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Holding the hate at bay - defending free speech in the internet age

Peter Vinthagen Simpson · 20 Sep 2011, 10:13

Published: 20 Sep 2011 10:13 GMT+02:00

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Free speech is too important to be left to fend for itself in an online Wild West is one of the conclusions to emerge in Sweden from the Norway terror attacks which left 77 dead at the hands of a man fed on the language of "internet hate".

On winning an Oscar in 2003 US documentary film maker Michael Moore held a notorious speech in which he spoke of living in "fictitious times", criticising his "fictitious president" for taking the nation to a war in Iraq on false pretences.

Moore swiftly became the most hated man in America, the official video of the speech was pulled shortly afterwards and firebrand US television personality Glenn Beck used his show to air his thoughts about killing Moore, contemplating openly whether he should do the job himself or hire a hit man.

Glenn Beck escaped censure for his comments and according to Moore’s recent memoir, the episode was just one salvo in a long, and at times acutely life-threatening, decade for him and his family.

Michael Moore remains alive, thanks in no small measure to the 24/7 watch of a team of ex-Navy SEALs, as does the discussion over what is acceptable to say in public under the auspices of “freedom of speech”. Moore said in a recent interview that his use of these freedoms to make his Oscar speech was not worth the price.

After the recent terror attacks perpetrated in Norway, some of these same issues have come under renewed scrutiny in Sweden.

One of the key issues to emerge from the atrocities is the “debate about the debate”.

One angle of this debate has been a discussion over whether a normalisation of “extreme” viewpoints in the post 9/11 internet media age has in some way contributed to facilitating the attacks in Oslo and Utøya.

Few would have held Beck responsible had Moore been taken out by a deranged fan, just as few held right-wing nationalist groups directly culpable for the attacks in Norway carried out in their names by Anders Behring Breivik.

But the connection has been repeatedly drawn between the climate of hate despoiling the comments sections of many internet forums, and the conditions required for pushing Breivik over the edge from vociferous hatred into violent action.

In response, several major Swedish news outlets recently announced reviews of their policies for reader interaction on their websites, airing plans to tighten conditions for commenting on articles.

Much of the focus has been on the issue of anonymity, and one major daily is set to integrate its login system with Facebook in order to make it harder for commentators to hide behind pseudonyms, a right denied to journalists and contributors.

A common theme of emails sent to The Local from disgruntled readers barred from commenting is that all restrictions represent a threat to the sanctity of freedom of speech.

One recent correspondent complained that it was unfair for him to be blocked because “almost everybody is offensive and violates the rights, harms or threatens the safety of other users”.

All media organisations, The Local included, enforce a code of practice to moderate open discussion and the recent initiatives should be seen as a development of this effort; as part of the fight to protect the free word, instead of meekly surrendering to what has become known as "internet hate".

Story continues below…

Despite the evident challenges, a recent survey by polling firm Sifo shows that a vast majority of internet-savvy Swedes cherish the practice of being able to comment openly.

Newspaper editors, acutely aware that their content is often debated far more vigorously on social media forums, have recognised that they share a common interest in acceding to this wish and to ensuring that it thrives.

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” - these famous words uttered by Voltaire remain as valid in the internet media age, despite the proposed changes and the complaints of an outraged minority in letters to the editor.

The Norway attacks have however highlighted that free speech needs protection if it is to continue to thrive in the face of the noisy, like Glenn Beck, and the murderous, like Anders Behring Breivik, who must not be left unchallenged to dictate the terms of the debate.

Freedom of speech is a fundamental right for all individuals in a democratic society and must not, as in Moore’s case, carry a price that is not worth paying. All participants must share in that responsibility.

Peter Vinthagen Simpson (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

15:17 September 20, 2011 by mafketis
If you don't allow ideas to be aired publicly where they can be debated you just drive them underground where they'll fester and grow unchallenged.
15:20 September 20, 2011 by Zippy1979
Bring on facebook comments for TheLocal.
15:52 September 20, 2011 by Not Dumb
An IMPORTANT subject, and the article does raise some interesting issues, particularly in light of comments that I've seen. While I can say I have seen comments on The Local's pages that I would describe as white supremacist, xenophobic, racist, islamophobic, and anti-semitic, I am happy to add that I have not seen calls for killings. However, I do indeed have strong feelings about the nature of some of what I've read.

