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January 23, 2004

Free Speech in Practice
Babak Seradjeh  [info|posts]

freespeech.jpg If a person shouts at you in the street that you are a wretched of a human being and do not deserve to be where you are, is that considered an instance of Free Speech? My personal answer would be "yes!" What if you are sitting in your seat at a discussion conference on "economic prosperity and its effects on civil society" (a made-up title, of course) where people are to ask questions from a panel or a speaker, and the same thing happens? My answer would still be "yes!" I guess there is little place for disagreement on this affirmative answer, as it derives from a quite basic understanding of Free Speech.

What if the police or the security personnel ask the person to be quiet or demand that s/he leaves in each case: should they have the right to do so in a free society where Free Speech is the rule? My answer would be "no!" in the first case, and "yes!" in the second. The reason why I think so has nothing to do with Free Speech per se, but the purpose of each gathering. In the first case you are not in the street to serve any particular purpose; you are there just because you are a member of the reference society you live in, and the person who shouts at you is there since s/he is also a member of the same society. In the second case, however, you are at the conference to "discuss" the topic of the conference. Your very presence means you have accepted that as a rule. The security is there, too, to enforce that rule. So, if someone starts shouting at you, although s/he is free to do so, per the rule of Free Speech, the security has a responsibility to deal with the shouting person, for the conference to go on towards its goal as set by its topic and practice.

So, what kind of Free Speech is it then that the speaker would be effectively silenced, one might ask? The way Free Speech is implemented in free societies is rather simple, yet perhaps subtle. The reason it is subtle is that:

Free Speech is for everyone, i.e. all people should be free to speak their minds. Thus, in response to the first person who is shouting, the person who is shouted at also has a right to respond, or perhaps shout back. If that is what actually takes place, the purpose of the gathering/session/environment would be violated and the reason for which it is created undermined. That is where Free Speech should be regulated itself (not blocked or removed, I must emphasise) through two simple rules:

A. One is free to speak her/his mind according to the rule of Free Speech; yet the creators of the "environment" in which the Speech is made are also free to set regulations on the content of the Speech or the manner in which the Speech is made. They may assign regulators, who have "the right" to enforce these regulations after the Speech is made, not before—that is Free Speech should take precedence to any regulation of this sort no matter what environment.

B. The "reference environment" that is formed by the union of all such "environments" should be free of such regulations as regards Free Speech. Thus, the regulations of the sub-environments of the reference environment cannot take the form of trial or result in any sort of prosecution, criminal or otherwise.

Note that rule B is meant to prevent abuse/misuse of rule A, that is blocking or constraining Free Speech essentially and fundamentally with the excuse of higher-level regulations and/or higher moral grounds. In the body of rule A itself, the precedence of Free Speech over what regulates it in (sub-)environments (of the reference environment) is underscored.

I should like to draw some examples where it would be clear why these two rules are necessary and enough to ensure a meaningful implementation of Free Speech:

First let us consider a country. The reference environment is clearly the country itself, including its public places. Everyone should be free (by law or common law) to express their mind in spoken or written words or signs. That automatically results in the Freedom of Expression, Freedom of Press, Freedom of Gathering, and a host of fundamental rights. These are all inter-related and derive from the same principle; see, for instance, Bill of Rights, Amendment I, and some related annotations. That's what is practiced in the free world, say the US or Canada, and what the rest of the world, say Iran, lacks. However, once a group or an individual sets up, say, a newspaper, they are free to set regulations on what they publish. They do not need to publish every single line of e-mail or letter or phone call they receive. No one really expects New York Times to publish whatever one writes to them. A newspaper is created for a purpose, and its content is regulated per that purpose.

The same holds true for a web site, as an environment with expressed goals and regulating rules. The example of a web site is especially important since the web, by structure, is interactive and publishing online material has become increasingly easy, so much so that it is now instant. It is similar to speaking in a 10-by-10-meter conference room. Everyone can hear you the instant you talk. So, if I burst out in fire-rapid comments against the tyranny of clerics in Iran in a gathering room on "Scientific advancements of the Iranian society" I should not be surprised if I am asked to be silent or leave the room, or directed to another room on "The future of theocracy in Iran," a more proper topic on which to make my commentary.

As another example and to summarize: Michael Moore shouted "Same on You, Mr. Bush!" in last year's Academy Awards ceremony. I do not agree with him, but he had every right to do so as an American citizen and yet he was not given more than one minute for his speech by the organisers: he surely could not demand more time, instead he publishes books, makes films, and runs a web site where he could be heard very clearly. I take it as granted that the US is a free country, and leave it as an exercise to see that the rules I described were all followed in this case, especially the existance of the regulations and the lack of any prosecution afterwards.

Comments
Señor Græd at January 23, 2004 01:57 PM [permalink]:

You need to read Stanley Fish's essay "There's No Such Thing As Free Speech: And It's a Good Thing, Too".

P.S. If you think I found it by Google, you're dead wrong. :-)

Ordak D. Coward at January 23, 2004 02:27 PM [permalink]:

You [beep] [beep [beep], hard science [beep], stop rationalizing your [beep] [beep] [beep]. You are wrong as [weep] is always right. [weep] is right because she weeps being [weep][weep][weep]. You are wrong because you use logic. You are an irrational [beep]. Logic is only good for those geeks and nerds who can understand it anyway. For the rest of scientific community who are not into hardcore science, logic is bad, instead emotional, creative and artistic thinking is good. They are not perverts you know. They fully understand that anything is related to everything. As they are rational type and we are unemotional irrational hard science logic using perverts.

Bottomline: Never ignite an Ordak.

Wessie at January 23, 2004 03:10 PM [permalink]:

I know what a coward is, but what is an "Ordak"?

Rationalizing the Persian Princes' abuse of rank and privilege still does not make it logical or right—particularly when they leave their own (bleep) derogatory, bigoted remarks and remove those of others.

