Live Academic Discussion – How Free is Speech – With Dr. Stephen Law
Channel: Hamza Tzortzis
File Size: 90.57MB
Bismillah al Rahman al Rahim al hamdu Lillah wa Salatu was Salam ala rasulillah salam alaikum. Peace be to everybody, brothers and sisters and friends and welcome to today's live stream, a civil discussion and philosophical discussion. Maybe I feel philosophical discussion on the topic of freedom of speech. And I don't hopefully need to introduce myself. My name is Hamza zoetis. And I'm a research student at the University of London studying philosophy. And we have with us a respected think and respected guest, Dr. Steven law, I'm going to briefly introduce him, but I want him to tell us his story, because it's quite inspirational, I think, especially from an academic point of
view. So Dr. Steven is formally reader in philosophy at Heathrow College, University of London. He's published various books and philosophy and has a new course on critical thinking at Udemy. And he has an interesting story, who was once a postman. Now he's a philosopher called postman in a way that not only does he delivered the philosophical message, but he writes the letters himself. So I'm not going to get into too much. Let Stephen introduce himself to the audience. Take your time, Steven.
Hi. Well, thank you for that very kind introduction. Um, so yeah, so um, you're right, I used to be a placement A long time ago, it was a placement for about four years, actually, in Cambridge. And
the reason I became a postman was because I wasn't sure what to do with my life, I'd had a couple of attempts at doing a levels. And first time I was asked to leave. And the second time I just gave up because I just found it so
pointless, really are. And so I ended up doing various manual jobs, I was a manual laborer on the M 11, when that was built.
And then it became a replacement for about four years. And then eventually, I discovered philosophy, I would read a lot, one book would lead to another.
And eventually, I found I was reading nothing but philosophy books. And then I realized that actually, this was what I was really passionate about. And I applied to get into university to study philosophy. Once I realized you could do that.
And by some miracle, I still don't really understand how I did it. But I managed to convince the City University in London, to take me on as an undergraduate.
was right. Without the A Levels. Yeah, without even access course or anything. I was very fortunate.
And so I did really well. So I've got a first and then I went to Oxford to do the beef Hill, which is what everyone does, if they want to teach almost everyone. And then I did my doctorate there.
When I was a research fellow for three years at Queens College, Oxford men, I got a job in University of London, this college called Heathrow, which was closed down recently. And I took early retirement, but I spent most of my career there. And now actually, heat up is a strange place because it was a was founded by the Jesuits, you know, the Catholics intellectual branch of the Catholics. And it was founded in Belgium, and then it moved around a lot. And at one time, it was located in a village called Heath ROP in Oxfordshire, which is where I got the name, and then ended up in about 1975, as part of the University of London, which point it was the newest member of the
University of London, but the oldest college funnily enough, in the University of London. And then, you know, I was very happy there and I enjoyed working with the Jesuits with a very liberal tolerant place.
I, my philosophical interests tend to be in things like philosophy of mind, metaphysics, especially, Vic and Stein, really keen on the later philosophy of Vic and Stein, a chap called crypkey.
But then I've also become more interested maybe with the Jesuits, maybe the influence rubbed off, but I ended up becoming more interested in religion, philosophy of religion.
I'm not a religious person. I'm an atheist. probably didn't admit that upfront, I'm an atheist.
but not always, I think early on, I was quite
religiously inclined My father was going to be a religious minister, is a recording of me at about age two, singing onward Christian soldiers, apparently.
But, and then it wasn't really a very religious I was kind of drawn to new agey hippie dippie stuff for a while in my early 20s.
But as I became exposed to more and more Western philosophy that kind of drifted away,
to be honest, much more
skeptical about that stuff now.
But I became interested in religion for all sorts of reasons. And I've so I've published various papers in philosophy of religion, some of which created a bit of a stir.
I probably best known for having just published lots of introductory books. So there's a book for children called the complete philosophy files, which I still like very much. There's a book for adults called the philosophy gym 25 short adventures in thinking. So I'm going to write a book on humanism through Oxford University Press, and lots of other books, too. So that's probably why I'm what I'm best known for.
So that was quite a long. No, no, you are our guests. So you're here to introduce yourself? Absolutely. Fantastic. So it's a recording of you singing a hymn, you said when you were two?
There's some hope. Right? There's some hope.
You never really have, you'll see.
You're slightly cutting up I think because of the internet. But you know, we'll tolerate the lag. It happens to all live streams. So don't worry if I haven't heard you, I'm just going to ask you just to repeat yourself if there's any internet issues. Okay. So let's get straight into the kind of conversation I want you to imagine. For example, you know, I come from a Greek background. And imagine when the island of Samoa and on the island of Cyprus right next to the beach, there's a coffee shop, and usually old men, they're drinking Greek coffee. And they usually have discussions and they're open and authentic. And they're hopefully committed to each other's well being. But
sometimes they can get a bit controversial. Sometimes they could be sticky, get a bit loud, but then they hug and kiss at the end. So that's the kind of dynamic today just imagine is a great coffee shop. And we've been around for a while we're having this conversation just for the audience to know me and Dr. Stephen, we had discussions at De Montfort University in Kingston, I believe, as well. And there were very fruitful discussions. In actual fact, one of those discussions were quite important for me in terms of to continue my kind of intellectual journey concerning science and religion. So in a way, I have to be thankful because you're thankful for those experiences, because
they only help you grow. So freedom of speech. This is like a hot potato. There's a lot of controversy at the moment, obviously, with the battery case, I don't know the specific details, but that hopefully has become a motivation to have such discourse. And also, you had Charlie Hebdo, and you have other things concerning religion, and the freedom of speech issue always come up for what would be your summary, then we could start having a conversation will be a summary on the issue of freedom of speech. Okay. Well, before we do that, am I coming across? Okay, at the moment?
Yes. Okay. Because I could go and turn on another router, which might improve the communication, it would take me like 30 seconds to him. Yeah.
This can be a problem.
So for those who are just coming on board, just to let you know that Dr. Steven has gone to turn another router, in order to make the kind of online experience far more better for every single one of you.
Right, well, let's hope that improves the communication a little bit. So you want me to talk so genuinely about freedom of speech? So?
So obviously, I'm a fan. I mean, I think most of us are really, broadly speaking.
I think myself is fairly liberal.
What I am in particular, though, which I think is probably going to be most relevant here is I'm a political secularist. So, that means
I like the state to be neutral with respect to religious beliefs. So it neither promotes religion, nor does it promote atheism, it should simply out of that particular debate, and it shouldn't privilege really religious voices, but neither should it privilege. privilege atheist critics of religion, say.
So, a state in which you have a theocracy, so I use obviously not a political, politically secular state, because one religion is privileged and its voice has
authority in a way that would be unacceptable to me as political secularists. But similarly, I would disapprove or accountable or totalitarian author, authoritarian atheist stake, you know, Stalin's
Soviet Republic, for example, clamping down on religious beliefs, stuffing socks into the mouths of religious people.
I'm very much against that, too.
I think the state should be neutral.
And I also think that the state should protect the freedom of religious and non religious people to do what they want to do certain ones, they're not causing other people harm, and in particular, express their views. So I think religious people should be free to express their religious points of view.
Everywhere in every context, I
would not support gagging, religious people.
But similarly, I think non religious people should be had their speech protected to and they should be able to criticize religion and mock religion,
even in much the same way as
well. So I think that
although I understand that people will have strong feelings about religion,
and I would never go out of my way to cause offence to a religious person, just for the sake of it. And
that would be an awful thing to do.
I would insist on the right to criticize religion, and even mock religion, in much the same way as I would defend the right to criticize and mock non religious beliefs, atheist beliefs, political beliefs, for example. I don't think that political beliefs that are non religious are deserve any kind of special respect or protection or privilege. I think it's perfectly okay to mock political leaders. You see cartoons published in newspapers which caricature religious people, or political leaders and political beliefs. And because I think that's acceptable. And because I'm a political secularist, I think
that the same is true of religious beliefs, too, they shouldn't get any special protection, they shouldn't get any special privileges, they should be treated on par with other kinds of belief.
So this is not an on this is not this view is not is not exclusively atheist. There are lots of religious people who are political secularists. And the reason that they're political secularists is often because they see that a politically secular society protect them, protects their freedom to express their religious beliefs,
ensures that you know, their their opponents, be they religious opponents or non religious opponents, that they will be captured by by the state, they will be protected their rights will be protected by a politically secular system.
So you find a lot of a lot of religious people are political secularists. I'm sure there are plenty of Muslims, political secularists are, for example, but of course not all. And in fact, there are there are Christians and Jews and so on, who are who are less inclined towards political secularism. So this is an issue that cuts across the religious atheists divide, you find supporters and critics on both sides.
