Home > The Monday Musings Column > on freedom of speech part two

on freedom of speech part two

I dashed off a rant the other day on this topic. Naughty because I try not to do that sort of thing, but I was incensed and that is an especially bad time to launch into print. I will try to be a bit more considered here.

The issue with Piers Morgan worries me considerably in terms of our society because it seems that there is a view that one person can give a TV interview and say what they like, but another person commenting on that issue gets shouted down. Why is one allowed to speak freely and another not? That has to be wrong.

Over the last few days there has been a move by the Left to persuade advertisers to shun the new UK TV news channel because it styles itself as right of centre. Personally I had not intended to watch it of a regular basis, but I am temped to watch it daily now and to shun any company that pulls its advertising. Censorship is not acceptable to me.

I have moved around to political spectrum over the years. I leaned a bit left in my younger days before drifting into the centre. Yes, I have some views that will seem extreme and used to joke about being turned down by a South American Junta for being too right wing, but, for example, I did not support the abolition of capital punishment back in the 1960s and am still opposed to those that support its exclusion from the options available to our courts. If that makes me a right wing extremist in your eyes then so be it. I am entitled to a view.

One of the things that we did not have in my youth was social media and so to express a view you needed an audience in person. One of my delights was Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park where there were all sorts that you could listen to. Not all were good orators, but some, like Donald Soper, were very good and, even if I did not agree with the views that they were expressing, there was a joy in listening and an opportunity to consider what they said. To think critically about what was said, weigh up the various points and form my own opinion was a big part of my teenage education.

Heckling was part of public speaking and a good heckler versus a good speaker was another part of the free entertainment as was the ability of a good speaker to deal with a moronic heckler. Indeed many of the crowds would turn on the latter, something that you rarely see in the social media echo chambers of today. In any case heckling is a dead art now as political events and conferences eject anyone not espousing the common view. Another loss of the freedom to speak.

We are in danger of becoming intellectually sterile and that is not good for society. There should be open debate and an acceptance that, through constructive argument, alternative views can be weighed. Freedom of speech is also about the freedom to think, but it is also about freedom itself. Let us not lose it.

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