In my opinion, some of what I've encountered is SD or neo-Nazi propaganda, the products of deluded minds, or both. One positive aspect is that if a reader pursues a thread long and carefully enough, the appropriate conclusions should become apparent, and the vile nature and mistakenly perceived legitimacy for such obscenity revealed. And, it is important to be reminded that these people and thoughts do indeed exist, as well as the extent of them.

A negative aspect is that I sometimes feel as though I've been 'slimed' by reading such things, an impossible urge to somehow 'wash away' the remnants of such 'comments' leaving one 'uncomfortable' for an unfortunate period.

In the end, I believe The Local is correct in its handling of comments to date. But, while it may well be important that those I find so despicable are heard, I believe it even more important that responsible commenters make their disapproval of inappropriate ideas known, and known well.
17:07 September 20, 2011 by Rick Methven
A problem that seems to affect TL more than other on line forums that I visit, is the large number of Internet trolls that infest the threads with inappropriate comments just to create trouble and stir dissent. They often get what they want in the form of reactions before they are clocked as trolls, when they are either ignored or their posts are deleted and they are barred from posting.

Whereas it is good to have open discussion on matters of news and politics, many posters make use of this and other forums to spread propaganda and blatant untruths. The classic one that rears its ugly head on a regular basis being

"90% of all rapes in Sweden are carried out by Muslim immigrants"

IMO these kind of blatant hatemongering posts have no place in any forum as they tend to be treated as fact by some and so become 'true' "Because I read it on the internet" and you end up with acts of violence like Breivik..

One thing that should be remembered by all those who claim their right of freedom of speech, with that freedom comes the responsibility to ensure that what you say or do does not have a detrimental affect on those that you use that freedom on. Michael Moore's experience arising from Glenn Beck's exercise of his freedom of speech should be a remembered.

One thing for sure, The level of debate is higher and the tone is more polite when posters have to use their real identities.
17:17 September 20, 2011 by mafketis
"blatant untruths. The classic one that rears its ugly head on a regular basis being

"90% of all rapes in Sweden are carried out by Muslim immigrants""

What are the true figures?
18:49 September 20, 2011 by jostein
Inciting to violence, hatespeach, threats, all these are already illegal and are exceedingly easy to remove. All you need is a "Report abuse" button and a parttime moderator.

The reason that the swedish newspapers remove comments is that the commentators have incorrect opinions and challenges the truths of the journalists.

It is a shame to see thelocal supporting the censorship camp. And its symptomatic that you have to put up the threats smokescreen in order to justify your stance. It is perfectly acceptable to say that a publication has a certain political stance and that it does not wish to be a platform for other political opinions. Their site, their rules. In sweden there is of course the issue of the "presstöd" which complicates the issue. Since our taxdollars provides a quarter of the revenue to each and every daily in sweden it is not far fetched to argue that they should take freedom of speach more seriously than anyone else.
19:12 September 20, 2011 by captnemo
"Glenn Beck used his show to air his thoughts about killing Moore, contemplating openly whether he should do the job himself or hire a hit man."

I don't watch TV, so I have no idea who Glenn Beck is, but I certainly am surprised at his (purported) comment. Purported, because I have no knowledge of its veracity.

My personal disdain for Moore is that many of his facts are distortions and/or half truths: he is good at taking statements out of context.

As to his OSCAR (tm, r, whatever), Oscars are given to 'Hollywood people' by 'hollywood', based on decisions by 'hollywood'. They have no importance to anything not 'hollywood'.
19:17 September 20, 2011 by conboy
Peter your article fairly sketched the issue however with the exception of a passing description of generalised liberal thinking with regard to internet freedom of expression regarding the Local you declined to clearly state your own views amd imdeed neglected to supply any concrete criteria for internet media outlets who wish to apply a policy of open debate.We are merely expected to accept the merits of your unexplained policy on an ad hoc basis because well you seem to lay out a reasonable line of description without really decribing what it is you wish to achieve with your article.
19:41 September 20, 2011 by jostein
@Rick Methven

"One thing for sure, The level of debate is higher and the tone is more polite when posters have to use their real identities. "

Im sure Mubarak and Seyyed Ali Hoseyni Khamenei and Kim Jong Il would agree that anonymity is detrimental to the debate as well.
20:32 September 20, 2011 by cowboykodp

As usual, well said.