So there you go. That's, that's, that's probably gives you a sense of where I'm going to be coming from when it comes to this particular issue. Okay, good. My take on this is
it's impossible to say that there's absolute freedom of speech. Now, I don't think that will be applied in the UK context. But there are some American ideologues who feel like they're very absolutist about freedom of speech, meaning, no restriction whatsoever. And they usually cite the kind of slippery slope argument they weren't any restrictions is a slippery slope into tyranny. But obviously, the door swings both ways from softly because if you don't have any restrictions at all, it could be anarchy. Right? So as the academic David van mill talks about this, and therefore, and what I'm saying David van mill here, he makes a very interesting point, he says, This is not
absolute freedom of speech, it is therefore restricted, in some cases, because of values. So the discussion we should be having, I think, is, well what are these values because you made an interesting point about protecting the rights of religious or non religious people in terms of expression. And you mentioned about mulqueen. That is something that I would disagree with, I would basically say that that is slightly problematic, because when we look at freedom of speech, freedom of speech is not intrinsically valuable, it's instrumental. So for example, it's a means to some ends such as truth.
accountability, scientific progress. You know, john Stuart Mill also talked about human flourishing as bone and so forth. So I don't think that there is nothing necessary about for example, gratuitous insult. Yeah, because there's a difference between gratuitous insult and just, you know, coming across offensive. So if you intend to gratuitously insult, that's not that doesn't necessarily lead to the objective of freedom of speech, I would even argue, Dr. Stephen, I want you, I want you to take on this. If we had a society where everyone walked in a gratuitous way, wouldn't that be contrary to the very objective of freedom of speech, because he would be now afraid to articulate
themselves on promote their version of the truth, if you like, and will be very important in this context is it would undermine truth, which is an objective of freedom of speech, surely. And what's significant here is if we look at human nature, what we mean by human nature is how humans are not how we like them to be. humans want dignity. So if a particular religious belief, for example, or even an ideological belief, even a secular ideological belief, for example, has formed the essence of someone's identity, and a relate to that, those ideas as part of the kind of purpose of life, surely, in order to fulfill some of the objectives of freedom of speech, we need to at least not to
have an intention to gratuitously insult. That would be my take on this issue, and then we could unpack further issues later. What do you what do you think about that?
Yeah, no, that's very interesting. So
personally, I don't favorite just gratuitously
insulting or offending people.
But we need to separate out a few issues may be so there's a legal issue, should it be banned? Should it be illegal to mock
certain religious beliefs? For example?
Should we have a more of blasphemy?
I don't know what you think about that.
Do you? Would you favor that?
I would favor Well, in the law at the moment in the UK basically, has already legal restrictions on offense. Right? And they even discuss, for example, was it an intent to offend? Was it gratuitous? and so on, and so forth. So British law and law in Europe and other places already stipulates these laws, not only on religious minorities, by the way, but also on non religious minorities, for example, you have this with the LGBTQ and others, right? So from this perspective, you know, everyone has their sacred cow, right, everyone has, you know, something sacred, even in a killer sense. And what's very important here is that what has been discussed in law is actually dignity is
not necessarily contingent on a religious belief. It's about are you dignifying the individual, right? And this is very important. So
can I say, because I was I was asking you about blasphemy, which is, yeah, I'm gonna address that we're so we need to separate out blasphemy, which is attacking religious beliefs or images or whatever. And on the other hand, attacking particular communities, people ridiculing them suggesting that they are less than human or something like that. These are completely different things. So it's very, we want to be very careful that we don't muddle them up, because I'm certainly in favor of laws that prevent people from inciting hatred against minorities are, but that's not a blasphemy law. A blasphemy law is a law that prevents you from black theming, from saying something, for
example, that religious people
think should be prohibited. And the state says steps in and prohibits it. So that if you say it, where if you show the image, then you go to jail, or you're prosecuted or whatever. So it's, so let's not get into the protecting community. I'm all in favor of laws that protect communities from being abused and smeared and hatred incited against them. But I'm asking you about whether there should be a blasphemy law, a law that protects religious beliefs and images, or whatever. Good, good. Yeah, that's just very quickly about
it's it's there isn't a clear distinction between ideas and people, in many cases, especially when it comes to beliefs that forms the identity. This is very crucial, right? And I'm going to answer the blasphemous thing. I'm
not sidetracking you. But it's very important to unpack that, for example, there was a recent study. It was a scientific study, and they came to the conclusion that that study basically says that homosexuality, for example of sexual preference is not dictated by, you know, directly dictated by genetics, right? That's a scientific study
What they did is they adopted what, what what I'm talking about today, they basically ever had a scientific, scientific communicator, they went to the lgbtqi, a plus advocacy groups, they discussed with them, they said, We have this paper.
Our conclusion is we've done this study that there is no direct kind of link between genetics and sexual preference. And basically, we want to basically be sensitive to this. And we want to communicate in a way in order for it to be conducive to what they consider to be
representation of reality, right? Because they believe this, this theory or this study is as closer to the actual state of affairs as possible. So even in cases like this, well, the idea, especially in the UK, if you were to say something like that, that could be seen as homophobic and therefore illegal. But in the case of the scientists here, what they did was is they were sensitive to that, and they, and they understood that there's not a very clear distinction, sometimes between someone's identity and their beliefs. And sometimes it's, you know, how they relate to themselves, their state of being and the ideas I have. So I don't think it's as simple as that. But because I think the
blasphemy law is very simple. The Islamic paradigm we have some certain ontological commitments, right, we believe not only as faith, but we think we have good reasons to believe I know you've engaged with many philosophers on this issue before that God exists, He is worthy of worship, and there was a final prophet, the prophet Mohammed upon heavy peace. And what does that say that becomes a kind of basis for meta ethics and our ethical theory, like what divine command theorists from that perspective, what the divine productive, instructive says is that you cannot go to sleep in so an intent to insult God and all of his profit. Not only that God himself says you can't
condemn or insult anyone else's idol. And the kind of exegesis behind this, this is gonna be a secular idol, for example, I'm not going to go to America and start burning them or come flag. So there is a kind of ethic here that is not only specific to God and His messengers, but any type of idol, even in a secular sense, I think makes us far more consistent, right? Because the kind of, as we said, freedom of speech is restricted to values from the Islamic values point of view, we say that you can't intend to offend anyone, you shouldn't, right. And we can unpack that later and conducive to the objectives of freedom of speech. So the kind of blasphemy laws from that
perspective, obviously, they're not applied properly. I know there's no transparency and due process in many countries. But that's a different political discussion, we're having an abstract discussion here, I would say is that if you think about it, conceptually, whether you believe it or not, is a different story, but conceptually, to stand in the position, standing the possibility that these things are true, that insulting God in His messengers is one of the greatest forms of gratuitous insult you can ever make, because they are the they are the intellectual basis for your rights. Now, I know you disagree with that, for sure. But I want you to stand in the possibility so you
understand it, intellectually empathize. So it's not as simple as you remember this. This doesn't mean you can't have intellectual debate and dialogue, right? Because, as you know, you've probably studied a bit of Islamic history. Medieval Baghdad, for example, when atheists were getting burned in in Europe, they were sitting on the at the intellectual table, we have this concept of the doctor. Yeah. Which are like the philosophical naturalist of the time. There was nuanced debate and discussion, but it was with the intellectual tone on there was no intent to gratuitously insult. So that would be my answer from that perspective.
But so my question was, do you support blasphemy laws which make it illegal to
mock or insult certain religious beliefs and figures? And I guess your answer is yes, yes. Absolutely. Based on what he said, Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. Okay. And I don't
Um, so Okay.
So do you think that ideally, then the teacher the battery Grammar School, then he should he should actually be prosecuted and pass perhaps into jail for doing what he did? He would support that. Well, law that you would support the introduction of a law that would see him his behavior criminalized and no, because I don't know the case properly. There's different conflicting scenarios. I haven't. So even to me, it would be ridiculous, right? Although, I think if what is being told is true, he probably violated the teachers code of conduct. Because the teacher because my sister's a teacher, she's, she's, she's a senior manager. And she's not Muslim. Just to put that
in there. Because you have to be sensitive when it comes to people's ideas and identity because there's not a direct distinction, especially at that age. So you want it from a perspective of
We're living in a time where Muslim minorities, especially in Europe, maybe not more. So this country, maybe more so in France, right? But yes, in this country too. It's a denigrated minorities and degree, if you look at the kind of dynamic research on the media, you know, it's it's denigrated and downtrodden from that perspective. Now, in that context, if you show symbols of, you know, for example, the prophet Mohammed, that is the basis for the identity and for the state of being and for their morals, and so on and so forth, and you have Islamophobic tropes, for example, even if it's in the context of blasphemy, what that can do is that can be damaging from an edification point of
view, from a teacher's point of view, what I would say is, there could have been so many other ways that you could have used examples in a teacher setting in order to make your point, but without basically, you know, creating the kind of Hoover that's been created notwithstanding need to put a context. I don't know the full case. Yeah, I don't know this. I don't. I don't know if it would have been 10 I don't know what was going on. And to be honest, I try not to see the media anymore. Because, you know, and that's another thing about freedom of speech, right? We live in a Post truth, culture, freedom of speech. In this way, you're allowed to mock everybody, it's devalued. Politics
is devalued. Truth itself. People don't believe in truth, and I don't believe that, hang on, get carried away. Okay.
