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Tag Archives: freedom of expression

When those men went into a Paris workplace and gunned down the staff, they committed a crime against humanity. Yes, in that they reduced human beings to mere messages, they were terrorists but it was also a crime against humanity – an act so vile that no talk of war, blasphemy, recent or ancient wrongs can be allowed into consideration.

Too much of the subsequent discussion focussed on freedom of expression, its defence and its limits in a democracy. Part of the discussion revealed some sympathy if not for the gunmen themselves, then for their perspective. This part was anxious to talk about the level of abuse a well-off elite might be permitted to direct at a minority or to what extent religion might be permitted to put topics beyond public discourse or ridicule. With all this in full spate there was little explicit mention of the chasm between expression and blood soaked flooring but at an intuitive level that seems to have been grasped and made clear in the willingness of people who would never utter an offensive word, to express themselves, “Je suis Charlie!”

In other words, faced with a crime against humanity, decent people were prepared to side with vulgarity, insult and profanity. It may not be discussed very often but the majority of people know that there are transgressions so heinous as to offend humanity, so heinous as to exclude nationality, race, religion, conflict and even war from consideration.

Robert Fisk wrote that he knew from the outset that Algeria would figure in this atrocity.* However, he called it for what it was, a crime against humanity, a crime beyond justification but linked to the Franco Algerian War of the 50s and 60s and the Algerian civil war of the 80s. While he emphasises the struggle with imperialism, he reminds the reader that those years were marked by crimes against humanity including the French bombardment of villages. Many of the perpetrators and their associates are likely still living and not on anyone’s wanted list.

There’s been a considerable amount of “whataboutery” too from those either supportive of the murderers in France or anxious to characterise media and people in the developed west as selective in their condemnation. While this is a familiar tactic of those anxious to spread the blame, make light of the offence by pointing to something worse or undermine the hunt for perpetrators and their accomplices, it does highlight something that needs to be addressed.

Many crimes against humanity are not covered by world media. That does not mean, however, that humanity has no interest in pursuing the guilty. What it does is point to the need for an international institution to which a citizen of any country can bring for investigation a crime against humanity.

Far too often the victims of crimes against humanity are forced back into festering resentment in local identity or religion. This will be their only course unless humanity can intervene to make it clear that the crime was against every living, breathing person and that the perpetrators, their commanders and supporters will be hunted for the rest of their lives. They may be protected within their country or by a peace agreement but humanity – as represented by the wider world – wants them in the dock and when possible will have them arrested.



Yesterday I was “suspended” from Facebook for 12 hrs. This morning (Thursday 17th Oct. 2013) long after the 12 hr. sentence has expired, I find that I can access my account but I’m not allowed to post because, I’m told, I’ve violated FB’s Community Standards.*

Here is what happened yesterday and it involves two unconnected posts which appeared on Facebook. They were posted several hours apart. The first post was written by me and I was challenging someone who was trying to change the subject of a thread by presenting allegations which could not be checked. The second was a post written by someone else and about which I complained to FB. My objection was genuine but I also wanted to test FB’s attitude to posts of this kind which have become common in Ireland. **

Here’s what I said early in the day and which hours later FB told me violated their Community Standards and warranted my being banned,
“Sandra, It’s always possible to stop a discussion by resorting to a “what about?” It is conservative and prevents reform. Discussion of doctors’ income does not preclude a separate discussion of cllrs’ expenses. However, you cannot make an allegation without at least naming the Cllr because it prevents the figures being checked. Indeed, you should provide a link to the information.”

In the afternoon I submitted an entirely unconnected complaint to Facebook. I complained about a post which suggested violence towards a possible election candidate whose name was mentioned in the thread.
Here’s the post about which I complained in the afternoon,
“Put him in a ward, an intensive care ward.”
Facebook responded saying that this did not breach their Community Standards.

I then posted my complaint together with FB’s response on FB and a discussion ensued about freedom of speech.

Some hours later Facebook informed me that my own morning post (which appears above) was a violation of their Community Standards, that they had removed it and that I was barred from the site for 12 hrs. The 12hrs. have passed and I’m no longer barred but I’m now silenced; I’m not allowed post on FB. I’ve read and reread my words, together with the text of the Community Standards*, and I cannot for the life of me see how it could possibly breach any standard whatsoever.

More interestingly, I’m at a loss to see how my ordinary post could be a violation while the violent post about which I complained could be deemed fine.

I could take all this as a fortunate boost to my street cred; I’m a PhD in my mid-sixties and I’ve been banned by Facebook. Cool or what! I could ask FB to explain but that’s next to impossible. They don’t do phones and one contacts them by filling in on-line forms. However, having filled in the only form that could possibly refer to my suspended account, a message appeared informing me that I had not been disconnected. This morning I had access to a different form and this I managed to send.

It may be a long shot but perhaps someone at Facebook still surfs the net and may find my blog.

** This might be of interest: