I find it really interesting that the Freedom of Speech debate sparked by the shootings in the office of a French magazine is still rumbling on. What I have observed is the discussion between those who believe they have the right to offend and those who feel offence for offence sake is not freedom of expression. I fall into the latter group.
I wonder how many of those who marched, or would have marched if they could, in Paris last Sunday would also have marched if those who had protested against same sex marriage had been shot at, and there had been deaths.
I wonder how many of them uphold Frankie Boyle’s right to make crass comments about children with Down’s Syndrome. How many of them champion Katie Hopkins, and her comments about nurse Pauline Cafferkey being a “sweaty jock ebola bomb”.
This week we have found the same people berating the Pope for, as they represent it, advocating violence. I am astounded that such intelligent commentators cannot discern between the words ‘would’ and ‘should’, the alternative is that they are deliberately misrepresenting, well perish the thought!
Freedom of speech is correct, there is no doubt about that but if you accept the freedom to offend, which is quite different, you have to accept responsibility for the reaction it causes. Obviously murder is not acceptable under any circumstance and while I would deplore the French magazine’s blatant offending, this does not mean I side with the killers, I do not.(before you start)
My observation is that people uphold their own freedom of expression, but not those of others. It’s not uncommon for such people to tell someone their opinions/experience/tastes are wrong. I was once told my liking for the overture of The Magic Flute was simply because I did not understand Schumann. I’ve never understood that comment either. When critic Roy Proctor likened baritone Matthew Worth’s portrayal of Don Giovanni to a used car salesman I said I could see why and how Worth would do this,using traits imposed on such characters on TV. I spent half an hour being told I could not see this. When after all this time I would not acquiesce I was told I was being obtuse “which is offensive”. My apology for the perceived offence was not received with grace, which was very possibly my fault.
Those who say they have the right to offend are often the ones who say “I didn’t cause offence, you chose to take it”. Perhaps they might believe this, but they have a duty to take responsibility for their actions and the consequences that arise. When they can do that, they’ll understand freedom of speech.