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Freedom of speech under attack?
Topic Started: Mar 28 2012, 04:03 PM (533 Views)
Fells
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I'm sorry Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that
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The jailing of student, Liam Stacey, for tweeting racist comments gives me cause for concern.

Now, I am, by no means, condoning the actions of Stacey, racist comments are tasteless at best and can be very offensive. But, do his actions really deserve imprisonment, after all, he was not advocating violence nor inciting people to become violent? Nor am I condoning actual violence perpetrated by anyone on the grounds of bigotry.

Freedom of speech is something that should be sacrosanct in this country - this is the freedom to offend - as well as the freedom to be offended. By imposing morality on speech we are stifling the debate as to why these views may be held in the first place, stifling opportunities to educate and challenge - and challenge is what we should do when we encounter views that we find offensive, whatever they may be. Throwing people in prison for merely uttering words will not change the reason why these words were uttered in the first place.

Outlawing speech sets an unhealthy precedent as to what other views could be silenced - and this could be a slippery slope for free-thinking and diversity.

The more we silence these debates by force the less likely we will be able to tackle what is at the root of the problem.

Yes, with freedom of speech should come responsibility - but this is the same responsibility we have as a collective - as a community - to challenge through intelligent discourse, not bully-boy state intervention.

I would hate to think that issues on homophobia could not be discussed openly and without fear of custodial retribution, on either side, similarly, I would not want topics I find offensive be silenced.

Freedom of speech should not be about picking and choosing what should or should not be allowed, freedom of speech should be all encompassing.

Throwing people in prison for expressing a view, no matter how distasteful, is anti-progressive.
 
azure74
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Fells

That is an extremely well written commentary.

However that young man should have had more thought and manners than to tweet such Racist comments.

I guarantee if someone had done the same to him he would be squealing like stuck pig.

Did you know that in the USA you can go to jail if you call a person, Fatty, Shorty, Cross Eyed, Bandy or Baldy or Ugly

And you must not stare at or make comments about disabled people.

He would not stand a chance over there.

azure

 
Fells
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I'm sorry Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that
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Thanks Azure,

I absolutely agree that he should have had more foresight about the offence that could have been caused, but this is from the position of our own morality on this. He could see it totally differently.

The argument is, why is he not allowed to express his views - regardless of how distasteful we, the moderate, may find them. or regardless of his own position on the subject? Surely, the way to deal with it is by showing that he is in a minority of one. This is what other tweeters actually did - they all responded, en masse, castigating him for his choice of words, and rightly so. Some tweets were even as aggressive - why are they not being singled out for their abusive language?

To prosecute him, let alone imprison him, for expressing strong views is an abuse of, and by, our judicial system.

I do not want to live in a country where people are afraid to speak their mind, where the state has a list of banned words, where people are treading on eggshells - or worse, skirting important issues, for fear of upsetting one group or another.

I would defend the right for any person to hold and express a view, no matter how abhorrent I personally find those views. It is as much their right to offend as it is my right to be offended.

We need debate - not censorship.
 
sherry
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sherry
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I am surprised he's been given a jail sentence tbh, though what he said, the parts printable, were sickening. Personally I think he deserves it. He's crying over a jail sentence yet he was eager to laugh at a man he thought dead on the football pitch. And that also meant laughing at the grief of his family. He doesn't deserve to be treated with kid gloves. He's a bully, the type who always cry when they get caught out.

Having said that there have been physical crimes committed that have resulted in suspended prison sentences.

Maybe it's because he aimed abuse at someone famous? Maybe it's because of the problems on the net nowadays with terrorists and groups plotting against mankind that the authorities have given a jail sentence to warn others to behave with respect for their fellow man instead of showing hatred.


I'm all for free speech but does that mean we have to foresake manners and respect?

I mean what does any normal person get out of calling names? Why should any decent person have to be called names whilst they're going about their lives and minding their own business?

Freedom of speech doesn't mean we have the right to go round calling each other names, surely? I would call what he did abuse.
 
Fells
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I'm sorry Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that
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Freedom of speech does give people the right to call people names - but it also gives us the right to be offended and gives us the right to challenge the views. Just as it gives us the right to either walk away or retaliate in kind.

I would far rather keep ALL freedom of speech - including the unpleasant stuff to us - rather than forsake it in favour of one's idea of moralising.

Like I said in my OP, with freedom of speech comes responsibility - but that should not be obligated through fear of imprisonment. It should be demonstrated by how such actions are responded to. They should be challenged by society. They shouldn't be thrown in prison.

