I have a piece on CiF today about freedom of expression. It was a personal attack on me by Inayat Bunglawala – made worse by a link to a defamatory article about me on another site – that tempted me back.
The headline – which suggests that I wouldn’t extend freedom of speech to the ‘apologists’ for terrorism is misleading. I would encourage free speech for such people. I very much want to hear what these people have to say. I also want to know who they are. Then I want to explain why they’re wrong.
What I have argued, instead, is that there is good cause for banning organisations led by clerics who incite others to murder, claiming a religious authority that is recognised by those whom their injunctions are addressed.
A reader has just emailed me the following:
Guardian “Comment Is Free” is running a series of articles on “Freedom of Speech on the Internet”. (DavidT has an excellent piece there – arguing that there is good cause for not allowing free speech to organisations led by clerics who incite others to murder, claiming a religious authority that is recognised by those whom their injunctions are addressed).
I believe in the existence of Israel as a State grounded in Judaism (which makes me a Zionist) and I used to post on CIF in order to counter the posters there who seek to demonise Israel and argue that the country should no longer have a Jewish character (“One State”).
However for me “Comment Is Not In The Least Free”. Earlier this year, the Moderators began to premoderate my posts. This meant that some of my posts countering anti-Zionist material never saw the light of day or if they did, the debate had already moved on. So I set up another account with a new posting name. This ‘cat and mouse’ game went on for a few months. But recently the Moderators became much more draconian. Now whatever name I log in as, the “Post A Comment” button has vanished. Has the same happened to anyone else? If so, let me know by commenting beneath this article.
Maybe CIF would take an article from us for their series on “Freedom of Speech on the Internet”.
I probably should mention that, although I have and do write pieces for CiF, I am banned from posting comments on CiF.
I had posted a comment in which I referred to Inayat Bunglawala by his nickname ‘Bungle’. The post was then removed, and I received a warning from the moderators. I responded, I’m ashamed to admit, with the words ‘fuck off’. I was having a bad day, and shouldn’t have sworn at somebody doing an unpleasant job. It was the wrong thing to do and I apologised.
I was then informed, by a senior CiF bod, that I must promise never to use the nickname ‘Bungle’ again on CiF, as a condition of being trusted to comment. I couldn’t agree to that. Nicknames are not generally banned on CiF – I’ve never seen a comment deleted for the use of the droll ‘B.Liar’ tag, for example. Bungle is singularly apt: the man messes up everything he touches. Weirdly, though, I’ve remained a CiF writer, although I couldn’t comment on any post.
The oddest part of my banning is that the senior CiF bod told me that Bungle was a ‘racist’ nickname. When I asked him how that could be, he couldn’t supply an explanation. I had wondered whether he might have thought that Bungle referred to the bear from the 1970s kids tv show, Rainbow. But bears aren’t racist either. Possibly he simply thought that any nickname, when applied to a person of colour, amounted to racial abuse. Who can say?
I’m opening comments.