Thursday, March 22, 2012

Free Speech

(Inspired by a link at England Expects)

I believe in free speech, but…

Many people say this who do not believe in free speech, they believe only in the freedom to say the things they want to hear, and in nothing else.

But others have difficult articulating what they presumably mean, which is simply that they disagree with what has been said. We have become so used to the idea that what is considered offensive must not exist, that it becomes difficult to say that you dislike or disapprove of something without there being an implication (you hear it yourself in your own words) that it should be banned. We are so used to imagining that the state will use its power against anything which is held to be ‘inappropriate’ or ‘unacceptable’ that even many who do understand freedom and believe in it are moved almost by instinct to clarify that by criticising someone’s words they are not trying to ban them. They often seem to be so clumsy at making this clarification that it appears they are doing the opposite.

Is it not possible to take issue, to address, to criticise, to dissect, to despise, the ideas of others, without wanting to call on the law to shut them up? And without even appearing to do so? It is surely not beyond the wit of the average man or woman to disagree, vehemently, viscerally even, with someone else's ideas, without demanding that they be prevented from having those ideas.

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