Questions

My partner and I like to watch movies, but during the week, don’t often have time to settle into a complete movie.  I like to immerse myself in the story entirely, feeling every emotion like an empath.  So instead, we watch episodes from a specific TV series from start to finish.  We’re currently watching Babylon 5.   For those unfamiliar with the series, Babylon 5 is an outpost in space designed as a diplomatic station with the aim of keeping peace between alien species.  It fails miserably and by series three, with a little help from the Shadows, the Centauri have enslaved the Narn, and the Great War looms.

During the episode last night, a political advisor was sent from Earth to the space station.  She reported there was no unemployment, crime, poverty, homelessness….  Earth was a perfect world.  It emerged that the reason for this was ideological tyranny.  Those problems hadn’t been solved, they’d simply been renamed.  The advisor’s presence was to ensure that Babylon 5 followed the party line too.

My kind of nightmare!  The loss of freedom of thought, speech, initiative, action …. the notion made me shudder – because it’s not so far from the truth.

In “A Ray of Sunshine”, I quoted Voltaire, that a person should be judged by their questions and not their answers and so posed a series of questions.  The first being –  what would you ask?

Voltaire is attributed with having said (largely due to S.G. Tellentyre’s recounting of Voltaire’s defence of a book, but the contents of which he disagreed with):

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”

The philosopher J.S. Mill also believed in freedom of speech. He was an advocate of political criticism as he saw it as vital for a healthy society.  Without dissent, disapproval, alternative positions, society would not progress and truths would be hidden by dogma and never known.

But I do have a question.

Is there a limit to freedom of speech?

What about those whose ideas, speech and actions serve to oppress others?  Is it right to censure, or would it be better to allow their views to be fully open to the questioning of others?

What are your thoughts?

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16 thoughts on “Questions

  1. Me thinks that a person should be judged by their actions and not their words. Yet we are judged by both. Although the tongue can boast great things, it can be a source of unruly evil and full of deadly poison. Having said that, which comes first, deeds or words? Does one lead to the other? My word limit reached, my actions exhausted, I now bow out for duty once again calls. eLFy

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      1. Wisdom is an attribute that eLFonians constantly strive to attain. Yet it is eludes our mortal grasp.

        It seems we are in agreement, dear Safar. Deeds, indeed, can be words in action for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks … and the hands follow. Yet my point is one of simpler origin. To paraphrase Francis of Asisi, live the gospel, and if necessary, use words.

        As for an economy of words, this noble attribute may have escaped me in my post on Nothing is the absence of everything. Or did it?

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  2. Freedom of speech is freedom of speech. Anything else is not freedom of speech. It’s not nice when someone hurts someone, but who would be the judge if there were limits like that? I know countries where if you say anything untoward about certain people, you get tossed in jail and then deported. It’s easy enough to live in a place like that: just keep your mouth shut about certain things. Perhaps it depends on where you are in the world? Maybe some places need a little more control over the crowd?

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    1. I think you’ve raised a couple of interesting questions. Who is judge of what is acceptable and not acceptable speech? There’s plenty of contemporary and historical examples to remind of the potential abuses of that kind of power.
      At the time of posing the question, I was thinking of situations like the barring of Julien Blanc from entering certain countries due to his controversial ‘dating’ seminars. I remember thinking, that depriving him of his right to freedom of speech, his opposition is also denied theirs. I’d like the right to be able to say, I find your views offensive and here is why…..
      I do see the act of barring him was a means of control, but not just of Blanc, but also of those who would object to his presence.

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      1. hi Safar,
        to me this is a symptom of westerners disease of individualism at all costs. “freedom of speech” at whose costs? I do recall, I think, Julian Blanc being banned from australia as his speaking tours enouraged violence against women and sexual violence as “dating advice”.

        Our new australian prime minister ( the verdict is out on his couple of day long tenure) has just announced millions of dollars to combat violence against women. to date, this year alone, 67 women have died from murder by their spouse or partner.

        this is a sick societal disease and needs to be combated. banning a speaking tour of a man who i encourages other men to abuse women, when the abuse of women is so endemic in many socieites, i think is a good thing.

        when so called “freedom of speech” comes at the cost of others freedom, and when the end result of that loss of freedom is violent abuse and death – why do other’s freedoms have to suffer because of one individual who expresses violent views?

        along with that, where is this notion of “freedom of speech” coming from and who perpetuates the myth? in a world increasinly dominated by the likes of rupert murdoch controlling the media, ‘freedom of speech’ is a pretty meaningless thing, as “freedom of speech’ is often only in the hands of the powerful and rich, to promulagate their biased views.

        Asian socieities put the group’s interest before the indidual, in the occident’s its the other way round. There needs to be some balance, somewhere.

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        1. I agree that individualism is at the heart of freedom of speech and I think it does produce this quandry of what is good for the individual vs. what is good for the community or society. Blanc was also barred from entering the UK following Australia’s action and it was generally welcomed. However, when following the media afterwards, debate seemed to impinge more on the moral basis for breaching Blanc’s human rights rather debate about the the perpetuation of views that justify violence against women.
          I have a feeling that women’s issues would have been more prominent in the media if he had been allowed to enter.
          I’m not sure that silencing him is a solution towards helping women. In my experience of teaching students ages 16-18, there was a general hostility towards feminism (although I did also teach avid feminists), and bringing cases like Julien Blanc in addition to actual cases of domestic violence (also perpetrated by women as well as men) into the classroom helped raise awareness and debate – they would help to reframe thinking about gender issues.

          I worry that suppressing ideas, however unwanted, almost gives them power. Whereas in the open, they can be more directly challenged.

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          1. it’s difficult to know, or even prove, really. over the years i have changed my opinion. actualy, im not sure if blanc arrived in country would cause more debate when the media is so controlled. thats the root of the problem. not one of us living in any country in the world truly has freedom of speech when the most aspects of media are so tightly controlled by so few. and those so few influence globally. freedom of speech confined to what we might say to our neighbours and friends is vastly different from freedom of speech in the public domain, and the public domain is usually controlled by the rich and powerful. that the media debate was about his ‘human rights’ and not about women’s issues only confirms that the media choses what it will publish. feminism has bad press amongst younger people since the media backlash has been furious against the early successes of the women’s movement.
            im not disagreeing with you, just saying in the end it is complex and that the notion of “freedom” in the west is quite a political entity. for example, western politicians like to label China ‘not free’ – but the country has lifted itself out of poverty in a couple of decades. in the scale of ‘freedoms’ economic freedom usually comes first, the freedom to not worry about how youre gonna feed yourself and your family.
            anyhow, really a very complex issue. thanks for the conversation.

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            1. Thank you also, Debbie. It is complex, and I’m also not fully decided. I agree that the mass media is highly controlled and presents a very limited perspective on ‘truth’. I’ve become increasingly interested in the phenomenon of an interesting story being released in early morning news (I listen to radio), but that gets dropped from all news stories later. One wonders at the mechanisms behind the sudden silence.

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      2. Safar: Agreed. And…human beings…what in the world are they thinking? Who do they think they are fooling? It’s always been one step forward, two steps back. We are now well into the most-recent second step back, I believe.

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  3. Ooh, that is a very good question! One the one hand, it is a powerful and often necessary medium to express oneself but on the other hand, it can be destructive, hurtful and unnecessary. I’m sorry, I haven’t answered your question at all! I am interested to see what others say.

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