Homo-Hooligans and Freedom of Expression
The Dangers of Consensus
Modern liberal and democratic societies consider freedom of expression intrinsic to their existence; nevertheless, this concept is challenged from all sides. Its coercion is expressed through suggestions of what is undesirable, opportune, or politically correct, and through the defense of fundamental “values.”
- From his lonely watch post Albert Camus asked who among us has not experienced exile yet still managed to preserve a spark of fire in their soul. “We’re all alone,” Natalia Sedova cried in exile on hearing of her husband Leon Trotsky’s affair with Frida Kahlo. In his novel Night Watch, Stephen Koch follows the incestuous love affair of David and Harriet, wealthy siblings watching the world from their solitary exile. Koch’s writing, Camus’s theories, and Trotsky’s affair all come back to exile and lead me to reflect on the human condition. From my own vantage point, my Night Watch, I will reflect on my questions of exile, writing, and the human condition.
- Israel Centeno was born in 1958 in Caracas, Venezuela, and currently lives in Pittsburgh as a Writer-in-Residence with City of Asylum/Pittsburgh. He writes both novels and short stories, and also works as an editor and professor of literature. He has published nine books in Venezuela and three in Spain.
Euphemisms for censorship.
Questioning the pact created by these euphemisms can be offensive. Doing so would not just be seen as a confrontation between the person voicing their views and the State, but between the person voicing their views and the opinion agreed upon by general consent. But who are the people behind such consensuses? Are these consensuses truly spontaneous, stemming from a dynamic of civil freedom, or do they just establish connections between people with specific interests?
Take the example of your prototypical sports fans. To say that you don’t feel connected to a region, a country, or that ineffable so-called national identity through a particular team would be heresy. As a result, the team is converted into dogma and takes on the national spirit, the essence of the homeland. Go against this and the pact is broken; the consequences of having challenged a prevailing attitude materialize in expulsion from the clique. Armed with every kind of insult—racist, xenophobic, homophobic, etc.—the Homo-hooligans emerge.
Ideological, economic, cultural, and religious orthodoxies require virginal purity. Any indictment of them would be a stain, a pollutant.
On the other hand, free expression questions and criticizes. By nature, it is out of place and non-uniform, presented in spite of general opinion. The purpose of exercising freedom is neither to reassert a consensus, nor to verify the truth of a bias, nor to impose a dogma.
It should be remembered that polarized situations, wars, revolutions, national defense, religious or ideological restorations and the tyranny of what’s right—with its corresponding do’s and don’ts—trample on the right to free expression, legitimizing the use of totalitarian methods “in order to do what’s right.”
On this subject, I invite you to read some quotations from George Orwell’s letter-essay “The Freedom of the Press,” which forms the prologue of a number of editions of Animal Farm:
“The issue involved here is quite a simple one: Is every opinion, however unpopular —however foolish, even—entitled to a hearing?” “I am well acquainted with all the arguments against freedom of thought and speech —the arguments which claim that it cannot exist, and the arguments which claim that it ought not to. I answer simply that they don’t convince me and that our civilisation over a period of four hundred years has been founded on the opposite notice.”
“Many… have accepted the principle that a book should be published or suppressed, praised or damned, not on its merits but according to political expediency.”
“Unpopular ideas can be silenced, and inconvenient facts kept dark, without the need for any official ban.”
“If liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”
Translation: Kelly V. Harrison