The Secretary of the Lawyers’ Secular Society (LSS), Charlie Klendjian, has reigned his position and membership. He cites security concerns following the now cancelled Mohammed Cartoon Exhibition which he supported and after a vote the LSS did too. Lack of spare time and after three years tenure time for a change are also mentioned in his resignation letter.
I have written several posts criticising the decision by Klendjian to support a platform being given to Paul Weston. When he pulled out as speaker for the event, I questioned why no one had been named to replace him as speaker after about two weeks. The answer we learn today is “The LSS was unable to find a replacement speaker.” That spoke as much as the vote in favour of supporting the event did.
It is grown up to have disagreements, and Charlie has done the honorable thing in stepping down to give the LSS a chance to work out a new direction in the aftermath of all this. I wish him all the best for the future.
Anne Marie Waters on Cancelling Exhibition
Anne Marie Waters has written on cancelling the exhibition here. As I mentioned in my previous piece, the psychological and economic costs of terrorism played their part:
There’s a very real possibility that people could be hurt or killed – before, during, and after the event. This, together with the fact that our venue had indicated it wanted to pull out citing security and insurance concerns, and given the fear that people were feeling generally, the only responsible thing to do was to pull back and try to learn some lessons. I have not learned lessons as much as I have had my suspicions confirmed. There are two major messages to take on board from this episode: 1) Britain is a frightened nation, and 2) our freedom is not going away, it has gone.
What though is fascinating is how Waters responds to what Paul Weston said, which to recap is wanting to ban muslims from public office and that muslims will breed more fighters for the coming white genocide in the UK. These views made him unsuitable as a guest speaker for a solidarity free speech platform.
Some of the attacks aimed at us (from those who ought to support us) were allegedly made because of Paul Weston’s planned presence at the event. Weston is the leader of the Liberty GB political party. He has made some speeches about the future of white people, and according to those who set the rules, this is a step too far. The demographic-that-cannot-be-named was named, and this was more than enough to cancel Weston’s speaking rights thenceforth (though of course if it hadn’t been Weston, it would’ve been Wilders).
This brings me to point two.
We’re no longer in a place where we risk losing our freedom; now there is a pressing need to take it back. It’s imperative of course that we confront this “racism” accusation. It is a given in public debate that a racist is just about the worst thing you can be, and a racist standpoint is the worst political position one can hold. “Hate speech” is a crime. At no point however has either “racism” or “hate” been clearly defined, and so it bows to the definition of the one who screeches it loudest.
How about saying non whites will commit genocide in the UK as “racism”, and banning all muslims from public office as “hate”? Might fit most people’s definitions of those terms. This fudging of what we know these terms to mean, and stating what Weston said as “some speeches about the future of white people” are disingenuous.
Some of us think we need to confront the far right who promote hatred, fear and deny others equal human rights. That is why Paul Weston was the wrong choice as guest speaker at a Mohammed Cartoon exhibition. It was an error of judgment by Anne Marie Waters, which did not help gather support for the event which would otherwise have been possibly more universal.
Instead of recognising that, she mounts an incredible deflection of what Paul Weston has said. People will draw their own conclusions regarding that, and how the concerns we did raise about his suitability for the event were ignored. Free speech means we get to know what people think and say. It does not mean that we do not oppose them when they speak against the very principles of free speech and human rights that a platform stands for.
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6 responses to “Charlie Klendjian Resigns From Lawyers’ Secular Society – AMW on Cancelling Event”
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Well John I must say you do have a talent for coming to strange conclusions.
You seem obsessed with the fact the LSS was unable to send a replacement speaker, as though this brings into question the validity of the vote of the membership to send a speaker in the first place.
As you know, I was due to speak, and I had to pull out of speaking for personal reasons. We were unable to find another LSS member willing to speak.
Is it so confusing or sinister that the LSS membership would vote in principle to send a speaker but that when I pulled out no-one else would personally want to speak either, whether because of risks to personal reputation or safety that came from speaking at this event?
