There’s been an awful lot of talk on the Internet about free speech lately – ever since Duck Dynasty Phil expressed his homophobia and A&E fired him. OMG! The masses (some of them) yelled – he was only exercising his right of fee speech.
Yes, and his employer was exercising it’s right to fire an employee that didn’t fit in with its business ethos.
For some reason, people seem to think that freedom of speech means you can say anything, anywhere any time without consequences. Of course there may be consequences. But it is very important to note that the Freedom of Speech is closely linked with political systems and the idea that government cannot limit your freedom of speech – and even that has limitations – that limitation is “do no harm.”
The following from Wikipedia. (there’s more after this – please keep reading)
Freedom of speech is the political right (please note “political right”) to communicate one’s opinions and ideas using one’s body and property to anyone who is willing to receive them. In practice, the right to freedom of speech is not absolute in any country and the right is commonly subject to limitations, as with libel, slander, obscenity,sedition (including, for example inciting ethnic hatred), copyright violation, revelation of information that is classified or otherwise.
The right to freedom of expression is recognized as a human right under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and recognized in international human rights law in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 19 of the ICCPR states that “[e]veryone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference” and “everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice”. Article 19 goes on to say that the exercise of these rights carries “special duties and responsibilities” and may “therefore be subject to certain restrictions” when necessary “[f]or respect of the rights or reputation of others” or “[f]or the protection of national security or of public order (order public), or of public health or morals”.
Okay – here’s the nub of all this, as far as I’m concerned. There’s this big uproar over some idiot who said something bigoted – a millionaire realty show guy! So what! While we are up in arms over this, what are we saying or doing about the fact that in Canada, our prime minister has muzzled scientists from exercising their Freedom of Speech, and has requested all government employees to sign a lifetime agreement never to speak about what goes on in the civil service – what about all the VERY IMPORTANT rights that are being infringed on every day. Where is our outrage?
Real freedom of speech infringement are creeping into democracies all over the world every day. And the only thing we can get upset about is a crazy religious homophobe?