Saturday, 9 January 2016

Freedom of Speech, Gareth Cliff and Outrage

I partook in a twitter poll which asked whether racism should be classified as hate speech (I voted no)  and noticed that a majority of the people who voted wished to criminalize racism as hate speech. I commented that this poll showed what a puritanical and conservative society we are. Gareth Cliff re-tweeted my tweet and commented "We don't understand free speech at all". Vitriol and abuse filled his timeline. It did not occur to many that preserving free speech does not endorse the particular statement one is defending. Mr. Cliff's contract with Idols (where was a judge) has not been renewed, reasons given were for his statements on social media. He was dismissed for defending freedom of speech.

There appears to be a fundamental or perhaps intentional misconception of what freedom of speech is. Freedom of speech is the ability to disseminate information without state censorship or punishment. Of course this refers to more than just words, it includes books, transmissions, pamphlets and podcasts. Racism which does not incite violence is not hate speech in South Africa, this very well might change if the political parties have their way.

Identity politics and the culture of likability that is pervasive in our time, infers that people should not be offended or 'triggered' by opinions and arguments. Special snowflakes and social justice warriors have perpetuated this myth for a number of years to enable a veritable echo chamber of propaganda. 
Freedom of expression has been a casualty in this assault on Western values and pluralism.The 'right' to not be offended is more important than another's freedom of expression. This is utter nonsense for a number of reasons:

Every single idea or opinion you hold was probably illegal to hold in our history. You like gay rights? You would be jailed a few decades for saying so. Think black people should no be segregated? You would be classified an enemy of the state under the Nats. You believe that women should be able to have abortions? You believe that the Bible should be translated into English? All these ideas were deemed to be crimes. 

The apartheid government cracked down on any publication or individual that failed to maintain the myth of 'separate development' to ensure that people do not possess these 'dangerous' ideas that maybe black people are also people. Censoring speech is an act of cowardice, whether done by a state or an individual. It is inferred that self-worth is determined by the words of others. It is a nasty regression of progress. 

If you disagree with an idea, feel free to do so. Once you want an idea to disappear by using the force of the state, you are a coward. 

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