We would never get to the wherefores if every perpetrator of bad language, or deeply offensive opposing views to us are banged up in prison. I would like people to treat me as I would treat them, but I want them to do it out of altruism, not threat of imprisonment.

Are we going to throw comedians in prison because someone was really offended at a joke? Or writers of a drama because they dared to express and dramatise extreme views? What about politics? Are we going to ban extreme parties and deny them their democratic right?

It should not be the job of the government, or the judicial system, to moralise on such matters. That should be down to society - but should not be imposed.

Who are any of us to impose our moral codes on anyone else?
 
sherry
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sherry
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Sorry, Fells I don't quite see it like that.

Yes we're always going to get the odd one off remark off someone over a disagreement or something. That will always happen, something as simple as taking a parking space etc. In that sort of case probably both will give as good as they get and go home and cool down.

But in the case of the footballer, he could have died on the pitch. In effect he did. And that chap thought he was being clever spouting off hatred which was totally uncalled for.

If I went out for a walk and someone started shouting abuse at me, calling me names for how I looked ect - well I wouldn't relish that every time I went out. It'd make my life a misery. Why should people be allowed to hurt others in such a way?

There's freedom of speech and there's abuse. That lad who got jailed was abusing and inciting others to do the same at someone he thought dead. No - I don't want that in society and it needs to be stopped.

The problem is though - where do we draw the line?
 
Fells
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I'm sorry Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that
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You're merely expressing your freedom of speech, Sherry.

Make no mistake, if he had tweeted "I hope that footballer dies, LOL" he would not be in jail. He's in jail for using racist words - for supposedly inciting racial hatred (even though this was unproven in court).

Nobody should be put in prison for their views or for expressing their views - that is draconian.

If I had wanted everyone who has called me (or any other gay) a fagot, or some other derogatory term, then the prisons would be full. People should have the right to hold bigoted views and to express them - we fought 2 world wars for that freedom. We need to man-up as a society. Whatever happened to sticks and stones?

Freedom of speech is sacrosanct - no government should stifle views, regardless of how repugnant those views are to others.

If someone is acting aggressively towards you such as you describe - then that is intimidation, totally different. He was not imprisoned for intimidation. he was imprisoned for expressing bigoted views - for commenting on the blogosphere - and that is wrong IMO.

It should not be the job of the government or the judicial system to obligate niceness!
 
sherry
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sherry
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I don't know. Maybe the world would be a better place if they did.

There's no cut and dry answer to this. As I said before - where do we draw the line?

I think we need respect with freedom of speech. Having said that we all slip up in the heat of the moment, so you're right in saying we can't fill the jails with people for calling each other names. But there's calling names and calling names. Kids do it. Maybe parents and society in general should correct them more? Maybe adults should set a better example?


Calling names is something most people will do at some point in their lives. It's being human. Perhaps sometimes it strays into more than that. I think the lad being jailed is to make others think twice before mouthing off. It could be a good thing. Maybe.
 
Fells
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I'm sorry Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that
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"Where do you draw the line" - that really is a problem when you do not allow freedom of speech to be all-encompassing.

Knowing he was imprisoned for his racist remarks, should he have been imprisoned if he had said:

"All black people should f**k off"?
or "Blacks need to go home"?
or "We need to unite to send blacks home"?

As distasteful as I find these types of remarks, I will defend to the end someone's right to hold and express these views. That's what living in a progressive, free society means.
 
sherry
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sherry
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But where is the progression in that sort of talk? Towards anyone?

I can't see how behaving in that way can be any good. Some people follow the flock when other things are lacking in their lives. Then we have another load behaving the same. Which is what happens. Do we need people in a forwarding society showing total lack of respect to others? I can only see problems arising from it.
 
Fells
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I'm sorry Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that
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The progress is in the state not imprisoning people for expressing their views. The progress is the state not enforcing its morality on anyone else. The progress is in allowing society to challenge these views and educate.

No one should ever be imprisoned for upsetting someone!
 
sherry
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sherry
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But isn't that we have been doing for some years now, to challange and educate and go with the softly softly approach with our kids? Look where it's gotten us. The riots of last year, no respect for each other. I think that's the problem. Where has our pride and respect gone?

I do think this young man wouldn't have been imprisoned had it not been someone in the public eye, aka celebrity he aimed his comments at though.

Isn't what I just said free speech. I still think your example isn't quite the same type, Fells.
 
