Free Speech- What the Heck is it?
Harry Richardson is a long-time student of Islam and author of best seller, "the Story Of Mohammed - Islam Unveiled', http://thestoryofmohammed.blogspot.com.au
Freedom is a funny thing. Everyone is in favour of freedom in some way, but few people understand what it actually is. That isn’t really all that surprising because freedom – total freedom that is- doesn’t really exist. There isn’t such a thing.
There is an old saying that a smoker and a non-smoker can’t both be free in the same railway carriage, and that sums it up pretty well.
Some people’s idea of freedom is the freedom to rape, murder and/or enslave others. Often times, one person’s freedom comes at the expense of the freedom of others. Aiming for total freedom is like aiming for eternal life (on earth). If you ever achieved either, it would probably drive you insane so be careful what you wish for.
When we strive for freedom therefore, we need to understand that we are striving for maximum freedom for the greatest number of people. We try to arrange things so that the most people get the greatest benefit. Sometimes this means restricting the freedom of some people, up to and including incarceration, to increase the freedom of others.
That is why Christian societies tend to have the most freedoms. It is because people are encouraged to restrain themselves and their behaviour to not impact negatively on others. There is also a system of carrots and sticks in the afterlife to keep people in line. This means that brutal and violent leaders are not required to hold societies together (think Iraq after Saddam or Libya after Gaddafi).
Likewise, freedom of speech does not mean open slather for young and old. Words are powerful. Words affect actions. Words can do damage.
Threats, intimidation, direct incitement to violence or harm, lies, deception, slander or libel are all examples of speech which impinge on the freedom of others. All are harmful, and all can limit the overall freedom of the society at large. As such, all of these things have been subject to legislation in countries which champion free speech.
There are two main benefits to allowing free speech. One is to restrict tyranny; the other is to solve problems and find the truth. These are no small matters.
Yet currently, free speech is under increasing attack and as a consequence, our societies are becoming increasingly despotic and increasingly irrational.
For that reason, I have always seen the Pickering Post as an important beacon of free speech which is vital in the current climate of censorship.
Big tech platforms are increasingly trying to shut down free speech. Zuckerberg’s Facebook, Brin’s Google/Youtube and so forth are being policed by left wing censors who are determined to shut down opposing opinions.
I believe that much of what passes for “mainstream” opinion is actually the opinion of a radical few who do not have the best interests of the majority at heart. These people however, seem to have a stranglehold on much of the mainstream discourse and as a consequence, are given far more credibility than they deserve.
The Pickering Post is a place where this “mainstream” dogma can be challenged. I try my best to do this in a way which is interesting, credible and authoritive. My aim is to warn people of the dangers that we face and to bring people around to my way of thinking.
The great thing about the Pickering Post is that the articles are only half the story. Each article attracts a multitude of comments with a wide and diverse range of opinions. This is what Larry wanted, it is why he started this blog in the first place.
People are free to say pretty much whatever they please here, and Larry rarely stepped in (in the time I have been involved with the site). As far as Larry was concerned, people were free to read or comment and if you didn’t like it, you shouldn’t be here.
Whilst I have always respected Larry’s views on this, particularly as it was his site, I see some major weaknesses in this approach.
Firstly, there will always be an element of people who will try to win any argument by intimidation. I’m not talking about discourteousness here. I am talking about people who have had a couple too many suburban and cokes and hop into other posters with gratuitous potty mouthed tirades designed to scare the living bejesus out of anyone who they happen to disagree with.
This has two serious negative consequences. Firstly, it stifles the discussion. Many people have told me that they no longer comment on the Pickering Post because they are simply too scared. That means that discussions are being stifled by threatening behaviour which is unacceptable and against the tenets of true free speech.
The other disadvantage of allowing this kind of behaviour is that it trashes the credibility of the Pickering Post in the eyes of people who we should be seeking to influence. The people who write articles on here put considerable effort into making compelling arguments which will sway both the general public, and those with their hands on the levers of power.
There is nothing more frustrating than putting up a serious article and then finding that the comments section is just a cesspool of abusive ranting. Not only does it repulse potential readers, it also repulses potential writers. I am constantly trying to find quality contributors who will add to the site’s appeal and also take weight off my shoulders.
Having some degree of decorum and common decency in the comments section makes that job far easier. I don’t expect everyone to act like choir boys. I come from a lifetime on construction sites and I understand that people like to blow off steam sometimes. I do however, expect people to use some restraint and if I think people are going too far, I will simply dump them.
I don’t have time to spend adjudicating between different parties and trying to be completely fair and consistent. If people are dragging the site down, I’ll just can them like a tuna.
Another form of intimidation is what is known as “doxing.” This is the practice of exposing people’s identities online. The Pickering Post comments section is supposed to be anonymous. That way, people can express opinions without fear of physical reprisals. By doxing someone, you expose them to possible attacks in the real world.
Even if people’s names and addresses are not listed, references to people who have already been outed are intimidatory. I don’t tolerate it and if I find people doing it, I will be likely to remove them without warning. Down the track, I will be looking to find ways to stamp this out more effectively so please desist.
At the same time, this is not a safe space for snowflakes so please don’t come crying to me whenever someone calls you a rude name. This is a place for robust discussions and if you can’t handle at least some rough and tumble then you might be better off somewhere more genteel.
That might sound like a fine line to tread, but I’m sure you all understand the difficulty of this task on top of my other responsibilities.
It is my aim to make The Pickering Post into a much more influential site than it already is, and I am counting on you all to support me in this goal.