Saturday, November 12, 2016

Human Rights are not political views.

Since the results of the American election, many of us at FLIF have debated how to handle this and what our actions should be in the coming months.

Quite simply: FLIF stands by its mandate to defend intellectual freedom and stand up for social justice. We believe, as Desmond Tutu said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

Hate speech is generally categorized as speech, gesture, conduct, writing or display which may incite violent or prejudicial action by disparaging or intimidating an individual or group. When a person is acting in an inflammatory manner by categorizing minority groups with negative attributes and perpetrating views that are deliberately harmful to said groups, the result is that the use of these words, expressions, gestures or displays cause and reinforce the subordination of these groups.

A presidential nominee calling for a registry of Muslims or a vice presidential nominee creating a law to jail same-sex couples applying for marriage licenses clearly meet these guidelines. Their words, especially when spoken from a position of power, are detrimental to civil liberties and used to justify violence towards minority groups. Citizens of a country should not be involuntarily placed on a registry based on the colour of their skin or their religion. Press outlets should not be denied access or threatened with lawsuits by government officials.  

Freedom of speech is a person’s protected right to criticize its government, not a government official’s right to disparage a populace. Human rights are not political issues, nor are they privileges to be doled out by a governmental official. They are to be protected against suppression and incendiary behaviours by all responsible citizens.

The actions of America's incoming government will not make people safer. In the short time since the election, hate speech and crimes have risen in America. We must stand together to defend human rights and freedoms against a government that is poised to discriminate against already marginalized groups.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

The Freedom to Speak in a Library

A friend of mine recently shared with me an article about freedom of speech at the Kansas City Library that I thought was very interesting. A summary of the events that occurred is as follows:

A public speaker, Dennis Ross, was at the library, and the library decided to hire outside security for the event. Part of this agreement with this security was that "nobody was to be prevented from asking a controversial question and the security team would consult with library officials before ejecting any nonviolent patrons." However, when a patron asked some controversial questions of the speaker, one of the guards attempted to eject the patron from the library. Additionally, one of the guards stated that they were at a private event and that the library was private property. When the library director attempted to intervene and protect the patron's rights, the guards violently arrested him.

The library wanted this event to blow over, and thus the event was not reported widely until last month, even though it took place in May. However, I think this is an important event to be aware of. The library should be a place in which everyone should feel free to question ideas and concepts without being punished. Even when the questions and ideas being put forth are disagreed upon by the library and any persons of authority--such as the security guards--if they are being presented in a peaceful manner, they should be permitted.

The concept of libraries protecting freedom of speech is something we can take for granted (especially if we are in a program surrounded by like-minded people in a student group dedicated to the idea, for instance). However, this incident shows that there can be real world consequences for protecting this right. Yes, the line between hate speech and free speech is one that is sometimes crossed and sometimes not seen at all, as many individuals on the Internet with an opinion and a keyboard will tell you. However, by standing up for the right to ask questions in a public forum, libraries can help to define this line and lead this discussion by setting a strong example.

What do you think?

Here is another link describing the incident.