Limit to Free Speech

Jacinda’s sudden exit from the PM-ship has upset me.  Not the exit itself but the underlying stink of the hate mail she’d drawn.

I’ve always favoured free speech.  It’s a no-brainer.  In a free, democratic, non-fascist society, folk should be able to have any opinion about anything they like, and be free to express it.

Americans, of course, enshrine that right in their First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech …” The UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights says, in its Article 19, “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
Free-thinking individuals would have no problem with either of these, nor with New Zealand’s own (1990) Bill of Rights’ parroting of the UN’s, almost verbatim.

End of story?
It’s not provisional, nor conditional.  A right is a right, surely. 

No, sorry.  It’s not so straightforward.  My thinking is evolving on this one, and here’s why:
1. A right is a right as long as it doesn’t impinge on the rights of someone else; and
2. A right is a privilege and comes with a responsibility.  A responsibility to use that right responsibly.  And maturely.

People are people, right?  And every human being has a right to be respected for who she is, regardless of his foibles or quirks, beliefs, attitudes … and (let’s start listing a few other challenging miens) their ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation – or the rugby team they support.
This is where I’ve landed:  you can hate someone’s ideas or what they stand for.  Or their age or their social status or their religious affiliation or their rugby team.  And express it – preferably with cogent, well-informed (and formed) arguments. But not the person themselves.  No. As co-passengers in this waka of life, we maturely respect (nay, love?) them for who they are.  I don’t have to agree with their opinions or their life choices; probably won’t, in most cases, because mine are pretty screwy too.  But they deserve my respect as fellow travellers.
I cherish the right to speak freely, to express my opinions – strongly – about their choices, etc; against their choices.  But not to express hatred of the individual.  He/she is made – created – in the image of God (Genesis 1:27).  On that basis alone, he/she has my respect.

I feel ashamed of the immature, faceless offal that charades as free speech on the Internet.  Much of it is so unjust, ill formed and expressed, and plain wrong.
You are most welcome to hate the policies of Jacinda Ardern, but you are not entitled to hate her, or express such – to attack her as a human being.  Or anyone else.  Free speech doesn’t extend that far.  Free speech is your right, yes, but it obliges you to use it maturely, and to respect the person. And if it takes legislation to establish that, then so be it. You asked for it.

Play the ball, not the woman, or man.  You have not that right.
Promote your ideas.  Challenge mine.  Disagree with fad topics and woke-ness or alt-right conspiracy theories.  Debate maturely.  But play the ball.

So say I.
Your opinions on this blog are welcome, but expressions of personal hate or attack are irrelevant and sub-human.

One thought on “Limit to Free Speech

  1. Totally agree – Jacinda has very unfairly borne the brunt of some very brutal and personal verbal lashings and threats. We need to stand against that kind of abuse and demonstrate how to lovingly and respectfully exercise our right to disagree if/when we do.
    Keep up the great work!


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