Freedom Of Speech?


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!

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