Friday, January 13, 2006

Speaking Freely

You may have noticed that I am a relatively frequent (ab)user of the word 'cunt'. There are at least two reasons for this. I happen to think that swearing is a useful tool in that it adds colour to language by expressing emotion, which is otherwise nigh on impossible to convey. I also happen to think that that good old staple swearword, 'fuck', is on its last legs. In an age when I can read an entire article on the word in my daily newspaper without having to shy away from the old dear sitting next to me on the tube, I can't help but think that somehow it's lost it's magic. Where's that oomf, that zzzing, that kapow!? Cunt, on the otherhand...well...let's just say that cunt is soooooo the new fuck.

You will forgive me, therefore, if I combine two old favourites of mine in the following sentence: Fred Phelps is a cunt! The holy and merciful Fred is also a kind of blogger. His wonderful blog can be found here. Let nobody say Fred doesn't make an effort to keep his blog up to date. Any fag haters out there might wish to review the current list of forth-coming pickets advertised:

1) Funeral of Army Spc. Marcelino R. Corniel
2) Miners Memorial Service
3) Funeral of Marine Cpl. Brett Lundstrom

So, family fun to be had by all there then! I might not be a great fan of war, but can you imagine going to mourn a family member lost in conflict (whether justified or not) and having to deal with Fred and his bunch of dimwit cretins as unwanted guests. What extraordinary wankers to take their grievences with society to a funeral! These people are after one thing and one thing alone: press coverage. They are not even human - let alone religious - in the way they deal with other people's suffering. "They turned America, over to the Fags; they're coming home, in body bags. " writes Phelps. Wordsworth eat your heart out.

It plays on my mind because I am a great believer in free speech and opponent of the limitation of liberty by law. Fred Phelps' incendiary nonsense seems at first glance to be calling out for a banning. It's inaccurate, inhumane, disgusting and hateful. Yet I think it would be a terrible mistake to try and legislate against it. Much like the new religious hatred bill, it would set a very dangerous precedent. In sheilding ideas under the umberella of the law, we protect them from legitimate scrutiny and criticism and provide them with a safe environment in which they might easily grow out of control. It has long been the case that any disagreement with Israel's policies in the occupied territories has been met with cries of antisemitism. This is a patently ludicrous but unfortunately often very effective form of defence. More recently, the chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, Trevor Philips, was accused of Islamophobia because he had the temerity to appeal to Muslim leaders to reiterate their opposition to terrorism. Religion is only an idea, albeit a very powerful one. It has no special status that demands it must be handled with kidgloves, let alone afforded legal protection. As David Hume was wont to say:

'We may observe, that, in all ages of the world, priests have been enemies to liberty; and it is certain, that this steady conduct of theirs must have been founded on fixed reasons of interest and ambition. Liberty of thinking, and of expressing our thoughts, is always fatal to priestly power, and to those pious frauds, on which it is commonly founded.'


I will not, therefore, be calling for the removal of Freddy's opinions from the Internet. I think he is a good reminder of how far we have come; and how far we have to go. I would prefer instead to call for the removal of any law that suppresses free speech. The separation of state and religion must be maintained at all costs. As an aside, anybody following the recent posts of NHS Blog Doctor will have noted the difficulties that a certain somebody's a-little-too-free speech got them into. I did think it was unfortunate that an opinion could not be stated without recourse to a disciplinary body, especially one as sinister as the Fitness to Practice committee.

20 Comments:

Blogger Shiny Happy Person said...

Phelps is indeed a cunt of the highest order.

And I, too, have a deep appreciation for the word "cunt". I would even go so far as to say it is my favourite word. It bothers me tremendously that I can litter any sentence, in pretty much any company, with the word "fuck" (and I do), but if I use "cunt" outside select circles people flinch and look shocked and tell me off. My reasons for this pissing me off are probably slightly more feminist and ranty than yours, so I shan't trouble you with them. Merely expressing cunt solidarity. Congratulations on the part 2s, BTW.

7:06 pm  
Blogger Katy Newton said...

I have a mouth like a sewer, but no one knows this because I go back and secretly pick the bad words out of my blog before I publish it.

I value free speech. I hate prejudice in all its forms and would rather like to start a blog called godhatesfred.com, except that I'm sure it annoys him more to be ignored. But at the end of the day, (a) you can't have a democracy without free speech and that means listening to people whose views you loathe, and (b) if people aren't allowed to articulate their prejudices we can never confront them and they will never be educated out of them.

8:57 pm  
Blogger The Venial Sinner said...

