Monday, October 19, 2009

Freedom of Speech: Why It Is Fundamental To Your Freedom (Part 1)


Related Article:

“The moment you declare a set of ideas to be immune from criticism, satire, derision, or contempt, freedom of thought becomes impossible.” - Salman Rushdie

A couple of incidents happened to me this past weekend, which inspired me to write about freedom of speech.

The first was a social gathering, where I raised the topic of free speech, which is a core part of my being. To my horror, an apparently educated and intelligent Canadian (or maybe not) said we shouldn't have the right to free speech, that we should defer to the esteemed wisdom of a higher authority, and that the collective wisdom (in other words conventional wisdom) is always right. He rejected the notion that change takes place at the fringes; and asserted the view that he has the right to not be offended. This was confirmed by other Canadians in attendance, and because of their dislike of feeling awkward, they will not allow or engage in topics that are counter to mainstream dogma. They even went so far as to try and conjure up ridiculously infantile examples, to demonstrate why free speech should be banned. For example, discussing child pornography in an approving way, or enduring personal slander; both of which are outlawed. There seemed to be a difficulty understanding where to draw the line.

The second incident was the viewing of a video about the deadly struggle for freedom in Iran. It was this video that made me realise that freedom of speech isn't a nice to have, that you pack away when in polite company; it is something you live by and die for. In an open and free society, a society that allows you to live out your life in accordance with your wishes, where you determine your destiny, it is everything.

We all know that freedom of speech is an important part of a functional democracy, but very few of us actually consider why. In fact many of us may even believe that free speech should have limitations. That we shouldn't have the right to offend other people. Although by limiting free speech we create a slippery slope which results in the erosion of many other civil liberties.

Freedom of speech is a fundamental right in many countries; to name a few, the USA's First Amendment to the US Constitution, Section 2 of the Canadian Freedoms Charter, and Section 16 of the South African Constitution.

Usually free speech has a few limitations, and these are in the form of libel, slander, crimen injuria, child pornography, and other legislation. But it is incumbent upon the electorate to remain vigilant as to what legislation is proposed, since all of these slowly erode your right to freedom of speech. Moreover, it is the electorate that is obliged to ensure that government agencies operate in accordance with the constitutions, for example the way Canadian Human Rights Commissions operate unconstitutionally, penalising citizens for pseudo-transgressions, when they are merely exercising their right to freedom of speech.

To be continued ...

9 Opinion(s):

Doberman said...

Does Canada have a Bill of Rights which I consider to be a the source of much of the peecee madness? I believe most countries have sufficient common laws to protect individuals from abuse, including speech abuse. I believe rights should be governed by parliaments and elected representatives and not through the judiciary and so-called Human Rights bodies which are unaccountable to anyone, non vetted and include individuals of dubious attributes. I refer you to Mark Steyn and Erza Levant's recent tribulations with Canada's HRC.

The other side of HRCs is the SA version which is ineffectual and panders to the ruling party invariably as it oversees appointments. Remove these bodies, legislate via your elected representatives and the peecee abuse as shown in Canada, the US and Europe won't happen.

Viking said...

Great post, VI.

Are Canadians really that socialist? Horrifying...
Freedom of Speech may be an enshrined right, but often it seems that Human Rights types can counteract those rights to pursue speech that doesn't fit the PC mould.
They'll use the courts to make ridiculous arguments, short-circuiting the democratic process to do so.

Vanilla Ice said...

Yes Canada has a Freedom Charter. Freedom of speech is fundamental to Canadian Rights and Freedoms. The issue has been Federal and Provincial agencies that have been operating outside of the Charter. This is what Mark Steyn and Ezra Levant are going on about. It takes you, the private citizen, to approach the Supreme Court and have their actions declared unconstitutional. The problem with SA's constitution is that there are exceptions or limitations. Freedom of speech isn't limited by incitement to violence restrictions, it also limits along racial, ethnic and religious grounds.

I agree, remove the HRCs.

Vanilla Ice said...

@Viking. I was completely gobsmacked. First time in a year, but it has been coming with a particular guy. Generally there is a reluctance for Canadians to open up. As for the HRC types using the courts; they don't. Read a book called Shakedown, by Ezra Levant. It will partly explain why Canadians keep their mouths shut; the other reason is this pseudo-right to not be offended.

Viking said...

VI
I met a lady the other day who seemed to love the Injuns - never met one no doubt, and never lived near them, but seemed to think "their" culture was so much superior to "ours" in very unspecified ways. The Canadians feel guilty as hell about something. Haven't figured out what yet.
I've also realised that to get a work permit in Canada you must under no circumstances be able to speak any English......

Doberman said...

Aus doesn't have a Bill Of Rights although some leftwing douches are calling for it but so far the politicians are opposed to it. It's mostly human rights' lawyers and their leftwing political buddies and groups that are pushing for it but it will be difficult to convince the public here.

The Aus media and govt is alert to it too having seen the damage a BOR can cause. They say enough legislation exists to ward against abuses and most people agree.

Vanilla Ice said...

@Dobes. I was going to say something, but then I didn't want to have to list every country. FYI "In 1992 the High Court of Australia held that a right to freedom of expression, in so far as public and political discussion were concerned, was implied in the Constitution."

Doberman said...

And that should be sufficient, for everywhere as well.

Andrea Muhrrteyn said...

Good post..