Say what you want…

A chap I follow posts weekly “provocative” questions, in the sense that they prompt the reader to put some thought into their response. I think this was the first thing which made me read his blog. This week, his question is about freedom of speech.

I’ve always thought that’s a difficult one. Take this blog as an example – there’s nothing to stop me posting on whatever subject I like, using whatever words I like, but I don’t. I self-censor. I’m minded that the blog is specifically written from the perspective of being a stroke survivor, and one of the goals is to show that survivors have the same thoughts, feelings, desires as other people. Probably the same distaste for gratuitous bad language, too! I’m conscious that it’s probably not relevant to introduce my politics into it, but again I want to show as much that I I I can think about the same complex issues as well as, if not better than, anybody else. I write about my life as much to show that I do have a life, despite what happened to me.

So, I am certainly conscious of what I post, and I don’t consider myself free to post whatever I like..

In the same vein, readers’ comments. When someone posts something irrelevant or offensive (to others, not particularly to me), I might remove. Comments inviting people to buy viagra – yes, it happens, even on what I consider to be a serious site – well, they don’t last long. I’m fortunate in that I don’t think I’ve ever had offensive comments on here, although I see it all the time over on Facebook. But they’d go the same way. If someone can’t make their point without insulting someone, they need to go back to class.

With that in mind, how can I say a blanket “I support free speech”? I mean, I’d like to think so, but there are limits. Just as in the wider world, comments like “Kill Jews/Muslims/Blacks/Some other minority section of society which a rich man has told you is the cause of all your ills” are unacceptable, my acceptance of free speech assumes that other people will share my standards. But they don’t. What I consider to be unreasonable might, for someone else, be perfectly reasonable.

On this site, at least, I call the shots.

But it’s not just me. There shouldn’t even be laws that protect people against discrimination – equality should be automatic – but they are required. So clearly politicians not only have a view, but feel sufficiently strongly that their view should prevail in wider society, that they bring in legislation. Regardless of your own standards, these are the standards to which the state requires us to adhere. And mostly, perfectly reasonably. The vast majority of us live our lives without there even being a hint of conflict with these rules.

And, what about freedom of speech, where what somebody says or writes might be untrue? Libel and slander? Of course, we can argue about how practical it is for a poor man to sue a rich man, but a court is probably the right place to make the decision, where they can properly assess the damage caused.

So I think that, for me, freedom of speech has limits. It’s scary to take the “establishment” viewpoint, but I think it is entirely appropriate that our representatives decide just where those limits are. Just don’t get me started on how we elect those representatives!

Author: Stroke Survivor UK

Formerly, designed and developed IT systems for banks, but had a stroke in 2016, aged pre-50! I have returned to developing from home, but some of my time is also spent volunteering with the UK charities Age UK (www.ageuk.org.uk) and the [UK] Stroke Association (www.stroke.org.uk). I created this account with the alias "sca11y" but have since aligned it with the name of my blog.

7 thoughts on “Say what you want…”

  1. I agree that there needs to be some restrictions on speech (e.g., not permitted to shout “fire” in a crowded theater if there is no fire), but I am concerned that when you have someone like Trump in power, we’re getting closer to banning criticism of him and his administration. I also think social media sites need to do a better job of identifying and removing postings by bots.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. From here, I’d been impressed at how much damage Trump has been prevented from doing, just because of the checks built into the system. But you’ll know better.

      One of the TV stations here (the most serious) does a “FactCheck” analysis whenever a politician says something major. New money for X, say. Great idea – they often have things which have a tenuous link to the truth. But our society would sooner watch The Voice than serious news programmes.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, we have a get-out here because Trump is being kept out of the news by Brexit, where our Prime Minister has been judged to have acted unlawfully. I often tell myself that the UK needs a constitution, just to set things out in black and white, but there is so much case law and for the most part, it serves the purpose. Let alone that the current politicians aren’t up to the job.

      The thing that always strikes me about Trump is that he has probably behaved the same his whole life, and yet it’s only just these few years when he’s held public office that he’s been picked apart. I very much doubt that he is any different from any other billionaire out there, it’s just that we don’t know about it. What does that say about people being billionaires?

      But yeah, there are always times when the wrong message gets broadcast, just because the wrong person has the mic. The hurricane the other week was a good example. I’ve had run-ins with people here who broadcast the comforting message along the lines that when X happens, our health service will do Y. Exactly as it should be. And people sleep soundly at night comforted by this. Except, it’s bullshit. I’ve been through it, I’ve seen how it all really works. Or doesn’t. But I guess the only way to deal with it is to each come to our own conclusions – about health, about Trump, about anything – and just to shrug our shoulders when the next guy concludes something different.

      Like

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