I mean, to to allow, so you've said things that suggest that you think that allowing people to mock beliefs, somehow, um, means that what you seem to think it was it was it was potentially a threat to free speech, because people won't express their views anymore, they will be afraid to express their views, so we won't get to the truth. This this is simply not true.
To allow mockery and a bit of ridicule, and satire and so on, is does not stop those whose beliefs are being satirized from defending their beliefs and arguing for their beliefs. Not at all. And in fact, sometimes a little bit of mockery
actually opens up
the possibility of our seeing something that we had missed. So a famous example, a famous illustration, which I'm sure you're familiar with is the Emperor's New Clothes, the Hans Christian Andersen story, where the, the king is duped by a couple of tailors who tell him that they can weave clothes that are so fine, that
anyone without the sufficient sensitivity won't be able to see them. And if you're wearing these clothes, you will appear naked.
And so they make him an outfit. Also, they say, and he can't see it. But rather than admit his lack of sensitivity and sophistication, he pretends to put the clothes on and parades around naked.
And, and then he invites people into admire his new outfit. And of course, no one wants to admit that they're not.
They're not sensitive enough to to appreciate the outfit, so they're all admiring it too, and telling him how great he prays up and down the town, in his outfit completely naked, with everyone applauding the wondrous finery that his you know, his his wearing until one small boy points and laughs and walks in. And at that point, the spell is broken. All right, that's what it took a little bit of mockery, a little bit of laughter, to get people to finally say that they've been a bit silly that they've been duped, sometimes a little bit of mockery is extremely useful. And it can get us to take a step back. And just pack it in with all of the difference in the, you know, the hand wringing
and the forelock tugging and just take a step back and think, Oh, hang on a second, maybe, maybe I've got this wrong. And so some of the some of the greatest little little insights that have come from people when it comes to politics and so on, have been in the form of satires and parodies.
And they've been really useful at opening people's eyes in a way that simply wouldn't be possible if you just came at the beliefs head on and just treated them as it with the respect that they were
demanding. So it seems to me that, that it's very often the people who demand respect, you must respect my beliefs. You must not mock them. Those people are usually the people whose beliefs need most need mocking, or their right for you the most need a little bit of mockery, just to open people's eyes to the possibility that actually all
This respect and deference in something might actually be hiding something that's not true. So it seems to me that mockery has an important role to play an important role to play in politics. And if people were to try to prevent me from mocking my government, and my political opponents, I would consider that outrageous, and most most people would consider that completely unacceptable. I think, well, I don't know what you think about that. But if that is unacceptable, then as a political secularist, I have to say the same about religious beliefs too. I think it depends on what you define as mockery. And what I meant here was is, obviously you can have an intellectual tone, and
come across in a way that is rhetorical and make your point. But is mockery and gratuitous insult in necessary in order to achieve the objectives of getting awakening, creating awakenings within people and getting people to see the light kind of thing? No, it's very much my point. So if it's necessary, it's not gratuitous. If it's actually, if it's a useful tool, and often it is, then it's not gratuitous. So now there's a point to it. There was a there was often a point to satire and mockery, and so on.
But even if there isn't, it's not really for me, I feel to to jump. Maybe the person thinks that there is a point, I don't want to start shutting down debate on satire, and parody and so on, when it comes to the political sphere.
I think that would be a very dangerous precedent. If we were to say, No, you cannot make cartoons of political leaders, and you cannot lamping political ideas. That's a hallmark of a pretty authoritarian state. Now, if we're going to say that about political beliefs and political figures, then my view is we should say exactly the same thing about religious people, and religious figures. I personally would disapprove of anyone gratuitously offending a Muslim, there would be to do, there's no point to it. But I but I would protect legally protect the right of people to mock religion, any religion, not just Islam.
And it seems to me that, so I guess, to sum up, I'm coming from I'm coming at this really from a point of point of view of consistency.
I want to treat all beliefs with an equal amount of respect. I don't want to afford religious beliefs, any special privileges?
What's your view here? Do you think that even political beliefs and political figures should be prevented from being mocked and lampooned? Yes, so I want to be very consistent the Islamic ethical paradigm here is that you have to consider the dignity of all people. This is one of what you call the kind of high intense of
Islamic ethics. Now, what's very important here here is that's why when I mentioned that the blasphemy case, this applied to other religions, and also, the attraction of that is when you refer to Islamic ethics, you can't basically insult the kind of secular idols as well. So you have to be as ethical as possible. So there's a consistency here. So I would say he's been at my weight, because there's a lack of consistency, there's a kind of consistency because you want to protect all of these beliefs equally, not just your own. But there's also this inconsistency that you want. So you have your religion.
And it has its requirements, as you understand it. I don't think all Muslims agree about this. But let's suppose that that there was a consensus that you know, you mustn't mock
religion, Islam or any other religion, or indeed political figures and civil.
That some forgot where I'm going with this.
I've lost my thread.
When you remember, just just get back, you carry on? And it'll carry on and then come to me in a second. Yeah, sure. So with regards to this issue of mocking, again, you have to define what that means. And we also have to understand that the default kind of Islamic ethical position is that you will you have to consider the dignity of people, whether the leaders or not, whether the politicians, whether the religious people with the non religious people, that kind of is very important. So as a default position, the default position would be is you see, and you relate to people through that kind of ethical lens. Now, what I said earlier about, I wasn't necessarily
saying that, you know, you can't have some kind of intellectual lampooning and with an intellectual tone cannot dismantle ideas, of course, no, what I'm saying is imagine everyone was in a state of mockery. Everyone was basically mocking and insulting, and they were like he was insult to the degree where there was like a gray area between insult and gratuitous insult and all of these things that
Would I said in that context that would prevent the objectives of the objectives of freedom of speech was like truth, accountability and progress. And I think we've seen that in the contemporary times, Dr. Stephen, for example, you know, COVID deniers, the Trump era. And remember, when we're talking about freedom of speech, we're assuming everyone has equal power. Not everyone has equal power with regards to
with regards to like speaking what they have to what they want to say, and express themselves. So that's something that needs to be considered as well, we don't.
And one thing I want to bring into light, just know that you continue, is we have to also understand, we can't see this poem. And I know you might disagree with this
a liberal perspective, what I mean by that is, if you consider some philosophers do liberalism to have a premise, which is individualism, we can't see it from the perspective of individualism, I tell you, why? Because studies have obviously shown in social psychology, cognitive science, and so on and so forth. And just common sense, right, is that the human being doesn't is doesn't live in a vacuum is on a desert island. There's just kind of interplay between the individual society, society and individual, what we say actually really matters. And you know, when people say, Oh, why are you guys so sensitive and all of this stuff? Well, in neuroscience, neuroscience is telling us now that
the things that you say can change your kind of, you know, your neuro chemical patterns can change your biology, right? So well. And that's why in the Islamic tradition, it takes very seriously what you say to others and how you say it. I know that's difficult for many, because we've been brought up in a secular society and liberal society, we could say whatever we want and learn and more can insult. But now it's time to start thinking about these things maybe a little bit more seriously. And thinking, you know,
just like what David van mill said, freedom of speech is not absolute. It's restricted based on values. What are these values? This is important to discuss, and what's the basis for
now, I agree that you know, freedom of speech is not unlimited. I mean, you don't really find it anyone that thinks that, you know, not even mil famously, he defends free speech. But yeah, even he thinks that there are exceptions, everyone thinks any, any reasonable person thinks that there are some exceptions. If you go back to if you remember what I said, What at the beginning, my point was about consistency, that we shouldn't treat religious, and non religious beliefs differently. And it sounds to me like you kind of agree, actually, it's just that you want to restrict both. You want to prevent mockery on both sides of the equation, whether it's whether it's mockery of religious
beliefs, or whether it be mockery of political beliefs, also your way you're on board with my consistency requirement, it's just that you want to clamp down on what people are allowed to say and do when it comes to certain styles of criticism, mockery, and so on. And this is in here. So here's the point I was going to make when I had my senior moment. And also my thread
is my point, your your, your, your view, you're saying that you're being fair and even handed because you want to protect all beliefs, religious, this religion, that religion, this political belief that you want to treat them all equally, and protect them all.
