Freedom Of Speech? Yes. Freedom Of Idiocy? No!

The Israeli new left (or perhaps ultra-left, depends on who’s asking) wrote a blog-post about the upcoming Saturday night demonstrations against the war in Gaza.

While I have a lot to say about whether or not we should or should not continue this war, I can briefly state that demonstrations against the war are OK by me, even though I’m not sure I’d participate in (another) one.

However, what I am againt is malign-stupidity or maligh-stupidity-provoking-stupidity.***

Hadash wrote a post about Israeli police forbidding their demonstration due to Hadash’s intent on raising PLO flags in the demonstration.

Why do I think that’s reasonable? Not because raising a PLO flag is like betraying your country (although it might be, depends on why you are raising it), not because raising that flag is a sign of weakness or any other fascist-babble the Israeli right will rail against the anti-war demonstrators,

I am against that because it is 100% batshit insane. We are in an extremely popular war against an enemy that has claimed Jewish citizen lives, and this not to say that continuing the war is the right thing to do, but it is right for most of the population. That said, raising a PLO flag is simply going to make people angry enough to enact violence against “the traitors”, and Hadash’s insistence on provoking them in the sake of “free speech” is just idiotic and careless. I’m simply revolted at the cynical use of free speech here. Freedom is a wonderful thing to have until you have to face the consequences, and I would gladly find ways that will get the message conveyed without purposely provoke malign idiots.

This is not a breach of Ben Franklin’s old saying: “If you give a little liberty to gain a little security, you will deserve neither and lose both”.

Freedom of speech should be acted wisely. Freedom of speech that provokes belligerent fools is a great danger to those who use it, and I think this is the last thing we need.

There is a key difference between can and should. Demonstrators have a right to say what they want and raise PLO flags. But they shouldn’t raise those flags because this will invite insane violence that will do no one any good. Their intent on risking the lives and well-being of their demonstrators, for me, is a huge blemish of their political character.

Demonstrate, say what you have to say,

but do so wisely and responsibly. Dying for freedom of speech is only something private individuals can assume responsibility for.

Do not take that responsibility for the demonstrators you send.


I think it’s perfectly okay for someone to raise PLO flags if he does that willingly and knowing the risks (including the risks others will take for one) – I am only against people being “forced into” this responsibility.


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30 Responses to “Freedom Of Speech? Yes. Freedom Of Idiocy? No!”

  1. galia Says:

    i agree.

  2. Jeff Says:

    I don’t think I disagree with your conclusion. My way of getting there is a bit different.
    I think that the most reasonable way to discuss limitations on freedoms (including freedom of speech) is to recognize that they can sometimes curtail other freedoms. Any society which recognizes more than one freedom, therefore, needs to have some sort of heirarchy of freedoms to determine which is most fundamental.
    Personally, I don’t recognize that human beings have the right to take any life, even their own. But leaving that aside, I recognize that law enforcement officials have the right to not be exposed to excessively stupid situations which could endanger them. Ordinary civilians have a right to safety. Both of these rights, it seems to me, ought to trump the protesters right to free speech, when this exercise is over-the-top.

  3. Jeff Says:

    From a Marxist, secular humanist, and many (most?) other agnostic and atheistic world views, it would seem pretty reasonable to assert a persons right to harm (or kill) themselves.
    From my Christian perspective, this becomes much trickier. But given that we begin from different world views on this issue, I don't think we'll get very far in discussing it.
    Beyond this point, I very much agree that regardless of whether or not you have the right to risk this for yourself you don't have the right to place others in this situation.

  4. Mark Says:

    First, when you wrote " We are in an extremely popular war against an enemy that has raised Jewish citizen lives" in "raised" did you mean "razed"? I'm asking because what you wrote makes little sense to me, and I have such homophonic mistakes too.

    And to the matter: Raising any sign or flag in the mids of a demonstration takes responsibility in a way of the whole group. Raising a sign with a certain message in a demonstration gives the impression that the whole group of demonstrators agree with the message, which isn't certain – and the chances that -someone- of the demonstrators disagree with one of the signs grow the larger the demonstration is (which also means more different signs). But you can't forbid having signs at a demonstration (and I don't mean legally, but ethically) as a demonstration without signs is somewhat less powerful and less clear.
    So, a demonstration is similar to a political coalition in a way; Not all the members entirely agree with one another, but a single or a few areas of agreements between them gives way to cooperation between them. Also, even if they agree on the specific issue, each may view it from a different perspective, which might mean that their messages be different. And, as you have mentioned, one or some of those view or messages may be harmful in a way to their holders and to the whole group. In this case, I suppose, the demonstrators may agree to either ask of the beforementioned body to remove the message (or flag, for that matter) if they don't sympathize with it or see it contrary to their ideas, or expel him altogether from the demonstration if it objects to do so.

