It’s amazing how in the past one could get away with saying more than what one can say today. We have technology like none that ever was before. We live in a society where rights are been equalised more and more each decade, kind of. And society, culture and communication is continuously changing right before our very eyes. So, with that said, why is it that the freedoms regarding speech that we once knew have changed quite radically over the past few years?
The issue I have found is that every time someone says something that another person does not like and a court case is brought about to resolve the dispute, certain freedoms begin to be pulled back and rules safeguarding people from certain things expressed verbally are entrenched into society. A good example of this is located within the link found at the conclusion of this paragraph. In this instance, two journalists working for the ABC mentioned the name of the woman who was the victim of a sexual assault, which is a blatant disregard of the law. So, because of two bad apples (who were subsequently fired), the law cracked down harder on those who use freedom of speech to say what they wish.
Although this article is a few years old now, the information inside reigns true to this very day, and there is a great quote from Nicholas Pullen which perfectly summarises my fears for the future in regards to free speech.
Adjunctively, there are the rules that journalists are forced to comply with. This however is only the beginning of my next argument, which revolves around blogging. Those who blog are now being visualised as stereotypical journalists; they communicate to large audiences and motivate those who read their posts and provide to them arguments which can alter and change their opinions. This in itself is what journalists have the potential of achieving, hence, the reason behind why government agencies are considering the crack down on web based content. At the moment, the law is still yet to catch up with technology, which alone is quite ridiculous, but when it does, what will bloggers be prevented from expressing online?
There was a time when you could walk up to a person and say what you wanted without them becoming so unbelievably taxed at your commentary. You could walk up to a woman and simply say ‘you look very beautiful today’ without any ulterior motive, agenda or bias. Now, if you say such a thing you are likely to be accused of being a sexual deviant and a few seconds later find a pair of hands around your neck.
Worse still, you can gently tap a woman on the shoulder as a gesture of motivation when she is about to, I don’t know, provide a verbal presentation to a large audience, and in the same second find yourself accused of sexual harassment!
There was once a time when you could say to a person ‘I think you’re an idiot’ and a few seconds later laugh it off, but today, you could say the exact same thing and suddenly find yourself being hauled into court with the person who you were just laughing and talking to a few seconds earlier, who is now suing you for damages done to his/her name.
You could in the past say to a person ‘I hate your rotten guts’, and today say the exact same thing and be accused of being a psychopathic murdering scumbag.
When do privacy laws that relegate freedom of speech obsolete become ludicrously unnecessary?
The major problem is that the complainant holds a large majority of the power, whilst the defendant, a.k.a, the accused, has very little. There are so many legal avenues against free speech, whilst there are few protecting it, truth and the public’s right to know being the primary excuses often utilised, and you would imagine in a society that promotes it there would be many more avenues for its protection.
To ensure prosecution of the defendant, all that needs to be proven is that damage was indeed caused by what was said or done, which is very easily provable in the eyes of the plaintiff, leaving the defense with little leeway, because even if they did not necessarily mean to maliciously cause harm, the plaintiff is immediately seen as the victim for they are the party expressing how they were violated.
I guess on one hand, free speech is a liberty that people very much enjoy. But the right to privacy and other such laws that protect people from this freedom are just as important. A person who has never had their privacy invaded may not completely understand the importance of such a law, and upon this happening, their ideals in regards to the freedoms they once trusted may be considerably tarnished. My point is that yes, we do need protection to ensure that our private lives are not explored; to ensure we are not violated verbally or literally by others; to ensure our reputations are not destroyed by slanderous material; to protect our families and the ones we love so dearly – but at what cost? We may turn around one day and find the entire conception on free speech to be entirely extinct.
Just because we live in a society that allows free speech, does not mean that we allowed to speak freely; quite the conundrum.