Do we & Should we have Freedom Of Speech?

Thoughts, Uncategorized

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 and 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?

A Chat About Shakespeare

Book Club

In the spirit of the new Shakespeare drama written by Ben Elton, starring Branagh, Judi Dench and Ian Mckellen (Also known as the epitome of thespians) called ‘All is true’ which is out today, here is a little chat about the famous bard himself. Shakespeare is a playwright and poet we all know about, some know of ‘Yorrick’s skull’ in Hamlet, or ‘to be or not to be’. Others know of his plays in more depth having studied them at school, and all English speakers use phrases from his plays in everyday life. But the question many ask is of the relevance of his plays today.

At the Globe!

I love Shakespeare’s plays, I revere his craft and the storytelling; the way in which the plays really capture human nature – the ways in which we think, our own hypocrisy, our flaws, our tendencies and the multifaceted sides of all of our personalities. I find that when I watch or read one of the plays, each time you get a new insight into what it means to be human. I think the quote that really sums it up is from Hamlet when Ophelia in her supposed madness says ‘we know who we are, but not what we may be.’

Shakespeare, in my opinion, is often a little bit like marmite – you either love it or you hate it. However, if you are currently one of the haters I urge you to give the plays another try. Go in with an open mind and if it’s a play done by great actors you will understand it.

My personal recommendation is Henry IV as part of The Hollow Crown series of Shakespeare’s histories with Tom Hiddleston as Prince Hal, Jeremy Irons as Henry IV and Simon Russel Beale who plays a brilliant Falstaff, or Branagh’s ‘Much ado about nothing’ with Emma Thompson is very funny and was the film that got me into loving Shakespeare’s plays. (You can find both of these on amazon)

Other favourite performances…

My favourite adaptation of ‘Hamlet’ is Andrew Scotts performance – if you get the chance to watch it, his performance is so clever with little actions really emphasising the themes of the play even if you don’t completely understand the language.

If you ever get the opportunity to go to The Globe, there really is nothing quite like seeing the plays in a replica of what it would have been like watching his plays in the Elizabethan / Jacobean era.

I saw Almeida Theatres Richard II starring Simon Russel Beale a couple of weeks ago, The national theatre often record many of the live performances which makes it so much easier to see theatre in your home town.

Shakespeare with all its old English and metaphor can make it seem completely inaccessible but I urge you to watch some of these adaptations focusing on all the incredible themes focusing on the human capacity to be multiple beings and how he captures human nature. So many scholars have taken Shakespeare over but his plays are something everybody can enjoy.

This new film focuses on Shakespeares later life in his final years and I can’t wait to watch it, I have heard it is quite emotional.

What are your favourite adaptations?

Fact Or Fiction

Thoughts

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‘Fake news’. I by no means mean to quote Trump here, but certainly much of the ‘truth’ has been contorted by journalists and social media in recent years.

We have, now, got most information at our finger tips. With thanks to the internet we can find out the breaking news and the height of your favourite celebrity; any kind of information that will satisfy your curiosity and allow you to figure out how to build that Ikea coffee table. The internet has been an incredible invention that I doubt many of us can imagine life without. However, as with all things, it has its downsides. We can get brand new information quicker then ever before which means journalists are biting at the bit to get out the next news story; this often means that much of the information has not been backed up and that it could, in fact, be just a rumour. And it’s not just the information we are given, it’s the information that news broadcasters can choose not to give us. After all, as Sir Francis Bacon once said ‘ipsa scientia potestas est’ – Knowledge itself is power.

I recently read an article from a couple of years ago by Katherine Viner (editor in chief at The Guardian) entitled ‘how technology disrupted the truth’ it was a fascinating read and really got me thinking about the society we live in now and our dependance on technology.

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Viner talked about how “In the digital age, it is easier than ever to publish false information, which is quickly shared and taken to be true”. Not only does this mean that some of the information is censored but that rumours can be quickly spread just like in high school movies. She is referring to the use of social media. It is easy for anyone to read a post and share it to let everyone they know about this information, or for anyone to make up information and share it without any evidence. And with our busy lives we tend not to have the time to check the facts, we just assume and trust that the information we are provided with is true.

