The thing about free speech is that it comes with opinions and it is a fact that everybody has one and expresses it through that basic human right.
People like to point to poppy burning, hate speech and ‘no white areas’ and, more recently, the sudden rise of ISIS as fundamental breaches and dangers of our way of life and slur on the sacrifice made by so many over two wars and the countless others fought in the past 100 years. The same people do not however, extend that reasoning to the overt and blatant erosion of our rights to privacy and free speech through legislation. Legislation that has been passed in the past decade as a result of the supposed war on terror (exacerbated by the religious doctrines and foreign policy of successive governments, both sides of the Atlantic) such as Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures (TPIM), Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill (DRIP), Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act (USA PATRIOT ACT), Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), and the Crime and Anti Social Behaviour Bills have done far greater damage to the pillars and belief we entrust into our freedom, right to assembly, right to speak and express our views etc, but has gone largely unnoticed with the majority remaining silent. They cite things such as ‘I have nothing to hide, so why not’ as the reason that they allow our governments to continue to unravel the fabric of our existence under our very noses and these liberties float away to the sounds of rapturous applause in the Houses of Scoundrels. Charlie Brooker wrote an excellent article in the Guardian yesterday in his usual satirical nature.
In an unsurprising, but no less despicable move, the latest piece of legislation to be rushed through in the UK pulling the carpet from under us (DRIP) was pushed through whilst committed and caring people were involved in the recent public sector strike. Not unlike Obama rushing though RIPA on New Years Eve whilst the rest of the US partied the night away. A piece of legislation agreed and ratified by all three party leaders, whilst the public sector was on strike and many rallies and marches around the UK were being addressed by Labour MP’s, councillors or perspective or otherwise, beg-friending us to vote for them in 2015 as if they will offer us any real alternative to what we already have. According to the record, only 51 MP’s voted against the bill, with 438 voting in favour. A breakdown can be found here.
Many people like to call for the banning of marches, rallies, and certain types of speech, and others recently have asked me whether or not some individuals should refrain from posting on social media certain views for the fear of offending someone or other, but for me this is setting dangerous precedents. If we ban one type of speech over another, who is left to make the call what is acceptable over the other, when we have already seen a heinous list of legislation passed that has already clamped down on our rights, whether we realise yet or not? what causes offence is subjective from one individual to another and if we believe in the right to freedom of speech and expression, we have to take it warts and all. If however we do not like certain speech that is being expressed we have choices (supposedly) and options at our disposal, one answer is to have a better argument, not to report or arbitrarily ban what you don’t like to hear. If it offends you that much your choices are; un-friend, mute, ignore, exclude those individuals talking shit you don’t like and otherwise remove them from your social circle, OR you can face up and engage in a debate, exchanging opinions and views until you either have a sea change from one side or the other in opinions, or you agree to disagree.
If neither of those options work for you, you could always try North Korea.