Hello there. Yeah, I definately think you're right, Katy: it's the attention that feeds Fred. Nice to see that it's the girls that are turning the air blue as well.

12:43 pm  
Blogger Dr John Crippen said...

Dear god, and dear me, I was reading through your rant on "cunt" - I don't use the word much for the same reasons as "shiny happy person". I agree with you that there has in general been "swearing inflation" over the years (when I was a child "bugger" was regarded much as "cunt" is now)and so when you wish to make people jump, or indeed cause offence, "cunt" usually does the trick. I don't think, however, that it enriches the language.

My normal stance would be to try humour, exaggeration, outrageous lampoon to draw attention (let's rape Vera Lyn sort of stuff).

And then I went to the american blog you reference "God hates Fags". I agree with you completely about free speech. However, as in everything else in life, there are compromises. Inciting racial hatred for example is not acceptable (though I would not gag the comedians as this new law is threatening to do) but "God hates Fags" needs to be stopped. I used to be a lawyer, though my law is rusty, and I am pretty sure that in the UK at anyrate the writer of that blog could be prosecuted. It is appalling beyond all reasonable belief.

I do what I call the "Jew" test. Take any piece of writing on gays/homosexuals and every time you see the word "gay" "fag" or whatever, change it to "Jew" "Jewish" or whatever. Then re-read the article. If it does not then cause offence, it is OK.

So what should do about people like the writer of "God hates Fags".

He needs locking up, clearly.

I would normally attack with lampoon, exaggeration, hyperbole, humour...all the stuff I try to do on NHS BLOG DOCTOR. But this guy is beyond that.

It may be of course that he is mentally ill; you can still blog from hospital you know.

And should we mention his link? You have. If you had not, I would never have found it. (How did you find it anyway?)

Maybe we should start an international BLOG BLACK LIST - on which people of all political persuasion can express their hatred for writing like this.

Very difficult.

I am going to put all this to Tim Worstall. He is the doyen of UK bloggers and I daresay he has come across others like this.

Back to the point of the post. I would not use the word "cunt"... but it is too good for him even if I were inclined to use it.

John

2:27 pm  
Blogger The Venial Sinner said...

Actually Fred was the point of the post. The stuff about cunt was just a handy way of getting the word married to his name.

I found his site by pure chance. Basically, I read an article on two children that sing white-supremacy songs, called Prussian Blue. I downloaded a few and was suitably disturbed: imagine Orville singing race hatred - it doesn't really go. I started searching the web under stuff like "I hate niggers" to see what sort of stuff was out there (let's just hope the police never confiscate my computer). I was amazed and a little frightened - more by the white-power boys personal blogs I found than by the official sites of the KKK etc. It was only a short step to 'I hate fags' and thence to Freddy.

He is pretty obscene but I still wouldn't take him off the web though. I do think picketting peoples funerals is a step too far. The people aren't even gay - he's just got a vendetta against the marines because they have moved him and his cronies on in the past.

2:48 pm  
Blogger The Venial Sinner said...

By the way, he also featured early on in my blog and was actually part of the reason I thought i might start writing. There is an amusing comment comparing me to Fred, which is worth the read.

2:50 pm  
Blogger Dr John Crippen said...

Yes, I will have a look.

I really do feel I have led too sheltered a life. Here I am, this middle class white namby pamby wishy washy liberal, and I see that fag column and I just get SO ANGRY about it..but then you start worrying that you are going to wake up and find the Ku Klux Klan camped in the garden.

If you want to see one of the best examples of outrageous language but used very wittily then have a look at THE DEVILS KITCHEN, which frequently has me in fits of laughter, though I can't say I share all his politics. I am quite certain he will agree with both of us on the fag blog.

It stinks

3:01 pm  
Blogger Katy Newton said...

Bum!

See? Mouth like a sewer. Like a sewer, I tell you.

11:53 pm  
Blogger Katy Newton said...

PS I should say that that "bum" was purely gratuitous and was not directed at anyone.

11:54 pm  
Blogger Shiny Happy Person said...

I discovered Fred some time ago - via an outraged online lesbian community, I think. Dr Crippen's response actually has me feeling a little guilty, because it's so much stronger than my own. I find Phelps disgusting and frightening, of course, but feel rather resigned to the fact that cunts like him DO exist, and will continue to exist, on the internet or otherwise. I don't think that many people who are not already inclined to that way of thinking are likely to be taken in by his "fag facts" (which I must admit, make me laugh). Or maybe I'm being hopelessly idealistic and naive again. If he or anyone else incites violence against gays or any other group, then yes, I think that sort of thing should be removed from the internet. Otherwise, it's just free speech. I'm sure he'd find the Stonewall website, for example, as offensive as we find his writing.

