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The Right to Ridicule (Ronald Dworkin)

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swag Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 09:40 PM
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The Right to Ridicule (Ronald Dworkin)
http://www.nybooks.com/articles/18811

excerpt:

Ridicule is a distinct kind of expression; its substance cannot be repackaged in a less offensive rhetorical form without expressing something very different from what was intended. That is why cartoons and other forms of ridicule have for centuries, even when illegal, been among the most important weapons of both noble and wicked political movements.
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So in a democracy no one, however powerful or impotent, can have a right not to be insulted or offended. That principle is of particular importance in a nation that strives for racial and ethnic fairness. If weak or unpopular minorities wish to be protected from economic or legal discrimination by lawif they wish laws enacted that prohibit discrimination against them in employment, for instancethen they must be willing to tolerate whatever insults or ridicule people who oppose such legislation wish to offer to their fellow voters, because only a community that permits such insult as part of public debate may legitimately adopt such laws. If we expect bigots to accept the verdict of the majority once the majority has spoken, then we must permit them to express their bigotry in the process whose verdict we ask them to accept. Whatever multiculturalism meanswhatever it means to call for increased "respect" for all citizens and groupsthese virtues would be self-defeating if they were thought to justify official censorship.

Muslims who are outraged by the Danish cartoons note that in several European countries it is a crime publicly to deny, as the president of Iran has denied, that the Holocaust ever took place. They say that Western concern for free speech is therefore only self-serving hypocrisy, and they have a point. But of course the remedy is not to make the compromise of democratic legitimacy even greater than it already is but to work toward a new understanding of the European Convention on Human Rights that would strike down the Holocaust-denial law and similar laws across Europe for what they are: violations of the freedom of speech that that convention demands.

It is often said that religion is special, because people's religious convictions are so central to their personalities that they should not be asked to tolerate ridicule of their beliefs, and because they might feel a religious duty to strike back at what they take to be sacrilege. Britain has apparently embraced that view because it retains the crime of blasphemy, though only for insults to Christianity. But we cannot make an exception for religious insult if we want to use law to protect the free exercise of religion in other ways. If we want to forbid the police from profiling people who look or dress like Muslims for special searches, for example, we cannot also forbid people from opposing that policy by claiming, in cartoons or otherwise, that Islam is committed to terrorism, however misguided we think that opinion is. Certainly we should criticize the judgment and taste of such people. But religion must observe the principles of democracy, not the other way around. No religion can be permitted to legislate for everyone about what can or cannot be drawn any more than it can legislate about what may or may not be eaten. No one's religious convictions can be thought to trump the freedom that makes democracy possible.


Ronald Dworkin is Frank Henry Sommer Professor of Law and Philosophy at NYU and Jeremy Bentham Professor of Law and Philosophy at University College, London.


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boobooday Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 09:43 PM
Response to Original message
1. Whoa -- this is just what I am looking for!
I was reading Foucault last summer, and he quotes someone in there saying that the only way to deal with totalitarians is ridicule. And I believe it. Humor is the most potent tool of the powerless. Laughter has always been the way to disarm the bully.

I need this book -- thanks so much for the post!
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swag Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 10:43 PM
Response to Reply #1
3. Glad you enjoyed the article.
Whether one agrees with everything he writes or not, Ronald Dworkin is always thought-provoking.
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izzie Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 10:05 PM
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2. Looks really good. Artist have been doing this for years.
I think some have been in trouble for it also. I am sure I have read about it but names do not ring a bell right now. Pictures were always understood long before people could read so I am willing to bet their was a bog underground thing in it for years.
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