You Da Man.
20:49 September 20, 2011 by redfish
Glenn Beck wasn't serious, and he, just like Michael Moore, has been subject to both death threats and comments about his death by other public commentators. President Bush was also subject to public calls for his assassination all the time.

Both Beck and Moore say ludicrous and hateful things. But, one-sided editorials like this which try to pin violence on conservatives but not on liberals, causes divisiveness and fuels hate more than anything Beck and Moore have to say .. .because it does it under the veneer of objectivity and thoughtfulness, while Beck and Moore can be dismissed as nuts.
21:48 September 20, 2011 by Iraniboy
Nice debate once again from Peter!

We can aslo look at it from another angel. For persons like Breivik, Genn and some of troll posters in thelocal having a chance to express their hatred online can be relief for them in real life. It is obviously not a medicine to their problem but it is a pain-killer. The final solution is education and open debate but you cannot do this to every random person posting online.
22:46 September 20, 2011 by goatgirl
I can't take any commentary seriously that uses two of the biggest blowhards in America as the backbone for their article. It is a serious subject with long reaching ramifications, using Beck and Moore downgrades it.
11:56 September 21, 2011 by Rossminster
@Peter Vinhagen Simpson:

Bloody hell, get off that Swedish fence will ya? What do you think??!
12:06 September 21, 2011 by grymagnusson
I really like this article. It is a little late in a Swedish context, but 'better late than never'

It is a thought provoking analysis that raises a series of interesting issues while at the same time encourages readers to think for themselves.

It is so much easier just to sound off, but it is so much more effective to encourage people to think for themselves than telling them how to think.

Judging by several of the comments here this is obviously an issue that has given quite a few pause for thought.

The message - that we all share in this responsibility to defend freedom of speech and can't just rely on laws, editors etc to this for us - is a real challenge.
12:23 September 21, 2011 by cogito
You don't have to be a rocket scientist to see what PVS thinks: It's all America's fault and isn't Michael Moore wonderful.

He starts in the first line, linking the "Wild West "(think, aha! America!) to the mass murders in Norway, which were in fact committed by the sort of European neo-Nazi and Scandi-supremacist who have been around long before internet and online commentators.

Holding up his hero Michael Moore as a martyr to free speech is laughable.

The filmmaker he calls the "most hated man in America" sat in the box of honor next to President Jimmy Carter at the Democratic National Convention.

PVS swallows M.M.'s whining about his persecution, which most people know is a gimmick in Michael Moore's marketing of Michael Moore .

The greedy multi-millionaire ($20.6 million from "Fahrenheit" alone) who markets himself as a spokesman for the evils of capitalism is famously obsessed with getting as much money for himself as he can.

Free speech is too important to be left in the hands of journalists fearful of losing their monopoly on opinion-making

Voltaire is rolling over in his grave.
13:53 September 21, 2011 by Tysknaden
Do not call it "Free Speach". Name it "Newspeak". That's the correct term. Otherwise it takes too much "Doublethink".
20:17 September 21, 2011 by Gamla Hälsingebock
Moore and Beck make a lot of money by commenting to the extreme of any subject and coloring it with semi falsehoods.

Neither is to be taken at his word, in plain words..."it's show business folks".

Threats make the front page, however those that read them should always remember whey THEY wished someone dead! LOL!
05:08 September 22, 2011 by t64
The Local has been duped. Michael Moore has made his extremely lucrative career off of molding the truth into how he wishes it to be. His fear is contrived for publicity and manipulation. When the left defines hate speech it means speech it hates to hear.
09:56 September 22, 2011 by rolfkrohna
Free speech is for the common man, not for a small privileged self selected group of journalists, politicians, or dictators.
10:14 September 22, 2011 by Nemesis
Peter Vinthagen Simpson is a writer for the local.

He has a nerve putting up an article like that when the stories are clearly aimed at US people. Check the web traffic of the local and you will see that about half of it is US people. Every cash sum mentioned is converted to dollars, so as to make it easy for there US readers to understand. That encourages right wing lunatics from the USA to comment.

Another problem that needs to be addressed is who moderates the forums and comments. Being friendly with some of the commentators will skew comments to the politics of that group.
10:31 September 22, 2011 by Rick Methven

Again the conspiracy theories and TL pandering to Americans.