9:28 am  
Blogger Katy Newton said...

I had another read of his site and he is expressing a view. I loathe it and part of me would like to stop him from saying what he says (especially the "so and so entered hell on such and such a date"... what an absolute toe-rag) - but as far as I can see this government's criminalisation of prejudice has done nothing to stop it and may have made it worse.

He isn't actually advocating violence against gay people. He's just vile and horrible and despicable. He, of course, thinks that I am vile and horrible and despicable because I think he's wrong. If either of us was in charge and allowed to ban the other we would. Once you start going down the road of banning people from saying what they think, you're into the realms of dictatorship. The fact that you might agree with what the current dictator thinks doesn't make it any less a dictatorship.

6:06 pm  
Blogger Katy Newton said...

PS You'll see from my blog that I'm Jewish. It isn't one rule for me and one for everyone else. If the site was called "God Hates Jews", and there are plenty along those lines, I would and do feel exactly the same way. You cross the line when you commit acts of violence or sabotage against others on the grounds of their persuasion, viewpoint or ethnicity, or if you set out to incite others to do the same. But if people will insist on being ill-informed and prejudiced, and resist any attempts to open their minds, then that's their prerogative as long as they stay on the right side of the line. I reserve the right to challenge their views and the same rules apply to me in doing so.

6:11 pm  
Blogger The Venial Sinner said...

I agree with both of you. Dr Crippen expressed far greater outrage than I ever would. From his blog I gather he is married, and perhaps that is why - I'm always far more outraged by any racist insults than is my black flatmate. I regard Fred as an amusing predictability. If anything, I find him a touch intriguing because I have never known anyone so avowedly and vociferously and against 'fags' as is Fred. Let him keep on writing and let us only hope that his audience consists of more stunned liberals than fellow believers.

9:01 pm  
Blogger Name withheld to protect the guilty said...

Any day now, I expect to hear 'fuck' on prime time TV. And ten years from now, we'll be talking about how lame 'cunt' has become, and which word has replaced it as having shock value.

Plus ca change, plus ca la meme chose. (I think that's roughly correct.)

As for Fred, banning such speech (no matter how nauseating it is) merely gives it more legitimacy than it deserves...as long as it's just speech. It would also give us obey-the-law types less opportunity to shout these dumbfucks down. It's glad to know the lack of a First Amendment (or, I understand, a Constitution of any sort) hasn't corrupted logic. :)

9:53 pm  
Blogger Dr Dork said...

We have 'fuck' on Tv down here in the prison colony. After 9.30pm, I think.

What a disturbing, disturbed man is that Phelps.

I like Crippens analogy...replace the 'fag' with a racist epithet or similar.

American Fundi's scare me greatly.

I recommend this site about the word fuck.

As a bloke, I actually refrain from using "The C Word"...really because it is specifically rather insulting to a female, at least in the Australian vernacular.

Just like I can call myself a 'cracker'...but if someone of another race does, it's racist.

I feel like such a prude.

5:29 pm  
Blogger The Venial Sinner said...

What, prey tell, is a cracker?

6:23 pm  
Blogger The Venial Sinner said...

I just had a look at that site on fuck as well. Very amusing - especially the Hurrican Katrina quote.

I note, however, that the examples for fucking as an adverb and as an adjective are mixed up though.

How sad of me to notice that.

7:07 pm  
Blogger Dr Dork said...

"Cracker" is American negro term for a white person, derogatory...the opposite of the "N-word".

Blimey I'm a prude.

I didn't notice the error...kudos.

1:09 pm  
Blogger The Venial Sinner said...

I must admit their seems a whole world of difference between the terms 'nigger' and 'cracker' to me. I assume you feel the same too since you wrote 'cracker' but felt obliged to substitute the euphemistic 'the N-word' for what I presume you intended to be understood as nigger.

Anyway, I think it's always a bit of a stretch to claim that any derogatory word denoting a majority really carries any offence. It's like the gays calling heterosexuals 'breeders' - it kinda lacks teeth. The offensiveness of a word is linked to its exclusionary characteristics; it's no small surprise then that no hetty is going to get his knickers in a twist about being called a breeder.

11:34 pm  
Blogger Dr Dork said...

I agree. I'm a "white male", so feel I can use the term cracker, with impunity. But not the converse.

Same with derogatory gay terms. It's more of an issue when you are dealing with an exploited minority that are discriminated against, than insulting the "powerful majority".

3:44 pm  

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