Thursday, May 3, 2007

My thoughts on the Mikko Ellilä controversy - let's THINK about it

I apologize in advance - while this post is all-encompassing, it is not succinct.

We bloggers are so lemming-like predictable! Just sneak up behind one of us, whisper "freedom of speech infringement," and we howl in a Pavlovian manner. So goes the blogosphere today, as reports (Tundra Tabloids, Gates of Vienna, Finland for Thought) surface that Mikko Ellila has to talk to the Finnish police about some things that he said in his blog.

The blogosphere reaction is predictable:


Or take this from Mikko himself:

This is an extremely important case, a litmus test for the freedom of speech, a landmark case, a historical milestone.

So when you encounter a case like this, you are supposed to blindly join the throng and castigate the Finnish police and the Muslim world without thinking about the issues, right?

Not a chance.

Let's take a step back and look at the Mikko Ellilä situation. As you know, I can't read a word of Finnish (well, I can read one or two words of Finnish), so I don't know what Ellila says about Muslims in his blog. However, he did write something in English that states his views:

The main point that I have been trying to make in my blog is that the Muslims ARE fascists who want to kill Jews, atheists, homosexuals, etc.

Trying to prosecute me for saying that Islam is a totalitarian ideology is like trying to sue someone for saying Hitler was a Nazi.

Let's take each of his points one by one:

  • As you know, I dislike the broad misuse of the word "fascist," which seems to be indisciminately applied to anyone whose views you don't like, although I guess one could argue that total submission to Allah, including both your government and business affairs, would lead to a cooperation between the government and business realsm that could be mislabeled as fascism.

  • As for killing the Jews, to my knowledge Bill Handel did not receive death threats after his Mecca stampede parody, and I don't think he has to travel with dozens of bodyguards when he does his promotional work with Dom DeLuise or whoever. Maybe Finnish Jews are being killed by the trainload and it's just being covered up. I don't know.

  • Now let's move on to killing atheists. While some would argue that murder is not a crime to an atheist, I believe that atheists do obtain their own personal morality from whatever. But do Muslims differentiate between atheists and, say, Hindus? Pakistan and India seem to be getting along reasonably well at the moment (well, better than Eastvale and Jurupa Valley, at least).

  • As for Muslims wanting to kill homosexuals. Again, if this is happening in Finland, then there's a huge coverup about it.

  • Now for the best category of all, the "etc." category (which is where I fit in, since I'm not a Muslim, nor a Jew, atheist, or homosexual). I'll grant that it's only noon, but so far today no Muslim has come up to me and said, "I want to kill you." Come to think of it, that didn't happen yesterday, either.

As you can see, I don't agree with anything that Mikko Ellilä says, and at least some of the bloggers who are supporting him don't agree with his views either. Now, is it a crime for Mikko Ellila to be saying the things that he says?

Before you answer that question, let's look at some other cases about some people who said some things.
  • ITEM ONE - David Kerr recently posted this 1991 story: "A Hasidic Jewish driver in Brooklyn's Crown Heights section accidentally kills Gavin Cato, a 7-year-old black child, and antisemitic riots erupt. Sharpton races to pour gasoline on the fire. At Gavin's funeral he rails against the 'diamond merchants' -- code for Jews -- with 'the blood of innocent babies' on their hands. He mobilizes hundreds of demonstrators to march through the Jewish neighborhood, chanting, 'No justice, no peace.'" Does the freedom of speech-loving blogosphere agree that Al Sharpton should NOT be prosecuted for his mere words?

  • Conversely, if anyone criticizes Al Sharpton's words, should THEY be prosecuted for trying to restrict Sharpton's freedom of speech?

  • ITEM TWO - Recently, the city of Boston banned Boing Boing access on its wi-fi network because of the presence of a URL for a Google search without SafeSearch (in other words, a search that theoretically included all the dirty stuff). Should the Boing Boing post author have been prosecuted by the government for using an unsafe search?

  • Conversely, if I post a Google link that DOES use SafeSearch, should I be prosecuted for restricting access to information?

  • ITEM THREE - Speaking of Google, its board recommended against a proposal that would restrict Google from engaging in proactive censorship efforts. If a Chinese dissident says Naughty Words like "democracy," should the dissident be prosecuted?

  • Conversely, if Google says Naughty Words like "That post originated from," should they be prosecuted for exercising THEIR freedom of speech?

  • ITEM FOUR - If you've defend the freedom of speech of everyone listed above, one more question - how about spammers?

Easy questions to answer, aren't they?

Oh, by the way, I left out something about the Gavin Cato story. If you believe that Sharpton can talk about "diamond merchants" and "the blood of innocent babies" all that he wants, consider the one part that I left out. Again from David Kerr's blog:

A rabbinical student, Yankel Rosenbaum, is surrounded by a mob shouting "Kill the Jews!" and stabbed to death.

Even though Sharpton didn't intend for his words to result in murder, a murder happened. Similarly, what if a "blogger freedom fighter" runs to a Finnish taquito stand, screams "FREE MIKKO ELLILA" (in Finnish), and wastes a Muslim as he eats his shredded beef taquito?

My views on the matter? If Ellila's Finnish words reflect his English words, I don't see any reason for the law to get involved just because he calls Muslims a bunch of murder-happy fascists.

But would my views change if Muslims were killed in Finland after the killers were inspired by Ellila's characterization of Muslims as "fascists"? Perhaps.


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Beach Girl said...

Very good post. Thank you for the link to it. It is always good to have a sound, level-headed person around as I did this past Tuesday when I had the chance to spend part of my day - well all of my day really - with two true Southern Gentlemen - both relatives.

Aapo said...

Sober and refreshing thoughts. Free speech in the public sphere has never been a black & white issue, so I can't see why it should be that in the internet.

Ontario Emperor said...

Found additional information at Conservative Beach Girl's blog, which resulted in a followup post. (Warning - my Slim Whitman views wouldn't get me in trouble with the Finnish police, but would probably result in university censure nonetheless.)

Anonymous said...

"We bloggers are so lemming-like predictable! Just sneak up behind one of us, whisper "freedom of speech infringement," and we howl in a Pavlovian manner."

Sorry Mrontemp, I think you should go to prison for implying that bloggers who unlike you, do not "think" about this case are not only "dogs" but also dogs who react in a Pavlovian way.

In your hate-speech you deny that they too are able to form opinions based on free will, thus denying them of their basic humanity.

Also by referring to "Pavlovian response", Writer is trying to state his statements so that they would look like scientific facts.

Seriously, since you apparently understand the difference between agreeing 100% with someone and supporting his right to say such things without police prosecution, what's the point?

I'm not aware of a single blogger who claims that they agree with everything Mikko Ellila has ever written, so that is not why they support him.

Your questions are actually not that hard if you believe in freedom of speech unless the speech is incitement for violence etc.
I believe that many people agree with me in this case

1) Dishonest question and a lousy comparison: "...He mobilizes hundreds of demonstrators" (who kill Yankel Rosenbaum?) = Mere words?

IF Mr. Ellila makes defamatory statements about Muslims while there are serious anti-Muslims riots going on, and organizes a violent demonstration, then he should perhaps be prosecuted, but that would not be about mere words.

Conversely, same thing: criticism = trying to restrict free speech. No, it's not.

2) No and no. What's the point? Private corporations are free to provide safe/un-safe search functions as they like, and customers are free to not use google if they disagree with the decision.

3) Google is not required to help Chinese to get rid of censorship by law, since it is a private corporation.

4) What about spammers? Supporting freedom of speech does not mean I have to read it, or that I may not use spam-filtering software.