Babak, I see a lot of technical and scientific papers and write my share. You need a good editor. ;-)

Wessie

Babak S at January 23, 2004 03:39 PM [permalink]:

I have asked the editors not to remove any comments in this comment section. I hope that it provides for a meaningful discussion of the topic, so please feel free to pour in your ideas, especially our very own Agent Smith, passerby=Payam=Wiseman=maryam (O, Maryam, have mercy on the poor souls!)

Wessie: I see a lot of technical and scientific papers, too. Feel free to be the editor of my ideas, I can't hope for a better chance to be scrutinized, so go ahead. Just expect as sharp a scrutiny in return as you give. Let's make that our mutual agreement from now on, with no harm or offense meant.

Wessie at January 23, 2004 03:43 PM [permalink]:

""Feel free to be the editor of my ideas, I can't hope for a better chance to be scrutinized, so go ahead."

But, Baba. . .


I, being a "capitalist pig," don't edit anyone for free. I could send you a rate schedule. ;-)

Wessie

Ordak D. Coward at January 23, 2004 03:44 PM [permalink]:

Being in the opposite side to an irrational opponent, does not make one rational. Using logic to rationalize one's agenda does not make one right, nor logic a bad thing. All said, a person who initiates uncalled quarrels, in improper places, is always called a bully.

Ordak

Babak S at January 23, 2004 03:56 PM [permalink]:

After posting the article, I thought of an even better example: a university. A university (the "reference environment") is just the place where people discuss each other's ideas and through that learn and teach, and altogether evolve. Members of such a commuity should and are free in setting forth ideas and expressing their opinions. In any particular "environment" of the university, however, from classrooms, or debate circles etc. they have to conform to a certain set of rules that lets them proceed and progress.

I was also thinking of a short summarizing phrase. Although it's a little dangerous to express yourself locanically, I would venture to do so: "Free Speech is an absolute concept, exercised through regulated means, the sum of which must be free of regulations." That is eventhough you can't interrupt your professor in the classroom anytime you wish, you should have the means to express your differing opinion, be it as a well-formed question, a logical argument, a letter to the school newspaper, etc.

(For those mathematical-minded people like me, my understanding of Free Speech is rather like a vector space. It exists apart from its various coordinations or representations; but to do any practical "calculation" one must confine oneself in a coordinate system or another.)

PS. Wessie: I thought you were accusing me (and this site) of not being "Free!" :) Now, how much do you charge?! :)

Wessie at January 23, 2004 04:01 PM [permalink]:

Well, here we go. . .


"Being in the opposite side to an irrational opponent, does not make one rational."

Now, correct me if I am wrong, Ordak, but I perceive this post as one of your Princely insults. To whom is it addressed?

"Using logic to rationalize one's agenda does not make one right, nor logic a bad thing."

My point precisely. ;-)

"All said, a person who initiates uncalled quarrels, in improper places, is always called a bully."

Uhu. And just exactly what are you doing with this post, and a few others I can fish out?


What is good for the goose. . .

Quak!


hajir at January 23, 2004 04:15 PM [permalink]:

Babak I am not sure if I understood the points you are trying to make in the article. So do you consider these examples as practicing free speech:

1. Insulting someone in public by words
2. Insulting someone's belief (for example god or prophet) in public

The thing that, I guess, is missing in your article is the distinction between 'speech' and 'act'. Sometimes speech is act and hence is under specefic regulations. For example if in a multicultural society, people start to insult others based on race or religion or culture, then that's an 'act' of 'racism' and it is considered a 'hate crime', simply because it can lead the society to unrest. If one makes fun of a jew, for instance, he may be put to jail.
In another words one cannot shout at others in public and that's not practicing free speech. Why? Because when I am sitting in a park or walking in the street trying to get to my workplace, etc, I don't like to hear comments about my race, my origin, my look or my religion; such comments are not instances of free speech, they are instances of 'bothering' people and hence punishable.

Wellesley Girl at January 23, 2004 04:17 PM [permalink]:

In the US, if you say the least words that could imply you have means to hurt yourself, suddenly everyone feels concerned and runs to the rescue! And they may even lock you up as the result! What kind of a free speech is that!???

Wessie at January 23, 2004 04:21 PM [permalink]:

---

Babak, In the real world it is not wise to use "free speech" if you want to keep your job, stay married or get that "A" in a class.

OTOH—On the web one can be more free with one's expressions, given that no one can terminate you, divorce you or kick you out of school. Now, that is not to say one can use intemperate speech, that is libelous or incites violence—because there are still laws and they apply in cyberspace as well.

My point being, that in this medium people should feel more free to express themselves than they would in ordinary life—even if they are writing under their real names as some people claim to be doing here.

That said. I would definitely say to your face anything and everything I have posted on this website. I wonder how many others can say the same?

---

". . . I thought you were accusing me (and this site) of not being "Free!" :) Now, how much do you charge?! :)"

I am free, but not cheap. You could never afford a woman like me, Baba. You know how we Western women are—so demanding. ;-)

Babak S at January 23, 2004 04:24 PM [permalink]:

hajir, I kinda expected your comment.

Please note that what I wrote in the beginning as an example was shouting "you are a wretched of a human being and do not deserve to be where you are." This particular sentence does not contain any reference to race, place of origin, etc. So it cannot be categorized as "hate crime."

I should go further to say that I am not talking about instances of hate crime, harrasment, libel or slander. But merely shouting at someone for once (that usually has a background), or even something that might commonly be considered obsenity or insult, but is not libelous, is an instance of Free Speech, in my opinion.

Ordak D. Coward at January 23, 2004 04:25 PM [permalink]:

Man is born to freely perceive the world around.

If the basis assumption of one engaging in an argument, is to win and to hear insults, one always perceives insulted and won.

Reality will never be realized.

Poeople are mirrors of themselves. What you see in others, is what you are within.