PVS's piece speaks of Breivik as well as Beck and Moore and also discusses the use of hate speech on The Local. As far as converting to US$, There are readers from all over the world on TL not just America and it just so happens that the worlds reserve currency just happens to be the US dollar.

I was hoping that this piece would have generated some intelligent and thought provoking debate.

But it seems that pigs will fly before we get that around here
11:00 September 22, 2011 by philster61
There has always been hate speech. just not available then as it is now. Sweden has its extremists...... as does US. As does Britain, as does every other country..... Then question is how serious is the general public meant to take them? After the horrendous crimes committed by Brevik in Norway it appears that Scandinavia in general must sit up and realize is not immune to violence brought about as result of hate mongering....

Common sense has to be applied. Listening to idiots such as Beck and O Reilly won't do anybody any good. Beck is a tool who live in a fantasy world.....But lke all tools he has a right to be heard regardless......

I think hat need to be done is to encourage a critical view of hate speech and don't listen to it or take it so seriously.....
11:22 September 22, 2011 by benraph
Hate speech is a problem from the Right and Left. But mainly with the Left. The word Fascist comes from the word Fascio, which in Italian, means unity. Thus the extreme Left concern themselves with uniting to delagitamise Israel(read hate Israel) among other Countries, whilst Justifying their view that it is not Anti-semitism but just against Israel. The Right responds to the Left by feeling it has no voice and thus becoming more extreme.
12:45 September 22, 2011 by godnatt
This is yet another excuse for the FAKE "liberal" thought police to suppress anything they disagree with.

Free speech means only criticizing white conservatives, but they will stop at nothing to stifle criticism of OTHER violent "multicultural" right wing ideology, Islam, no matter how based in fact.

Michael Moore was only able to call the president a fake (rightfully so) because of the intelligence of those who defended this right. Idiotic Glenn Beck made threats, not protected criticisms.

But today ANYTHING differing from what these FAKE "liberals" like is hate speech.

ONLY what they agree with is free speech.

But these of course aren't REAL liberals who battle against free speech and blindly defend the most overtly hateful right wing ideology in the world, valuing cultural relativism over freedom.

They are extremists of a newer sort.

Don't be fooled.
13:43 September 22, 2011 by cogito
Free speech too serious a subject for such dumbed-down and blatantly biased treatment.

This ill-informed and unintelligent writer is apparently on The Local staff.

How embarrassing it must be for the other Local writers, who are all of a much higher calibre.
17:51 September 22, 2011 by Gamla Hälsingebock
So called "hate" speech has been around for as long as man has existed on this planet!

Why stop it now?

There is something afoot that makes "Big Brother" that much more real and possible.

Let people say what they want and let those that disagree reply, as we used to do.
18:04 September 22, 2011 by Dave N
How can anyone write an article about freedom of speech without mentioning Theo Van Gogh, Pim Fortuyn - who were murdered for speaking out; and Geert Wilders and Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff, who were arrested for speaking out?

Freedom of speech is under attack throughout the world - and the ones pushing this Shariah-based attack are the followers of Islam and their naive allies on the Left.

And let's get one thing straight - it is your duty to shout "Fire!" in a crowded theatre - if the place really is on fire. That's what Wilders and the others have been doing - nothing more.
19:27 September 22, 2011 by Svensksmith
There's a lot of stuff I read on TL that I don't like. However, I am glad we live in a free society where we can express our opinions. Firing off salvos in a forum is much better than firing off salvos on a battlefield.
23:49 September 22, 2011 by esvahnt
every day there is more control on opinion

it is not exactly like the old censorship

its a kind of "social education "

this can only mount up
00:41 September 23, 2011 by k2kats
Bravo to Not Dumb! I've reached the same painstaking conclusions. I've been saddened and sickened by some of the comments on The Local, but have hope when I see well thought out, objective rebuttals and feel an obligation to affirm those posts when possible.

Rick, I appreciate your comments about troll alerts, as long as they are limited to inflammatory hate filled posts, not all posts with which we may disagree. But there are many reasons why people may prefer to remain anonymous to the public even though they are happy to idenitfy themselves to web administrators and stand behind their ideas and posts.

Philster, you're so right. Not taking hate speech seriously is hard to do when you're the target, but responding in kind needlessly inflames.

Svenksmith: Beautifully stated! We have a wonderful opportunity to explore effective conflict management.

This discussion is similar to any first year law class. Yes, you have the right to free speech, but not to yell "Fire!" in a crowded theater.

Reasonable people often disagree. How we do it is the issue. It's never to late to teach (and practice) civility.
01:21 September 23, 2011 by Gamla Hälsingebock
One man's truth is another's hate speech...the problem is who decides?
04:50 September 23, 2011 by Marc the Texan
Yeah, I'm pretty leery of what constitutes hate speech for some people in the eyes of top down editorialism. How can freedom of speech be too important to be left to fend for itself? That concept doesn't even make logical sense. Words, ideas and opinions all stand on their own merit or lack thereof. If you encounter what you believe to be hate speech then you condemn it and if others do then it is often roundly condemned, but the idea of using censorship to blot it out here and there is only sweeping it under the rug. Light of day is the best disinfectant. The idea of censorship is a losing policy and a symptom of societies that are not honest with themselves. I think the term 'hate speech' doesn't do the discussion any favors because it's such a fuzzy concept. Setting out the goal of qualifying hate speech will turn society into a fearful and suspicious police state. Bad things happen and sometimes can't be prevented. Curtailing free speech won't solve the issue.

One last thing. I'm not a fan of Moore or Beck, but at least keep the story balanced. Beck has had death threats and has to live under security. The argument could be made exactly the same way, due to left wing pundits (who might not be so well known outside the US) making threats against him .
15:09 September 23, 2011 by tadchem
"Hate" is an emotion, and can become a motivation. The line is crossed when an individual allows their own hate to move them to attack other *people*. Classical logic calls these 'ad hominem' attacks, and they are easily recognized as their targets are individual human beings. Some ad hominem attacks are slanderous or libelous. These should be strictly off limits for forums, and the limits should be enforced by moderators on a site-by-site basis.

Unfortunately, for some people 'free speech' means that others are free to say anything as long as they don't disagree, and 'hate speech' means 'disagreement.'

The difficulty in discussing 'free speech' vs. 'hate speech' is in the semantics.

(Hi, Marilyn!)
16:31 September 23, 2011 by k2kats
When a poster extrapolates his/her personal experience and blames an entire class of people, or doesn't allow facts to interfere with his/her opinions about a class of people or an individual, or uses crude language in a post about a class of people or an individual... it's clear that the post is motivated by hate.

When the intent is to inflame and other posters object, it helps. But it's rather like Pandora's box. Once hate filled posts are out there, they do find an audience and there are people who will agree and act out.

Surely, we're evolved enough to find a way to preserve and protect our right to challenge ideas without harming individuals or classes of people.
16:56 September 23, 2011 by Global Macro
You have not offered a scintilla of evidence that freedom of speech was a cause of the murder of the Norway, or that curtailing freedom of speech would make any Swede safer. You have not quoted a single example of an expression of free speech that ought to have been silenced. And you have misrepresented what Glenn Beck said. If "Glenn Beck escaped censure," what was it that he said that ought to have been censured? And who was it that should have done the censuring? The commentator Mark Steyn observed correctly, "When it comes to free expression, Britain, Canada, Australia, and Europe are ever less lands of laws and instead lands of men-and women, straights and gays, Muslims and infidels-whose rights before the law vary according to which combination of these various identity groups they belong to."
20:07 September 23, 2011 by hughknows
Hey don't be too rough on PVS. It's just another 'The Local' grammatical error or extended typo methinks, though a rather elaborate one. '...free speech is too important to be left to fend for itself in an online Wild West.' was supposed to say: 'Free speech is so important and so powerful that it will battle for existence in any kind of harsh environment and, like so many times before, will overthrow its oppressive overlords in triumph.'

