypocrisy is fucking staggering. I think that’s what p’s me off most
@GRIMACHU “Hypocrisy”: I address the claim that engaging in consensual sexual activities makes you a hypocrite for denouncing non-consent.
@AmandaMarcotte The ruling other spaces. I just looked though your thread and you’re shutting people down rather than addressing them.
@AmandaMarcotte Behaviour you absolutely would not tolerate the other way around. If you want to be better, be better.
@GRIMACHU So in order to prove that I support healthy dissent, I should refrain from dissenting from people saying stupid shit? Got it.
@AmandaMarcotte No, you should engage rather than linking to that excreble ‘derailing for dummies’ site. It’s dismissal, usually baseless.
@GRIMACHU The contortions you dudes come up with to express your dislike of women talking back is pretty staggering.
@AmandaMarcotte Presumptive, again, and hateful. The very things you’re complaining about.
@GRIMACHU But you can’t engage with derailing. The point of derailing is to end engagement. Man, you iz dumb.
@AmandaMarcotte Except it’s not derailing. Like ‘privilege’ it’s a magic word used to shut down dissent. Why not just shout ‘Witch!’?
@GRIMACHU “Engage” with derailment! Ride the unicorn! Pick up your wings and fly! It’s all doable, if you just believe!
@AmandaMarcotte Not agreeing with you is not misogyny. Questioning your conclusions is not misogyny. Asking for backing is not derailing.
@GRIMACHU I’m allowed to grasp that you’re hateful. I am allowed my own observations and not required to take your word for it. Sorry.
@AmandaMarcotte And that is equally true for me. I perceive you as a hateful manipulator lying about events and I call you out on it.
@GRIMACHU Asserting isn’t proving. Sorry. You can assert until you’re blue in the face, but alas, it’s just persuasive.
@AmandaMarcotte You are what you claim to hate, an abusive troll. So welcome to block – which is what’s the sensible thing to do with trolls
@humanadverb Heh, he just blocked me from a feed you couldn’t actually pay me to read.

No dear, I blocked you so I don’t have to read your hateful, irrational bullshit on Twitter. Not to deny you my awesomeness.

This explains a lot too. This woman apparently doesn’t understand burden of proof or the principle of innocent until proven guilty.

Nice Guys & Schroedinger’s Bitch

The whole nice-guy thing has flared up again recently and the introverted, nice-guy nerd takes yet another beating and is, apparently, supposed to take it on the chin with a smile. All kinds of aspersions are cast as to the motivation of the nice guy, his views on women and his emotional experiences and damage are written off and belittled in a way that would never be accepted if the gender direction were reversed.

This makes me very angry, to the point of near incoherence. It’s not just the hypocrisy, it’s the presumptions and the way that emotionally hurtful experiences are written off by the very same people who expect their own irrational, hurtful experiences to be catered to and treated seriously.

I’ve been the nice guy pretty much all my life. The shoulder to cry on, the safe male friend. Not as part of some sort of ‘game’ to try and get women. Not with any sort of expectation but simply because that was who I was. The nice guy hears his female friends problems, sees them fall for bad guys over and over again. He hears what they say they want and pretty often that’s ‘Why can’t he be more like you?’

You want a guy like me?

I’m a guy like me!

Many successful relationships come from friendships and little wonder that through the intimacy of a strong friendship so also romantic affection can spring. This isn’t sinister, or creepy. Its not planned. It doesn’t indicate that the nice guy thinks of the woman as an object or that sex is his due for being a nice guy any more than the lounge lizard necessarily thinks he’s going to get anywhere with his cheesy lines.

Where does the resentment come from? It might be different these days, now that rampant nerdery has a certain cachet, but back in the day that was far from the case. As an introverted nerd with strange hobbies and interests you were a target for scorn and intelligence and humour didn’t get you very far either. Even if you weren’t that bad looking everything else counted against you so much that it didn’t help.

Friendship? Maybe. Anything more? Not on your life.

Again, you don’t necessarily expect it but when you buy into the whole ‘New Man’ thing because it seems to fit you. When you’re taken advantage of. When you’re told over and over again that the qualities you have are desirable but that never turns out to be true. When you do pick up the bravery to make a romantic move and get turned down again and again, banished to the Friend Zone despite all that talk, the hypocrisy and lies understandably get to you.

A broken heart leaves scars.

Apparently though, the nice guy – now once bitten, twice shy – isn’t allowed to dwell on this or to become wary of women, particularly pretty women. He is, instead, blamed for becoming bitter and disenchanted. It’s his fault he was manipulated and disappointed. He should never have been attracted to someone ‘out of his league’. Somehow he’s as much of a  problem as the sexually aggressive swine. Despite having the qualities that many women say they want.

