Monday, October 19, 2009

Freedom of Speech: Why It Is Fundamental To Your Freedom (Part 2)


Related Article:
Synopsis of Truth So Far
Freedom of Speech: Why It Is Fundamental To Your Freedom (Part 1)
A Day In Court

"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." - Voltaire

What Is Free Speech?

Essentially free speech (which also encompasses freedom of the press, freedom of thought, academic freedom and freedom of association), is that portion of speech that is allowed after we have stripped out all the legislated bits that are illegal. Free speech, quite simply means you have the right to say what you want, to whomever you want, regardless of whether your comments are considered offensive or not, without fear of persecution. It is fundamental to the health of a democracy, and is a right that must be exercised by the electorate. Democracy without free speech, vis-à-vis Zimbabwe and others, is tantamount to a circus act. This inalienable right is so fundamental to the USA, that a person holding a public office may not sue for defamation. Contrast that with the crimen injuria conviction of a fellow blogger, who took a public official to task over non-delivery, albeit in an offensive way. Which, by the way, is a by-product of free speech. It may well be offensive, but you have the right to turn away, not listen, switch off, start your own blog or counter the argument with your own.

Why Is It Important?

A stunning revelation, to me at least, is that there are large swaths of people that truly believe that decisions of national and international importance, should be left to politicians; the higher authorities; those endowed with esteemed wisdom. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Politicians are fallible, corruptible and human. They are not necessarily elected on the basis of merit, and therefore it is probable, and most often likely, that they do not act in accordance with electorate wishes, but usually personal or party agendas. Freedom of speech facilitates decision making, where all sides get to represent their views. It allows us to progress towards the truth. You may recall that the uncovering of the truth is comprised of a process, involving the measurable, the observable and the debatable. In other words, through the application of one, or more, of the afore-mentioned processes, truth begins to emerge; results converge; the preponderance of probability shines a light. If any one of the processes is suppressed, we cannot seek or discover the truth effectively. For example: If we cannot discuss immigration, we cannot disclose the harmful effects; therefore we cannot design appropriate policies to counter these effects, which in turn has a societal cost. Freedom of speech is crucial to good governance; it allows government to act and respond, and when there is a failure, it allows the electorate to canvas for new representation.

There are those that advocate that we probably have too much legislation governing our speech; perhaps that is true. I don't see why it is important to outlaw speech surrounding race, gender, religion or ethnicity. In an open society hurtful things will always be said; you cannot legislate that away. Moreover, if I was to say something that was hurtful, like blacks as a group have a lower IQ than whites, then blacks have every right to prove me wrong. Of course in a liberal society, my peers could shun me because the content of my speech is simply unpalatable, where their desire to not be offended may be more valued than the unpalatable truth.

To be continued ...

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