Saturday, 17 October 2015

On Free Speech, and its limits

I have always believed in FREE SPEECH. But my understanding of free speech is, to my horror, vastly different from that of rabble rousers. They think free speech means one can speak the most vile, untruth and uncouth things. That is not free speech. At the very minimum, free speech does NOT permit you to yell "Fire!" in a crowded theatre when there is no fire. Truth should be the ultimate check to free speech. 

However, not everyone is disciplined (or smart) enough to seek the truth. Many prefer indulging in innuendoes, spreading chain-mails (now emails, and Facebook and Twitter status updates), and plain gossip. That's human nature. That's the state of how we humans are, generally. Even amongst the educated, the learned, the ones who should have devoted their minds to pursuit of the truth, this lapse into our baser human nature happens — sometimes on a daily basis. 

But more than truth, being civilised means being gentle and polite. And there is a difference between objecting or protesting in a civilised manner, and doing so in a less than civilised manner. I will not name examples, but here's how you can spot the difference: Look at people who are passionately opposing a view. Imagine yourself being the object of their passionate opposition. Do you feel threatened, physically or mentally? If yes, then they are a rabble rouser. They are abusing free speech. 

Because free speech, no matter how offensive, should always be grounded in the truth, and should never degenerate into threats of (or actual) violence. 

I hope you now understand what I mean when I say, "I have always believed in FREE SPEECH."

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