Freedom of speech

It is springtime in Iceland. Despite the cold weather this little island is slowly coming alive. The Lóa is here, the tomato plants in my window are growing nicely and Gylfi Ægisson has come out of hibernation with his annual rant about how this country’s queer organizations are damaging the nation’s youth. This time he has awakened the slumbering volcano that is The National Queer Organization (i. Samtökin ’78) which recently sued ten people for damaging comments during Ægisson’s latest public rant.

I have no intention of getting into the sordid details of Ægisson’s disturbing views. What interests me is the curious debate on the freedom of speech and opinion going on in the background of the accusations and lawsuits. A debate on the freedom of speech and opinion.

That debate has taken on different forms, the most benign acknowledging people’s rights to protest vehemently but objecting to legal restrictions and lawsuits as means to combat prejudice and hate-speech. While I share these individual’s scepticism towards the state’s restrictions on the freedom on speech, I find it curious that this criticism seems to come mainly from cis straight white non-disabled young men who seem totally unaware of their privileges and how that informs their stance on the issue. Or, at least, that is how I interpret their opinions’ total lack of nuance and the absence of any acknowledgement of the fact that desperate people will use any means to alleviate their oppression.

A Facebook-page has been created where people can voice their homophobia, racism, sexism etc. The only condition is that they do it in a calm and civilized manner.

But what I find more interesting are the people (again, mainly cis straight white non-disabled men) using terms like “oppression” and “fascism” when describing a marginalized minority’s attempts to defend themselves against hate-speech and hateful remarks. A Facebook-page was even created as a safe haven for people to express their opinions on minorities they don’t belong to, how ever questionable. The only condition, that they do it in a calm manner. People protesting these ideas would also have to do so respectfully, for instance by refraining from calling people with homophobic views homophobes so not to “personally degrade” the people contributing to the oppression of a marginalized group. So if someone were to, for instance, say that homosexuality is unnatural, in their humble opinion, those being marginalized by these comments and their allies just have to agree to disagree, protest calmly and let it slide in order to respect their oppressor’s opinion.

Well, actually, as The National Queer Organization’s suits demonstrates, there are restrictions on people’s abilities to express their opinions, especially if they constitute hate-speech and/or contribute to the marginalization of a particular group of people. And with good reason since it has been shown time and time again that marginalization has serious detrimental effects on people belonging to the groups in question, including violence, abuse and death.

So yes, you are entitled to your opinion but it is not your right to express it publicly if you are inciting hate or furthering the marginalization of an already vulnerable group of people. Rather it is the right of the people you are badmouthing to sue your ass off.

– How can they expect us to respect opinions that tell us that we are “wrong” somehow, degenerate or unnatural?…That we pose a threat to children?

But that is almost beside the point. What we have here is a very clear example of how people contributing to the marginalization of other groups tend to formulate their arguments in accordance to what is deemed socially acceptable each time. It is no longer socially acceptable to call queer people perverts so those with a thorn in their side try to frame their arguments in a seemingly respectful manner, as an opinion to be respected. An unalienable right. And when the people being marginalized protest, they are forced to curb their reactions or else be branded as the oppressors and accused of victimizing the people they are defending themselves against.

Sometimes reporting hate speech is the only way to deal with it.
Sometimes reporting hate speech is the only way to deal with it.

Brilliant really. But when you look past the pseudo-“human rights lingo” you are hit by the absurdity of the argument. How can you respect opinions that are directed against your very existence?

How can they expect us to respect opinions that tell us that we are “wrong” somehow, degenerate or unnatural? That we do not deserve the same services and rights as our cis straight counterparts? That we pose a threat to children? That kids should by all means be prevented from turning out like us, because being queer is obviously so much worse than being cis straight?

How can they expect us to respect the stereotypes they use to portray us, which dehumanize us and make us into caricatures so that it is easier to dismiss us and commit violence against us? How can we respect opinions that severely affect our mental health and cause us to be disproportionately prone to anxiety, substance abuse and suicidal thoughts?

How does that make any sense?

It doesn’t.

So we will not respect these kinds of opinions.

We will not agree to disagree.

We will protest fiercely and fight back.

You can either stand with us or get the hell out of the way.

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