Mehdi Y. at January 23, 2004 04:28 PM [permalink]:

Babak you say:
"If a person shouts at you in the street that you are a wretched of a human being and do not deserve to be where you are, is that considered an instance of Free Speech? My personal answer would be "yes!" ... as it derives from a quite basic understanding of Free Speech. "

In fact, I don't want to be shout it the street and I don't consider insulting others in the street to be supported by freedom of speech. I consider that as a harassment.

Yes, if I was a mayor or a senator then it would have been different because I would be considered as a public official.

This shows that it is very hard to agree on the basic understanding of free speech.

Even though we might not be able to agree on the "basics", we can still agree what are the obvious violations of freedom of speech. When in Iran, overnight 80 newspapers are shut down, it is a case of violating freedom of speech.


Wessie at January 23, 2004 04:37 PM [permalink]:

Speaking of freedom. . . Careful what you wish for:

LINK

Babak S at January 23, 2004 04:37 PM [permalink]:

Wessie, I agree with your remarks, for a change! :) Joking aside, you are right, one does feel freer on the web. What prevents most people from practicing their right to Free Speech fully in real life, is that their boss, or teacher, etc. is also free to react in certain undesirable (to the speaker) ways, which are of course expressed as regulations. if you shout at your boss, you might, or rather definitely will get fired, etc. However, be warned since I've known, seen and heard of people who got fired wor the content of their web space. There was this employee of Microsoft who had published a photo of new sets Power Mac G5 being shipped off into his Microsoft building and within a week he was out of job.

Hmm, and when did I say you were cheap, ma'm? (And I do not need to afford a woman like you, thank you very much!) I was just wondering how much it would cost for you to edit my ideas. Wasn't that what you had said? Now, who is the pig? :)

Wessie at January 23, 2004 05:02 PM [permalink]:

"I was just wondering how much it would cost for you to edit my ideas. Wasn't that what you had said? Now, who is the pig? :)

We appear to be having another one of those cross-cultural impasses, Baba. This "pig" hang-up of yours is a problem specific to your origins. Me, I like pigs, both as pets and as sustenance. We have micro pigs in the West and people keep them as pets. They are really, really cute! Pigs are smart— smarter than many people and cleaner too. ;-)

Pigs as Pets: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/pigs/pets.html

I don't exactly do editing for a living—although I do edit. Otherwise, for technical/scientific services the going rate is about $250 pr. hr., plus expenses.

As to getting fired for the content of your web page, that happens—especially if the person does something illegal and unethical as in your example. Like I said above, laws still apply and regardless of the illusion, no one is anonymous on the web. They can always track you if they need to do so.

Babak S at January 23, 2004 05:14 PM [permalink]:

I have no "pig" hang-ups, dear Wessie, I was merely jokingly referring to your previous usage of the word. (Ah, when your comment would be background-free; surely you don't know me as a person, so why giving comments so personal?) I have no problems with pigs either, just for the record.

Thanks for the rate, good to have a taste of the market for future! I guess I have to look around then, my student budget definitely cannot afford that ;)

Babak S at January 23, 2004 05:18 PM [permalink]:

Mehdi Y: well, that's just our disagreement. I am no judge or legal expert, but in my humble personal opinion, I do consider my opening example as an instance of Free Speech. Good we can agree on most of the violations of this pinnacle of free societies, though.

Tautologist at January 23, 2004 05:40 PM [permalink]:

As they say:
حق نشايد گفت جز زير لحاف

Señor Græd at January 23, 2004 05:50 PM [permalink]:

Who's "they"?!

http://www.iranian.com/Books/2002/November/Satrapi/

Tautologist at January 23, 2004 05:56 PM [permalink]:

Senor,
Molavi said that, and if you think about it deeply, that's the way it is practiced all around the world.

Señor Græd at January 23, 2004 06:04 PM [permalink]:

Well, Babak, you have obviously put a lot of thought in writing this entry, so I don't think you can shrug off competeing opinions by simply saying "[T]hat's just our disagreement." I guess it's something of a truism that we first need to have a definition of what Free Speech is (and I am following your capitalization habit) *and* agree on it, before advertizing, advocating, or opposing the Free Speech.

Señor Græd at January 23, 2004 06:10 PM [permalink]:

Thank you, Tautologist, for citing the reference. I had heard it before, but I had no idea it was Molavi (a.k.a. Rumi) said that. I don't know why he thought so though. I guess he was under some rhyming restraints! Because, as far as I know, you cannot be truthful, *especially* under the LAHAAF, unless there's nobody else there with you, in which case you can say all you want.

Señor Græd at January 23, 2004 06:14 PM [permalink]:

By the way, Tautologist, thanks a lot for writing something in Persian. The script just soothed my eyes. I guess it's time for me to detach myself from the internet, and comfort my eyes by reading some beautifully composed Persian prose, all by my self, and under the LAHAAF.

Payam at January 23, 2004 06:17 PM [permalink]:

passerby=Payam=Wiseman=Maryam

Hey Babak.S, do you happen to be a homosexual? Well, I am not! I don’t mind being equated with Wiseman and passerby but I’ll be really offended to be equated with a female (Maryam)! So you better watch out!

“Of course you haven't given your reasons as to why you think there is censorship going on here yet. I gave mine as to why I do not think so. I would be all ears to hear yours.”
You said that you would be all ears for me! But then when I asked you a question your buddy closed the section! So how about setting a rendezvous anywhere you like and I shall see if you still think that I am a female! You better be careful since I might break your bloody nose so bad that no one could ever fix it for you!

Wessie at January 23, 2004 07:09 PM [permalink]:

Now, here is some just arrived "free" speech. I love to read these. This poor fella didn't even have the brains to add a name to his copy.

Hmmmm—I seem to be getting a lot of these since posting on this site. LOL

Let's call him!! ;-)

---

From:Eric Beco.

Abidjan, Ivory Coast
West Africa
(eric_beco1@yahoo.co.uk )
APPEA L FOR URGENT BUSINESS ASSISTANCE

Dear Permit me to inform you of my desire of going into busines relationship with you. I got your name and contact from(ivorian chember or cumars))and .I prayed over it and selected your name among other names due to its esteeming nature and the recommendations given to me as a reputable and trust worthy person that I can do business with and by the recommendation ,I must not hesitate to confide in you for this simple and sincere business .

