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A good definition of what free speech means

(68 Posts)
thatbags Sun 12-Mar-17 11:16:27

A free speech definition to work by by the Australian philosopher, Russell Blackford (@metamagician)

Anya Sun 12-Mar-17 11:23:02

Huge difference between 'unpopular' ideas and some of the 'stuff' out there these days.

thatbags Sun 12-Mar-17 11:32:52

He follows it up with this:
"If you try to shut down speech that you dislike, using economic duress such as boycotts, you're an authoritarian and a fanatic."

To put it in context, these tweets have arisen out of something that's going on in Australia. A brewery company is, I believe, sponsoring a debate about the charitable work of the Bible Society. Some people are trying to close down the business or at least negatively affect their sales. The photo shows their full statement on the matter.

thatbags Sun 12-Mar-17 11:33:52

To what sort of stuff do you refer, anya? I think trolling and online abuse are covered in Blackford's definition.

Anya Sun 12-Mar-17 11:38:12

Sorry for using word 'stuff' but the brain cells aren't firing on all cylinders.

I wasn't specifically referring to online, but rather including the hatred (usually racial) that is spouted by actual people in RL although there is plenty online too.

thatbags Sun 12-Mar-17 11:48:16

We have laws covering racist hate speech. Talking about differences between races of humans, based on scientific data such as genetic differences is not racist but I'm sure some people will claim that it is.

Anya Sun 12-Mar-17 11:58:05

Yes there are laws, but how many of us here racist views expressed around us every so often, and more often in some areas. I've actually cut off a friend because of her and her husbands extreme views. I was shocked after knowing this person for several years as a work colleague. Laws don't cover this because no one is going to report this to the police.

I know you know that I understand what racism is, I've even attended courses on it hmm in the course of my career, so I'm guessing your last sentence was not addressed specifically to me.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion can be a double-edged sword and an excuse for some. But of course it is true.

POGS Sun 12-Mar-17 12:25:30


I cannot access your link as I am not on twitter .

The extract you use in your post of 11.32 I wholeheartedly agree with.

"If you try to shut down speech that you dislike, using economic duress such as boycotts, you're an authoritarian and a fanatic."

Sadly it isn't confined to using economic duress such as boycotts though, an example would be another topic that has been debated (tried to be) No Platform used in Universities.

I use the word irony a lot but when it comes to what is perceived as Free Speech by some it seems a most appropriate word to use.

MaizieD Sun 12-Mar-17 12:37:01

The definition is:
Free speech is all about freedom to put unpopular ideas into the public domain without fear, not a freedom to stalk specific others online.

I'm not sure it really covers it but 140 characters is not very many words!

"If you try to shut down speech that you dislike, using economic duress such as boycotts, you're an authoritarian and a fanatic."

How would you view the practice detailed in this article in the light of the above statement?

Rigby46 Sun 12-Mar-17 12:42:49

I could imagine boycotting a business that expressed certain views that I did not agree with - it's ridiculous to say that that makes me an authoritarian or a fanatic. I have a free choice as to where I spend my money and it's my choice to decline to put it in the pockets of some one expressing views I strongly disagree with. I'm talking generally here not about this specific example. No Platforming is different IMO.

thatbags Sun 12-Mar-17 14:10:41

You are right, anya, the sentence you thought wasn't aimed at you wasn't. When I aim something at someone I make it obvious by mentioning their name in direct connection.

Re the friends you disconnected yourself from, if they never expressed their racist views at people, rather than to people (you, for instance), I don't think they were breaking the law. I don't think it's against the law to hold racist views. What's wrong is using such views to discriminate against or be hateful towards other people.

thatbags Sun 12-Mar-17 14:17:02

Re your question, maizie, I'd say the government is acting in a biased manner if they are asking businesses whether they support Brexit. Also, I'm not sure how a business could be in favour of or against Brexit. We voted as individuals, not in blocks according to where we worked or what our bosses thought about it.

In short, I think Brexit is irrelevant to my OP and subsequent posts, though you are free to hijack the thread and turn it into one about Brexit if you so choose. I can always start another about free speech.

thatbags Sun 12-Mar-17 14:18:44

rigby, the brewery company is not expressing views. It's allowing other people to express views. Read their disclaimer/response to their critics.

thatbags Sun 12-Mar-17 14:20:28

pogs, the more I read and hear about free speech and what it means, thr more I'm convinced a lot of people simply don't understand the concept.

thatbags Sun 12-Mar-17 14:21:11

anya, like that. That's what 'aimed' posts look like.

Anya Sun 12-Mar-17 14:21:30

You see it's the public domain I have the problem with. How public, how many people make a 'public' ? Why just public?

Ankers Sun 12-Mar-17 14:21:44

But is the you saying "free to hijack the thread" an example of shutting down free speech, even if it is only a thread on gransnet?

Anya Sun 12-Mar-17 14:23:09

Shoot me if I'm starting to sounds like another whose user name starts An


Ankers Sun 12-Mar-17 14:23:32

Like Anya, I also am not firing on all cylinders.

I have actually totally lost track of what laws there are about this subject. It seems like the more I read about it, the less I know.

daphnedill Sun 12-Mar-17 14:23:35

That's my understanding too,thatbags ie that it's not against the law to hold racist views or even to express them. However, it's against the law in certain circumstances, for example, if the Equality Act is broken or if it incites racial hatred. The Equality Act only covers discrimination and incitement needs to be proved legally.

Ankers Sun 12-Mar-17 14:24:04

What to your mind, is wrong with the laws we have about it at present, thatbags?

Ankers Sun 12-Mar-17 14:25:26

Also, I'm not sure how a business could be in favour of or against Brexit

They would be talking about the business owners.

Ankers Sun 12-Mar-17 14:27:12

I think the tweet in the op leaves out a huge number of things!

Ankers Sun 12-Mar-17 14:30:15

On first look at MaizieD's link, that appears dreadful.
But actually, it is not actually asking whether they support Brexit at all I dont think?

Anya Sun 12-Mar-17 14:33:21

Calling something free speech does not vindicate it. It doesn't make it polite, correct, or even marginally acceptable in civilized society. The sole and only thing it means is that it's not against the law.

Speech can be offensive, morally repugnant and appallingly stupid. We can condemn, malign and mock people for what they say. We shout them down, ban them from our message boards and generally refuse to be around them. All free speech means is that we can't lock them up because of the content of their speech.

Speech is legal. That doesn't make it right, good or socially acceptable, it just means the law has no hold on you.

Been out walking, got my thinking head back on.