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dijous, 2 de juny de 2016

La libertad de expresión, amenazada

Las restricciones a la libertad de expresión están creciendo con más fuerza. Es el momento de hablar



THE ECONOMIST reconoce tres amenazas que han reducido los límites de la libertad de expresión. La primera, las limitaciones cada día mayores a los medios independientes en Rusia y China. La segunda, el aumento de los censores no estatales, principalmente de mafias delictivas o de organizaciones político-religiosas, especialmente islámicas. La tercera, y más preocupante, la extensión, especialmente en los campus universitarios anglosajones, de la idea que determinadas personas o grupos no pueden ser ofendidos.

Third, the idea has spread that people and groups have a right not to be offended. This may sound innocuous. Politeness is a virtue, after all. But if I have a right not to be offended, that means someone must police what you say about me, or about the things I hold dear, such as my ethnic group, religion, or even political beliefs. Since offence is subjective, the power to police it is both vast and arbitrary.

Nevertheless, many students in America and Europe believe that someone should exercise it. Some retreat into the absolutism of identity politics, arguing that men have no right to speak about feminism nor whites to speak about slavery. Others have blocked thoughtful, well-known speakers, such as Condoleezza Rice and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, from being heard on campus (see article).

Concern for the victims of discrimination is laudable. And student protest is often, in itself, an act of free speech. But university is a place where students are supposed to learn how to think. That mission is impossible if uncomfortable ideas are off-limits. And protest can easily stray into preciousness: the University of California, for example, suggests that it is a racist “micro-aggression” to say that “America is a land of opportunity”, because it could be taken to imply that those who do not succeed have only themselves to blame.

The inconvenient truth

Intolerance among Western liberals also has wholly unintended consequences. Even despots know that locking up mouthy but non-violent dissidents is disreputable. Nearly all countries have laws that protect freedom of speech. So authoritarians are always looking out for respectable-sounding excuses to trample on it. National security is one. Russia recently sentenced Vadim Tyumentsev, a blogger, to five years in prison for promoting “extremism”, after he criticised Russian policy in Ukraine. “Hate speech” is another. China locks up campaigners for Tibetan independence for “inciting ethnic hatred”; Saudi Arabia flogs blasphemers; Indians can be jailed for up to three years for promoting disharmony “on grounds of religion, race...caste...or any other ground whatsoever”.

The threat to free speech on Western campuses is very different from that faced by atheists in Afghanistan or democrats in China. But when progressive thinkers agree that offensive words should be censored, it helps authoritarian regimes to justify their own much harsher restrictions and intolerant religious groups their violence.
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