Crusading for rights without understanding them
Posted by ampontan on Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Naturalized citizen/gaijin activist Debito Arudou writes a self-congratulatory article in Japan Focus about how he led a movement to remove the magazine Gaijin Hanzai (Foreigner Crime) from store shelves.
The magazine, which I’ve never seen on a store shelf, seems more stupid than repellent. A detailed summary of its content is at the Japan Focus link.
DA states this magazine constitutes “hate speech” and violates the “rights” of foreigners. He also cites some UN treaties about hate speech to which Japan is a signatory. But he also notes:
Japan still has no laws or official guidelines regarding “hate speech”, particularly towards Japan’s ethnic minorities and international residents.
And I hope they never do. The very idea of any laws prohibiting “hate speech” is based on a grave misunderstanding of rights–in this case, the right to free speech.
Rights by definition are absolute, so it isn’t possible to for them to be in conflict. Therefore, the right to be free from people saying nasty things about someone and bruising their tender feelings is not a right at all, but a figment of the imagination.
Why the statutes of the UN, a nearly useless organization, should be cited as an authority on rights and hate speech is beyond comprehension. After all, they elected Libya as the chair of their human rights commission by secret ballot.
The activitists dealt with the magazine the right way, by threatening boycotts. There’s nothing wrong with that, assuming they think it’s a problem that needs to be dealt with, and it worked.
But if they really have deluded themselves into thinking a magazine violates some phantom rights, why don’t they just buy a bunch, stack them up in a vacant lot, and burn them in a public ceremony? That’s in keeping with the tradition they inherit.
Are we supposed to ban books just because someone somewhere might be offended? And what would be the standards for determining “hate speech”? They would inevitably be subjective and necessitate the use of Orwellian thought police.
It’s a tragedy that by descending to the use of the hate speech concept, antithetical to classical liberalism, these activitists have turned themselves into petit authoritarians. For that matter, in other similar causes, the idea of fighting for rights is really just boilerplate covering a secondary objective. The primary goal is to play Little Jack Horner: “He stuck in his thumb, pulled out a plum, and said ‘What a good boy am I’.” The idea is to feed their vanity and congratulate themselves on their moral superiority.
When it comes to the concept of rights, this group needs some serious self-reflection rather than the self-congratulation of the Japan Focus article. Forget about that muyo no chobutsu, the UN. They should go to a better source and read the American Bill of Rights.