Surely free speech is not some delicate flower that needs to be guided to the right expressions of conformist opinion by a great and powerful left-wing gardener. To quote a religious book with themes echoed in many other quarters, 'The truth shall set you free'. Free speech is a human right. As another poster mentioned - the authorities should be concern themselves with, and do act upon, the illegal practices of directly inciting or threatening physical harm - as often pops up from proper National-Socialists and from Muslim Imams etc. Prosecute these people for threatening others, or calling for their physical harm ala Charles Manson. Leave the rest of the folks alone. The argument for publishing the identity of posters or censoring debate in other ways is ludicrous for the reason of internet freedoms. Will they soon want to publish individual voting records? You had one single Breivik going out and performing mass violence. If you published fiery rhetoric with personal details, how many online vendettas would spill over into personal house-calls, especially in Sweden where all your info is available on websites. It would pose a whole new personal safety issue from nutcases.

The internet might be the Wild West, but you're proposing to turn it into North Korea, a state, incidentally, some left-wing Swedes I've met actually admire(!!!). Go figure.
21:26 September 23, 2011 by Scansson
By reading the Local, I've learned that I can comment without mention of a religion or race (which really has no barring here), so here goes...

Freedom of Speech is basic human right!

There are also more rights for all, but first...

Here's an idea, for the guests coming to Sweden:

Quit committing crimes like: raping, honor killings, bombing, threats & performing (terrorism) and shoving a "phobic" religious political movement down Europe's throat.

Be Humble and Grateful to this wonderful host country for giving you a better life.

Oh, while your at it, learn this countries language, live their culture and get a job so you can contribute like the rest of us hard working tax payers... Or is that too much to ask.

Then maybe, just maybe the natives in Europe won't be so pissed-off at the bad apples and so 'hard' with the truth.

Almost forgot... Welcome to Sweden :  )
03:28 September 24, 2011 by mibrooks27
The Local does a good job of permitting almost every comment. That is as it should be everywhere. If you write something to the US media that they don't like, they will censor it. That goes for CNN, especially Fareed Zakaria, and Fox News. The European press is far freer than the American press.
08:35 September 24, 2011 by jl1995
I hate a lot of things. I hate broccoli, reality TV and my next door neighbor. Sometimes I hate my dog. I hate 80% of what Glen Beck says, and I hate 80% of what Michael Moore says. I hate 80% of muslim immigrants since they don't belong in Sweden.

So what are you going to censor? Or are we all too fragile that feelings are going to get hurt? Or believe that "hate" causes violence? If I hate muslim immigrants, is it wrong for me to peacefully work to limit immigration rates?

Censorship is to protect those of weak minds or those stifle the thought of those with conflicting views. If Fox news declared that they were going to censure hate speech from "trolls" spewing "hate" and untruths about capitalists and wealthy individuals, would the Local be in agreement? I doubt it. They would be the first to scream "CENSORSHIP!"
09:36 September 25, 2011 by cmbsweden
It is a fine line (what is "allowable" as speech). They say sunlight is the best way to disinfect "poison", and I generally agree with that, but "free speech" does have limits. You cannot walk into a crowded theater and yell "Fire" thereby potentially causing injury and panic unnecessarily, for example. And I do believe that a lot of people do not understand that free speech has consequences...

I am "free" to call my neighbor's wife a whore, but I had best be prepared to get punched in the face by the woman's husband (if not her herself).

I just think like everything, people have to act responsibly. Even if that is more hope than reality.
21:56 September 25, 2011 by planet.sweden
I'd have a bit more respect for Peter Vinthagen Simpson (and I admit I have very little, he's a pious, self important but very thin skinned Guardian wannabe recycling other peoples arguments albeit in a less coherent manner), if he was honest enough to admit that when it comes to the open immigration versus restricted immigration debate he's firmly in the former camp, and all this cant about "hate speech" is simply a ruse to ban comments from people who disagree with him.

But I love the line "Free speech is too important to be left to fend for itself". Neat. A East German censor couldn't have spun that one better. In other words, freedom of speech is so precious, so important, that in the interests of preserving it I'm afraid we're going to have to end it. Get it? George Orwell would.
22:07 September 26, 2011 by mkvgtired
Wow, you really can't believe anything this garbage bag full of lard says. There are countless videos of MM at college campuses not surrounded by body guards. Any body guards he has, I'm sure he got just to blow any comments GB made out of proportion.

