"Human Rights" vs. Speech and Reason

Monday, October 29, 2018

Ayn Rand, through John Galt, the protagonist of Atlas Shrugged, noted of the term "human rights:"

The modern mystics of muscle who offer you the fraudulent alternative of "human rights" versus "property rights," as if one could exist without the other, are making a last, grotesque attempt to revive the doctrine of soul versus body. Only a ghost can exist without material property; only a slave can work with no right to the product of his effort. The doctrine that "human rights" are superior to "property rights" simply means that some human beings have the right to make property out of others; since the competent have nothing to gain from the incompetent, it means the right of the incompetent to own their betters and to use them as productive cattle. Whoever regards this as human and right, has no right to the title of "human."
Of course, this was back in 1957, when the left still at least offered lip service to freedom of speech. Today, even that is gone, with not just your property at the disposal of the needs of others -- but your right to speak your mind explicitly taking a back seat to the feelings of others.

Exhibit A? A recent ruling by the European Union's Court of Human Rights:
In Europe, directly quoting from the Koran can now get you into legal trouble. (Image via Pixabay.)
Translation: Europeans are free to say only what they are permitted to say by the unelected judges of the European courts. Truth is irrelevant. As the jurists reasoned in the case of Mrs. S., a person's freedom to assert facts must be assessed in "the wider context" that balances "free" expression against -- I kid you not -- "the right of others to have their religious feelings protected," as well as "the legitimate aim of preserving religious peace."

It is thus verboten to say things that might upset Muslims. Particularly offensive is mention of Islam's many doctrinal tenets that make us cringe in the 21st century -- approbation of child marriage, violent jihad, the treatment of women as chattel, the duty to kill apostates, and so on. That these tenets are accurately stated, supported by undeniable scriptural grounding, is beside the point. Or as the ECHR put it, reliance on scripture could be classified as "an abusive attack on the Prophet of Islam, which could stir up prejudice and put at risk religious peace." [bold added]
Andrew McCarthy of National Review correctly identifies this as a threat to the exercise of reason and, thus to the future of civilization in Europe.

That said, Peter Schwartz recently outlined a similar threat from the left in the United States. (He correctly does not give a free pass to the right, however.) Commenting on the Kavanaugh hearings at RealClear Politics, Schwartz noted a similar subordination of fact to emotion:
The famed legal scholar Catharine MacKinnon has said: "I call it rape whenever a woman has sex and feels violated." (Emphasis added.) So it is a woman's feelings, not the facts, that determine whether rape has occurred. There is supposedly a female way of perceiving the world and a male way -- as there is a black way, a white way, a Hispanic way, etc. The truth, then, is not the product of reason, but of crude emotionalism -- i.e., the truth is whatever some group feels it is.

Which is exactly what drives the safe-space movement on our campuses. Students are told that when they encounter an idea with which they disagree, they need not give any thought to it. They needn't judge whether it is right or wrong. Instead, it if clashes with the views held by their social class, they should be shielded from it. [bold added]
As we see, the inexorable logic of the choice to subordinate objectivity to feelings in one area leads to a rejection it in other areas. We are facing a stark choice -- between whim-worship and objectivity -- these days. Worse, this is a choice that too many will find incredible -- and too many others will be ill-equipped to make wisely (if they can see it at all).

-- CAV

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