In fact there was one LSS member who wanted to speak but after I explained to that person the security consequences to me (as I felt morally obliged to), that member then decided against speaking. If I was so determined for the LSS to send a speaker no matter what – in order to guard against conspiracy theories and gossip on blogs such as this, or because I was nervous that not sending a speaker would somehow call into question the validity of the membership vote – I would have kept that member in the dark and immediately taken them up on their offer of speaking. But I’m not that kind of person. The member in question was fairly bullish about speaking and I really had to press home the likely consequences to them of being a speaker. This is hardly the action of someone who was desperately begging LSS members, cap in hand, for a replacement speaker.
And you seem to have concluded that my decision to leave the LSS – which you acknowledge was “honorable” (gee thanks) – was caused by disagreements within the LSS. This is simply not true. My letter makes it perfectly clear why I have left.
Anyway, I have realised from your previous blog post about the LSS that you are not particularly interested in facts, so I imagine this comment of mine is a waste of my time. You are determined to cast doubt on me and the LSS no matter what, and you will most probably carry on doing so no matter what I say.
Thank you for your kind wishes. Similarly, I wish you all the best in your future blogging endeavours.
I never conclude you left because of disagreements. Above I conclude having mentioned your 3 reasons: “in stepping down to give the LSS a chance to work out a new direction in the aftermath of all this.” Which does fit with your resignation letter comment:
“after almost three years leading the LSS I believe now is the right time for fresh leadership and fresh ideas.”
I wish the reputation of the LSS had weighed on the minds of those voting yes, in the same way as you impressed on personal reputations of those speaking on a solidarity platform with Weston, in your stead.
That an organisation votes in favour of supporting an event, but then no one from that organisation will in the end support the event, is a statement of the facts.
Once again, all the best for the future and indeed for the LSS.
“That an organisation votes in favour of supporting an event, but then no one from that organisation will in the end support the event, is a statement of the facts.”
No, it is not right to say “no one from that organisation will in the end support the event”. If no-one had supported it, there wouldn’t have been a Yes vote of the membership. The point is: no-one was personally willing to speak there and to be in the public domain as a speaker at that event.
I fully support the right of someone to walk through Riyadh town centre drinking beer and holding aloft an image of Mohammed, but if someone was trying to get volunteers for that project I would say “Sorry, I ain’t doing that because I don’t want to die”. It doesn’t mean I don’t support it.
Let me clarify what you had said about supporting the event, with how you worded this paragraph on the LSS blog on how the LSS should support the event:
“The best way to support an event like this; the best way to show the LSS is truly committed to free speech; and the best way to show solidarity with those who have been killed and who continue to risk their lives, is to publicly associate ourselves with the event and to speak there in a spirit of solidarity with the other speakers.”
Now you are saying not having a speaker would not reduce the level of support from the LSS you intended? You were making the argument why LSS needed to speak there as “the best way to support an event like this.”
You seem to have changed your mind with your analogy, but as the event is cancelled it’s water under the bridge now. I appreciate the security concerns once realised would change things and cannot hope to comprehend what you and AMW have been through on that score. Any claim of cowardice can be dismissed – let them try and organise such an event if they say that.
What unites us, is the anger that the threat of violence is allowed to create an unofficial blasphemy law on a free society. Where we disagreed, is platforming Paul Weston in making that challenge and sharing such a solidarity platform with them.
Hopefully one day we can look at “blasphemous” art with a glass of bubbly and know that our lives like our freedoms are sacrosanct. It is certainly a society we want to live in. One worth drinking to.
Yes John, it is absolutely correct in my view that “The best way to support an event like this; the best way to show the LSS is truly committed to free speech; and the best way to show solidarity with those who have been killed and who continue to risk their lives, is to publicly associate ourselves with the event and to speak there in a spirit of solidarity with the other speakers.”
But that wasn’t possible, was it? Because, let’s go through this once more: I had to pull out of speaking for personal reasons, and no-one else was personally willing to speak. Such is life. We can’t always have everything we want.
But having got to that point, the next best thing was for the LSS still to publicly support the event and to be publicly associated with it – the only secularist organisation to do so. And I’m very proud of that.