That being said, GB is no better. GB and MM are both insightful douchebags that pray on the extremes on both ends of the spectrum. There have been enough examples of GB falsehoods posted on these forums. MM does the same thing. First thing that comes to mind is when he is interviewing senators/representatives to see if their children were serving overseas. Many said yes, but he cut out their interviews to give the impression none were. There are many other examples, GB does the same. Anyone that believes either of these people is very small minded.
23:26 September 26, 2011 by Finnpundit
Michael Moore has been the target of so many death threats before Glenn Beck made his jokes, so for him to blame Beck is simply an attempt on Moore's part to score some points.

In any case, it is very hard to be concerned for a left-wing billionaire like Moore who's fame and fortune rests on inciting hate and anger in the first place.
22:48 September 27, 2011 by tonylaz
From the USA

Go easy on trying to limit what someone can say. I'm old enough to remember the limits of Germany's in the '30s and '40s and of those in the USSR for 75 years. Sometimes an open discussion is painful but it's better than not being able to speak.
01:24 September 28, 2011 by Roy E
The issue is more one of immaturity than it is of 'hate'.

It's extremely immature to label opinions and positions that you disagree with as 'hate'. And it's also extremely immature to react emotionally to points of view other than your own.

The 'Be tolerant or we will destroy you' attitude doesn't work.
09:02 September 28, 2011 by tonylaz
I frequently, but not regularly, listen to Glenn Beck. While he does heavily concentrate on topics which threaten the free world, and does so in a serious manner, sometimes lecturing, I can agree very little with any of criticisms offered in this article. I don't ever recall his advocating violence against anyone, even against Moore, who makes himself very easy to hate and seems to relish it.

Calling Moore's films "documentary" is analogous to calling Josef Goebbels broadcasts documentary, and saying that he needs a 24/7 guard of ex Navy Seals is beyond belief.

The author of this article either does not listen to Beck's broadcasts or has an agenda. Whichever, it is hardly objective.
11:41 September 28, 2011 by Roy E

You're quite right about Mr Beck. There's absolutely no 'hate' there, only a challenge to a narrative that some are trying to establish. Labeling it 'hate' is merely a dishonest political tactic to discredit and dismiss the argument. I don't listen to Beck. I just can't stand the guy's sappy and often adolescent style. But that's a very separate issue from the substance of his message. He's merely advocating critical thinking and discernment , which is the last thing some agenda-driven activists want their audiences to embrace.
11:42 September 28, 2011 by cogito
"I'd have a bit more respect for Peter Vinthagen Simpson (and I admit I have very little, he's a pious, self important but very thin skinned Guardian wannabe..." (#43)

@planet.sweden: and I'd have some respect for him if he'd come out and admit that he dreams of being a "minder" in North Korea, where they tell people what they can and cannot say.

The problem with censorship is always the same: who decides (what is and what is not hate speech)?. Let's hope that for TheLocal's integrity that it's not the writer of this idiotic article.
15:39 September 28, 2011 by Omarbete
Freedom of speech is a fundamental right for all individuals! Does that include the freedom to spread lies and hate propoganda on others? It is unlawful to offend any individual as it is unlawful to offend groups. But some are freer to speak and offend than others!
18:13 September 28, 2011 by t64

Yes freedom of speech does include lies and the freedom to refute them and the lost reputation as one is labeled a liar. Michael Moore freely produces

"documentaries" and speeches packed with untruths and distortions including this article. Only in an environment with limited free speech can these distortions remain unchecked.
14:38 September 30, 2011 by bcarroll
Speech is free in most "free" societies only so long as it does not go against the ruling majority. An examination of the civil rights movement and the plight of the interred Japanese during WWII in the US is proof enough of that.
15:54 September 30, 2011 by berfel
I'm not going to write the argument which I constructed carefully and then got rejected for alleged "profanity". Profane for using words in common English. Which aren't obscene.

Simson is a feckless wannabe who wants to restrict what people say because he thinks that freedon of speech isn't worth your life.

There is no life without freedom of speech. Only subservience.

Simson's "arguments" are fallacious and without gravity. There are already laws against defamation. And laws against *real* threats of criminal acts.

Well Simson, go ahead. Exercise your freedom of speech so that we can see what you are. And should freedom of speech be curtailed, maybe you'll too be signing the tune of Martin Niemöller.
08:34 October 1, 2011 by Lavaux
Mr. Simpson claims that the freedom to speak enables the normalization of extreme speech causing deranged people like Breivik to go on murder sprees. To remedy this, Mr. Simpson seems to endorse censoring online commentary. Let's demonstrate why we don't want to entrust people like Mr. Simpson with the power to censor our speech.