But there's a sense in which you're not being even handed, which we're kind of skating over. And it's this, it's the your religion, trumps everything else,
including, I don't share your religious beliefs.
Most people in this country don't share your religious beliefs. And yet you think that we should have imposed on us legally constraints on what we're able to say and do despite the fact that we don't sign up to your religion. That's an extremely heavy handed and authoritarian attitude, it seems to me, most religions don't do that. most religions don't say, okay, most people in this country, they they don't they don't sign up to our religion. But nevertheless, we insist and we demand that your laws restrict everyone's behavior, in accordance with our religion, whatever it might happen to be. That's an extremely demanding extremely authoritarian attitude for a religious
person to take, and most religious people are not like that. You are. And that's what I find. That's
that's what I find most most being about your
Well, I don't know if I've articulated though, I don't think I've said that you have to impose as a Muslim minority, the Islamic beliefs on this issue. I wasn't really saying but you know, that you asked, you're saying you want this principle of not mocking, right? You want it legally imposed. You said, Yeah, I'm signing up to blasphemy. I want a blasphemy law. I want laws that prevent people from mocking Islam or Christianity, or political leaders and political. I want all of that imposed in this country. But how
I don't know. I don't
I really don't want that. And I can't and, and obviously, you're not going to convince me that this is a good idea by appealing to your religion because I don't sign up to it.
I don't feel I mean, I don't feel that I should go to
other other places and insist that they, you know, I would make a case for it. But I feel that I had some special authority, by virtue of me being who I am on one identity or whatever, to go around telling other people how they need to run their run their ratios. If you don't, if you as a Muslim don't want to see images of the Prophet Muhammad displayed and you're upset by that I fully understand that. And I go ahead and do it. And I certainly am not going to go out of my way to gratuitously offend you by displaying such images. But By what right? Can you insist that non believers, people of other faiths or no faith that they must obey your prohibitions? Well, I didn't
say they should do that at all. What I'm saying is that I was taking a case in order for secular law to be consistent, because it's already in the law. That's all I was saying. The law talks about offense, the door talks about all of these things, even when it doesn't offend to the degree that is gratuitous. So all
my position was an ethical position. And yes, my ethics had come to happen, happened to come from the divine command. But that's not me saying everyone has to follow my way. I'm just saying this is a more consistent way of looking at the world. Why? Because you don't end up in these situations, because secularism in that from that context has kind of failed. Because, in a way, what you're saying Muslims can't impose their ideas on the masses. Well, isn't it the case that secularism and liberalism imposes itself on the masses look at its kind of perspective on LGBTQ? Right, you know, people can't articulate a nurse intellectual case about something without being accused of being
homophobic or whatever the case may be, even though we're committed to the well being of all human beings, right? We want goodness and kindness for everybody. One would argue and that's what you have to see it from the other perspective, just wear my shoes aware and other person's shoes and see well, that the door swings both ways on issue I could say well on isn't secularism being authoritative? Isn't liberalism being authoritative? From that perspective, it's failed minorities is claimed to be able to bring everyone together. But when it comes to these issues, he can't even dignify minorities. Right. From from that perspective, what I am saying is that as
far as everybody, whereas the secular ethic, bully has, you know, it's a bit of a sticky wicket.
Um, I'm not sure I've followed all of that. So, so I said, I'm not you know, I'm a political secretary. So I think that
we should treat religious and non religious beliefs equally. And we should defend people's freedoms to express their religious beliefs,
or anti religious beliefs or whatever it might happen to be up to certain limits, because everyone thinks that there are certain limits on free speech, or in inciting hatred against a minority community, for example, is obviously completely unacceptable.
And if that's what's going on, be it you know, the gay community or black community or whatever it might happen to be fully on board with protecting people from that kind of hate when there is and there is an that that's in place.
But this is quite different from laws which are designed to prevent religious migrants Thatcher or the Prophet Muhammad or whatever it might happen to be prevent them from being mocked and preventing ideas and beliefs from being mocked. So we constantly want to separate out these things. I'm all for protecting the Muslim community that certainly has been abused and vilified and smeared in this country in you know, in very unfairly. I know that that's true. I'm not disputing that for a minute. But like, at the same time, and I would want them to have legal protections, but at the same time, because I'm a political secularist, you know, I, I'm, I'm unhappy, to say the least, one happy about
introducing any kind of legislation which would prevent me from mocking anyone's religious belief in much the same way as I would be very unhappy about our legislation, which would prevent me from mocking political beliefs. And I've been well, I've explained why it seems to me that mockery and ridicule and lamping
are important and valuable tools because of the, you know, the the Emperor's New Clothes, kind of
other cases, too. I mean, you know, there's artistic, there's artistic freedom. So sometimes artists like to push the boundaries, and sometimes they do that in slightly distasteful way.
You know, there was a famous example I think of there was a, somebody created a crucifix with kriner with Christ on an interstate in their own urine, and then took a picture of it and called it piss Christ. Back in 1987. I think it was.
Obviously that was, you know,
defensive to many Christians. But in the same way, you know, whenever David Cameron
was portrayed by the cartoonist Steve Bell, he had a massive condom pulled over the top of his head.
This used to appear in the pages of The Guardian every day. I I'm, you know, I there is a point to allowing that kind of mockery and satire. Now there's an artistic reason for allowing it. It allows us to get a glimpse of the truth when perhaps we've been overly duped by too much reverence and
forelock, doffing, and so on. I don't want that restricted, you would, I think you'll have a very hard time persuading anyone in this country, that that kind of freedom of speech should be restricted, and it would certainly be massively abused by people in power. If you were to introduce it. Just look at what this government is doing right now, in terms of protecting our ability to protest. If you even risk annoying somebody now, you can be arrested and locked up in your protest. You can be sure that this government, indeed, most governments, given the opportunity will seize any tool at their disposal to shut down opposition to what they believe and they will certainly use
any kind of legislative legislation which says you're not allowed to mock or satirize political and religious beliefs, they will certainly use that to shut down opposition to to their beliefs, they will say
that, yeah, we have to make a distinction between how the government will miss us laws and the kind of ideal application of laws, just because someone's going to miss us laws. It doesn't mean the laws are wrong. I mean, many passes I make Well, there's local Islamic laws, but they're misapplied Miss misused, that doesn't necessarily mean that the laws are wrong. It definitely means that the same wrong with those who are implementing,
if a law is in is very easily misused, then that's a very good reason for not introducing. Well, when it comes to the issue of speech. For example, again, we have to define what mocking is. So my discussion was, if there is an intent to gratuitously insult someone if there is
no, no wait gratuitously means there's no point to it. But now how are you going to establish that you need to look into someone's mind and instead, you can't
establish intent? And this
sorry, there's a lag. This happens in law anyway, they discuss intent and intent offense anyway in British law. So you know, if these legal jurists can do it, I'm sure you know, it's not it's not that difficult. So I think that's a little bit of a red herring. What I would say is, the dignity of people are very important. This this is a kind of ethical framework, the dignity of people of varying the dignity of someone is very important. And the examples that you've given concerning you know, more Korean lampooning especially the Hmong contain the Emperor. That's like a fictional story. When I when we apply in the real world, remember, human nature, humans as they are not as we
want them to be? It gets far more fuzzy. And the reason I said earlier, you know, if we always have this kind of narrative of mocking each other in ways that affect our dignity, it will be contrary to the objectives of freedom of speech, because I think what you're trying to do, even witch doctor, is, somehow you're trying to show that mockery and lampooning in some cases, like an inherent right or has some kind of intrinsic value. And I think that's problematic in the discourse, especially from a secular perspective, because you couldn't have grounded in natural rights, because that's almost nonsense on stilts, as Jeremy Bentham said, Where's the social utility behind that? I don't
know if people gonna if that is necessarily so what about you demonic approach to grounding these kind of values? You know, happiness? Well, I don't think people are happy when they're always mocked, right. And especially when there's a misuse of power. And remember you said about people if the more can be misused? Well, more crews also misuse the law. It happened in Nazi Germany in the beginning, right? It's happening China with the jaegers, right? So no, no, no, no. But again, we're slipping backwards or forwards between walking communities and inciting hatred against communities on the one hand, and mocking you know, political and religious leaders and belief systems on the
other. These are not the same
thing and you're constantly having in order to make your case you're constantly having to mesh them together. And although they do bleed into each other a little bit is okay. That doesn't mean that we can't separate out black and white, there's gray. That doesn't mean that black and white don't exist. These are different things. Let's not muddle them up. Let's keep them separate. Okay, so I'm all in favor of legislation, which protects minorities from being abused and vilified and hate speech against them. So, of course, I in favor of that, but i'm not in favor of legislation, which would say, You're not allowed to mock your political leaders. I'm not in favor of that. And your
argument seems to be that well, what if everyone did that all the time? I mean, what if everyone mocked everyone all the time? That would be really bad, wouldn't it? Well, yeah, but that doesn't mean it's gonna happen. I mean, if we're, I'm allowed to eat cheesecake, wait.
