AN UNQUALIFIED FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION? January 12, 2015Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics.
The denizens of Catallaxy are too concerned with matters of great moment to be bothered to response to my propositions this morning. Furthermore, I might well have been censored.
Perhaps for good reason, but you can judge:
Some thoughts. Freedom of speech and expression is over rated. What passes for free speech is in fact regurgitation and indoctrination. In this society as in all others what is permissible to think and believe is in fact closely controlled. Angry, hateful, vindictive speech cannot be equated to free speech. It’s sole purpose is destructive, not of the ideas that are wrong, but of the people that espouse them. The presumption of “unlimited free speech” advocates is that we are sovereign individuals but the fact is in regard to language we are a social collective, and individuality is remarkably rare ( but perhaps especially valuable) and unlikely to survive or prevail. The purpose of free speech is not egotistical but to discover the truth, advance the social good, and rarely to bring into question social and cultural paradigms The latter speech and expression is rare because it falls below a threshold of consciousness. If we say “let reason reign”, then those that are not reasonable have no place.
OK,this needs some work. We need to question not so much the right of free expression, but its quality and authenticity. In the Sixteenth and Seventeenth centuries their was a spiritual understanding that “God could speak though every man.” Of course in this formulation “god” and “man” are code.
It seems to me that listening fully to others to distinguish what is said is more important than venting – as perhaps in my example. That works on a personal basis in a meeting hall where it has been said (I don’t have the reference to hand) that “the spirit of the meeting” can be adduced.The formula that came to me was a mix of self-regarding and other-regarding.
We live, however, in a political discourse of sound bites, public relations and manufactured consent. Politicians from the mass media stage address constituencies rather than individuals. Bob Menzies would have to deal with hecklers, whereas the current Prime Mediocrity operates at a distance, increased by peculiar ideas, including “Team Australia” and permission to give full expression to concern about terrorism. In other words platitudes wrapped in code that is understood differently among sections of the electorate.
It is not that this approach might not be politically efficacious, or worse is believed to be, but that it is not genuinely democratic in its inspiration. The question is not one of blame, but rather the more practical one of what is to be done about it. A democratic culture is necessary, as much as democratic institutions, and is in fact more important.
Tarig Ramadan discusses the right of free expression on Al Zareeza (when the interviewer does not interrupt his answers):