[Vision2020] Freedom of expression

Paul Rumelhart godshatter at yahoo.com
Sun Dec 12 13:07:28 PST 2010

I just thought I'd weigh in here with a little diatribe of my own.

I think the freedom of an individual or group of individuals to express 
themselves is sacrosanct.  The freedom to express your opinion should be 
held dearly by everyone, if they want to live in a free society. 

There are very few limits that should be placed on speech, in my humble 
opinion, most having to do with statements of facts and not opinions.  I 
agree with libel laws, for example.  On the other hand, I disagree with 
obscenity laws probably universally.  If groups want to get together and 
form islands of information in which certain ideas are suppressed, I'm 
for that, too, as long as other options exist.  For example, if someone 
wanted to create a separate internet targeted at children that enforced 
it's own censorship, I would be OK with that.  If parents were OK with 
their kids surfing unrestrained on the Big Bad Internet, then they 
should be allowed to do so without repercussions if their child ends up 
on a porn site or a site about Islam or whatever your favorite boogey 
man is.

As an aside, this is why I support Wikileaks.  Our government works *for 
us*.  They should only have secrets in very narrowly defined areas for 
very specific reasons.  And no, "they shouldn't see it because it will 
make our leaders look like hypocrites" does not qualify.  The people 
behind Wikileaks are exposing secrets that shouldn't be secrets in a 
reasonable world.

According to my views on freedom of expression, political correctness is 
a disease that should be purged from the  world.  Instead of helping, it 
just sweeps the problem under the rug.  If a person hates blacks because 
of an incident when they were younger, or because they just don't like 
people who are "different", then they should be free to express that 
opinion.  Others will likely disagree, and a dialogue will probably 
ensue, but this is healthy.  This tendency by people to shun these sorts 
of debates is unhealthy for society (in my opinion, anyway). 

In an effort to totally ostracize myself from the community, I might as 
well go ahead and add that I also disagree with some of the child 
pornography laws as they exist on the books, as they relate to freedom 
of expression.  These laws have been expanded so much under the guise of 
"save the children" that they are insane.  In Australia, one man was 
arrested for having downloaded a drawing of Bart Simpson engaged in 
having sex, and was convicted under that countries child pornography 
laws.  In Iowa, another man was arrested for possessing manga comics 
from Japan that contained drawings of children having sex.  Was Bart 
Simpson actually hurt by this?  Or the fictional Japanese schoolgirl?  I 
can understand the prohibition against possession of real child porn 
(because it creates a market for such things) though I don't agree with 
it completely.  I think it should be a prohibition against 
*distribution* of child pornography, not simply "possession", if for no 
other reason than people might be likely to hand it over to law 
enforcement without the fear of going to jail themselves.  Prohibition 
against "virtual porn" is crazy and needs to be fought.

So what does this mean to us?  It means that if something offends you, 
you should suck it up and learn to live with it.  Grow some thicker skin 
and see if you can find a sense of humor on sale somewhere.  Freedom of 
expression, if that's a concept you agree with, has to trump "freedom 
from being offended".  The minute you allow the idea that some things 
are just too horrible to be read or viewed, then you've just thrown the 
concept of freedom of expression out the window.  Now you'll have a 
slippery slope where the definition of "too horrible" tends to match the 
ideals of the people who are in power at any given moment.

The odd irony for people who really believe in freedom of expression is 
that they most often end up defending things that they might vehemently 
disagree with.  They defend the speech of people they simply don't like 
or don't agree with, and they defend speech they are personally offended 
by because the speech that everyone agrees with is not threatened.

Very little offends me, but even if I was offended by the NSA website, 
which I wasn't, then I would still be fighting for their right to be as 
inane with their metaphors as they wish.  I applaud them, really, for 
not rushing to change the page in an orgy of political correctness.


More information about the Vision2020 mailing list