Les
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I use a computer, therefore I am.
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In broad terms, I agree with the principle of free speech and in an ideal world that should be the case. The trouble is that there are groups around who take advantage of what freedoms we do have. The biggest problem, as far as I'm concerned, are the 'hate' websites that crop up. They distort facts, they incite hatred with their half baked theories and conspiracies and they have followers. I know there are laws which are supposed to police these things, but some of them are very clever with the way they word their invective. These people don't just cause outrage and offence, they cause real, physical damage to people. That can range from groups taunting people to severe beatings or worse.

I worry about whether my ideals are as important as someone else's personal safety. The majority of the people I know feel just as much disgust about such groups as I do, but I also know that there are many others who are taken in by the lies and rubbish the hate groups produce.
 
jacktar
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welcome to my little corner of the institution
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freedom of speech should also go hand in had with common seance and respect for other people.
you should also think before you open your mouth or type your words

words are a very powerful thing and how you use them, look what Hitler did with words to Germany in the 1930 and in the last few days in this country the rush for petrol after the PM spoke

we have the right of freedom of speech in this country and should not abuse it, a lot of countries do not have it you toe the line or disappear
 
Fells
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I'm sorry Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that
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All very valid comments, Les and Jacktar.

Just to be clear - I'm advocating the protection of freedom of speech and expression thereof.

As soon as views become more than expression - inciting physical harm or discrimination for example - then we need to go after the physical action or discrimination. However, no one, no matter how extreme their view, should be imprisoned for having that view or for communicating that view. Why should they be oppressed simply because we don't accept their views?

There are plenty of laws protecting individuals from physical harm and from discrimination - but I'm talking about the right of simply holding and expressing extreme views. At what point of the sliding scale of our offence do we allow opposing views? There has to be a cut-off. As soon as you introduce prohibition on one subject we find offensive then the flood gates are open for all sorts of state control.

I'm also not arguing the morality of being nasty here - I'm arguing the legality of freedom of expression. Of course we would want people to communicate in a courteous manner - but this is the real world. Stepford is a town I don't want to live in. Who am I to impose my personal morality on someone else - who is anyone to impose their morality on others? Do I need the state to decide on my behalf what is offensive to me? Do I demand justice simply for being offended? I say no - and nor should I.

When someone shouted at me "I hope you die of AIDS you faggot" was I offended? Of course I was. Did I wish he didn't hold those views - of course. Would I want him to be imprisoned for holding those views? Absolutely not. I would (and did) challenge him for his views with orderly discourse - try to educate him. So he didn't want to discuss it - so what - maybe, just maybe a seed of decency may have been sewn for my addressing him such. That's what a progressive society does - it challenges that which we find offensive, it tries to understand why such views are held - it might even try to educate someone. However, it should also accept that somethings we will never agree on - and that's exactly as it should be. As long as no one is physically hurt, harassed, threatened etc the old adage 'sticks and stones' stands.
 
jacktar
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welcome to my little corner of the institution
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we all have the freedom of speech, with that we also have two choise

to put our point over in a debate in a friendly way

or just walk away
 
Fells
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I'm sorry Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that
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Absolutely! Actually, we have the choice to verbally retaliate too - freedom of speech should and does allow for that.

We shouldn't bang people up in prison because we don't like what they're saying!
 
azure74
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My friend got admonished because he was overheard saying to his Indian friend at work.. "You're a better Man than I am, Gunga Din"
He was actually being complimentary.

The fact is freedom of speech is slowly being eroded, as we can't say what we really feel because it is not PC.

azure
 
Fells
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I'm sorry Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that
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Admonished for quoting Kipling?

I agree, Azure - it's ridiculous!
 
voice
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I agree with free speech and anything said should be challenged. However, on the other hand should we allow racial abuse or homophobia? Some people will not engage in debate on what they say. Their main objective is to destroy, hurt and terrorise. Free speech cannot combat that. In a civilised society we need a balance.

Take Islamic or Christian fundamentalists. They know all the arguments for and against, but they are focused in radicalising the vulnerable and weak; this is how radicals recruit. They are not interested in debate.

The problem here is that you are grouping everybody together; i.e. that we are all capable of thought and intellectualism, understanding, empathy etc. Granted those that are capable should be challenged, those that are incapable and weak should be protected.

I remember having a debate on another forum about a group that supported sex with children standing for parliament (this was in a Scandinavian country); everybody said they should be banned and I said no. We should challenge their beliefs and bring it out in the open and dissect what they are saying. That was fine with that group and probably other groups; but to be fair they were standing for parliament. Other cases like religious fundamentalists are a different kettle of fish; in other words we should look at each case on its own merit.

Concerning the man who was jailed; the jail sentence was a bit over the top.
 
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