    As for the issue of stupidity/provocation – On one hand I agree with you. It is important to express what you believe in and what you see is true, but if you want to influence other people and effect their point of view, you should also consider making your message more digestible, so to speak, especially when it's extreme compared to common view, so people would get the message, or at least part of the message, before pulling out their "resisting-walls" mechanism. A bit like the fable about the poor-man's sheep told to king David to make judgment.


  5. Dana Says:

    Those people seek provocations and should be ignored

  6. Mark Says:

    I actually think that by trying to send a message that the public understands differently then intended, it does omit of the message's value. Messages have two sides, the sending and the receiving side. If the message on either side is different, then something is wrong. It's like talking Hebrew to a Chinese person

  7. Mark Says:

    1. There is a length limitatio; I'm not losing my end. after I finish writing, click on "submit comment" it tells me it's too long and suggests me to seperate it to a number of comments.

    2. I was right. It's not flags of PNO but of PA. It's so much more legitimate. It's like raising vietnamese flags (both of them) in an anti-war demonstration in the US in the 60's. Is it that bad? I believe it's not. I believe raising a ussr flag would have a similar reaction, but they are both (to the ussr flag in us in that days, and to to PA flag today) for the same reasons, I believe: fear. I think many Israelis won't admit that, but they are damn afraid of Palestinians. Be it because of Palestinian terror or not, they are being afraid of Arab people, culture and religion. And that's the reason of the reaction. as was said by our leaders, Israel is fighting Hamas, not the Palestinians.,7340,L-3649215,0
    (PA flag, not PNO)

    3. Check this too:

  8. Freidenker Says:

    First of all, it's idiocy on the side of the demonstrators (for the sake of argument, at least) to wave a flag that idiot receivers will misinterpret as a dangerous affront to them. Obviously, if there were no idiots "on the other side", this post would be redundant.

    You're right, raising the Hamas flag would probably be tantamount to advocating the murder and attacks on Israeli populace, and nothing but that. The PLO flag raised will send the wrong message only the wrong kind of people. A Hamas flag will send the wrong message to everyone.

  9. elad-vav Says:

    Freidenker: Factual correction: The police required the demonstration’s organizers to guarantee that no PLO flags will be raised, as a condition for the demonstration taking place. They cannot possibly commit that no one will raise PLO flags, what are they, the thought police? This is what the discussion was about. I don’t think HADASH as a body had a particular desire to raise PLO flags. I wouldn’t raise PLO flags myself, but I’m not Arab.

  10. elad-vav Says:

    Freidenker wrote: “I was decrying the fact that demonstration organizers are mandating flag-raising”.

    They were NOT mandating flag-raising.

  11. elad-vav Says:

    Freidenker wrote: “Whether or not they were mandating it, they were still encouraging it”

    First of all, the comment mechanism is broken. I hit reply on your message and get 404.

    Second of all: seriously, what’s up? What’s going on? This is like one of those really stupid discussions. THEY WERE NOT ENCOURAGING RAISING THE PLO FLAG!!!

    What do you want? Should I prove I don’t have a sister? (I do). Please prove your arguments. I am beginning to completely lose trust in you. Do you do any research about what you write? The organizers of the demonstrations were two people, Hagay Matar and a girl, I forgot who exactly. They went to the police, filed a request for a demonstration, the police asked them to guarantee that PLO flags will not be raised as a precondition to having the demonstration, they said they cannot guarantee such a thing, and then went to the supreme court to force the police to approve the demonstration anyway. These are two individuals. They have not, to my knowledge, encouraged raising PLO flags. HADASH, to my knowledge, has not encouraged raising PLO flags either.

    I’m expecting from you either a proof that either HADASH or the two organizers encouraged PLO flag raising, or a retraction and apology. How do you expect to have a discussion if we can’t even get the facts straight? This is the third comment already!

    Alternatively, feel free to not retract or anything. But in this case I’m stopping commenting here altogether.

  12. elad-vav Says:


    By the way, firstly: I see nothing wrong with raising the PLO flag. This is not the HAMAS flag. I share the Palenstinians’ desire for a state of their own. There’s nothing wrong with that.

    If it is dangerous to raise the PLO flag in Israel, then it is up to the police to guarantee the safety of those raising it, and to stop and incarcerate any rednecks that threaten those who raise the PLO flag.

    I would be willing to raise the PLO flag (although I don’t feel any particular desire to do so; I hate symbols) but I do not in any way support HAMAS. There’s no element of treachery in raising the PLO flag. In fact, I disagree with your statement “Not because raising a PLO flag is like betraying your country (although it might be, depends on why you are raising it)”. No, raising a flag is NEVER betrayal of your country. What are we now, the thought police? Betrayal is measured by specific actions, e.g. giving information to the enemy, etc. .

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