Disclaimer: The views expressed within this article are entirely the author’s own and are not attributable to Wessex Scene as a whole.
While it would make sense for free speech to obtain certain consequences, it all too often seems the case that those who really should abide by respectful language, don’t and aren’t receiving the appropriate ramifications for their actions. Furthermore, many times people are unrightfully punished for the kind of free speech that should be encouraged, which again makes it a rather questionable conclusion.
First, let’s start with why it cannot be true that free speech always incurs the necessary consequences. Take Donald Trump for instance. I don’t think I need to highlight every single dangerous and yet influential slur and offensive comment he has ever made, as I’m fairly sure everyone has been rightly disgusted by at least one. His entire career has been made off the back of other people whom he then publicly mocks. Somehow, Trump was able to run a successful company and come away very well-off despite his vulgar behaviour. He then set off to run another successful enterprise where he became the President of one of the largest and most influential countries in the world. Not only was he offensive to his own people, but he slaughtered both Mexico and China (even before COVID-19) with accusations of being spies, ‘our enemy,’ and those who are ‘hellbent’ on destroying the US economy and nation. This is completely inappropriate to say, not even to mention this came from the President of the United States! If freedom of speech really incurred the consequences that he were meant to, then actual movements would have been made to remove this person from a position of power. Alas, this did not happen.
On the other hand, there are a multitude of laws throughout the world that eradicate the opportunity for those in marginalised groups to share their own truths. Homosexuality, for example, is banned in many countries and protesting for gay rights could land you in a very upsetting situation. But this shouldn’t be the case. Spreading the news of people being different and that tolerance is good should not be banned. Regardless of religious or cultural reasoning, it should not follow that people who use their speech to promote acceptance are punished for doing so. While it may offend those who don’t believe certain things should be acceptable, there is no reason, truly, for people to be punished just because their views oppose yours.
This may seem like a double-edged sword – where do you draw the line on what is good to talk about and what is bad? Who would be the judge, the jury and executioner in terms of punishing those that abuse freedom of speech? What is correct for some people would be incorrect for others, and it would be wrong for me to push my views onto those who so strongly disagree. But if this were the case, and all free speech is used for the sole purpose of offending, then it should be a full wipe of consequences for those who abuse the ideal. It shouldn’t be dictated by who that person is and how much money or influence they hold.
Freedom of speech shouldn’t necessarily mean the ensuing of consequence. For those who use their words and actions to offend and upset people should be receiving the appropriate comeuppance, but those who try to use their speech freely to spread tolerance should perhaps be given the same excuse as a rich, white men.