There's no law that says I can't eat cheesecake. But if only ate cheesecake all the time, and we all like nothing, but that would be terrible. So therefore, there should be a law against eating cheese. No.
The fact that the fact that if everyone walked everyone all the time, that would be really bad, therefore we there must be no mockery, that's a terrible argument, okay.
And there is a point to allowing more creep. The Emperor's New Clothes case, reveals gives one nice illustration of how Actually, it's very good at breaking the spell and allowing people to get an insight that otherwise would not be easily available to them a little bit of humor, a little bit of mockery, we know, we know that that is, can often be very, very effective. And one of the nicest examples was,
was it Jonathan Swift's a modest proposal? I think it I think it is, I think it was, he is as this so called a modest proposal, and you're reading it, and it also, it all sounds terribly reasonable, but then you realize that what he's actually proposing is that we kill and eat the children of the poor.
It's a kind of a, it's a joke. It's deeply it's, it's horrible and offensive in a way and yet, the logic of it is exactly the logic that you find in many other political debates. And so it provides a kind of insight, it allows you to see the absurdity of certain kinds of arguments and certain kinds of position, that kind of mockery does that in a way that almost nothing else can and so, you should not prohibited the people that benefit most from
constraints on people being mocked and being loved that are the people who are using
it that reverence and respect and so on like a Moloch. using that to effectively control opinion, you know, your people who rely a lot rather than getting arguments and, and so on, that simply rely rely on their prestige and their,
their their owner, and that kind of person is often is often the very person that you should be mocking. Yeah, but we really
do not want mockery banned. Dr. Steven, again, it depends on me by Mercury, linking this to the dignity of others. Okay, because mockery is a subjective term. Look at France at the moment was happening. I don't if you know, the political situation, right, in France, very ggressive secularism, right. They are mocking Muslims left, right and center. You said it doesn't exist. They actually exist in France. And it exists in France to the degree that you have draconian laws in France that are preventing humanitarian Muslim charities from doing the work. The other thing that also closing down was just do the research yourself. You know, that's not closing down mosques,
closing down mosques is not political. Islam now.
But that's not me away from the point the point is started with the misuse of power. You said, if these walls are in place, it could be misused by those in power but the but the door swings the other way, if constant mockery, and what I mean by this is removing the dignity of others, is constantly happening and it's happening with religious symbols. And you have to understand, Stephen, not everyone's a sick person, the philosopher Kernicterus. We love God and the Prophet Muhammad upon VPS it becomes a part of identify more than my own skin color. So when I see skin color being protected, which of course you should, you should never be racist for sure. My love for God and the
Prophet Muhammad upon me peace is an essential attribute of mine right it's become nice become the way I relate. I understand that. Yes. So what you need to realize here is this mockery as well and that's when these these there needs to be this discussion about values is so important because freedom of speech is not absolute is restricted based on values competing
About us, we see what's happening in France. The symbols of being more can at the same time we see society actually being that mockery, and what I mean by mockery is removing the dignity of a collective. And and that is affecting law. It's affecting the way Muslims are being treated. And this didn't just happen to Muslims. It happened in Nazi Germany. So we have sown in our institute called Dr. Oz manatee is he did a postdoctoral research in dehumanization of irritation, he wrote a book called on being human has been published by Springer. And Bill is an established Brill he's established academic only look at genocide. When you look at other other nations, othering and
It's as simple as, Oh, we could mock someone's beliefs. And we could treat people really nicely. Societies just don't work that way. We need to have a more nuanced human centric discussion about this issue. Yes, I agree with you. We must be intellectually rigorous concerning ideas mean, you had to debate before on God's existence problem of evil, you gave you a really interesting argument about the kind of good bad God and stuff like that, you know, I didn't say to you, how dare you, You're mocking my beliefs. I didn't respond that way. Because he was an intellectual tone. Yeah, he you lampooned me as Oh, you mocked me. But we did it.
You did it with an intellectual tone. And you did it with? Hopefully you were committed to my well being right. And yeah, my, yeah, my interaction with you on that, especially when I talked about the Quran. And science helped me develop my ideas further from what I remember. So it was a good thing. However,
it's not as simple as what you're saying, as well. And the whole power thing, the doctor swing the other way, too. And it's happening in France. If you look at dehumanization studies, it's not as simple as there's a distinction between someone's beliefs, and someone's,
and basically, the person themselves. So my point here is, I see where you're coming from, because Europe has had a very interesting history concerning freedom of speech, you know, you had the Catholic Church at that time, that we're using the cursive arm of the state to prevent any kind of intellectual discourse and thinking that was in Congress, which is with with its teachings, and then you know, you had the reformation, you had trade issues, and so on and so forth. And you had a very bloody history, right. But that Eurocentric experience cannot now be protracted to the whole of the world. Because with all due respect, I'm not saying Islamic history has been rosy, you know, whoever
over glorifies the history, that's a sign of a defeated mind, in my view, but it didn't have the same issues. There wasn't that huge problem between thinking progress, truth, accountability, and power structures to that degree, right. So that's why you have to see from a different ethical paradigm. And if you see from that perspective, I think, under the Islamic ethical framework, you would you it's more consistent, and it's more virtue ethics is more consistent as well. And it's more I would say, human centric, from that point of view, because about the dignity of others. Yes, you could intellectually mock with, with, with with with intellectual tone. But there are areas that
we have to discuss, because we don't live on a desert island. We are connected to other human beings, and it can create things just like what happened in Nazi Germany. Unfortunately, this is this is part of that. IQ studies. Yeah. Good. Um, well, I mean, there's a lot going on in, in what you're saying there, so.
me to tease out a couple of things. So you're saying that Muslims are being vilified and
misrepresented and smeared. And I think that's true.
And I want to protect them from that as much as we can.
As a community, I didn't want to see hatred whipped up in that kind of way. So, but we do have legislation in place to protect them. You know, maybe there should be more, I don't know. But but that I'm all in favor of.
Now, you say that in other countries? I don't. I mean, I'm not following the situation in France. But you will say you said things like,
What What did you say its place was shut down. I think you said, what's happening. You have to see see as a kind of, kind of a holistic approach to what's happening in society. So we don't have certain things away from what is really going on. What's really happening is there's this kind of excessive, extremist secular agenda going on to the degree that Islamic and Muslim symbols are being denigrated to the degree that people use now to actually affect the dignity of Muslims, right, the way that x y&z it's spoken in Parliament. It's all
So facilitating a kind of environment where now they're making rules. Give me an example of what you're talking about. So, in France Give me an example, an example of the use of a symbol, the denigration of a symbol, and how that's impacting on the Muslim community. Can you do that? Well, very simple what happened in Charlie Hebdo? And what and the depicted the depictions of the cartoons with Islamophobic tropes, that, you know, Muslims, about terrorism, and so on and so forth, that if that continues, right, every drop raises the ocean that creates.
And, you know, the social norm, Dr. Steven, right. So in social psychology, you have the development of the social norm is based on your need to feel certain you need to belong. These are fundamental human things. So if I don't have my certainty from my subgroup, I'm going to go to the dominant dominant group. For example, if I'm sure about these Muslims, I'm going to find out what the dominant group is saying about these Muslims. Yes, like these, you know, the secular Li and the politicians and the media saying always bad things about them, and the ideas are bad, and they they can't distinguish between the two and that's how the narrative has been played out, then you know,
there's something wrong about these Muslims, right. And also, we have a need to belong, right? And that need to belong. If we can't belong from our kind of subgroup, we're going to try and get that belonging from the dominant group. This develops the social the social norm and, and social dynamics. That says a lot and there's much more to say about society from that perspective and social psychology but that's why it's not as simple as the kind of abstracting the discourse by saying Oh, allow him to mock Don't get me wrong I want intellectual dialogue rigorous dialogue like we're having today, which is funny even occur hibbett even a prohibit all mockery, right across the
board, including in the political sphere. I want to stop the removing the dignity of people again, I depends what you mean by mockery. Some people think that mockery is saying that you don't believe? Would you? Would you prevent mostly given examples? So would you prevent you would prevent the artwork piss Christ from being shown? And would you would you clamp down on cartoons that represent David Cameron with a big condom over his head? Or Margaret Thatcher as a as an evil witch? Would you? Would you prevent that kind of imagery?
