What is Free Speech

Sunday, 15 February 2009

[Picture of Scandal Magazine]A LOT of people seem to think that “Free Speech” is a basic human right, and that it allows you to say anything at all about anything or anyone at all.

However, that is not the case; 1st_amendmentFreedom of Speech is simply the right to hold religious and political views, and to voice them.  It is an important principle, for it means that the state cannot become a dictatorship.

It is a so-called democratic principle; people can stand up and speak their beliefs — they can disagree with the state, and everyone in it, and they can recruit and persuade people to take a stance in opposition to the government.  THAT is freedom.

  • Free Speech does not cover gossip, privacy, lies, publicity, rumours, half-truths, or opinions on hairstyles or reviews of restaurants.

There are usually, reasonably and sensibly, laws to protect against libel, slander and defamation.

[Picture of a typical cover of The News of the World]However, it is plain rude and bad manners to decry; there’s an old, and wise adage: if you cannot say anything good, then say nothing at all.

We’re supposed to be civilised — and civil to each other, after all.  I have no right to suggest this or hint that, particularly when I have not been asked.

In this blog, I exercise my right to discuss things that I find interesting.  There’s no harm intended. Sometimes I voice my opinion on philosophy and morality with regard to religion and politics, and in doing so, I hope to set records straight (as I see it), and show things in a different light.

I see this more as a privilege than a basic human right, and I also allow people to comment on articles posted here too, to disagree and to offer something better.

Quite why so many people — especially in the United States of America (where they have this actually written down for them)  manage to misunderstand what Free Speech means is simply amazing!

[Picture of a Protest exercising the 1st Amendment in the USA]The 1st amendment to the USA’s constitution is not intended to protect you when you call someone ugly, fat, black, disabled, stupid, talentless, and so forth — think about it; what kind of system would be designed to allow such wanton disrespect, rudeness and ill will?

Think too that the right and privilege you have to voice your opinion on religion and politics carries the implication that you are to be taken seriously by those listening — you shall be given respect for holding your own personal and thought-out views. What would be the point otherwise — what good is  free speech if no-one listens, or if you are threatened in some way?

This in turn implies that — if people are respecting you — you must respect their religious and political beliefs, and respect their right and privilege to hold them freely — equally without harassment.

Yes, strange as it may seem you have to accept that some people are fascist, some are Nazi, some are Communist, some are Protestant, some are Catholic, some are Muslim, and some are gay (and so forth)… just as they have to accept you for being YOU.

That’s what Free Speech is and what it implies for everyone.  I just wish it was still true; but we now live in rude times full of incivility, intolerance, unforgiveness and insensitivity.

We have trouble with reality TV culture, with privacy of celebrities, with publicity, with blogs, with Google Street View, and with new counter-terrorist legislation, so what happens next will be very interesting indeed!

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One Response to “What is Free Speech”

  1. Manolito Says:

    Few realise that Nazis can club together to create a political party that has a right to free speech guaranteed and protected to the extent that no-one is allowed to protest against them or to boycott them.

    Although the British do not have a right to free speech (it’s an amendment to the American constitution), I am thinking of the recent BNP electoral success in European elections and the howls of protest it caused.

    I am also thinking of the sectarianism of Northern Ireland, where the Orange Walk is a right, but to protest against it is not.

    In America, they have sectarian and racial problems too, it was also not so long ago that Tim Robbins was a figure of hate for speaking out against war, and his films boycotted.

    When will people finally realise what your article is saying, that it is NOT OK TO PROTEST. That is the bottom line. If you oppose something, then do not vote for it, but never protest! Set up your own political party or religion or marching parade, but do not get out the placards, for that is the single biggest threat to freedom of speech and democracy itself.

    Brilliant article, superb site!
    Cheers,
    Manolito


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