A Few Things Ill Considered

Freedom is a responsibility

The background for this post is The Great Global Warming Swindle and the recent judgement [PDF] by the British media regulator OFCOM regarding complaints of misleading the public and misrepresenting the science. Tim Lambert has a detailed look at the ruling here.

All in all it looks like the ruling was a mixed bag and will provide fodder for both sides of the climate disruption PR battle.

So on to the subject of the post.

Roger Pielke Jr. over at Prometheus rather predictably rises to the defense of Martin Durkin’s socially destructive and cleary deceitful propoganda. His point is all about freedom of expression, a fine and noble argument. But if you read the post carefully he employs his very typical semantic sleight of hand tricks and misapplies all his quite correct arguments to a situation that is very inappropriate. Specifically, he defends the importance of academic freedom with all the high-minded rhetoric we expect from him but manages to forget the fact that we are talking about a non-scientist using public airwaves.

But let’s put that aside and talk about freedom. It’s great, right? How can anyone be against freedom? Despite the appeal of such blanket statements, let’s face it, as a society all of us continually accept constraints on our freedoms all the time. We will even put individuals in prison and allow them virtually no freedoms whatsoever for their entire lives. How can this be, when we all agree freedoms like assembly, movement and speech are our natural human rights?

The answer is as simple as it is frequently forgotten. Freedom comes with responsibility. We have free speech, but with it comes the responsibility to refrain from inciting hatred and violence against people for their race, religion, sexual orientation etc. We have freedom of assembly but we can’t just call a meeting in a stranger’s home without their permission. We have freedom of movement but the respnsibility to obey the laws of the land. If we shirk our responsibilities we lose our freedoms.

So regardless of your position on the specifics of Ofcom’s rulings and the complaints it addressed, you can not dismiss it all as an illegitimate trampling of Martin Durkin’s rights to freedom of expression. If you can make a case that his documentary is doing unfair and unjustified harm to the public you can legitimately take it off the airwaves.

And further, why don’t we put aside all the legal and bureaucratic subtleties and just recall that it is unethical to mislead people, especially when the consequences of said deception are on such a vast scale as are the consequences of anthropogenically caused climate disruption.

Comments

  1. #1 GrayGaffer
    July 23, 2008

    I would add: we have the responsibility to not act offensively when offended by another’s exercise of their free speech rights. Debate, yes, if offered, but that is all. Sticks and stones and all that, don’t ye know?

  2. #2 Philip H.
    July 24, 2008

    A fine post! Good, tightly written, and applicable outside the global warming issue. Now, if we could just get a few politicians to consider this point . . .

  3. #3 Paul Murray
    July 25, 2008

    This whole idea of freedoms being innate “things” that we “have” is nonsense. A “freedom” is simply a different way of expressing the notion that there are creatin things that a gobvernment ought not be allowed to do.