This is a Texty Tuesdays post, looking at different types of text from the printed word to blogs to things you scribble when you’re bored.
Freedom of speech is something that we, in a developed, civilised society, have every right to. This is a wonderful thing that we should never take for granted or abuse.
We have the right to say what we think, to tell people our opinions, to protest when we don’t agree with something.
Rights and responsibilities come hand-in-hand.
Often, freedom of speech works two-fold. While it gives people the right to say what they want, it also destroys the credibility of those who do so without due consideration.
The E.D.L (English Defence League) has every right to protest (until these protests become, invariably, violent). When asked why, and they come up with a response like this:
They lose what little understanding they had. “What’s a Muslamic ray gun???”, we’re left wondering.
In this case, freedom of speech makes people with such bigoted views seem ridiculous, which serves a good cause.
Freedom of speech gets a little blurry around the edges when it comes to hate speech.
You have every right to your opinions – but when does it stop being an opinion and becomes a detriment to society?
There was a preacher who once stood on a major street of Glasgow, where I live. He stood on Suchiehall Street, where there were shops and restaurants bringing a constant stream of people to hear him speaking.
This, of course, is perfectly acceptable; we see it all the time.
However, it was this man’s belief that being gay was a sin, and he shouted this from the city centre. “Homosexuals are deserving of the wrath of God – and so are all other sinners – and they are going to a place called hell”.
This man was fined £1000, because enforcing your views on a minority of society is harmful. Had he said this in the privacy of his own home, or over a beer with friends, it would have been freedom of speech – responsibility of speech means that saying shouting this into a microphone with the whole of society passing by in unacceptable.
And now we have Julie Burchill’s Transphobic rant in The Observer last week.
For those of you who aren’t aware, Burchill’s article had statements such as:
Though I imagine it to be something akin to being savaged by a dead sheep… I nevertheless felt indignant that a woman of such style and substance should be driven from her chosen mode of time-wasting by a bunch of dicks in chick’s clothing.
… And that’s not even the worst of it.
And where’s their £1000 fine?
After the article had circulated every social media site known to man for a few days, they decided to remove the article for being transphobic.
Luckily, a full version has been reprinted in Toby Young’s Telegraph blog, here.
“Luckily”? You may ask…
I think that this article, from a so-called “feminist”, should be available for the whole world to read.
Not because of freedom of press. Simply scroll to the comments section of any piece or article about transgendered, transsexual or otherwise non-cis-gendered people, and you can read tirades similar to the one Burchill wrote.
I think it was a massive error of judgement on behalf of The Observer to allow that article to be published. Observer readers deserve better than that. As a respected publication, The Observer had a responsibility to their readers to not publish hate speech, an unspoken obligation which they failed to deliver.
I still think the article should be available to read; not in spite of its abusive content, but because of it.
A wonderful thing happened when society rose up against the article, attacking it from all over Britain and the rest of the world.
I think it’s safe to assume that The Observer and Julie Burchill have lost a lot of credibility – and readers – from that article.
Let that article remain public, remain readable, so that they may never gain back their credibility, and so that hate speech of this kind – of any kind – will never be granted credibility.