Scrolling through Twitter earlier this month I saw this tweet from Stig Abell which Comedian Ricky Gervais replied to, and after having seen the video of the ‘nazi’ comments being shouted at to one of our MP’s, It really got me thinking about freedom of speech. Gervais, in this scenario, seems to be an advocate for this freedom whereas Abell does not. And this situation with this MP certainly does add to the argument of the latter, as it is awful that someone can be bombarded with such insults on live TV or on Social media.
This is a topic which is widely debated, freedom of speech means that we are free to make any comments we like without there being any sort of punishment if we go against the consensus; in short, it allows us to openly share our opinions.
So do we have Freedom of Speech now?
I don’t think we do. Yes, we have this freedom to a certain extent, however, increasingly there are campaigns for certain topics or phrases to be banned. Such as talking about ‘Hitler’ as Abell mentioned or racist words, parts of history that we can reflect on and learn from the past.
Should we have freedom of Speech?
I think we should. Being able to express our own individual opinions is part of it and weather we think someones opinion is right or wrong it is completely subjective and so we can either have the freedom or not have the freedom. Personally, I cannot think of a world worse than one in which we cannot express what we think.
In my opinion, banning words and phrases – even if they have negative connotations should never be banned as otherwise we are banning certain aspects of history, it is a respect which we should be trying to cultivate so that this kind of bullying does not occur. For example with the Hitler comments, there will always be other ways to insult somebody – if talking about Hitler and Nazi regime is banned then there will only be another person that they will be compared to. In other words, it should not be freedom of speech which is restricted but freedom of individuality which needs to be accepted.
One of the campaigns I have seen recently is to get phrases like ‘Bringing home the bacon’ banned – a vegan perspective that meat should not be used in our language like this. But these kinds of phrases have been used for such a long time, they should not be simply banned with people needing to consciously remember which common phrases are not allowed to be used anymore. And this particular phrase is not hurting anybody. To me, when I hear of these kinds of campaigns, It makes me think of ‘Newspeak’ in Orwell’s ‘Nineteen Eighty-four’ which was used by ‘the party’ to constrict peoples thoughts by making it impossible for people to have the words to articulate their thoughts and feelings.
By banning parts of our language we are essentially restricting it, yes, many phrases are offensive to people – no matter who you are, we all often experience bullying, whether that is for your race, your gender, your hair colour or anything else, unless we are all identical bullying is likely to always exist – bullies pick the part of you that makes you unique and different to spin that quality on its head. Bullying is difficult to prevent, it has always been around and restricting our language will only make it worse.
People come up with new phrases all the time to express something they want to say, sometimes it’s a different meaning of a word, sometimes it’s a new word entirely – expanding language is an amazing thing, if Shakespeare never made up all those new words and phrases, imagine how different our world would be now, Restricting language is restricting our freedom.
What do you think? Should we have freedom of speech? Do you feel as though you have freedom of speech? Are the issues we are talking about with freedom of speech actually about bullying in general?