Monday, February 22, 2010

Voltaire : “gutted at having been so misquoted about defending to the death your right to say stuff”

Speaking from his exile in 1720s Britain, François-Marie Arouet today spoke out as to the turn that human discourse has taken and said that he wants to set the record straight over his reputation being continually embroiled in support of other people’s arguments.

“I am so often misquoted as having uttered the fine sentiment ‘I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it’,” said the writer known as Voltaire. “Even if I had said that, it is not justification for calling someone a ‘twat’ on an Internet forum.”

Voltaire was taking a rare opportunity for an 18th century philosopher to sample some of the extents to which the hard won freedoms of expression, so pioneered by the enlightenment movement of the late 17th century, had come to manifest themselves some 400 years later.

“I don’t mind being used as a totem for challenging established authority. That was, after all, my bag whilst I was alive,” said the Enlightenment essayist. “But my reputation is at stake when I am mis-attributed by an author who proceeds to call everyone else a ‘cockend’.

“I have always supported the free flow of ideas, and I think confrontations over the rights of man should be handled robustly,” he added. “But does GordonsBrownEye really need to wish upon someone a death in a burning building over which year the new grilles appeared on the Morris Marina?”

M. Arouet said that he truly admired the Internet and the manner in which ordinary people across the world could freely exchange information and ideas, but wondered as to the path it was taking.

“Take the ‘Have Your Say’ sections of news website, clearly ‘Opinions have caused more ills than the plague or earthquakes on this little globe of ours’,” he said. “That’s one of mine that is. Although today I would probably just type ‘You get right on my tits!!!!!’ in capitals.”

Voltaire, who is credited with using over 170 pen names, also expressed dismay at what he sees as the quality of the pseudonym in the 21st century and its usual reliance on sexual metaphor.

“’Voltaire’ was carefully chosen to allude to speed, a change of opinion all wrapped up in an anagram of the Latin spelling of my full surname. Continuing the reversal theme it even alludes to the name of my family home. It took me bloody ages to come up with,” he said. “I should have stuck with my first choice of ‘FastFrankyFromBehind1694’”

However, despite all his misgivings about the level of discourse, he said that the immediacy of locating and sharing information was intoxicating.

“I fucking knew that it was 1975 when the Marina grille was updated,” tweeted @FastFrankyFromBehind1694. “GordonsBrownEye can shove it, and I’ll bet he’s a Jew.”

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