5 minutes reading time (1064 words)

Saturday Musings – There’s No Such Thing as Freedom of Speech

20190504_lutherking

Freedom of speech sounds wonderful but many of us need to have a reality check and realise that it has never existed, it doesn’t exist and will never exist into the future. At this point you may be getting a little miffed with me for such an audacious claim, after all, “Who has the right to tell you what you can say?” Well…..me actually….to be fair, not just me but us.

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As soon as we decide to become a part of a society, we give up many of our rights and the first of these is our “freedom of speech”. Social norms will either chastise you until you submit to good and proper conduct or in the more extreme examples the law will come to bear to assist you in modifying your behaviour.

That being said, I’m actually a strong advocate that society needs to become more tolerant to those people that say completely outlandish things. By tolerance, I don’t mean accept what they are saying but rather allowing them to say it.

For instance, I’m completely against neo-Nazi fascism but I will defend their right to express their views as long as it is in a non-violent manner. Why is this? Every time I hear a neo-Nazi in the news express their outrageous views it reinforces my own perspective to distance myself from their propaganda.

Likewise, I respect a person’s right to express their views on matters such as sexuality. Just because I defend their right to share their opinion does not necessarily mean I agree with their position.

I see there are three problems that have emerged around “freedom of speech”:
1.    Censorship
2.    Lack of considered debate
3.    Who decides what is acceptable?

Self-censorship is not necessarily a bad thing as it goes hand-in-hand with self-control. Just because you have a right to open your mouth to express your views doesn’t mean you should. Sometimes, the wisest thing you can do is just keep your mouth shut.

For instance, if a person has just lost a loved one due to aids, then don’t get on your soap box about their possible lifestyle. Give the bereaved person a hug and show some compassion instead. This is good censorship that is wrapped up in love…..we all need to show more of this.

On the other hand, if religion is a natural part of your life and you’re too afraid to share that with your friends your views then something is wrong. Some people live in a perpetual state of fear trying to not offend those around them because they have a different view of life…..we, as in society, need to grow a thicker skin and reconsider why we inflict this normalisation on others.

In this Internet age the lack of considered debate is astounding. I only have to watch the rise of nationalism around the world to realise that real debate is not being had. Journalism is a critical pillar of democracy that keeps our political leaders in check and yet this profession has largely been subverted by the news cycle and circulation numbers.

As empowering as the Internet is (I write this blog after all), it has allowed individuals with no fact checking or journalistic integrity to blast nonsense out to the masses. The more outrageous I can spin a story and the more I attack the person rather than the issues the more clicks I get…..

Proper debate is tackling issues, not people. As a society, let’s debate euthanasia, stem cell designer babies, regulation of banks, the debt crisis, climate change (don’t understand why we are debating this though), the situation in Syria, extremism etc. Let’s put the issues on the table so that “We the people….” understand all sides of the arguments.

Here’s the crux of the problem…..most of “we the people” have abdicated our responsibility by complaining rather than participating in societal debates. Once we take an interest, we need to feel not just the right but the obligation to take part in the ensuing discourse.

After all, if we are going to abide by societies norms of conduct then let’s take part in forming them. Either that or let someone else take advantage of your lack of interest and put words in your mouth for you….and this is what’s currently happening. This means your mouth is moving but someone else's words are coming out.

I was recently speaking to a person that went to a school and before speaking to the students (in their professional capacity) they had to sign a document that prohibited them from talking about money, politics, religion and sexuality amongst other things.

If our educational institutions are not promoting freedom of expression and hearing different views on important topics, then who is educating our children on these issues? School is more than a fact dump of reading, writing and arithmetic. It’s about training young minds to be discerning and respect all sides of an issue while forming a considered opinion. It's these critically trained minds that will ultimately separate out the fake versus real news.

The problem is that society has become driven by fear. We are afraid of what could be said to Sally and John so we will ban different views being expressed towards them. We are afraid that the person down the street is a paedophile, so we prefer our kids to be playing on the XBOX at home rather than going to the park.

We are afraid of expressing our opinions or we may lose our job…..or in the case of Australian Rugby star, Israel Folau, he actually did have his contract cancelled due to his religious views on homosexuality.

Isn’t it time that “we the people” stand up and shake off  malaise of fear and reignite the debate on “freedom of speech”? As Martin Luther King said, “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed:  We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

My challenge to you in this Saturday Musings is to consider what are the obligations of being equal? Maybe it’s time to put aside Netflix and really understand all sides of an issue that is important to you and then take part in the debate rather than pushing the button on the remote.

