For the benevolence of expression....

Patrice (thanks!) posted a translation of a posting by the french philosopher Fréderic Neyrat to the internal multitudes mailing list to nettime. It was made as a comment on the appeal by French intellectuals for a Salman-Rushdie-style protection of Robert Redeker, a philosopher threatened by fundamentalist groups after publishing statements deemed insulting to Muslim culture in general (more background here). well worth the read:

For the benevolence of expression and against the ‘clash of civilisation’ discourse.

Against a commonly held belief, the “clash of civilisations” monicker is not a descriptive, but a prescriptive statement.

Thinkers, university professors, publications that pretend to be ‘modern’, and politicians, all have actively participated in the manufacture of conflicts between a West gone delirious and the Orient it imagines.

This mind-set is grounded in despise and fuelled with insults. When the aggrieved party reacts violently, one can exclaim : “DidnÂ’t we tell you so? They're all savages !”

This is a vicious circle. No identity, no civilisation will be ever its outcome – but deaths certainly will. This circle must be broken.

As far as intellectual work is concerned, this first and foremost requires to avoid the pitfalls of what Hegel has called “the fiendishness of expression”.

The media would like to impress on us that one is entitled to say whatever one likes to whomever one likes in whatever way one likes. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Words do matter. They shape the reality in which we live.

The issue at stake is not one of (self-)censorship, or of freedom of expression, but is about the need for a ‘benevolence of expression’ : we must avoid those words that make our common space unliveable.

Then, there will be no need to call in the police, to demand protection from the state, and no man shall henceforth need to live in fear.

Fréderic Neyrat

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