There’s a campaign that we often hear about in this modern world of the fight for freedom of speech. And to be quite honest as the title of this post suggests I’m cynical of it.
That isn’t to say I don’t believe in it. Because I strongly do. But I can’t help thinking that it’s a ploy to return the world to a place of prejudice at every corner towards people in minority groups. When exactly have any of the people campaigning for freedom of speech ever said for example, “If you believe people of the same race getting together is wrong you should have the right to say it” or “If you believe cis people are not their gender you should have the right to say it”. They seem to be campaigning from my perspective for negative things to be said about people in minority groups and in minority situations and never about majority groups and in majority situations. This is why I find it often very difficult to support the campaign because at heart, I don’t believe it is freedom of speech they are fighting for.
I’m a kind of a person who believes that everyone in both minority and majority groups is valid but if somebody believed either way that that wasn’t the case I would completely fight for their freedom to say that. But that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t challenge them on those views. It doesn’t mean I have to like them for those views. I’m noticing a slight trend lately towards the “keep your mouth shut and be polite” even if someone is speaking about having prejudiced views or you know that they do. It can be very suffocating if you’re a person like me who is passionate about their views. Often you are on your own in being ok with bringing up the issue. There may be one or two people like you but often there isn’t. Why? Because a lot of people like to stay neutral in social situations. They see it as conflict and trouble.
A lot of us live in a democracy. If two people with opposing views can’t sit down and have a calm debate on issues they feel passionate about, then where does that leave humankind? What often results from a situation that could have been two people getting their point across and then having a cup of tea together after becomes carnage. If you dare even utter the sentence “I think you’re prejudiced” it turns into a mess of “you shouldn’t have said that”, “ah, they don’t mean it in a prejudiced way”, “you can’t call people that”. And maybe it’s just me but isn’t that an attempt to take away my freedom of speech? I don’t actually let out my views very often in social situations for that reason. I’ve seen a lot of people who have honest views even in a calm way be isolated for daring to speak their truth including by people in groups that they are actually standing up for which is incredibly ironic.
There is also this idea that you are trying to change people when you disagree with their view. First of all, I have enough respect for the person I would be debating with to not think they would be weak-headed enough to change their views because of me. The people that say that clearly think they must be. Secondly I don’t exactly think I have that much influence over people! And lastly if I was out to change someone’s views I would go about it a lot more diplomatically than just being honest about what I think. People are more inclined after all to change views with a soft-softy approach than an honest approach. All I want in a situation like that is to put my own point across but it seems to be very hard for people to believe that’s all a person wants to do. Discourse is great. And uncensored discourse is brilliant. As long as both parties are calm, I don’t believe it’s right to tell people how they should speak in any discourse situation.
But I’m cynical of the motives of those involved in campaigning for freedom of speech. If it was genuinely a movement for freedom of speech, all types of freedom of speech would be included not just the middle ground like my views which are positive about both minority and majority groups and the views of people who feel negative about minority groups but also those who feel negative about majority groups and those who feel negative about both. When they don’t say that I don’t believe them and I don’t believe their motives. If their tactics were different and they were sincere with those tactics my feelings would be completely different. The question for me is not between freedom of speech and the feelings of people in minority groups when faced with prejudices about who they are as is often the debate put across. For me, it’s more about not singling out minority groups to be spoken of freely in a negative way by people in majority groups but rather allowing both minority and majority groups to speak freely in a negative way about each other and campaigning for both minority and majority groups’ right to do so. Are majority groups that special that they can’t be spoken about negatively like everyone else?