Thursday, 13 November 2014

Defending the Indefensible: Andrew Lawrence, Dapper Laughs & Freedom of Speech

 The recent shennaingans surrounding obnoxious chauvinists Andrew Lawrence and Dapper Laughs has seen many (so-called) libertarians and otherwise rational people quote Voltaire's famous maxim, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”. The problem is Voltaire never said this and never would have because it's actually a really dumb thing to say.

A turn-of-the-century biographer created the phrase to specifically describe Voltaire's attitude to, and friendship with, author Helvétius, who's book De l’esprit [On the Mind] had suffered at the hands of authoritarian French Parliamentary book burning. The book asserted that human motivation derives from sensation; you're more likely to do something that feels nice than something that hurts. Hardly a shocking or outrageous assertion so when Helvétius came under attack Voltaire naturally defended him, alledgedly crying, "What a fuss about an omelette! How abominably unjust to persecute a man for such an airy trifle as that!"

Image Courtesy of STTAHANW Facebook
Whilst not wishing to put words in Voltaire's mouth (as he has clearly already been the victim of that!) I believe he had a similar sentiment to myself; all valid, intellectual reasoning and criticism (even if it differs from your own) has it's rightful place in society but idiotic, ill-educated, foolish, irrational and uninformed opinion does not (and Volitaire never said it did!).

If what someone says is stupid then you would not 'defend to the death' their right to say it, you'd call them a dick. I'm not going to defend to the death your right to say that the earth is flat, or the MMR vaccination causes autism, or that black people are lazy thiefs, or that women are thick beta-versions of men, or that gay people are mentally ill perverts. If you want to say that you're on your own. I'll be over the road throwing rotten eggs at you.