Everyone has got something to say about how free their speech should be.
However, peoples beliefs, ideas and notions about freedom of speech seem to be in conflict with what it actually is.
Well, what exactly is freedom of speech?
To clarify the mystery let us look at the Wikipedia definition, just so we know we are all on the same page, so to speak:
“Freedom of speech is the political right to communicate one’s opinions and ideas using one’s body and property to anyone who is willing to receive them. The term freedom of expression is sometimes used synonymously, but includes any act of seeking, receiving and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used. In practice, the right to freedom of speech is not absolute in any country and the right is commonly subject to limitations, as with libel, slander, obscenity, sedition (including, for example inciting ethnic hatred), copyright violation, revelation of information that is classified or otherwise.
The right to freedom of expression is recognized as a human right under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and recognized in international human rights law in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 19 of the ICCPR states that “[e]veryone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference” and “everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice”. Article 19 goes on to say that the exercise of these rights carries “special duties and responsibilities” and may “therefore be subject to certain restrictions” when necessary “[f]or respect of the rights or reputation of others” or “[f]or the protection of national security or of public order (order public), or of public health or morals”.
Interesting. Interesting also to note I have emboldened certain parts of this text, to comment on obviously, as on the this humble piece of the blog-stratosphere, I have the freedom to speak my own opinions.
The first point to consider states that we have the right to; “Communicate one’s opinions and ideas….to anyone who is willing to receive them”. To me, this statement does not mean forcing your opinions or ideas upon those people, who frankly couldn’t care a less. As we all know, we all have our own ideas and opinions, and of course as is human nature, and the difference of being different, they all differ from time to time. What a shock!
Why then do some people think they have a right, or a duty, above and beyond us mere mortals, to shout their ideas and opinions loudest of all? Why do some people wish to drown everyone else out, and force others to shut up and concede to them? Where is the freedom of speech in that ethos? What makes one person, or people, think their ideas and opinions are superior, and are worth listening to more than anyone else’s? “[e]veryone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference”, that is what the definition states loud and clear. Perhaps then these people who wish to subdue everyone else, really ought to educate themselves on the premise of freedom of speech, before they speak!
In other words; if you have something to say then make it worthwhile, otherwise, please just shut up and leave other people alone! We’re not listening if we don’t want to, as per our right, according to freedom of speech!
“The right to freedom of speech is not absolute in any country and the right is commonly subject to limitations”. People often disagree with this, but then of course these people also don’t wish to hear or be informed about other people’s ideas and opinions either. Some people only really want to hear what they want to, and would indeed censor anyone who conflicted with their own ideas and opinions. So, once again, where is the freedom in that??
I would like to know, what is absolute freedom anyway?? Also, why do some people think that their freedom is more important than anyone else’s? Could it be that people claim there ought to absolute freedom when they themselves are censored, because they have something horrible, threatening, bullying and insidious to shout about? Maybe.
This leads me directly to what is censored, and why of course; “the exercise of these rights carries….. special duties and responsibilities………and may…..therefore be subject to certain restrictions……. when necessary……[f]or respect of the rights or reputation of others….or…..[f]or the protection of national security or of public order (order public), or of public health or morals”. Does this clause, that can limit the freedom of anyone’s speech seem reasonable??? For me, no.
Before people accuse me of having petty despot fantasies, hear me out; this is my freedom of speech after all!!
Consider what damage words can do to a person, their life, their reputation, their happiness and security. Many of us may indeed recall a school-yard bully, who didn’t resort to violence to inflict pain and rule with terror, but only words. The sort of words that are better off never being spoken. The type which are threatening, nasty, damaging and damn right insidious.
Extrapolate this example then into the wider-world, and imagine what damage words, uncontrolled and misdirected can do. The answer is, plenty of damage.
Shouldn’t we all then have a responsibility to edit our words? Consider the content, quality, quantity and intent before we fire the loaded weapon, and expect everyone to just sit back and be OK with it all? If we aren’t willing to allow other people’s words to just fly past our ears without response, then why should other people afford us such courtesy?
I think the moral of this tale is; choose your words carefully, and always, always, expect a response!
imho, absolute freedom, like pretty much anything absolute, is not realizable. Doesn’t mean we should stop trying to get there, since we could still get infinitesimally close. In the fact of the matter at hand, it would require a complete decentralization of information. If there are no secrets, there is no compulsion for keeping them. That would get rid of the national security issue. Regarding respect to personal reputation, the solution might be a bit less trivial to come by…
Thanks for your comment, I appreciate your input. A world without secrets would be interesting, something almost too difficult to imagine! Would be nice though 🙂
As my mother used to say: ‘Sticks and stones can hurt your bones but words can never hurt you.” I might add that if they do hurt you it is totally within your control to change the way you think so they no longer do. I also want to draw your attention to the role of property rights in protecting free speech. In totalitarian societies lacking private property there is no free speech. The ability to do or say whatever one wants on one’s own property is a key bulwark against restricting freedom of speech.
Thank you for your considered response Malcolm, I appreciate it as always! However, I am going to agree and disagree!
I know the saying, but words can be sharper than any knife, yet, I agree you are in control in regards to how much impact you allow those words to have over you.
