sexta-feira, 3 de março de 2006

Timothy Garton Ash: «We must stand up to the creeping tyranny of the group veto»

«It was a bright cold day in February, and the digital watches were blinking thirteen. Across the street from the concrete skeleton of a large building, a noisy crowd was repetitively chanting "Stop the Oxford animal lab! Stop the Oxford animal lab!" Just around the corner, at least 500 demonstrators, among them many Oxford university students, gave their vocal reply: "Stand up for science! Stand up for research! No more threats, no more fear! Animal research, wanted here!" A student wordsmith had obviously worked hard on the chants, which continued with "Pro-science! Pro-gress! Pro-test!". Then there crackled through an oldfashioned electronic megaphone the voices of Oxford academics, a doctoral student and, most movingly, the mother of a disabled child. They explained how progress in medicine depends on carefully regulated animal tests and called on us to resist the "animal rights terrorists". A large banner held aloft in the middle of the crowd proclaimed "Vegetarians against the Alf". Alf stands for Animal Liberation Front, the extremist animal rights network which has attempted (sometimes violently, sometimes successfully) to intimidate universities into not doing research on animals.
Here the animal rights campaign has something in common with the extremist reaction to the cartoons of the prophet Muhammad, as seen in the attacks on Danish embassies. In both cases, a particular group says: "We feel so strongly about this that we are going to do everything we can to stop it. We recognise no moral limits. The end justifies the means. Continue on this path and you must fear for your life." I don't claim that the two cases are strictly comparable. Human lives are saved by medicines developed as a result of tests on animals; no comparable good is achieved by the republication of cartoons of the prophet. But the mechanism of intimidation is very similar, including the fact that it works across frontiers and is therefore hard to tackle by national laws or law enforcement agencies.
If the intimidators succeed, then the lesson for any group that strongly believes in anything is: shout more loudly, be more extreme, threaten violence, and you will get your way. Frightened firms, newspapers or universities will cave in, as will softbellied democratic states, where politicians scrabble to keep the votes of diverse constituencies. But in our increasingly mixed-up, multicultural world, there are so many groups that care so strongly about so many different things, from fruitarians to anti-abortionists and from Jehovah's Witnesses to Kurdish nationalists. Aggregate all their taboos and you have a vast herd of sacred cows. Let the frightened nanny state enshrine all those taboos in new laws or bureaucratic prohibitions, and you have a drastic loss of freedom. That, I think, is what is happening to us, issue by issue. These days, you can't even read a list of the British war dead in Iraq outside the gates of No 10 Downing Street without getting a criminal record. Inch by inch, paragraph by paragraph, we are becoming less free.
If someone says "the Nazis didn't kill so many Jews and had no plan for their systematic extermination", he is a distorter of history who deserves to be intellectually refuted and morally condemned, but not imprisoned. If, however, someone says "kill the Jews", or "kill the Muslims", or "kill the Americans", or "kill the animal experimenters", and points to particular groups of Jews, Muslims, Americans or animal experimenters, they should be met with the full rigour of the law. That's why, of all the recent high-profile cases where free speech has been at issue, that of the London-based hatepreacher Abu Hamza is the only one where I feel a criminal conviction was justified. Not because he was a Muslim rather than a Christian, a Jew or a secular European. No. Because he was guilty of incitement to murder. This is the line on which we must take our stand. Facing down intimidation, backed by the threat of violence, is the key to resisting the creeping tyranny of the group veto. Here there can be no compromise.
(Timothy Garton Ash no The Guardian; ler na íntegra.)

1 comentário :

Miguel Madeira disse...

"I don't claim that the two cases are strictly comparable. Human lives are saved by medicines developed as a result of tests on animals; no comparable good is achieved by the republication of cartoons of the prophet."

Há outra diferença: os cartoons não prejudicam ninguém (quem se sentir ofendido com a "blasfémia" só tem é que não olhar). Pelo contrário, as experiências com animais afectam os ditos animais (note-se que não estou a atribuir ao bem-estar de um animal o mesmo valor que ao de um humano - estou apenas a atribuir-lhe um valor maior que zero)