“In a free state, every man may think what he likes and say what he thinks” – Benedict de Spinoza 1670
Freedom to think what one likes, and to say what one thinks, is essential for an open-minded and genuinely democratic society.
There can be no limits to free speech. It is not is a Right that can be debated, shaped and modified in any way. If there are any limits – it is not free.
Free speech is a cornerstone on which all other rights and freedoms depend. There can be no compromise without dire consequences.
“If liberty means anything, it means the right to tell people things they do not want to hear” – George Orwell
Threats to free speech
Mass surveillance on-line
The UK government currently monitors and keeps a record of everything we do and say on-line – every word we type, every website we visit, every page we read, every video we watch.
It is called the Investigatory Powers Bill, “allowing its police and intelligence agencies to spy on its own people to a degree that is unprecedented for a democracy.”
The UK government’s encroachment into our personal and private lives may not stop us from reading and writing what we please, but it does overshadow our freedom of thought and speech.
When we are all under 24 hour surveillance on-line we become our own censors. Without privacy there can be no genuine freedom. Mass-surveillance and storage of everyone’s activity on the internet leads to self-censorship, whether we like it or not.
Every year thousands of people in the UK and Europe are being convicted for ‘hate crimes’.
There is a huge difference between expressing dislike, (even violent hatred), of a government, a group an individual, or a set of ideas – and deliberately inciting violence against those institutions, groups or individuals.
The first is free speech, no matter how wrong-headed it may be. The second is something else, and we should not have to put up with it. No one should live under the overt threat of violence – yet no one should be protected from criticism.
The term ‘hate speech’ is now being used to protect groups and ideas from being criticised. Yet the right to openly criticise others is the very basis of a free and advanced society.
The ever increasing and shifting definition of ‘hate speech’ and prosecutions are a direct attack on the freedoms our ancestors fought and died for.
Irrational hatred can be best defeated in a free society, where bad ideas can be exposed and vanquished by good ideas.
The best way to counter hatreds and ideas we despise is not to try to bury them alive, but to drag them out into the light of day and debate them to the bitter end. – Mick Hume, Trigger Warning
Increasing pressure to limit free speech
Under the principle of free speech, previously marginalised groups such as women, gays and racial minorities articulated their grievances and demanded change. As a consequence we live in a much more just and inclusive society than we did, say, a century ago.
Many feminists and gay activists are now demanding a roll back of free speech liberties. They are literally sawing off the limb they stand on. If it were not for the hard work of past activists who demanded greater freedom of speech, they would not have the liberties to call for less of now.
Free speech in the long run advances society, no matter how many people may feel offended and want to limit it in the process.
No one has to listen to or read opinions they may find offensive, but that doesn’t give them the right to deny those opinions expression.
Think for yourself and let others enjoy the privilege of doing so too. – Votaire
UK libel laws
The UK is known for one of the most oppressive and censorious libel laws in the world. The rules are stacked against defendants in such a way that any criticism of the wealthy and powerful comes with the risk of being dragged through the courts and financially ruined – no matter how valid that criticism may be.
UK libel laws are an affront to free speech and a free society. Libel laws must be returned to their original intent, to ensure justice when one is deliberately lied about in malice – not as an instrument to protect wealthy individuals and corporations from criticism.
Censorious university campuses
Universities used to be the bastion of free thought, free exchange of ideas, and a driver of social advancement. No longer.
Out of 8 universities in Wales, only 1 scored well for allowing free speech, 2 scored poorly for chilling free speech through intervention, and the other 5 scored badly having banned and actively censored ideas on campus.
Defending the Right to Speak Freely
The freedom to express differing points of view, no matter how offensive, or disconcerting they may be to some individuals and groups, forms a fundamental basis of a free society, democracy, and the social advancement of civilisation.
The struggle for free speech continues. Only recently, old blasphemy laws were finally struck off in the UK. Now the new blasphemy is called ‘hate-crime’ or ‘Islamophobia’.
With the increasing censorious nature of university campuses in Wales, there has never been a more pressing call to defend Free Speech. The fate of our civilisation may depend on it.
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