Free Speech Under Threat

A friend of mine made a joke about how easy it is to get a degree now days. Youngsters opt for weak minded, mickey mouse, courses such as ,”Travel and Tourism, Events Management, Film Studies, etc.

These are not as challenging as Physics, History or Maths and Science.

He was challenged by the group saying he was making fun of people taking legitimate courses. The challengers told him:

“You Can’t Say That!”. You’re offending the people taking the courses, you’re putting them down as ignorant. You should be ashamed of yourself.”

***

My friend was taken aback by the outburst.

When he told me of the incident, I immediately thought of how people give lip service to Free Speech in principle but being against it in practice.

It seemed to me Free Speech had fallen out of fashion.

So I got together with my friend, Tom, who was the perpetrator of the offending remark, to discuss how free speech is under threat.

***

“Tom, give me a definition of “Politically Correctness.”

“Well Dave, it’s the avoidance of forms of expression or action that are seen to marginalize, insult or exclude groups of people who are disadvantaged or discriminated against.

Language and actions that are or could be offensive to others should be avoided.”

“Right on Tom. This fear of being offensive brings to mind the Charlie Hebdo massacre, where 12 journalists were shot in the Paris offices of the satirical magazine by Islamist gunmen in revenge for mocking Muhammad.”

“Yes, that was terrible.”

“Charlie Hebdo had every right to draw their cartoons, but some people criticized them.

It seems the motto of our age is: “You Can’t Say That!”

“Dave, I am of the opinion that the only speech I would censor is: Speech that proposes or incites physical violence on people or property because that violence is illegal.”

“I agree Tom, but I don’t agree in the belief of a person’s right to suppress whatever they find offensive. Hate speech are moral views a person objects to. But one person’s hate speech is another’s passionate belief. I live by the motto, “Question Everything.”

***

“Dave, lets go over the main enemies of Free Speech in today’s world.”

“Okay Tom, I’ll start with OFFICIAL CENSORS in government who want to control offensive speech — enter the hate-speech laws.”

“I’ll follow up with UNOFFICIAL CENSORS. The Twitter mobs and online petitioners trying to silence everybody whose views are not to their taste.”

“And finally, there is SELF-CENSORSHIP. Because of the first two, people shy away from expressing any strong views.”

***

“Remember Dave, what liberty means with Free Speech in mind:

It means the right to tell people what they do NOT want to hear!”

“We need to lose the fear of free speech. There are times when you feel embarrassment because you said something different from what is expected and then you feel you should apologise the moment anybody takes exception.”

“Freedom of speech is about YOUR RIGHT to think what you like and say what you think, As long as we have expressed the truth as we understand it and then allow others the freedom to respond.”

***

“The Establishment promotes the fear of free speech because of their loathing of the masses, who might use the freedom as they see fit rather than as they were told.”

“Remember, as Tom said previously, direct threats of violence are NOT a free-speech issue.

But anything that restricts a person’s right to express an opinion, tell a joke, or their right to criticize somebody else for doing so — is a free-speech issue.”

“With the right of Free Speech comes responsibilities. We have a responsibility to speak what we believe to be the truth and leave others free to disagree.”

***

“In conclusion: We must fight for the RIGHT to think what we like, and say what we think.”


Originally published at Writer Dave.