I am Eric Beco.the only son of late Mr and Mrs Joseph Beco,

My father was a very wealthy cocoa merchant in Abidjan , the economic capital of Ivory coast, my father was poisoned to death by his business associates on one of their outings on a business trip . My mother died when I was a baby and since then my father took me so special. Before the death of my father on January 2001 in a private hospital here in Abidjan he secretly called me on his bed side and told me that he has the sum of ten million,five hundred thousand United State Dollars. USD ($ 10.500,000) left in fixed / suspense account in one of the prime bank here in Abidjan ,that he used my name as his only son for the next of Kin in depositing of the fund. He also explained to me that it was because of this wealth that he was poisoned by his business associates. That I should seek for a foreign partner in a country of my choice where i will transfer this money and use it for investment purpose such as real estate management or hotel management .

dear, I am honourably seeking your assistance in the following ways:

(1) To provide a good bank account into which this money would be transferred into .

(2) To serve as a guardian of this fund since I am only 22years.

(3) To make arrangement for me to come over to your country to further my education and to secure a resident permit in your country. Moreover, dear, i am willing to offer you 15% of the total sum as compensation for your effort/ input after the successful transfer of this fund into your nominated account overseas. Furthermore, you indicate your options towards assisting me as I believe that this transaction would be concluded within fourteen (7) days you signify interest to assist me. Anticipating to hear from you soon. Here is the telephone number where you can reach me.+225 07563921.

Best regards,

Eric Beco.

Babak S at January 23, 2004 08:50 PM [permalink]:

Payam=passerby=Wiseman=maryam,

Your words speak for your mind, and your IP for your (fake or true) identity on the web. Better stop fooling yourself, dear.

I did not close that section. So, although dodging questions by posing new ones does not taste good to me, here is your answer anyways: I was giving my reasons as a reader, a member of FToI project, and in short as myself, Babak S, the author of the above post. Click on that little info link for more. You see, I "identified" myself, though somewhat confused by your request given that I write under my real name, and although you didn't seem to think you should do likewise.

I have now even provided a full-length post on my reasons. So, how about giving us a little reason in return, will ya?

AmericanWoman at January 23, 2004 09:38 PM [permalink]:

I don't know how many of you have actually experienced being yelled at in the street, but I have, as a matter of fact. It is not pleasant, and it doesn't matter if the yelling is derogatory, or "complimentary" (from the point of view of a car full of drunken soldiers, or constructions workers showing off to each other). It certainly feels like aggression, either way. Still, if the alternative is to live in an Orwellian(1) society where idiots like this are beaten into silence, or too cowed to express their cretinism, then I prefer to suffer the annoyance. Anyway, I almost think of it as "local colour," --part of the street "scene."

Abusive language and behaviour in a private forum is rude, to say the least, and disruptive and non-productive at best. The most irritating thing about filibusters, is that all flow of ideas grinds to a halt. A long haranguing monologue of repetative insults, or pointless nitpicking for the sake of opposition is ultimately so boring.

Disagreement, even confrontation is not necessarily undesirable, passion and conviction certainly make any conversation more exciting, but being bludgeoned by a single opinion ad infinitum is the antithesis of free speech, or free anything, and is why oblivious demagoguery so often leads to broken noses and broken furniture.
(1)Here is the google, mon Seigneur: http://www.k-1.com/Orwell/

Babak S at January 24, 2004 01:02 AM [permalink]:

Señor Græd (and possibly Mehdi Y and Hajir):

As to defining and agreeing on what Free Speech is, here's my thoughts and suggestions. I can't really "define" Free Speech. Free Speech is what it says—free speech; it's the atom of my treatment. Now, a better approach, I believe, is to say what Free Speech is not. Free Speech is not, for instance, hate speech, harrasment, libel or slander. There are laws forbidding such "acts" as Hajir would like to call them, and I agree. Then again, we are back to what "hate speech," "harrasment," "libel," or "slander" are, and the train goes on and on. (Just as human experience does—one can't ever pin it down, can one?)

So, when it comes to deciding whether the opening example I gave in my post is an instance of Free Speech, I consider and rule out the possibility of it being "harrasment," etc. and decide that it is. Of course, for real events one has to consider the real circumstances and consult a legal expert.

reza at January 24, 2004 05:08 AM [permalink]:

Some of the most serious violations of the Free Speech Right violate the following:

If x wants to say something to y, AND y wants to hear what x has to say, there must not be ANY restriction on this communication. (this is for example the case of a newspaper, a movie or a book)

Kaveh Kh. at January 24, 2004 12:16 PM [permalink]:

Wessie,

What is the point of posting the spam email as a comment? Are you challenging our limited freethoughts.org's bandwidth? Is there a real point to that spam comment? I don't think it is a good idea to post a spam comment just to test if it would be removed or not... or was there some other purpose behind it?

I sent that comment of yours to my spam detection software and here's the scores it got:

Content analysis details: (11.00 points, 5 required)
NO_REAL_NAME (1.0 points) From: does not include a real name
HAS_ORGANIZATION (0.0 points) Where are you working at?
TRACKER_ID (2.6 points) BODY: Incorporates a tracking ID number
NIGERIAN_SPAM (3.4 points)
LINES_OF_YELLING (4.0 points) BODY: A WHOLE LINE OF YELLING DETECTED

