Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Strange Bedfellows

It appears that I might be in agreement with elements of Greater Wingnuttia about one thing at least:

This morning Lord Malcolm Pearson, a member of the British House of Lords, announced that he has invited Geert Wilders, a member of the Dutch Parliament, to show the movie Fitna (see it here) in a committee room of the House of Lords next Thursday (12 February). Mr. Wilders has been asked to address a private meeting with members of the British Parliament, explaining to the Peers and MPs why he made Fitna and to engage in an open and frank discussion with them.

This afternoon Mr. Wilders received a letter from the British Embassy in The Hague [see below] saying that he is a “persona non grata” in the United Kingdom. The ambassador told Mr. Wilders that he is a threat to public security and public harmony because of the controversy created by Fitna. Mr. Wilders intends to go to London anyway. “Let them arrest me in Heathrow,” he says.

If Mr. Wilders is denied entry to the United Kingdom, it will be the first time that Britain refuses entry to an elected politician from another member state of the European Union.

I'm saddened to see that Memeorandum shows no lefty bloggers commenting on this story at the moment. As a matter of fact, apart from Volokh, it looks like nothing but the usual Muslim hate crowd.

I watched Fitna back when it was released. As I remember it, I didn't have a problem with it, although obviously, I'm not predisposed to be offended by unflattering references to any religion. I suppose the implication might well have been Muslim = terrorist, which, just as obviously, is not a view I hold. If so, I could understand why someone might call the movie "hate speech."

I get that British free speech laws are different from the US's, and I get that they have a larger and more politically powerful Muslim population than we do. Still, I believe we have to allow free expression of criticism, even if it's offensive to the targets of the criticism, and I think we can't allow government officials to punk out on protecting those expressing unpopular views. As much as it drives me bananas when Fred Phelps or the KKK indulge themselves in a little parade, which means a big police protection effort has to be mobilized, I would never argue against putting forth that effort. This is part of the cost of living in a free society.

It also doesn't do a society any good to squelch these viewpoints. All it does is breed more resentment among those who hold the same views. However ugly the views might be, it's better to let them be aired out. Rally your troops and show up to express your displeasure, or studiously ignore them, whichever you think is better, but don't use the power of the state to silence them. As the links at Memeorandum indicate, what happens is that the supporters of the unpopular point of view just become more hysterical and extremist.

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