Imagine a different world.
A world where everyone considers everything they do and say as to what impact it has on other people – and then they censor what they do/say based on whether there is someone, anyone, out there who will find it distatseful or, God forbid, offensive.
It’s a kind of utopia. Everyone will be nice and courteous. Nothing will be said that will ‘hurt our feelings’. Nothing, quite obviously, will be said in rage and, as a consequence, there will be no anger.
Without anger, there will be no need to defend anything and without the need for defence, there will be no war.
And everyone will live happily ever after.
I mean, surely, that’s what we all want, sin’t it?
The problem with this, of course, is that the term ‘free speech’ becomes redundant. If you are only free to say nice things, what’s the point?
I try to be nice to people, espcially people I know. A friend I haven’t seen for two years or so was told by me that she ‘looked fabulous’. She did – but that’s not really the point. I am, of course, able to say ‘You look tired’ but a) it wasn’t true and b) I don’t think it’s very nice to say that. So I don’t. She’s changed her hair. It’s now short and blonde. I could have said a) your hair looks awful or b) you look like a prostitute. But I didn’t because it wouldn’t have been true and, anyway, it’s not a nice thing to say. Instead, I said ‘Your hair looks lovely’, which it did.
So, was I using ‘free speech’ and saying what I felt? Well, yes but, equally, even if they hadn’t been true, I may have said something like that anyway. And, at that point, I am no longer using ‘free speech’.
But, why not? Didn’t people fight for this right? And if people laid their lives down for this right, why the hell ain’t I using it?
But what if I DID? What then?
Well, most probably, old friends would, suddenly, be a little unfriendly. Now, if I didn’t care, that wouldn’t really be a problem, I guess.
And, at what point would something I said become genuinely offensive? And how do you measure offensive in the first place?
Does the feeling of ‘That’s not very nice’ constitute offence? What if something said makes you feel like bursting into tears? Does that make it offensive?
What if I made some joke about a person who had recently died? A sick joke? I mean, a really sick joke about someone who died very recently that I didn’t know? Well, the dead person wouldn’t be offended. But their family? There again, how would their family know if I just told this very sick joke to my friends who live thousands of miles away from the family?
But, what if one of MY firends was offended by it? There again, how can they really be offended. Are they just saying they’re offended because they think my joke is really sick and not something one should say?
And what is the difference between telling a really sick joke to my friends from saying, for example, that I’m going to blow an airport up should my flight be cancelled for the fourth time, when I’m really angry. I mean, we all say things in the heat of the moment. Things said in anger aren’t really meant.
How many times have you said, ‘Oh I could kill so-and-so’ but, in reality, and, even given a weapon and anonimity, you would NEVER do such a thing. It’s an expression to mean you are REALLY pissed off with a person.
‘They should just bomb the place’ – another expression which I’ve heard said because someone doesn’t like what they’ve heard of about or seen at a place. It doesn NOT mean that they would actually do it. And, if the murder or bombing were to actually take place, most normal people would be horrified that they had said it.
After all, these are just words, however tasteless and disgusting they may be.
And, if we go back to our utopian idea of having a world where no one says anthing that will offend anyone else – what kind of monstrous world have we created?
And yet, this is what ‘they’ seem to be trying to achieve.
And it would be as boring as hell or worse. Even if I don’t agree, or even like, what people say and even if I am outraged by some of the stuff that’s said or done in this world – at least it is premitted to be said or done.
Anyway, for more of the same, read this little article.
Let’s just say that mob rule is the real offensive thing here. And even without the prison sentence, I think that, maybe, Matthew Woods has learnt a valuable lesson – as we all do when we are young and say things that may be considered offensive or crass. Most of us, nearly all of us, don’t go to jail for it, though!