I mean, specific examples I would have to think about, but the general ethical perspective, remember, there's a difference between ethics and applied ethics, right? So it'll be it'll be intellectually shallow for me to respond immediately as if I've assessed the whole situation, right? I have a persona. I'm giving you concrete examples.
It affects the dignity of someone. And if it could be,
if David Cameron's dignity to have him represented with a massive bundle,
I wouldn't imagine each other is very upset about that. So are we going to ban? Are we going to ban that? I wouldn't. I wouldn't recommend anyone putting pictures up of anyone, whether it's No, no, I'm not asking you that. I'm asking you. No. But that shouldn't be any, any, any
diminishing of the dignity of a human being.
Why? Because it's bigger than just saying you would ban it. I'm not saying you can't intellectualize and you can't refute David Cameron and his policies. I'm not saying I know, you're not saying that. But you would say you are saying you would ban that kind of political imagery. And the utility here is, I find that quite extraordinary, to be honest. But anyway, look, let me let me just Can I just say something? All the way? I'm not I'm not conservative, by the way.
Yeah, so obviously, I'm not I'm not keen on banning any such
imagery, it's just seems to be hugely heavy handed unnecessary restriction on free speech in valuable free speech, which, for reasons I've spelt out, and it will clearly be abused. So I'm not I'm not persuaded by that. But I do understand that Muslims
feel under attack. And like, because they are frankly, I mean, there's an awful lot of anti muslim propaganda in the press.
And you can be sure that some people will kind of use
Hebdo type imagery, say, or whatever it may happen to be, in order to sort of smear Muslims as a community, you know, they're all terrorists or whatever, some things and they all fall like that. I mean, and I don't I don't approve of that clearly. And then possibly there was an element of that in the Hebdo. And if there was, then I really, I'm not happy about that at all. I certainly don't defend it.
But on the other hand, the fact that
one of the arguments you're making for kind of this really severe clamping down
On any kind of mockery, or be religious or of politicians or whatever
is that, um, well, the case that you're making is that very often these, these beliefs are tied up with people's sense of identity. So that if you attack the belief or the symbol, you're attacking something
that is kind of constitutive of who they are as a person, and so it is much more personal for them. And I can I kind of I can understand that, but I'm not, I mean to think of some other illustrations, for example, there are political beliefs for which people are prepared to die. I mean, there are political beliefs which I am prepared to die.
I and there are political beliefs.
So that there are political issues that people feel very, very strongly about a very powerfully committed to. And their sense of identity is bound up with them very often because politics and nationalism are often fused together. So you find that,
you know, Brexit, an incredibly emotional issue for many people, and it goes to their sense of who they are, and what it means to be a British person. Okay? And yet, I am completely relaxed about taking the piss out of those people. When I agree with them or not, I have no objection to people lampooning them with all of their flag waving, and there's xenophobia, and, you know, be my guest.
But your position, it seems to me, dignify everyone. Would we require that any such lampooning of that kind of xenophobia, nationalistic bull* that we're seeing? Because Because it's bound up with people's sense of who they are and their own sense of worth and identity? No, no, no, we can't allow that. Well, again, it just seems to me ludicrously heavy handed and restrictive. And I wouldn't want to see laws like that introduced. Well, the issue here is Remember,
you're using good mockery and clamping down a lot. Yeah. And it makes me make me sound, you know, authoritarian, I think you over I actually think you are quite authoritarian. I know you don't think you're what you're actually. Because like you examples, even with your position, it can be abused, and it has been abused, and it has caused the suffering of 1000s of people. So I would argue, well, you know, having an ethical dimension to your legal theory is authoritarian, and it's damaging people. And it's actually could could, you know, it's actually locking people up for no reason. And so the two can swing both ways on this issue, you have to be able to add in the possibility that
allowing and forget the word mockery, allowing the diminishing of of the dignity of human beings in a collective that can lead to authoritarian harm as well. So it's not necessarily the case just because I said that everyone has to be aware of people's dignity. And you know, the law can have a stipulation such as we take each case on its own merit. There's actually more nuances. So it's not as if it's slightly straw Manning me here. It can be think, you know,
take Jeremy Corbyn as example. I think you're a bit of a korbinite. I've been following you on Twitter, right? So Jeremy Corbyn was mocked to hell, right, to the point that it went against the objectives of freedom of speech, because many would argue it didn't represent his ideology. It didn't represent his policies, and it didn't represent the claims that he was making or what he what kind of society that he wanted. But what key was to the degree right, the mockery was to the degree, forget even the word mockery, because we haven't defined you haven't defined yet the removing of his dignity was to the degree, they actually prevented people from understanding the truth about Jeremy
Corbyn and therefore it is, it is counterproductive and it's self defeating. And that's the philosophy you need to you know, this better than I do. You are assuming there's some kind of intrinsic value behind more cream. It's an entire case for it. I didn't give you an argument and an illustration. So it's not like I haven't provided you but your was was wasn't applied in the real world is about some Emperor, you know, in some fictional story, but when you talk about human realities, when you talk about human realities, it is far more. Yeah, we provide plenty of real examples anyway, look, I'm Jeremy Corbyn. Yeah, and they say, so say Jeremy Corbyn. So yeah, so as
you point out, you know, I was, I am a bit of a fan of his
And many people on the right on the left and some even on the right I mean, people like Peto I born who's who's a
telegraph used to be a telegraph journalist. I mean, he has written scathingly about the way that Jeremy Corbyn was misrepresented and smeared and so on in the media.
Obviously, I'm not very happy about the fact that he was misrepresented and smeared.
But that's not the same as mockery. Yes,
I have no problem with people, mocking Jeremy Corbyn, drawing caricatures of Jeremy Corbyn in which is made to look very unattractive cannot be my guest. I don't care about any of that people can do that. mockery is completely fine. But that's not what happened. What happened was the accusations were made that he was a terrorist sympathizer. Various other things is he was he was deeply anti semitic. None of that there's no good evidence to support any of these claims. None of them were really true. And yet, the mainstream media largely gave a free pass to people who endlessly repeated these smears over and over on front pages of newspapers on being on BBC News, even more or less
without challenge. And that I have a big problem with but that's got nothing whatsoever to do with mockery. No, he wasn't treated with dignity and respect. I think I think a lot of the people, but a lot of the people who
I don't think everyone does deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, I mean, some people
I just pretty awful. Um, I don't think Hitler deserves to be treated. To pick that cliche, the classic cliched example. Some people are really awful. And we don't have to respect them. And we can go No, no, this is a terrible person. And, and it's clear that some people genuinely and sincerely believe that Jeremy Corbyn really was a terrible person. And I have no problem with him saying that, and expressing that opinion, let them let them do that. It's just that, um, it's just that it wasn't true. And it was never properly challenged by the mainstream media in this country. And as a result,
we probably, you know, we might well have had I think, a Labour government now, had it not been for that campaign against him that was going on now. That isn't, you're not going to solve you're not going to deal with that. Well, you need to define mockery, because there's like two types of mockery we're talking about here. One is mocking and argument and actions, right? By showing it's, you know, reductio ad absurdum your actions are rigid, you know, your, your arguments are, they reduce things to absurdity, or, or the difference between mocking people and figures basically insulting, right and so insulting, in some cases doesn't serve any purpose from that perspective. So that's why I was
really clear about dignity, because you mentioned it, and again, with curbing people attacking the dignity of Corbin. To be honest, putting a terrorist is actually attacking his dignity as well. That affected the objectives of freedom of speech now.
Yeah, good. But
I have no problem with people accusing Jeremy Corbyn of being a terrorist sympathizer. I mean, if people want to do that in the press, let them go ahead. I, I wouldn't I don't want to stop that exchange of ideas. What I have a problem with is the fact that by
claim such claims were made and were never adequately challenged not even by people in the BBC. Now, now that we've been Dr. Steven, you've proven my point. idea. The powers the powers that be people who had the power on the platform, misused it and misuse mockery. They were they became authoritarian mercury. What I mean by Mercury, as we discussed, it was the dignity they diminished the dignity of Jeremy Corbyn, and they use that ability to do so and they use their power to do so. So when you all get when you said I was authoritarian, well, the door also swings The other way that they will offer retain by misusing the power by lying about someone they're not authoritarians. They
just are very powerful. But that's what 13 is using a palette.
know they are very, I mean, these are these are clearly very powerful
newspapers around by a tiny group of billionaires.
Here's my point.
