Monday, 14 August 2017

The True Cost For Freedom of Speech

Freedom of Speech is being debated and the Land of the Free seems anything but...

Since the disturbing and tragic events in America over the weekend a great deal of discussion has occurred about Freedom Of Speech. I have to be honest here and say that because I live in the UK and written constitutional rights are not something that effect me (Google UK law its not something I want to go into here) BUT there does seem to be a lot of confusion as to what it means and I wanted to make sense of it in my own head as well. I dedicate this article to the memory of Heather Heyer who's refusal to ignore the wanton hatred led to her being murdered at the hands of a Nazi supporter. Because Free Speech can end with the loss of your life!

For Heather
This is a sort of record of my own mind wanderings on the subject and really a rather self centred attempt to get things fixed in my own head. I would also like to say that I am completely convinced that whatever Freedom of Speech is it was never intended to support the incitement to violence (either implicit or explicit) that the Nazi White Supremacists love so much and as Trump seems to be unwilling to condemn their rise (which is why they forgot their hoods) we must be vocal in our disgust of the ideals that they stand for. The only reason one would consider NOT condemning them would be if one agreed with their warped and evil mindset. I WILL NOT sit on the fence when discussing an ideology which led to the massacre of millions of human beings and the sort of mental torment that is passed down from generation to generation. I will also take this opportunity to say right now that if our government makes the mistake of aligning itself with Trump in any military action I would rather face prison then go silently into that sort of eternal darkness. NOT MY PRESIDENT AND NOT MY GOVERNMENT!

Back to freedom of speech! Definitions seem to vary but this seems as accurate as any:

If you look at any controlling organisation or country which seeks to limit its peoples ability to think for itself then it must attack or dull the elements of free speech. When we exercise free speech, in any medium, we are voicing opinions which may or may not align us with the controlling voice. A thinking people is a dangerous people because they question, because they are impossible to control and because they blog, they discuss, they debate. My biggest issue with the Tory's? they want us to obey without question and assume that what we are told is for our "greater good" Always question! even if to confirm what you believe to be true, question everything and don't accept what you are told. Free speech begins with free thinking and when we stop that well then, we become malleable and easy to control. I don't know about you but I don't trust our leaders have our best interests at heart. In fact I know they don't. Our political system is corrupt because, in essence, its a power grab. Free speech allows us to use our own minds to make our own decisions and we will never ever be dictated to by leaders or powerful business owners. Now, all this sounds incredibly positive when applied to what we perceive as balanced individuals. But when you give the right to free speech to a group of extremists it becomes a different matter. All of a sudden people have the right to voice opinions that seem at odds or even wrong to us. When applied to Nazism they make me sick to my very core. Yet that right is still there and free speech shouldn't only be given to those I agree with. If we are to fight against those that wish to control and tell us how we should think we need to allow the minorities in society the same speech freedoms. Neither does free speech end when it moves to hate speech and I challenge Amnesty Internationals view that free speech should cease when it turns to incitement to violence or infringes another's rights. You or I don't get to decide what is acceptable under free speech and what isn't! That's the whole point really, I am biased and my lines in the sands are different to yours. Who gets to police this? Who gets to decide when free speech should cease? How do you decide when to step in and what level of enforcement needs to be used? Sounds like a police state to me and it sounds like it flies in the face of the very tenants supported by free speech. No, free speech is still free even when its hate filled! 

But there other laws that apply and these are the checks that exist to counter balance with free speech. Yes, you can voice your opinion but if you make up lies about another person then you face libel and slander action against you. If you discriminate against someone because of their race, colour or creed then you will be held to account. If you incite to murder then you will be held accountable and if not by the laws of the land by those who challenge your opinions. What the individuals who marched at the weekend forgot is that they may have, possibly, been protected by a President who seems unwilling to outwardly condemn them. But they were not protected from outright condemnation from the world's social media users and, as they found they had no jobs to go to and were vilified by people all around the world, a kind of people's justice was being woven. Tragically people like Heather lost their lives and no amount of justice or court action can change that, my heart goes out to the families and friends who grieve the loss of a loved one, but she stood bravely against the kind of hate filled rhetoric that must not be allowed to go unchallenged. Freedom of speech is something that defines us as humanity but be careful because it also has consequences. We must all be held accountable to each other for our actions and our words. If we speak with words of hate then they will breed nothing more than hatred and violence. If we choose to use the tremendous gift of free speech we must think of the cost. The price was paid by those who selflessly fought against tyranny, against oppression and against controlling regimes that desired to remove free speech. But I fear that it is a charge, a cost that never goes away and as we face an uncertain future we must be prepared to pay it again. 

Lest We Forget

No comments:

Post a comment