Social media is not only a place to spread information but according to many articles the companies can censor what information we are presented with online. So unless we are actively searching for a piece of information, it won’t be shown on our social media feeds. Viner writes about how “Algorithms such as the one that powers Facebook’s news feed are designed to give us more of what they think we want – which means that the version of the world we encounter every day in our own personal stream has been invisibly curated to reinforce our pre-existing beliefs.” This can be particularly an issue in Politics. If we are given information about a campaign or about someone running for prime minister then that information may sway our decisions about what or who we vote for, if after the decisions have been made and we find out that that information was in fact false then we may look back on our vote and regret it – then we have the issue of whether there needs to be a revote. (Just like we are having now on the Brexit ‘vote leave’ allegations.)

Facebook has pledged to begin to do something about this ‘filter bubble’ (as Eli Pariser, the co-founder of Upworthy, coins it). Although some think even this is ‘Fake news’ too. (Facebook ‘fake news’ article here)

Many people now rely on social media to gain information on current affairs and to help construct opinions but how can we do that if that information may just be a rumour? We are unlikely to check these ‘facts’ and just regard them as the truth without any further investigation, after all the news should be something we can trust in.

Many writers in the past have talked about issues with misinformation, the most famous of all being George Orwell in his novel ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’. The phrase Orwell uses to sum this up is “Freedom is the freedom to say 2 plus 2 equals four” in other words, freedom only exists if all the information we are given is actually true. He comments on how easy it is for those in power or those we trust to say that “two plus two equals 5”. The sales of his best selling novel he wrote in 1948 shot up when Trump ran for president, with people making links between society now and the dystopian world Orwell presents for us.

Also in Margaret Atwood’s ‘A Handmaid’s Tale’ she writes that ‘there are 2 kinds of freedom, Freedom to and freedom from’.

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Im not saying that all the information we are told is false only that perhaps we need to be wary of what allegations being made by the media are true. This can only be done by checking on the sources and by reading around – To ask ourselves if the information we are being provided with is Fact or Fiction?

Has Feminism Gone Too Far

Thoughts

I am a feminist. I believe that both sexes should be treated equally and that all people should feel empowered by their peers.

I don’t think that women are better than men, I think that we are all individuals with different strengths and weaknesses no matter what our gender or sex is. And that is the great thing about humans; our variation, how each person is unique, not identical to any other person. I think it would be crazy to make such a statement whether it be ‘men are better than women’ or ‘women are better than men’ or making comparisons between any group of people because we are all completely different in some way or another to other people. Not all women are the same, some are interested in science, some are sporty, some are arty. Each individual is unique. Not all men are the same. Some like sport, some don’t, some are academic, some aren’t. It would be crazy to make such a statement because we would then be labelling a particular group of people based on one aspect of who they are. Each person is unique.

Which is why I titled this post ‘has feminism gone too far’ – are some trying to turn it less into equality for all and more into women are more powerful? Yes I think that we should try and empower other women because women have been seen to be the weaker sex throughout history. I walked into Waterstones the other day and saw that they had done a table of children’s books that are all about incredible female protagonists and showing children that women can be strong and can do anything. And I thought that this is how the stereotype of women will be eradicated, the stereotype is all down to society and that is difficult to change when we have all had these stereotypes drilled into us in our childhood with phrases like ‘run like a girl’ ‘cry like a girl’ ‘ladylike’ etc.  But now I wonder if this ideal had gone far, forgetting about equality altogether.

People will always try and find something to comment on about someone else, as humans we seem to always be comparing, always judging. Pointing out something different about a particular group of people; weather that be sex, skin colour, body size, religion or even hair colour.

Have other issues gone too far? For example racism, Now white people are almost discriminated against with phrases like ‘such a white girl’ or ‘thats so white’. Whilst campaigning for equality for races the other side has been discriminated against. But its different all over the world, for many parts of America there is still significant segregation whilst in others it’s going the other way.

Overall, in an ideal world we would all empower each other and stop judging and comparing others so much. We are all unique and individual so cannot label people in the way we are beginning too. In an ideal world we would all respect the fact that we are all individual and unique. In an ideal world our biology wouldn’t change how others treat us.

Can we create this ideal world?