This and let's bring it back to freedom of speech and the objectives of freedom of speech, truth, human flourishing, accountability, scientific progress, etc. Yeah, what what this discussion has brought to light is when you want to affect the dignity of other people, and so could use your freedom to insult to the degree we affect someone's dignity that that actually creates and you have the power to do so. And it becomes like a big narrative. And that goes against the truth about someone, then that is actually self defeating is going against the very objective of freedom.
speech. So there's only a few ways we could get out of the sticky wicket. I think one way is by saying that freedom of speech has an intrinsic value is not instrumental, which I don't think anyone believes if they're a second is securities unless you believe in natural natural rights, which is very hard to defend. Or you would have to say freedom of speech is not intrinsically valuable. But
mercury in the context in this context, which is to diminish the dignity of other people that has intrinsic value, which would be very difficult to philosophically justify. So I know, it's so yeah, you need us now. Okay, let me break that up, try and make it simple. Yeah. So the Jeremy Corbyn case, and I use your record, because I know you're a fan of him, right? Because I think it will just make maybe make more sense because you're more connected to it. So we have an environment where you can affect the dignity of other people,
whether you want to call that mocking or not, is neither here or there, because my issue wasn't about mocking, per se, was about the dignity and I mentioned that many times. So you could, you could affect the dignity of many people, the power structures are not equal. So you have a powerful he or powerful platforms that are using this so called freedom to affect the dignity of a particular person, it creates a narrative. And that narrative creates a kind of social norm, if you like, or some kind of collective agreement to certain degree, that this person is a terrorist is anti semitic is so on and so forth. So what that has done, it has gone against the objective of freedom of
speech, which I don't think anyone would deny, which is truth, because it's not, it's not creating, it's not saying something truthful about a political leader, or his ideologies and his perspectives. So what I'm saying here is this so called freedom to continuously mock to the degree and again, mocking here means diminishing the dignity of people. It can lead to a self defeating situation where you actually don't have you don't you don't have the objectives of freedom of speech fulfilled in the first place?
Yeah, if you mean that, the freedom to represent people as being bad people, when when when perhaps they
can, in a situation where one side has the megaphone, and can do all of the speaking. And the other side lacks it, in that that's the day that's a bad situation, clearly.
But my solution to that would be to
give both sides a megaphone or change the power structure so that we're not waiting for the, you know, the public opinion isn't shaped to arrive. And by,
you know, two or three individual billionaires whose fortunes perhaps be offshore, I that that would be the solution, the solution is not to prevent anyone saying stuff about other people, that puts them in a bad light, because some people deserve to be put in a bad light. I mean, I happen not to think that that's, that's not true of Jeremy Corbyn. But still, I would want people to be able to say it about Jeremy Corbyn. But I would also want there to be some pushback, so people will defend him and point to the facts and correct the false narrative and so on. The problem was that none of that happened. Okay. Because of the, it seems to me, that the the the unfair power structure, so
it's the power structure, that's the problem. And if you were to introduce your favored restrictions on what people are allowed to say, in a situation where you have that very unbalanced power structure, it's obvious, isn't there? What's going to happen? The powerful people will use the restrictions that you want in place to shut down criticism of them.
It's gonna become an even more dangerous situation than we have. So the
solution is to is to deal with the huge imbalance that exists in the way that public opinion is being formed. So we have Muslims, we have immigrants, we have benefit scroungers, we have, you know, black people, we have them on the front pages of certain newspapers day after day after day, week after week, year after year, drip, drip, drip drip into the British psyche, this endless repetition of the perception of these people, anecdotes about these people as being bad, and also about the left. The left is just yet another group that's endlessly constantly being
represented in that way. That That is disgusting and extremely dangerous. Yeah, I have no problem with that saying that I'm not defending it.
Okay, but I don't think the solution to that is to have some kind of law introduced, where you're you're not, you're not even allowed to say that some people are bad people.
We're not saying that it's Be very careful. No, no, no, no, but you wouldn't you say you cannot allow to denigrate. You cannot diminish the dignity of other people. And what doctor was easy. So we've got somewhere now, right? We're both in a corner, right? What's easier, giving everyone the same equal microphone megaphone, or getting a society to basically articulate in the muscles that doesn't remove or diminish the dignity of others? I think your case is a non existent utopia. It just doesn't exist. It's never existed, right. But I think
there are plenty of places where actually even at places in Europe, where the presses is the press is far more even handed in Scandinavian countries, for example.
Right, yeah, so so. So you know, there are things you can do to prevent the excesses that we've seen
in this country?
It I do not want to say,
we've moved from mockery through to demeaning people saying things that are demeaning about people, well, any kind of criticism of anyone is potentially demeaning about them, you're saying something negative about them. And once you introduce, I mean, mockery was bad enough, but now you've really opened the envelope up to demeaning is now no longer.
And at that point, um, this is, this is extremely scary stuff. So far as I'm concerned, it would certainly be abused
by those in power, that's only if you assume those who are in power, or do not have the adequate, you know, kind of ethical, and even maybe ontological commitments in order for them to believe that they're accountable, and for them to basically treat people with dignity. I understand.
Money On the other day, right. You're seeing it from a very kind of naturalistic secular paradigm, because there have been other traditions in the past people who have been in power that actually wanted people to take into account for example, in the Islamic tradition, the rulers, not all of them, of course, but the rulers in history, not today. They were begging for people to take them to account, for example, a companion of the Prophet Mohammed upon rupees on top. He basically was so happy that when he said to his people, if I deviate from our ethics, what are you going to do? They said, we're going to strain you basically, right? He was so happy by that. We have an ethical system
and a dimension, you have to stand in the possibility that you're coming from a perspective where Yeah, this is the nature of kind of, I don't know, secular politics, politicians are not ideal people, generally speaking. And you know, when you try and get someone who is you believe is decent, like Jeremy Corbyn, you know, he's he's painted as someone evil, and people have power, they get corrupted, maybe there's something wrong with the secular model that is not good enough to basically ensure that we have good ethical role models as leaders. I don't know. That's another thing to unpack. But let me just bring this back down to
let me bring this back down to freedom of speech, because remember, it's about freedom of speech. Forget the mockery, because I, you didn't define mochrie. My issue here was not not demeaning people, but removing the dignity but diminishing the dignity of people, which is a different kettle of fish. So and Case in point was Jeremy Corbyn because it was created to the degree that it went against the objectives of freedom of speech, which was truth. So my thing is this, let's end on maybe more of an ontological meta ethical discussion, since you're a greater philosopher than me, I'm still researching. But to be honest, I'm a political philosopher, as anyone that knows anything
about political philosophy will probably have managed to figure out um, I just have, you know, I've read about humanism and political secularism a little bit, but don't take me as any source of authority. I'm not really. Yeah. So
would you would you agree that freedom of speech, obviously, we said, we agreed that it's not absolute, it has to be kind of tailored to compete other competing values, as academic David van mill said, which is something that is not controversial.
Would you agree now that maybe a discussion should be had in what kind of these values how do we ground these values? So for example, let me just let me articulate something to you in about two minutes and let me get your take on it. So to ground values, because you have to talk about values now because that's the thing that's restricting speech, right. So to ground value, you either have natural rights, so quality is kind of you know, philosophically natural.
is a more secular paradigm? Does it make sense? Can we ground these values? in nature? There's a massive debate as you know, in meta ethics on this issue, but let me just summarize who Jeremy Bentham. It's nonsense on stilts. Okay? The other way to go is maybe social utility increases the kind of well being to a degree of the collective and it removes the kind of harms, I would argue when it comes to freedom to insult does it actually increase the well being collectively of society? There is an argument to be had that's types of insults that gratuitous insults, and removing the dignity of human being diminishing the dignity of human beings is not something that society wants.
There's someone say, Fine, okay, so utility doesn't work. We can't ground our values that way. What about eudaimonia? A eudaimonic, kind of the happiness of society, the happiness of individuals. Now, well, human nature remember human nature is people as they are not as we want them to be. Humans are not happy when their dignity is being affected. Look at the Meagan Mako case, that is Case in point, the meeting, we're free to say what they want
to say to the degree that she wants to commit suicide. Are we saying that that's that should be allowed to that degree, like forget law for one moment, let's talk ethics. You know, we live in a very troubling society where the media can see whatever they want to the degree that it would make people want to kill themselves. With all due respect, this is something that is unacceptable in any parallel universe and even in this universe. The point here is, we can't really ground our values in natural rights, social utility, and you don't ammonia from the point of view of justifying the denigration of someone's dignity, the removing of the diminishing of someone's dignity, and
and basically saying that we have this kind of right to gratuitously insult and to, to diminish the dignity of others that can't be grounded in natural rights, social utility, or even a eudaimonic approach. Yeah. So what the Islamic situation says, as you know, you know, the divine command theory, which we can unpack maybe another session, because I really enjoyed our session today, by the way, thank you.