Wessie at January 24, 2004 12:40 PM [permalink]:
In my experience the only people who yell at one on the street are: 1) Someone we know who desperately wants our attention. 2) A crazy person 3) Construction workers and the like. In the case of the mentally imbalanced person, it is wise to not make eye contact and leave the area as quickly as possible. In the case of 1 and 3, I have no problem. The first is probably desirable the second complementary. If women feel "harassed" by men being who they are— males, then that is their problem. I just smile, wave and consider it a complement. You would be surprised how quickly such men stop hooting, feeling ashamed for their jackal like behavior. ;-) Indeed, I have walked long construction sites and had one of the men come out and apologize for "his buddies' " behavior, after I smiled and waved. Reverse psychology frequently works on simple men. ;-) Often I even got lots of "inside" information about the construction project, if it interested me, from the friendly workers. Many an older woman has told me that she did not appreciate these sorts of "compliments" from men in her youth and now in old age wishes she could get hooted at just one more time. I dread the day when such "compliments" stop. I like the attention of men and don't find them objectionable—unless they get physical. With the caveat that, they get over it in the end and "love" me for my mind as well. After all, once the looks go what one has cultivated between the ears is all one has left. And most people want to be defined and remembered for what they produced in the world, not for how they looked. However, looking as good as one can and producing something of value is a bombshell combination. After all, even babies have been tested to prefer looking at the "handsome" person. It is innate that our species or any species is drawn to the "best" looking of the opposite sex. That is the way Nature works. The pretty bird, the one with the best dance, gets the most desirable mate. Harassment can be defined as the aggressor continuing when the "target" being accosted says, "STOP!" I find that men from the Islamic world have a tendency not to stop being obnoxious, trying to either pick a western woman up or to sell their wares. I have walked the streets as a tourist and they just keep buzzing about like flies, coming back again and again. THAT, IMHO, is harassment! In that case I can get very "in your face" and tell them to buzz off! in no uncertain terms. Some smile, sheepishly and still keep coming back. Those twisted souls one has to threaten with physical maneuvers. It's a cultural thing. Obnoxious, ill mannered men from the middle east are unfortunately the rule, rather than the exception. They seem to forget their manners when they see a western woman. Ask any western woman what her experience with middle eastern men is and she may not be complimentary about their behavior. As I have stated before, if western men behaved in such a boorish manner, I would venture to guess that many of our women would take to the veil voluntarily. ;-) As to libel and slander: The laws clearly define those. If the statements are true, then they are defensible with evidence in a court of law. Thus, if one claims that Mohammed was a pedophile, that is defensible in a court of law given that there is a record that he married Aisha when she was six and consummated the "marriage" when she was nine—according to her own statements and those of many others. Clearly having intercourse with an ["Toooo long!" editors say, "Here: click to read the whole thing!"]
Wessie at January 24, 2004 12:44 PM [permalink]:

Kaveh,

I don't consider that spam. Since it came to me in e-mail how could I link it to this site? (Unless I posted it on another site and linked it.)

I thought the letter illustrated a serious violation of "free" speech. I have seen such letters posted on Muslim sites—with them freaking out that they got it in e-mail.

I thought it was funny too. Lighten up! ;-D

Wessie

Payam at January 24, 2004 01:22 PM [permalink]:

“Your words speak for your mind, and your IP for your (fake or true) identity on the web. Better stop fooling yourself, dear.”

Definitely my words speak for my mind! I am a man with only one face! And as for the IP! Folks, there is a software called JAP, which I installed it on my computer since I learned the governments spy on people to see what they read and whenever I want to read certain things I use it! I don’t care about your speculations and your fears of some pal that god knows what you did to her but just know that you got it wrong! :-p

Wessie at January 24, 2004 01:43 PM [permalink]:

Oh, I love p***ing contests between the "boys." ;-)

hazhir at January 24, 2004 03:40 PM [permalink]:

Babak,
- Who is in charge of defining different "environments" where they can set their rules on what is the purpose (and therefore what is an unacceptible speach)? For example I am reminded of what we were thought in IR on every thing being "Dar mahzar khoda": in presence of god, and some being the representatives of god on the earth: therefore they have the ligitimacy to set the rules for your actions everywhere (I guess they will give "under the blanket" as your free environment, so that your rule on existence of freedom of speech everywhere but at specific environments is not violated).
The example sounds extreme, but my point is that your mathematical rules get fairly messy when applied to real world social issues. In fact if it was so easy to define freedom of speach (or for that matter any other social construct) in terms of a couple of logical rules, people had done it thousands of years before.
I think a context specific approach which evolves with the complexity of the situation is more practical. For example you could very well lay down your case why Wesslog idea is a good compromise between the desire to let everybody voice their ideas, and to have discussions relevant to the purpose of the article, or what ever your argument is for that initiative. I think there is no need to give a grand theory in this case, in fact I am skeptical about the possiblity of giving any grand theory about highly interconnected social phenomena, not to mention articulated over-night by people with so little exposure to social sciences like myself or most of the authors of this forum.

AmericanWoman at January 24, 2004 04:16 PM [permalink]:

Wessie:
There are a few more types of people who yell in the street. Once, while studying in Italy, a group of other Americans and myself were in line at the student cafeteria/mess hall. It was a big line, and really more of a crowd than a line, if you have ever been to Italy you know what I mean. Anyway, off to the side,waiting for the crowd to die down, were various small groups of "Arab" students. Dark-ish, grim faced, older men who had a peculiar habit of aggressively staring at one. On this particular day the buzz was that the American President had made a public statement to the effect of "If there ever were to be another World War, it would most likely happen in Europe." (NB This was a good 10 years before the fall of Yugoslavia). Anyway, as we were standing in line some of the "Arab" students started to make loud, derogatory comments directed towards us. In both Arabic and then Italian as well, probably for the benefit of the other non-Arabic students. Most, or maybe all of the other Americans were unaware of what was happening, simply because most of them had only a fairly low level of proficiency in Italian. They were there to study Art, or Architecture or whatever. I, on the other hand, hearing the smothered laughter and noticing that we were the center of a "show" turned to see what was going on. "You Americans come here to steal the bread from our mouths, and next you will be dropping your bombs on Europe!" Or words to that effect, I can't reproduce the curse words, clever proverbs etc. My response "Of course we are, then we will come for you next. --Today Europe, tomorrow, the world!" You understand, I was about 20 at the time, but unlike the Italian girls wore no make-up and my hair in two long braids down my back, plus the standard issue American Abroad uniform of jeans and big white sneakers. I used to often be asked if my parents knew where I was. So there was a big burst of laughter, I assume at the idea of a little tiny girl quoting Hitler to this heckler, but immediately a couple of those guys started screaming and yelling in Arabic, with their own friends trying to restrain them and calm them down. Perhaps luckily, it was not the first time I have been screamed and yelled at publicly, so I stood my ground, giving them back their big black-eyed stare, until even they came to their senses and realized how difficult it would be to rationalize a physical attack on such a person. So there you go.