For starters, Mr. Simpson provides no evidence of a causal link between free speech, extreme speech and the crimes of extremists. He merely assumes one. The available evidence, however, demonstrates otherwise. For example, Breivik's manifesto cites sources of all varieties, from extreme to mainstream.

In a similar case, elite journalists speculated that Jerod Loughner, who went on a shooting spree last January in Arizona that killed and wounded several VIPs, was motivated by right wing hate speech. The news media and several Democrat politicians immediately pounced on this narrative, turning it into a partisan attack on Republicans and demanding that they tone down their rhetoric (i.e., stop criticizing Democrats). Further investigation revealed that Loughner was simply a deranged nut job who cited left wing influences far more than any other kind. Oops. Of course, the elite journalists and Democrat politicians who promoted the same false narrative Mr. Simpson is now promoting never apologized or retracted their smears. It gets better: Today these very same smear merchants are using exactly the kind of language they claimed incited Loughner to attack Republicans. Go figure.

To conclude, note the obvious logical fallacy rampaging through Mr. Simpson's first three paragraphs, namely, that some deranged nut job, inspired by Glenn Beck's speech, would have already killed Michael Moore but for his Navy Seal guards. This specious claim is pure speculation, and worse, it's unknowable. So how does Mr. Simpson know the unknowable? He doesn't say, yet I bet he fervently believes it nonetheless.

So, fellow peons, do we really want to give Mr. Simpson and his ilk the power to censor our speech? Those who answer in the affirmative deserve what they get. The rest of us will fight on to preserve our freedom.
15:41 October 2, 2011 by skatty
"Free speech is too important to be left for itself…" I suppose it means free speech is too important to be left free! Or, free speech should be left free for some, and not free for some others!

Freedom of speech is the fundamental right in a democratic system. If free speech is considered a problem in a democratic system, then it means there is probably a problem with the democratic system or at least with the democratic system in Norway (base to the reference of this article to Breivik), where an extremist would be so much affected by internet to blow up government buildings and kill many. There are thousands positive articles on the net about immigration around the world (including Norway), but when one is more likely to be affected negatively, then He/She would be affected by negative comments and articles on immigrants (as an example).

Freedom of speech is just one of many necessary fundamentals in a democratic system; awareness, knowledge, tolerance …, are many other fundamentals.

There has been hate between different groups of people for long time, even before the internet; but the fact is that most of the people simply don't kill each others because of hate.

In my opinion if a large number of people are ready to kill some group of people because of hate, then it's better not to immigrate to that country at all. After all there is not any point in living between people, who hate some other groups.
17:13 October 2, 2011 by Rick Methven
The people who claim THEIR right to freedom of speech here, are the same that say that the Iman,who said that Muslims who convert to Christianity, should not have been allowed to say that on the radio.

So who has the right of freedom of speech?
05:05 October 3, 2011 by johnoleson
Oh Rick, the difference is parody, opinion, and expression of thought are protected speech in free societies. The calling for insurrection, riot, and murder to devoted followers falls under existing illegality. Complicated for some, easy concept for others.
17:47 October 4, 2011 by cogito

Yes. Hard to believe there are people who do not understand the difference. It should be obvious that the first is the hallmark of a free society, and the second of a totalitarian mindset.
21:06 October 5, 2011 by johnoleson
A great news article shows that academia in USA struggles from the same free speech issues as Sweden. http://hotair.com/archives/2011/10/05/university-of-wisconsin-retreats-from-censorship/
11:19 October 8, 2011 by Lavaux
The claim that extreme speech exerts mind control over extremists is indistinguishable from the claim that space aliens exert mind control over people with mind control rays. Both claims are unfalsifiable, but that doesn't stop their proponents from embracing ridiculous remedies, e.g. proposing that we allow elites to censor our speech or wear tinfoil hats.

While the state may censor or punish seditious speech or speech posing an imminent danger to the public order, we can't trust the state's political branches to determine what kind of speech that might be. That's why we litigate the issue on a case-by-case basis in courts of law. Yet Mr. Simpson wants us to endow elite media types with the discretion to censor and punish speech they believe inappropriate. This grasp for unaccountable power is far more dangerous than any speech.
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