Bollocks.

As men we’re supposed to simply accept that we’re going to be treated as potentially dangerous rapists. Schroedinger’s Rapist is completely irrational and nonsensical and yet we’re supposed to just suck it up and to understand that women are irrationally afraid of us and let it go at that.

What about Schroedinger’s Bitch? Isn’t that just as (in)valid? Maybe we have our ownemotional reasons from bitter, past experience for being wary of women. Especially pretty women. Maybe we’ve been brushed off, lied to, treated like crap, exploited or dumped for the kind of guys you said you didn’t want too many times. How about some respect and understanding for OUR irrational fears eh?

Don’t guess at the nice guy’s motives and them damn him based on you own, insulting presumptions. Somehow, it seems, victim blaming is just fine so long as the guy’s the victim.

Scepticism? Really? A Case in Point.

I’ve been hemming and hawing over whether to post this in here or not for some time. Firstly because I’ve pretty much said my piece – and apparently pretty well – about Atheism+. I was going to let it go at that but then I had an ‘altercation’ on Twitter with an A+ supporter neck deep in feminist theory and saw an article in the New Statesman on A+ that said the following:

Less than a week old in its current form, Atheism+ is the brainchild of Jen McCreight, a Seattle-based biology postgrad and blogger at the secularist Freethought network. She has called for a “new wave” of atheism on that “cares about how religion affects everyone and that applies skepticism to everything, including social issues like sexism, racism, politics, poverty, and crime.” 

And well, reading that following the altercation stuck in my craw because from what I’ve seen thus far, it’s simply not true. Scepticism is not being applied to sacred cows or presumptions arrived at within the echo chamber of their existing movements.

Put on the spot to come up with an example I went to the 1/4 rape stat that gets bandied about. Rather than try and convince me – as one would hope a rational sceptic who has arrived at a decision would do – I was instead subjected to a barrage of insults, accusations of being delusional and of warping the stats.

My reasons for being sceptical of the 1/4 ‘statistic’ are expanded on below for sake of completeness, but aren’t really relevant. The point was that they were being completely non-sceptical of their own claims and abusive rather than trying to back it up or explain how those stats were arrived at.

Scepticism towards everything?

My arse.

***

Data Used
Female population of England and Wales: 27,503,500 – 2001 census data. [1]
Reported cases of Rape (British legal definition) British Crime Survey: Worst recorded year 2010/11 – 14,624 recorded incidents.[2]
UK female life expectancy (CIA World factbook): 82.25. [3]

Rounding down population to: 27,500,000 [4]
Rounding up rape incidents: to 15,000
Rounding up life expectancy: to 83

As a percentage of female population 15k rapes is a yearly incidence rate of 0.05454545454%. [5]

Rounding up yearly incidence rate to 0.06%
Multiply percentage by life expectancy: 4.98%. [6]
Round up to 5%.

Under-Reporting?
To get to 1/6 two out of every three would need to be unreported.
To get to 1/5 three out of every four would need to be unreported.
To get to 1/4 four out of every five would need to be unreported.

This does not seem likely as efforts to destigmatise and otherwise make it safe to make a rape report have had no particular discernible effect on reports.

RAINN suggests that around 50% of rapes go unreported. That would take us to 10%, which is ghastly enough, but far from the 1/4 that is often bandie about. Despite giving the claim every extra opportunity it doesn’t seem to measure up.

The BCS self-reported section, which has the advantage of not having anything to hold people back from reporting, but the disadvantage of no hard data, reports an incidence of 0.4 for the year 2010/2011 between ages of 16 and 59 (43 year span). Even if you presume that and multiply it up (as above) that’s still ‘only’ 17.2%. That’s enough to meet the 1/6 but not the larger extents and is a probably a gross overestimate.

Rape is clearly a terrible crime and far too prevalent. 1% would be far too prelevent.
It is simply not necessary to mangle the stats to make it seem worse than it is and this may, in fact, be deleterious to the cause through the effect of making people suspicious.

Now, it’s possible that the US (origin of these claims) is much more rapey than the UK or has lower reporting rates, but it seems unlikely the difference would be that marked.

It’s not like I’m the only person to be sceptical.

[1] – UK population has been overestimated for some time but this appears to be about right for 2011/12
[2] – These are reported/recorded incidents. Female only. It does not take into account false accusations.
[3] – This is still going up. IIRC a recent BBC story said it was now 83.
[4] – This is the only case in which I have rounded down, rather than up. Everything else has been rounded to favour the high-incidence rate hypothesis.
[5] – Yearly incidence, not lifetime chance/number.
[6] – This isn’t realistic. Odds of being raped are not evenly spread throughout age. Again, it’s done to favour the high incidence hypothesis.