AmericanWoman at January 24, 2004 04:24 PM [permalink]:

Another thing, Payam, why are you so insulted to be mistaken for a woman? As it happens, my real name is Maryam, although I am not the same one who posts here occasionally. I like my pseudonym because it enhances my comments with a set of expectations about my point of view, or bias, or background. The name Maryam and its derivatives is so common over the whole world, it is equivalent to going by Anonymous. "American Woman" gives a bit of context, as does "Hot Chocolate." I imagine that person sitting down at the end of the day to check mail, read the paper, contemplate a few issues. If I were to publish, of course I would absolutely use my legal name, but then I would be putting a bit more thought and art into the work.

Wessie at January 24, 2004 04:44 PM [permalink]:

Good for you Maryam aka American Woman—stare the suckers down and do not give any quarter! My favorite thing to do is to stare as they stare until they turn away in embarrassment.

These sorts of men have the bad manners to say anything and everything about anyone but believe they, themselves, must be treated with kid gloves and a with deference that they do not deserve. To get respect you have to give it. Arabs are known to be very, very disrespectful of anything non-Arab. You can read it all day long in their press. Good thing we have a few translators. ;-)

And yes, I have been to Italy—one of my favorite places on the planet. Italy is where many a Muslim has been caught defiling Christian churches recently by urinating or worse on them. Try that in a mosque. LOL

Wessie

Babak S at January 24, 2004 08:23 PM [permalink]:

Dear Hazhir, Thanks for your interest.

I feel, however, that there is a bit of misunderstanding of what I intended to say in my post. I did not mean to look at "complex and interconnected social phenomena" but only to specifically express how I think Free Speech could be, and in fact is, practically implemented in principle.

I had, for instance, no intention to discuss or specify a "definition" for Free Speech. Although when talking about such an atmoic concept, also a bit of discussion on the meaning is always expected, so I tried to get about that through negation, that is what Free Speech is not.

In reply to your first question: people are in charge of defining these environments. Here there is perhaps a bit of untold "assumption" on that people are also free to set up their environments. As to what you kindly reminded we were told in Iran by our "religious studies educators" and the like: I regard that as a mere sophistry. You cannot take "under the blanket" (quoted from Rumi) as the "reference frame." Reference frame is the aparent, "material" if you wish, envelope of all other environments. The distinction I made was between an "environment" as a space where there is some goal and some work is expected to get done, and the "reference frame" that contains all such environments. So, in other words, I think Free Speech is impleneted when one has the ability and means to express oneself as intended, but that does not remove the need to a certain framework for any given means to function.

Perhaps what I am saying is quite simple or even trivial, but it seemed to me that there were/are people who did/do not show an appreciation of this simple scheme; and well, others have figured it out before surely. Evidence—all free countries; they are free and fully functional. I was only observing their long-time discovery :)

Babak S at January 24, 2004 08:26 PM [permalink]:

Payam=passerby=Wiseman=maryam,

The horse is long dead. Stop beating it! (Oh, by the way: the exclamation marks speak even louder than the IP for your identity.)

Everyone else,

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences. It was quite a pleasure reading them, and I'm looking forward to more.

AIS at January 25, 2004 08:21 AM [permalink]:

I have a suggestion here but I don't know if it is applicable or not. It seems that Wesslog-which I personally think is a sign of the tolerance of the editors here not the reverse- is being used as an excuse for implying censorship by a couple of people. Is it possible to transfer each of those irrelavent comments to a seperate small window that would pop up when you press the link that would have replaced the original comment in the comment section, so that anyone who wants can also read that one at the same time as rest of the comments and everyone else would be spared? That would put a lid on a lot of unnessecary noise that has been aroused because of Wesslog.
Anyway, just a thought.

AmericanWoman at January 25, 2004 01:16 PM [permalink]:

As for censorship, can we agree it is a "necessary evil?" No consensus can be reached without focus. The trick is to set it up in a way so that there is mutual consent. If one wants to participate, one must agree to abide by the rules. This is most efficiently done with some type of monitor, or rule-keeping mechanism. Whether or not rights are being violated, depends on what the options are to non-compliance. Ideally, these also should be consensual.

As for dealing with free speech which is not illegal, but is unpleasant/rude/frightening/hostile/threatening/embarassing/, (for example, a group of angry ex-steel workers standing outside their Union hall yelling "Can I help you?" in a menacing way to office workers coming and going to work) there at least 2 ways to respond:
1) Ignore it. Eventually any activity will wind down if there is no engagement.
2) Engage the attacker in a way that reminds him/her that you are a human being, not an object of their hatred or whatever. For example, the phrase "I hear you." is often pretty effective in getting an attack changed to conversation.

My point is that there are ways to deal with the negative aspects of free speech without curtailing the freedom.

Wessie at January 25, 2004 02:39 PM [permalink]:

AIS, not everyone sees the same relevance in another's posts. Some of us happen to see more connection than others here. Example: WG's posts on her problems with her college (When Will You be Cleared) is an issue of freedom and possible violation of rights or perhaps not. You don't see it that way. You find her posts and the responses thereto irrelevant to the subject.

The way to solve the issue is for each and every person to be their own "censor." That means, if you have subscribed to e-mail simply filter those whom you deem as posting "irrelevant" material out. That way their posts end up in the trash and can only be viewed on the website.

One man's trash is another mans treasure.

Wessie

Señor Græd at January 25, 2004 05:42 PM [permalink]:

Before I leave you, this is a small joke, so feel free to remove it, editors. Here's what "Free Speech" means: "Speech" means "HARF" and "Free" means "RAAYEGAAN" or "MOFT". So "Free Speech" means "HARF E MOFT". I know it's kinda lame. :->

MH at January 25, 2004 08:13 PM [permalink]:

Freedom of speech:

Anything a liberal/Democrat says and usually gets away with it, even if the n-word is used;

If a conservative/Republican says anything they want, beware, it may cost them their reputation and their job.

Payam at January 26, 2004 11:35 AM [permalink]:

I just checked this site and was surprised to see this!
“The horse is long dead. Stop beating it! (Oh, by the way: the exclamation marks speak even louder than the IP for your identity.)”
Dude, you are obsessed with your theory and keep repeating it! I think you’ve got some psychological issues! From now on, I don’t give a damn about what you say, since you don’t seem to be a normal person!

Señor Comment at January 26, 2004 12:06 PM [permalink]:

I was thinking "Payam" means "message" in Persian and couldn't help wondering what word one would use for "comment" in Persian. Is there any?! It'd be funny if someone whose name means comment leaves comments here; wouldn't it?

Azad at January 27, 2004 12:34 AM [permalink]:

Babak,
I think your dispute with Payam was really irrelevant. To me that was just a wrong comment at a wrong place where indeed you have posted an article on Free Speech "in Practice". If some one wants to use different names, will s/he violate any comment policy?
It looks like we have long way to go to appreciate free speech "in practice". Do you agree?

Babak S at January 27, 2004 01:50 PM [permalink]:

Azad:

Our "dispute" might seem irrelevant. However, given the background, that is Payam shouting "you guys are ridiculous" or Wiseman telling one commenter who wanted to contact the editors for an article, "Don't waste your time, it should first be approved by them," or passerby "BOOOOOO"ing yahya and me, and maryam calling this site and its editors hypocrite, and most importantly refusing altogether, despite my persistent pleas, to give any reason whasoever for these claims and mocking behaviour, I think it was quite relevant to show that these commenters are all but the same person, pretending to be different people, trying to give the wrong impression that "many" visitors are all attacking and feeling discontent at the same time.

It is totally okay with me if someone uses different names to post comments, as it is to use unreal ones. It is totally okay to have criticism and be critical, more so if it's substantiated by reason. But I thought I had to counter such deceitful pretence. "Freedom is not free," it's been said; the price I think is responsibility, and proper usage.

Payam at January 27, 2004 02:36 PM [permalink]:

Give yourself a break man!
Your acting selectively in removing comments, has been criticized by so many others! Azad now complains so are you saying that you have one more term to add to your equation that Azad=Payam? Mehrad mocked you in his article, are you adding him to your equation too! Get a life man! You’re acting the same way that all the dictators act! That all the oppositions boil down to one single person! And yes I repeat what I said that you guys are behaving / acting in a ridiculous way! I don’t know why I even bothered to answer you!geeeeeeeeez!

Babak S at January 27, 2004 06:10 PM [permalink]:

Payam (aka passerby, Wiseman, maryam): As I said before and here repeat, I welcome criticism, but not deceit. You were posting hateful, unreasonable comments under different names for no other reason than claiming that they are those of different people. That was not the case, as both you and I know. That simple. Others, be it Azad or Mehrad, are free to have their opinions. Mehrad might not like what is going on, but I haven't seen him make a double face. I enjoyed his post and said so in the comments, despite its criticism.

This is my last reply to you. Feel free to use it to your advantage!

Payam at January 27, 2004 07:33 PM [permalink]:

I beg your pardon!
I should say that you have a very weak reading comprehension ability that you found my comments hateful! I don’t know you in person so I am willing to give you the benefit of the doubt! That maybe you are having problems with reading/understanding plain English! Or it could be that your IQ is 50!
If you were a sane person, you would have walked your way when I told you that you had made a mistake in your equation. As for your IP reading, I told you that for the sake of privacy I have been using some scrambling IP software, so what you are claiming is simply BS!
Finally why you keep trying to prove your stupid theory instead of contemplating my point! I don’t know for sure whether you are one of the people in charge of this weblog, if you are then pity the people whose thoughts are subject to your judgment!

AIS at January 28, 2004 12:48 AM [permalink]:

You don't need to say it three times buddy! we all have figured out your kind of character, no reason to press it in!

Payam at January 28, 2004 10:49 AM [permalink]:

"You don't need to say it three times buddy! we all have figured out your kind of character, no reason to press it in!"

My apologies if it appeared 3 times! It was very slow in posting my comment so I tried to stop and refresh it again, then it ended up posting it 3 times!
You are very kind to figure out my type of character just because of the technical failure of the site or my internet connection! That also tells a lot about your type of character buddy!

Payam at January 28, 2004 11:07 AM [permalink]:

God damn it!I'm really sorry guys!:(
I don't really know wht it does that but sincerely not my fault or intentional!
My apologies to you specially AIS!:)

Payam at January 28, 2004 12:52 PM [permalink]:

Oh one more thing to Wessie!
Regarding the message that you posted
From:Eric Beco.

Abidjan, Ivory Coast
West Africa
(eric_beco1@yahoo.co.uk )
APPEA L FOR URGENT BUSINESS ASSISTANCE

It is known as the great African fraud or scam! It originally started in 90s, people were receiving mails from someone in Africa asking for some business help and then it was sent to people via internet! I’ll include links to a few versions of it.

http://www.pagenumberone.co.uk/articles/scamfile3.htm
http://www.logo-design99.com/nigeria.htm
http://www.freep.com/news/locoak/checks21_20020921.htm
You said “I don't consider that spam. Since it came to me in e-mail how could I link it to this site? (Unless I posted it on another site and linked it.) “
So I hope that you didn’t give them any money! It has nothing to do with the Muslim sites, people have known about that African gang and their scam going on in the internet, for a very long time!
Hey buddy AIS, I hope you won’t accuse me of sending that email to Wessie! Since you have already figured my character so easily :)

Payam at January 28, 2004 12:52 PM [permalink]:

Oh one more thing to Wessie!
Regarding the message that you posted
From:Eric Beco.

