Fandango’s Provocative Question: Freedom of Speech

Another provocative question this week from Fandango:

“Do you believe that social media sites should be able to censor what people post on their sites and ban content creators from posting? Or do you consider such actions to be a violation of freedom of speech, which is guaranteed as a right in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution?”

If you don’t live in the U.S., please weigh in with your thoughts about freedom of speech versus social media sites banning content contributors in your country.

So, where to start with this one… Hmmm… how about looking at what is NOT allowed on social media or anywhere else for that matter – for example, hate speech in all is forms…

Here in the UK, we certainly do believe in freedom of speech but also legislate variously against hate speech. For example, according to Wikipedia –

‘Expressions of hatred towards someone on account of that person’s colour, race, disability, nationality (including citizenship), ethnic or national origin, religion, gender identity or sexual orientation is forbidden. Any communication which is threatening or abusive, and is intended to harrass, alarm, or distress someone is forbidden. The penalties for hate speech include fines, imprisonment, or both.’

I tend to agree with this approach, as in my mind it is OK for people to hold extreme opinions about others, but not necessarily to air them unsolicited and unregulated across social media platforms – opinions are opinions, but I believe they still need to be backed up with real facts in order to be legitimately broadcast to the world. Preventing hate speech to me is not a violation of freedom of speech, but a necessary safety-net to ensure equality across all groups, safe-guarding all minorities as well as the often self-styled majority within any given society.

Of course, here in the UK we don’t have a 250-year-old Constitution (plus Amendments) to hide behind to try to justify our outrageous bluff-and-bluster statements and actions which to much of the rest of the world may seem closed-minded and extremist, based on out-dated societal and cultural viewpoints and an ongoing arrogant elitist sense of entitlement. We certainly do have clear differences here in the political interpretation of statistics leading to huge arguements and debates, and we all tend to accept that to a certain degree all politicians are parochial and partisan, but obvious downright lies are generally called out and clarified, not covered up and condoned.

I’m not in any way saying things are in any way perfect here in the UK – not by a long shot – but here most extremists eventually tend to find themselves effectively shut down, backed into blind alleys and abandoned corners, hoist by their own petards. People in power who deliberately say inaccurate, inappropriate or unacceptable stuff on social media frequently find themselves unceremoniously catapulted out of office, or at least frozen out on the fringes, forgotten before long. And the people here who follow them soon follow suit.

Yet I’ve often listened to the propaganda-based political profanities spewed forth via all media channels, social and traditional, by the current incoherent incumbent of the US White House that seem to be such blatant bare-faced lies that UK laws would surely have the slanderous and libelous transgressor law-suited and booted out before he could scream ‘fake news’, and I’ve often wondered why it is simply allowed to happen across the board with such regularity and without any real legislative resistence?

It seems to me to be a real-life modern-day ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ scenario where no-one with any serious level of clout dares to tell Trump just how much he’s exposing himself as butt-naked ignorant of solid facts and is instead dressing himself in little more than a transparent fiction of delusion, whether on Twitter or via his press-puppet Sarah Sanders…

So intrigued by Fandango’s question, and in order to better understand what lies behind Trump’s apparent ability to lie deliberately, incite violent outbursts in others, and then vacillate and eventually deny any involvement himself, I thought I’d better check out US law relating to freedom of speech and hate speech. And guess what I found? There ARE actually types of speech that are NOT protected by the First Amendement!  These nine categories include:

  • Obscenity
  • Fighting words
  • Defamation (including libel and slander)
  • Child pornography
  • Perjury
  • Blackmail
  • Incitement to imminent lawless action
  • True threats
  • Solicitations to commit crimes

Well, well, well, look at that – looks like the First Amendement is NOT in fact the global panacea it is made out to be, not a free-for-all perpetual pardon for foul-mouthed fantasists, not even the President…

Even a first cursory glance leaves me questioning Trump’s fighting words about the media being the enemy of the people, and the Democrats being evil – and that’s just his view of his fellow Americans, never mind legal and illegal immigrants. And what about his constant defamation of Hillary Clinton? Incitement to imminent unlawful action pretty much covers his condoning (through complete lack of condemnation) of the far right white supremacist extremists who rioted in Charlottesville in 2017, causing the death of a young woman…

Seriously, no wonder ordinary opinionated American people think they can act with impunity online via social media platforms when they see their President spouting forth such blatantly vile vitriol and getting away with it, time after time. Constitutional Freedom of Speech is one thing, but in my opinion Hate Speech legislation should always trump that precious First Amendement right, come what may, whoever is trying to tip the balance from right to wrong…

Advertisements

Upholding the Lie…

We’re still following the news in America with bemusement, amazed that the blustering White House still maintains that Flynn was ambushed by the FBI, even when everyone else – including Flynn himself – admits this was not the case.