Have a great weekend!
Michael
 

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Comments

vanclute on 04 May 2019

Ahhh but there *is* such a thing as "freedom of speech". It's just that most people don't understand what it actually means. All it means, is freedom from *prosecution* for speech. That's IT. This means that ANY private institution, group, etc. can "ban" or censor whatever speech they wish, and they are completely within their rights to do so.

Every time I hear someone scream "BUT FREEDOM OF SPEECH!" because they were kicked out of a group or fired or whatever because of something they said (which in nearly all cases is something they clearly should have self-censored!), all I can do is shake my head in amazement that people still don't realize what the "freedom" part actually represents.

Freedom from prosecution. Nothing more, nothing less.

Ahhh but there *is* such a thing as "freedom of speech". It's just that most people don't understand what it actually means. All it means, is freedom from *prosecution* for speech. That's IT. This means that ANY private institution, group, etc. can "ban" or censor whatever speech they wish, and they are completely within their rights to do so. Every time I hear someone scream "BUT FREEDOM OF SPEECH!" because they were kicked out of a group or fired or whatever because of something they said (which in nearly all cases is something they clearly should have self-censored!), all I can do is shake my head in amazement that people still don't realize what the "freedom" part actually represents. Freedom from prosecution. Nothing more, nothing less.
mgilmour on 04 May 2019

Yes, you are right in saying that freedom of speech is freedom from prosecution.....but this has now changed. The patriot act (and the equivalent in Australia) completely circumvents freedom from prosecution. Also, on the news every second night are people being prosecuted for what they've posted on facebook (either prosecuted legally or socially).

Yes, you are right in saying that freedom of speech is freedom from prosecution.....but this has now changed. The patriot act (and the equivalent in Australia) completely circumvents freedom from prosecution. Also, on the news every second night are people being prosecuted for what they've posted on facebook (either prosecuted legally or socially).
Political correctness is over-rated

This is definitely "red meat". It is also timely.

Short thoughts here since the topic has been covered at length on NamePros:

1. Too many people have become emasculated by indoctrination that religion and politics are no-go zones. This just reinforces more indoctrination. People need to tune-out the meaningless nonsense and educate themselves about important issues in order to be capable of discerning fact from fiction. Failure to do so is a license to be propagandized.

2. There is indeed a genuine issue of radicalized people abusing their civil liberties. Radicalization and polarization is visible everywhere. People are being divided through constructs: right/left, rich/poor, black/white, etc. Unfortunately, the radicalized people are being herded to their own destruction. Live by the sword. Die by the sword.

At the end of the day, I am certain of this: Satan is real and Jesus Christ is Lord. If people are allowed to search the truth, I believe this is what they will find. It is the ultimate conclusion from tracing the rabbit holes to the end. The duality of evil and good has been with us for 6,000 years and is coming to its prophesied conclusion in real-time.

That is my truth. That said, I judge nobody for having a different truth, and, as the CEO of a registrar that supports free speech, I would happily enable them to convey their truth within the bounds of the law.

This is definitely "red meat". It is also timely. Short thoughts here since the topic has been covered at length on NamePros: 1. Too many people have become emasculated by indoctrination that religion and politics are no-go zones. This just reinforces more indoctrination. People need to tune-out the meaningless nonsense and educate themselves about important issues in order to be capable of discerning fact from fiction. Failure to do so is a license to be propagandized. 2. There is indeed a genuine issue of radicalized people abusing their civil liberties. Radicalization and polarization is visible everywhere. People are being divided through constructs: right/left, rich/poor, black/white, etc. Unfortunately, the radicalized people are being herded to their own destruction. Live by the sword. Die by the sword. At the end of the day, I am certain of this: Satan is real and Jesus Christ is Lord. If people are allowed to search the truth, I believe this is what they will find. It is the ultimate conclusion from tracing the rabbit holes to the end. The duality of evil and good has been with us for 6,000 years and is coming to its prophesied conclusion in real-time. That is my truth. That said, I judge nobody for having a different truth, and, as the CEO of a registrar that supports free speech, I would happily enable them to convey their truth within the bounds of the law.
mgilmour on 04 May 2019

Great truths in what you say Rob....many thanks for your contribution.

Great truths in what you say Rob....many thanks for your contribution.
vanclute on 04 May 2019

Yep, good point. At this time in history "freedom" of speech is more or less a fantasy, if your speech happens to include the "wrong" things. Sigh.

Yep, good point. At this time in history "freedom" of speech is more or less a fantasy, if your speech happens to include the "wrong" things. Sigh.
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