Saturday, February 04, 2006

Crossing the line of the 'harm principle'

The conflict over the caricaritures has now gone to far.

The Danish Embassy in Damascus has been set afire

This event illustrates the very foundation for this site, the need to be able to discuss calmly and in a civilized manner even when having very different viewpoints.

Turning to violence is not the answer!
The ironic point of this event is that the protesters will not achieve anything by this action. In stead, it is my prediction that the action will be condemned by most of the western societies.

Furthermore, this act directly challenges a fundamental property of the concept of freedom of speech. The right to express your opinion without violent or physical repercussions.

The harm principle has now clearly been broken in this conflict.

It is important to understand, that while the agitated nature of this conflict may give way to expressions of anger in many forms, this event will in all likelihood strengthen the response from the western world and further escalate the tone of the debate.

In my personal opinion, violence cannot be a justifiable response to verbal, written or - in this case - illustrated expressions even if these are offensive to you.

We can only hope that the impact of this even will leave place for discussions. I am afraid that the requests for apologies after this point will be in vain.

9 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's a mistake to expect the transition from theocracy to secular democracy can happen quickly and without bloodshed. Think of the reformation, inquisition, and other examples from western history. I wish there was a better way, but I don't think we know one.

From a sociology standpoint it's not reasonable to expect the islamic power structure to act to maximize it's own power. The Press is also interested in maintaining their own power. So also the western moral leaders of various types will act to maximize their own power. This is a fundamental law of self organizing systems of which politics is a subset.

ethical, logical arguments, threats, and violence are weapons in what is a battle of ideas and power structures for control and power. What you are asking for when you request a limit on violence is in effect an agreement to honor rules of combat. Sadly history has shown that rules of combat are often not followed. for more information on when and why rules of combat are not followed and why look into the philosphical connundrum of the prisoners dilema from game theory.

on the bright side, using the game theory developed in iterative prisoners dilema models suggest that such peacefull resolutions can be achieved after successive experiences. So basically we have to fight a lot of little battles and establish the correct feedback mechanisms before this sort of conflict can be negotiated instead of faught.

7:38 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wish you would quit saying that the government can not regulate 'free speech! Of course, the government can and does regulate speech. It punishes those who intentionally tell lies to hurt others - that is libel! It punishes those who HARM by their 'free speech". And in some 'western' countries, if the government believes that you were motivated by hate, they can restrict your speech or punish after the fact!

Note that these apply when the speech is directed at humans, and mostly at live humans. I don't know of any example in western civilization where speech was punished when it was directed at historical figures.

Cartoons! I live in the US. Before photography, the only pictures in papers were drawings - not paintings. And throughout the whole history of our country, drawings were published which were meant to influence opinions, giving rise to the newspaper cartoons of today. Political cartoons were, at times, vicious in their representations. But when not libelous, the most the offended party could do was challenge to a duel or fight!

Of course, the person cartooned felt insulted, his/her friends and supporters felt insulted, but that is life! Any violent reactions by suporters resulted in the supporters being punished!

This is so antithetical to the norm in the Muslim world, no wonder we don't understand why they are upset and they don't understand why we are NOT upset!

9:05 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"This is so antithetical to the norm in the Muslim world, no wonder we don't understand why they are upset and they don't understand why we are NOT upset! "

since u come from the us, u should know the skokie vs illinois case: a nazi group marched in a jewish neighborhood in order to provoke them: this is quite the same case: a leading danish newspaper publishes material solely in order to provoke muslims: the question is the balance between freedom of speech and community rights.

poor use of freedom, and don't ask: why do they hate our liberties?

10:44 pm  
Blogger Yazan said...

Yes it is a shame...

But, in a dictatorship like syria, These very same ppl will take to the streets to attack opposition figures... it's not about Denmark, and I doubt it's about Islam!!

Danish embassy CAN and WILL be rebuilt again, but the damage to the Syrian image outside and to Syrians, that'll take years to heal... that's the worst part of this.. for me as a Syrian.

Again, it is a shame...

if u're intersted u can check my blog for responses from the Syrian Blogsphere to such events... I find it my duty to help erase the trauma of this...

good day

3:09 am  
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