Trump seems intent on upholding the lie to the bitter end… he can bleat ‘Fake news, fake news’ with regard to the media coverage of his presidency all he likes, but surely ‘Fake judge, fake judge’ won’t hold water, even with his blinkered base…

Maybe we should all start to denounce Trump by chanting ‘Fake President, fake President’ every time he continues to peddle his warped world-view, whether personally or via press secretary puppet Sarah Sanders…

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Denounce

What Bugs Me Most About Brexit

Actually, lots of stuff bugs me about Brexit, but since the ‘No’ vote for staying within the EU in the ridiculous referendum David Cameron called on a whim simply in order to rein in his recalcitrant back-benchers, one thought has remained constant in my mind: ‘One No, Many Yeses’.

It was the title of a book I came across during my degree studies – if I remember rightly the book is about anti-capitalism in an increasingly globalised world – but to me the title seems a perfect description of what’s been going on internally in the UK with regard to our Brexit negotiations ever since the referendum.

It was a really close vote, but overall the country voted not to stay in the EU – that’s the ‘one no’. But within the ranks of those that voted to leave, there seems quite clearly to be multiple different visions and versions of exactly what leaving means – that’s the ‘many yeses’. So in that situation, the constant arguements even within the Cabinet, never mind Parliament and the rest of the country as a whole, don’t really surprise me at all.

For those who voted to remain in the EU, they tend to speak with with one voice in choosing to stay. But for those who voted to leave, it seems to me they simply can’t agree between themselves as to what they actually voted for, and therefore what the long-term repercussions might mean for the country as a whole.

And for me, that’s been the underlying problem all along. So inevitably, most Remainers aren’t happy with whatever plans the Government comes up with, and even today at this late stage in the overall process it seems that most Leavers aren’t happy with it either, because ultimately a cobbled-together compromise suits no-one…

It’s a long-term political nightmare, so we’ll just have to wait and see what new dismal disasters today’s planned Cabinet meeting on the latest proposed draft deal brings… 😦

Parody of a President

My personal notion of a parody is taking something or someone and exaggerating those little things that make them instantly recognisable, exposing and poking fun at their most common mannerisms and attitudes and in highlighting them in an over-the-top cartoonish caraciture of reality, holding them up for playful ridicule in a highly amusing way.

But how do you create a parody of a president who is already so wholly exaggerated in his bullish mannerisms and attitudes? How do you highlight as funny someone whose personal reality is so distorted that they live in a constant state of self-righteous delusion, especially when their perceived self-importance is channelled into playing out a truly important role they clearly have no real understanding of?

President Trump reminds me very much of the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland, in that:

‘The Queen had only one way of settling all difficulties, great or small. “Off with his head!” she said, without even looking round.’

And as the spoiled-brat bully-boy caricature of Trump holds court with his entourage, making all these ridiculous fantastical statements on no more than a whim or flight of fancy, in the background I like (hope!) to imagine some of the more sensible White House staff scurrying around behind the scenes trying their best to rein him in, providing potential caveats to the devastating detruction he trails in his wake of bluff and bluster – a bit like the King of Hearts quietly pardoning everyone behind the Queen’s back as soon as she’s lost interest in whatever she feels had caused any slight offence in the first place.

So to my mind there is absolutely no need to parody the incumbent President of the United States – for me he manages to make a prize flashy fool of himself pretty much every time he opens his precocious little pouty mouth…

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Parody

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Mean

I don’t mean to be so erratic with my blog posting. I always start out intending to post regularly, but somewhere along the line life gets in the way and sometimes my motivation drops, or I find myself with nothing to say or even worse – so much to say I’m rendered speechless and don’t even know where to begin!

Especially after a week like this week – USA mid-term elections and yet another mass shooting (California this time) and here in the UK we’re another step closer to our Government still NOT sorting out the Brex-shit situation. I feel mean and small and bitter that all I seem to do is moan and complain but it all feels so negative, negative, negative…

What does it all mean? The world feels a really scary place right now, I don’t trust the Trump administration’s twisting of the truth and deliberate loading of a dictatorship-style dice in their favour. And I don’t trust Theresa May anti-democratically riding rough-shod over parliamentary process in trying to force a dodgy deal through at all costs.

There are mean streets out there these days for all of us on both sides of the ocean, and it’s just so hard to feel poltically safe anywhere any more. There’s far too much hate and far too little love and way too much ‘othering’ of anyone not fitting a particular narrow elite view of what being ‘American’ or ‘British’ means.