Thank you for raising the interesting correlation regarding property rights, which I did forget about. Yet, I wonder how free we are even if we do own anything? For example, once you own your own home (or mortgage) you are tied down, and at the mercy of the government. It becomes your responsibility to ensure you meet the demands they place on ownership; taxation, electoral registration, laws, debt and economic shifts in house prices, APRs and so on.
You might be free to own in a ‘democracy’, but what freedom does it bring you?
Thanks again Malcolm!!
Wow – a very well-thought and well-written piece! Nicely put.
Thank you, appreciate that!
What’s most interesting to me is that the documents you referenced are themselves nothing more than the “opinions” of a small group of politicians/lawyers who, by making their opinion law, are basically forcing it on the rest of the world but because it’s now law we are forced to accept their opinions and if we choose to disagree or ignore them we can have our other so called “freedoms” taken away.
Absolute freedom, to me, would be the ability of each individual to decide for themselves how they want to live their life, provided they are not restricting anyone else’s freedom to do the same in the process. We do not have freedom today, we have rights or more aptly put, we have privileges. If you obey the ruling authority and follow their rules then you are granted certain privileges for being an obedient sheep. Freedom is the illusion that those in power sell everyone else in order to help the medicine go down that we are simply living in a more sophisticated system of slavery whereby we manufacture and pay for our own chains and aren’t really aware we are slaves!
Thanks for your considered response on this topic, I appreciate you adding your opinion.
I do agree that in society we are subject to laws that are made by opinions of those in power, usually to protect their power and control. I agree that the ruling powers prefer us to be docile, and towing the line they set for us. I agree that we are in effect in servitude, of course we are.
I do still query though, what gaining freedom would make any of us do about any of that. I also query how people use freedom once they obtain it, or what do some people do with it in any case.
If people want to challenge the powers that be, reprimand them, demand accountability and change, then fine. If they want to express their opinions, ideas and so on and not be oppressed, then fine. Yet, people tend to use freedom to attack innocent people, people who don’t even have power or can’t really effect any change. People who are often merely expressing their own freedoms.
I’m not going to be specific as to which people, but there are certain groups of people who do this to devastating effects. Some people abuse the premise of freedom, merely just to hurt others.
I also wonder how anyone can really judge what will affect or abuse other people’s freedom, as everyone has their own ideas of what their freedom is, and what would effect or abuse that.
So, in essence I do believe in some kind of guideline/law or whatever that outlines all of these issues, and would be there as protection. Not that I necessarily believe that the laws in place would work to protect ordinary people, but at least such things can be acknowledged as unacceptable, wrong and unfair.
I think this is quite an interesting debate topic actually, and am quite glad I wrote about it!!
Thanks again, appreciate hearing from you as always!
Wonderfully put and perfectly stated. This concept is one that is often forgotten or ignored entirely. Because modern technology allows us to share/spread our words so easily, it is important to respect that gift and not take it for granted.
Thanks, I appreciate that! Thanks too for your response on this topic. Yes, exactly so, people do tend to claim their freedoms, but then often take it all for granted. Thanks again!!
In case you haven’t noticed, the level of censorship on the internet is increasing all the time. It just depends on what side of political correctness you are on. Twitter and facebook delete content and or suspend some websites that they or some group don’t approve of. I think if you don’t like what you are seeing or hearing your have the right to move on, not listen, or put your two cents worth in. The paramiters in the Constitution and defined further by the supreme courts have defined free speech quite well enough.
There are more than enough laws and rules in this country and yet people want to impose more restrictions on every aspect of our lives in this country,(USA).
I understand I think, how the groups that seem to form on the internet according to their opinions and dominate any attempt at reason conversations, even to the point of belligerence and bullying.
I say just move on, ignore or put in your two cents worth and don’t be so sensitive.
This present time we live in is at a critical point I think. If anything, more people should be expressing their right to free speech. I just regret that I see people wasting their time and energy on what ever trash talk they find on the internet . The infringement of freedoms that I see should have people marching in the streets of their state capitols and in Washington, but I think that could be illegal now according to the NDAA.
Free speech will always be offensive to some one. People at one time in this country would take a soap box to the city square or any public gathering place and stand up and speak there opinions. If people didn’t like what they heard they could move on or in some cases shout the speaker down.
If you don’t like what people saying, deal with it, or get your own soap box. You don’t have to agree with or accept another persons opinion, though we should be able to tolerate those who have opposing opinions. That is my opinion.
Thanks for your considered response, I appreciate it! Bex
You’re Welcome! Thank you for your indulgence of time and space on your blog.
Best wishes, Steve
Thank you, appreciate that 🙂
Wonderfully put. I think it’s rather simple. Your freedom ends where my freedom begins. If we’re talking about freedom of speech, I think everyone is entitled to his or her opinions and beliefs. You cannot force your own opinions or beliefs on someone else, and nobody can do the same on you. It requires a huge sense of open mindedness, and readiness to accept an opinion different than yours. You don’t have to endorse a certain opinion in order to accept it. Accepting other people’s opinions is more like a respect, and sadly many don’t apply this respect.
But anyhow, that’s a wonderful post, thanks for sharing it 🙂
Thank you, very kind of you! I appreciate your appreciation 🙂 I do agree with the points you’ve raised here, and of course, respect is everything (but so often lacking in human contact per se)! Thanks again Mohamed.