Header Ads

Of freedom of speech and hate speech

Julia Klein's article, "The Myths of the Third Reich" (Third Reich refers to the era of the Nazi Germany) in the online version of The Wall Street Journal left me pondering over the question of freedom of speech and hate speech -
1. Where is the boundary between the two? 2. Where does one draw the limit?
Interestingly, the article ends with the following sentence:
"In Germany today, advocating Nazi ideology is illegal. But in the U.S. and elsewhere, balancing free speech with the desire to silence partisans of hate crimes and genocide remains a vital and troubling concern. The exhibition ends, appropriately, with this dilemma clarified but not entirely resolved." - Julia Klein.
Western nations, by and large have their own standard for freedom of speech - no freedom of speech for holocaust denial or anti-Zionist activism - to the extent that one could risk being persecuted simply by expressing doubts about the holocaust or risk being labelled as an anti-Semite. This is made worse due to the exaggeration and the propaganda played out by the Western media.

Likewise, Asian democracies (I specifically mention Asian democracies here because freedom of speech is totally a non-issue in totalitarian states of North Korea and Myanmar and the Arab monarchies) should also be allowed to set their own standards of freedom of speech, in accordance to its rich culture and tradition.

An interesting question we ought to ask is, if the Holocaust is considered as the West's Achilles heel and its biggest weakness according to Iranian President Ahmaninejad, what then is the Achilles heel for Asian democracies? I feel there are many and it varies from one country to another. This is because the countries of Asia, from Tokyo to Jakarta, Delhi to Dubai, are so diverse and have very little in common if compared to Europe. And I believe Asians have the right to set their own standard of freedom of speech instead of trying to adopt and apply Western standard and ideals into the context of the local democratic development.

I am all for freedom of speech but I do not subscribe to absolute freedom or any absolute ideological extremes for that matter. Absolute freedom leads to anarchy. Anarchy equals extremism. So there has to be a balance. In Islam it is called Wasatiah or al-Wasatia; in Chinese philosophy they have the concept of Yin and Yang, which both literally means moderation or balance!

In justifying the concept of moderation into modern politics, I'd like to quote famous International Relations scholar and former American policy maker, Joseph Nye:
"When I was working in Washington and helping formulate American foreign policies, I found myself borrowing from all three types of thinking: realism, liberalism and constructivism. I found them all helpful, though in different way and in different circumstances." - Joseph Nye (Kegley Jr., World Politics 12th Edition)

I tend to think that I am a pragmatist politically and a realist too sometimes. My view is that one can adopt any political ideology, but at the end of the day you got to think of being pragmatic.

During the years of Mahathir's rule, the Malaysian economic system was often labelled as "controlled capitalism". Mahathir believes in free market policies, but not by following the Western model completely. So to me, it was all about being pragmatic and rational. Another good example is the great American bailout - of which, strictly speaking, was totally in contradiction to the fundamental theories of free market capitalism. John Keynes was right all along! And funny that because of this, some quarters from the right wing fundamentalist in America had gone to the extent of accusing Obama as a socialist. Well that's a topic for another story I guess.

End.

No comments

Powered by Blogger.