Sunday, October 07, 2007

ProgBlog's CoC, Tutu and the Right the Offend

I apologize to all ProgBlog members for not posting earlier on the Code of Conduct (CoC) but the latest developments in my own personal life have kept me fairly busy (insiders know what I'm talking about).

First of all I want to praise the PB moderators for giving members the ability to contribute to a code of conduct. I do have the following criticism and they deal with the phrase about religion. The following suggestion was made:

A member of the Progressive Bloggers shall be determined to be conducting themselves in an unacceptable manner when they submit material to the Progressive Bloggers, automatically or otherwise, which: [...]
(b) contains [..] religiously offensive language.

Doesn't freedom of speech include the right to offend? Who doesn't remember Salman Rushdie's

"What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist"
Personally I have no problem with the fact that many religious people conspire regularly (Christians, Muslims, Jews etc.), express their superiority (by those same people or their leaders) over other believe systems, simply because they're the followers of the “right” religion.

I have no problem with religion BECAUSE I'm allowed and able to differ with those particular religious believes.

And the ability to differ HAS to include the right to offend, because “offensiveness” is subjective; it completely depends on the party who receives the comment, in how it will perceive it.

The recent dealings of the St. Thomas University and Desmond Tutu comes to mind. Tutu wasn't allowed to speak, because of a speech he had given several years ago, in which he had compared the powerful Jewish lobby to other major powers that people had to overcome: "Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Pinochet, Milosevic, and Idi Amin". Although Tutu's statement is clearly not anti-semitic, the remarks were still perceived as offensive by some Jews (especially the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas) and therefore enough reason for the University of St. Thomas to cancel a planned speech. From a progressive point of view, where the free flow of information is paramount, University of St. Thomas' behaviour is unacceptable.

In a free and progressive society, people have the right to their own believes, including their own religion. But since religion itself can be perceived as offensive (for example: I do find most religions' take on so-called pagans quite offensive), there has to be the right to offend by those of different believes or believe systems. Only then are we, all believers and non-believers, on an equal footing.

- ProgBlog proposed CoC
- Wikipedia: Desmond Tutu
- St. Thomas won't host Tutu
- BBC: The right to be downright offensive

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