Fandango’s Provocative Question: Freedom of Speech

Another provocative question this week from Fandango:

β€œDo 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!Β  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…

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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… 😦

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…! πŸ™‚

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… πŸ™‚

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Bone