More Subtle Than ISIS or Al Qaeda

All decent minded people were shocked and horrified my the Al Qaeda inspired attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris. The claim is that these attacks were launched due to a moral outrage on the part of devout Muslims against the depictions of their prophet in cartoons. The debate subsequently has rarely been about the artistic or literary merits of the cartoons themselves, but rather the overarching right to freedom of speech. The allegation of course is that the attack and senseless slaughter of the people in that office was a form of censorship – the denial of freedom of speech.

This is a freedom that is tom-tommed frequently by Westerners – we say that we have it and people living in totalitarian or dogmatic states or societies are denied it. But is that really true? Are there ways in which people in so-called democratic environments are ‘silenced’? Ways that are adopted to ensure that certain things are not said out loud or in the public domain? Are there words that are not safe to be spoken, questions that shouldn’t be asked or thoughts not safe to be thought, or those who would make themselves the arbiters of what we should or should not hear or be exposed to?

As educators we live and work in the world of thoughts and ideas, questions posed about the world around us and the search for answers to such questions. We seek to encourage children to grow to be lifelong learners and, in my view, that means young people ready to challenge and question dogmas and

Well, I would urge people to see the attached article and to watch the three videos listed there before coming to an opinion. In the case of the first two I make no statement or judgement about the scientific veracity of the claims made. However, what I’m sure of is that if my science teachers at school had exposed me to such thinking I might have been far more enthused about science overall. Instead, the steady stream of inviolate ‘factoids’ to be remembered, memorised and regurgitated in examinations left me cold. I so wish that exposure to the ways in which scientists question and challenge current perceived dogmas had been a part of my learning then.

The Mind Unleashed Website – Censored TED Talks
(Click on the link above to open the article, then click on each of the three videos to watch them)

As far as the final video, many may question the plausibility of the arguments from political, economic or philosophical perspectives, but i struggle to see why anyone should be scared or intimidated by what’s said.

In the end, should we conclude that maybe ISIS are not the only people who want to undermine the rights of free speech or dissemination of ideas. Maybe, others are just more subtle about how they do it?


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