Abidjan, Ivory Coast
West Africa
(eric_beco1@yahoo.co.uk )
APPEA L FOR URGENT BUSINESS ASSISTANCE

It is known as the great African fraud or scam! It originally started in 90s, people were receiving mails from someone in Africa asking for some business help and then it was sent to people via internet! I’ll include links to a few versions of it.

http://www.pagenumberone.co.uk/articles/scamfile3.htm
http://www.logo-design99.com/nigeria.htm
http://www.freep.com/news/locoak/checks21_20020921.htm
You said “I don't consider that spam. Since it came to me in e-mail how could I link it to this site? (Unless I posted it on another site and linked it.) “
So I hope that you didn’t give them any money! It has nothing to do with the Muslim sites, people have known about that African gang and their scam going on in the internet, for a very long time!
Hey buddy AIS, I hope you won’t accuse me of sending that email to Wessie! Since you have already figured my character so easily :)

Payam at January 28, 2004 12:53 PM [permalink]:

Oh one more thing to Wessie!
Regarding the message that you posted
From:Eric Beco.

Abidjan, Ivory Coast
West Africa
(eric_beco1@yahoo.co.uk )
APPEA L FOR URGENT BUSINESS ASSISTANCE

It is known as the great African fraud or scam! It originally started in 90s, people were receiving mails from someone in Africa asking for some business help and then it was sent to people via internet! I’ll include links to a few versions of it.

http://www.pagenumberone.co.uk/articles/scamfile3.htm
http://www.logo-design99.com/nigeria.htm
http://www.freep.com/news/locoak/checks21_20020921.htm
You said “I don't consider that spam. Since it came to me in e-mail how could I link it to this site? (Unless I posted it on another site and linked it.) “
So I hope that you didn’t give them any money! It has nothing to do with the Muslim sites, people have known about that African gang and their scam going on in the internet, for a very long time!
Hey buddy AIS, I hope you won’t accuse me of sending that email to Wessie! Since you have already figured my character so easily :)

Payam at January 28, 2004 12:53 PM [permalink]:

Oh one more thing to Wessie!
Regarding the message that you posted
From:Eric Beco.

Abidjan, Ivory Coast
West Africa
(eric_beco1@yahoo.co.uk )
APPEA L FOR URGENT BUSINESS ASSISTANCE

It is known as the great African fraud or scam! It originally started in 90s, people were receiving mails from someone in Africa asking for some business help and then it was sent to people via internet! I’ll include links to a few versions of it.

http://www.pagenumberone.co.uk/articles/scamfile3.htm
http://www.logo-design99.com/nigeria.htm
http://www.freep.com/news/locoak/checks21_20020921.htm
You said “I don't consider that spam. Since it came to me in e-mail how could I link it to this site? (Unless I posted it on another site and linked it.) “
So I hope that you didn’t give them any money! It has nothing to do with the Muslim sites, people have known about that African gang and their scam going on in the internet, for a very long time!
Hey buddy AIS, I hope you won’t accuse me of sending that email to Wessie! Since you have already figured my character so easily :)

Payam at January 28, 2004 12:53 PM [permalink]:

Oh one more thing to Wessie!
Regarding the message that you posted
From:Eric Beco.

Abidjan, Ivory Coast
West Africa
(eric_beco1@yahoo.co.uk )
APPEA L FOR URGENT BUSINESS ASSISTANCE

It is known as the great African fraud or scam! It originally started in 90s, people were receiving mails from someone in Africa asking for some business help and then it was sent to people via internet! I’ll include links to a few versions of it.

http://www.pagenumberone.co.uk/articles/scamfile3.htm
http://www.logo-design99.com/nigeria.htm
http://www.freep.com/news/locoak/checks21_20020921.htm
You said “I don't consider that spam. Since it came to me in e-mail how could I link it to this site? (Unless I posted it on another site and linked it.) “
So I hope that you didn’t give them any money! It has nothing to do with the Muslim sites, people have known about that African gang and their scam going on in the internet, for a very long time!
Hey buddy AIS, I hope you won’t accuse me of sending that email to Wessie! Since you have already figured my character so easily :)

Señor Græd at January 28, 2004 01:09 PM [permalink]:

"You were posting ... comments under different names for no other reason than claiming that they are those of different people."

Have you seen the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy?

http://www.theonering.net/scrapbook/view/6856

Payam at January 28, 2004 03:47 PM [permalink]:

hey senor grad,
check out this link http://www.albinoblacksheep.com/flash/you.html
I apologise if this appears more than once, as I said it's not my fault! it might be the editors' doing as they try to catch me!
p.s. I may not know as much as you guys know about different topics, but I know a little about the internet and believe in freedom! yeaeeeeeeeaaaah!

Payam at January 28, 2004 03:47 PM [permalink]:

hey senor grad,
check out this link http://www.albinoblacksheep.com/flash/you.html
I apologise if this appears more than once, as I said it's not my fault! it might be the editors' doing as they try to catch me!
p.s. I may not know as much as you guys know about different topics, but I know a little about the internet and believe in freedom! yeaeeeeeeeaaaah!

A non-Muslim reader at MIT at February 15, 2004 03:50 PM [permalink]:

Dear Editors,
May I suggest something?
I thought if you could run a survey in this site or conduct a voting on the issue of wessie rrepeating herself over and over and not having the required discipline needed to be a part of an objective disscussion and see if people still like to see her comments or not.
I think this is a very democratic way of puting an end to her way of behaviour! she has long abused the freedom of speach and the welcome extended to her by this community (the visitors of the site).
In doing so, you have excersized the democracy by refering to "The Public".
I personally see no value whatsoever in most of her comments and do not wish to see them anymore as long as they continue to fall in their current category.
Thank you