Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Further Thoughts on Wilders

My post about Libertarians championing Geert Wilders seems to have provoked some discussion so I will try and expand a little on it. Mr Wilders dislikes Islam. He wishes to ban their books, their clothes and them from his home country. All these goals are entirely at odds with Libertarian principles. However, he is also now being prosecuted for those views because they may have incited hatred of Muslims. This too is at odds with Libertarian principles.

To be clear, he should not be prosecuted. However, he should not be championed either. If those of us who support free speech had infinite time and resources then of course I would support any campaign against his conviction. But we don't. Therefore I think we need to focus our resources where they will do the most good. Wilders is not the best battle to fight.

One of the arguments put forward for why he should be supported is essentially that he is an enemy of our enemy. Since he is standing strongly against those who hold anti-Libertarian views he should be supported in that effort. But I believe that if your enemy's enemy is also your enemy then you are in fact facing two enemies. You do not have two friends.

Geert Wilders is no Libertarian. He is authoritarian to the extreme. That his current targets are Muslims and not "us" is not a reason to offer him support.

But there are two other reasons not to campaign for him. The first is that it is politically bad. The population is so far removed from the concept of freedom of speech that they cannot appreciate the subtleties of defending the principle not the content. Instead those campaigning against his conviction can and are easily painted as supporting what he said. Even if the battle is won, the war effort suffers.

The second reason is the big danger that we end up like the Left-wing Islamist allies. I assume that they have come to align themselves totally with Islamists because they spent so long compromising in order to defend a principle. We too could end up in the same boat. (I could be wrong here)

So let's pick our battles. Freedom of expression and speech is under attack generally and there are, unfortunately, plenty of battles to fight. Let's select those we can win more easily. Let's channel our resources into those instances that are less controversial. Slowly we will push back against those who wish to limit free speech.

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