OK, sending peace and love to everybody (admittedly it may be given to some more grudgingly than to others) because we all need to focus on what it means to be a part of humanity, looking for whatever shared hopes and desires make us similar instead of highlighting whatever hateful differences are perceived and believed as threatening…

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Mean 

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Point

Hmmm… I know before I even begin writing today that this is going to be a strange one, so many apologies in advance. Linda has asked us to pick up a book, open a page and point, and whatever is there on the page – word, phrase, or sentence – is what we write about.

The book I”ve been dipping in and out of for the longest time, and so is often close at hand for perusing now and again, is “Will I Ever Be Good Enough? Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers” by Karyl McBride. It’s my go-to bible when I get psychologically stuck in some dysfunctional treadmill of people-pleasing guilt-ridden angst. It reminds me that in many ways I am who I have learned to be – and if I’ve learned it, I tell myself, I can unlearn it…

So anyway, I duly picked up the book, opened it randomly, and stuck my finger somewhere in the middle of the page – page 75, if you’re interested. The sentence I landed on reads “As a child, I was told this repeatedly.” And it reminded me forcefully of the fundamental fact that words do matter – if you hear something repeated often enough and loudly enough, you start to believe it, however unfair and untrue it may be.

And so it is politically, with out-and-out lies being told both here in the UK and in the US. Both countries are in a bit of an unholy mess just now, but our embarrassing bumbling Brexit shenannigans have been overshadowed slightly by the frenetic fantasy furore created by Fuckwit 45 rallying his blustering base and firing up further fear and hatred across the already bifurcated nation that is currently the Disunited States of America.

Words are powerful beyond measure, they inform our lives from cradle to grave. Words shape our opinions, our beliefs, our very sense of self. Words enable us to make sense of the world (or not), tell our own story, create our own little bubble of reality. But sadly not everyone’s perceived reality is based in fact – and neither is every nation’s perspective of itself necessarily on par with how the rest of the world sees it.

Britain may well be in the throes of a messy divorce from the European Union, but America seems determined to divorce itself from the entire world, and split itself in two across an arbitrary colour spectrum of red and blue while it’s at it. Another Civil War, anyone? Or maybe even World War Three, if you piss off enough people across the globe? I mean, if you deliberately strike a match to light a fuse, don’t be surprised if eventually, something huge and outside of your control explodes unpredictably at the other end…

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Point    

From OMG to WTF!

I make no bones about it, I am absolutely sick to death of yelling countless profanities and howling like a banshee at the TV screen whenever the news is on – and although I’m British, my husband is American by birth so that includes both UK and US news and so provides me with double the drama, like it or not… aarrgghh…! 🙂

Anyway, I’m seriously pissed off at what passes for political debate in both our so-called democratic countries these days – I mean, the days of lies, damned lies and statistics would be a breath of fresh air compared to today’s lies, outrageous lies and not even a passing nod towards good-old honest analytical manipulation to confuse our brains! And any genuine attempt at proper factual analysis (particularly by the media) is loudly disputed, dismissed as fake news and effectively knocked for six in some kind of privileged-power-play – and that’s just not cricket , is it?

Politics should neither be a grandiose Victorian-British-Empire-fuelled parlour game like a stab-in-the-dark fusion of pinning-the-tail-on-the-Brexit-donkey while playing blind-man’s-buff with your braying parliamentary pals, nor the farcical social-media driven frenzy of a reality-TV-style competition for ratings where a privileged few elite participants elevated into a closed-minded circle-jerk club win big time while the much-maligned myriad majority on the outside lose everything that matters to humanity on the precocious whim of a self-styled ‘stable genius’ millionaire.

Running a democratic country within a global world economy is not about creating an antagonistic binary opposition that allows you to divide and rule, fostering foreign feelings of them and us, hiking the horrendous differences between the haves and have nots. Surely it should be more about working together as a galvanised group of open-minded and compassionate individuals towards the greater good of the people as a whole, regardless of your (or their) political viewpoint. Not just some of the people (usually the richest, who in a hierarchical societal structure inevitable have the most clout) but everyone – including your cleaner, your cook, your gardener and your nanny.

OK, so rant over. Sorry my stream of consciousness ran away with me today. But this kind of never-ending nightmarish nonsense is why over the last few years I’ve found myself going from occasionally muttering a disparaging ‘OMG, seriously? You’re having a laugh…’ to daily yelling a desperate ‘WTF is WRONG with people these days, where did all this vitriolic violence and hate come from?’ to the poor TV screen, day in, day out…

No wonder I’m bloody depressed, it feels to me like the whole world is going to hell in a handcart, while we all sit here watching, powerless to do anything except vote… so what are we all waiting for? If we don’t like it, start to change it the very next chance we get… inform yourself of the facts – ALL the facts, good and bad – ignore the bullshit and bite the bullet, because done right, that’s the power of democracy… 🙂

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Bone