To all Muslims, do all Muslims go for the divine command theory, but they don't do anything? Okay, so there's a very good question. Thank you. So in, I don't know. Okay, so in Islamic tradition, there's three main schools of Crete, you what you could the actual rights, you have the treaties, and you have the authorities. So the actual rights are divine command theorists. But from the point of view, they go with one of the horns of the dilemma, they said is good because God commanded it. So one would argue that seems to be quite arbitrary, because it means that God could command that anyone who's got the name, Dr. Steven law should be short. But familiar. So yeah, so that's one
thing. The other one, the maturities have the same view from the perspective of that they believe that, you know, is about God's commands, but they believe that human rationality can also coincide with understanding some of God's commands, but it's still based on God's arbitrary commands, the author is of a different position, which is maybe closer to what the modern Christian philosophers are saying, which is, yes, is the divine command, but it's not dislocated from his nature, because it's in line with who he is. Who is he. So in the Islamic narrative is based upon His names and attributes, he is the knowing the loving the Merciful, the wise, and so on and so forth. So it's not
arbitrary. And there's no external, you know, the argument yourself, right? So yeah, so, Craig, is very similar to that. But that, but there's also basically what you call a metaphysical stopping point, because as you know, in metaphysics is based on first principles, you can't continue to regress, you need a metaphysical framework to try and understand the more reality if and only if you believe that there are more was that external to the human mind the mind independent, which is a more realist position, but that is for another day for sure.
Thank you subjects, and I apologize, I just wait.
Kind of a quasi summary, there's much more nuanced is even within this tradition. And I think this is good, too. It's a very good question, because it shows that Yeah, sorry, that I just checked.
But it shows Islamic field philosophy is actually quite nuanced, and is broad questions on these issues.
Anyway, so what's the time? it's probably time to stop? Oh, yeah, I imagine that we I don't know if you've shed very much light on anything here. But I think I've got a I think I've got a slightly clearer view of where you're coming from.
human dignity. Yeah, no, I understand that. And I mean, and who's who's against that? Nobody is like apple pie isn't. human dignity sums up all around. Now. We're all in favor of human dignity.
Respecting people's human dignity.
I'm just not convinced that the right way to do that is to introduce laws that effectively
ban people from sexualizing, mocking and
so on. I'm admittedly, David Cameron's dignities somewhat dented by Steve Bell's cartoons. But I don't really have a problem with that. And I don't have a problem with. I mean, I happen to lean towards Jeremy Corbyn his politics, as you know, and I didn't have a problem with people satirizing and mocking him in that way, either. And I think it would be a very dangerous development to have someone step in and say, Sorry, we're introducing laws, which mean that you know, to protect human dignity,
you're not going to be allowed to
say these things and present these arguments and so on. I think that would be it's just, it's just too dangerous and too nebulous. I mean, you know, are we I don't know, some people really are awful. Some, some people really do have dangerous political views. And it's right, that we should point a finger at them and say, you know, this is absolutely outrageous. This is racist, you know, is norm I, and if somebody says, Oh, no, hang on, Steven, I think you'll find you're infringing their human dignity at this point by accusing them of racism, I'm going to, I'm going to be in a lot of trouble. You by introducing this piece of legislation, it seems to me that you've basically given the powers
that be the ability to interpret it in pretty much any way they want to silence these people to give those people a voice and so on. It's just too nebulous. It's it's an enforcer beside their own enforceable, or it will be enforced in the most authoritarian and unpleasant ways by the most powerful people. So I just sorry, I just can't support it. I mean, I wouldn't even advise moving these laws in our current secular paradigm anyway, because as you know, politicians, frankly, unfortunately, they seem to not have the kind of ethical foundation to even be able to apply these laws in a way that I would deem ethical. So I do see I do empathize what you're saying, if we were
to apply these laws in this context, it would be crazy. But then I said, the door does swing the other way, as well. Because if you just lay it as it is at the moment, then the problem is, then you'll end up having things that are a negation of the very objectives of freedom of speech, like truth, accountability, and progress, like we saw in the case with Jeremy Corbyn in terms of the truth. And remember, you need to define mockery, my forget, lampooning and Mercury, in some context is fine. So there's two types of mercury isn't there, as I said before, there's actually dealing with ideas and actions and actually dealing with people. So there is a subtle difference. And you
could easily articulate a case for one of them. And that could be linked to someone's dignity, and it already exists in law. And that's the thing exists in British law. There's things to do with insult and offense and intent. It already exists, doctor. So the thing is, this is not and what I'm saying is not uncontroversial. And it's not authoritarian, or it's only authoritarian, if you assume that any type of criticism is going to be bad. No, I'm not saying that at all. And I want to be very clear, I always assume now, it's not that I assume that all criticism of anyone will be banned. It's just that it currently is just too nebulous. I don't even really to be at this point, I'm not
entirely sure what it is that we're restricting and how we're restricting it. He says that we have to respect people's dignity, well, okay. But, you know, that bloke really is an awful anti muslim racist. And by saying that I am impugning his dignity. So am I not allowed to say it?
Who's gonna decide whether I'm allowed to say this or not? It's much better, it seems to me that, you know, you let him let him express his views up to a point as long as he's not actually inciting hatred and so on against against a particular community. Well, and and, and we will respond, and we'll we'll ensure that that we live in a society in which it will let you know, I think we're on the same page that there is a real problem with a few powerful individuals being able to shape the narrative about human beings, and in many cases, really misrepresenting them and smearing them, and there's no pushback at all, because they have the megaphone. No one else. I think we're agreed about
that. We're just disagreeing about what the best way forward is with that. Maybe we should have maybe that's a good
we can at least agree about that much. And we've also kind of agreed on the principle of consistency, which is that, you know, I started off with political secularism and saying, I don't think that religious beliefs should be given.
Any special treatment, I don't understand why. I mean, I understand that very often
related to a sense of identity, and people feel very strongly about them and so on. But that's also true in many political beliefs. And I don't think that there is just because the beliefs are religious, that they should get special privileges and special protections and so on. And it sounds to me like you agree with me about that. So maybe we actually agree about quite a lot. Well, the good thing that what I've captured from this is that obviously, we agree that freedom of speech is not absolute. Freedom of speech, when it's restricted has to be continuous and values, competing set of it, as David van mill said, and that's what the main discussion has been about is your ethics and
your values, how do you ground them? And how do you use them to apply them? And how do you link them to law. So where I think our differences has has come across, is from the perspective of diminishing the dignity of others. He already exists in law in different language. So it's not kind of, you know, neither here or there. And I would even say it's not even authoritarian. Because remember, as we said, the door can swing the other way, as well. But we could talk about this until the cows come home, the philosophical cows come home. So what I would say is, first and foremost, huge thank you for your time, the most important thing I think that we have, is time, because if I said you had 10
minutes left to live, in order to get another 10 days, you have to give me all of your wealth, I think you'll give me all of your wealth. So you gave me an hour and a half of your time. And I'm extremely grateful for that. And I don't want this to be the end. I you know, I think we should I I did my thesis on the philosophy of the mind on the hard problem of consciousness, I would love to get your ideas on that. Let's talk about that. Maybe one day, great to do so. And hopefully, when this COVID mess is gone, we could do it face to face.
But yeah, thank you for participating, I really want you back again. And you know, I could even come to your platforms one day as well, because I think what, if anything is very important.
And obviously, I'm going to bring a religious discourse here the answers that were created for male and female, maybe different tribes and nations in order to know one another Lita Otto, for more people think this means to know what makes us the same, the Quran is saying no, trying to find out what makes you different. Because really, we need to be brave. Now. It's the differences that cause the fear and the anxiety. If you educate on the differences, even if you disagree with them, at least you might see some relevance or some humanity behind them or some, you'll be able to see their paradigm. And that would at least diminish some fear and anxiety. So if anything that has happened
it's that we're able to discuss what makes certain values distinct. We've agreed on a lot as well. And I think what he's shown to people, Muslims and non Muslims that we can have these conversations without diminishing her dignity.
I'll give you the last sentence Say bye bye to everybody. And oh, okay. Well, thank you very much. That was really enjoyable. I really just noticed that there are lots of comments being made. I should have, I should have clicked the link and seen those of you and I might have responded to some of them had I so so i saw i didn't so I apologize for that. I should have been paying attention. But anyway, it was. It was fun. And yeah, I enjoyed it. And
yeah, maybe we'll do it again. Yeah, there's lots to unpack for another time and definitely thank you very much for your time. Dr. Steven, you take care of us have a safe
Oh, bye bye