Censorship?

This was first posted by me as a comment on Mike Johnston’s Blog a few years ago. Sadly it still holds true, hence I dug it out and edited a bit.

 

You are not entitled to your opinion, you are entitled to your INFORMED opinion. [Harlan Ellison]

For a few years now the word ‘censorship’ is hurled around as a catch all argument. It has apparently lost all meaning.

First of all, if it is your house you have the right to tell your guests what may not be said around you – everybody in any civilised, open society has this right. It does not preclude others from having their own opinions:

‘I’m entitled to my opinion!’

‘It is your assumption that we are entitled to it as well that is irritating.’

Internet’s various forms of public interaction with no accountability [it is often anonymous] has led to a redefinition of the term ‘censorship’ I find highly dubious and dangerous. People use insults, ad homninem attacks, bad grammar, worse choice of words, are all out gross and impolite under the guise of free speech.

Free speech never came free of any duty, it is based upon consideration, sense, reason and considerate-ness. You can state facts ‘matter-of-factly’, even blunt, simply because no opinion in the world will change a fact.It is obviously quite different with opinions and matters of taste. They have to be reasoned, if only by ‘hey, that’s how I feel’. Still, nobody else has to share them.

If I don’t like a specific person’s photos, it’s a matter of taste, not fact. Hence, a proclamation about my feelings has to take this into account; ‘her photos suck’ does not do this, it is an absolute, an opinion hiding behind the structure of a factual claim.

Since people have come to abuse their right to free speech – mind, this is a Western-centric viewpoint, folks in totalitarian countries still know the high value of free speech – they came up with the ‘censorship’ accusation. Well, try to behave and nobody else has to edit your comments.

Just think what would happen if you say something inconsiderate to the guy standing before you [yes, he is a bully of a man] …

And how would you react if somebody comes up to you hurling insults into your face? From Hollywood actioneers I can deduce it would lead to something close to World War 3 … at least in the US of A.

A lot of countries, particularly those folloing the Western Civilisation paradigm based upon the Enlightenment, allow their citizens to publish their opinion – even completely rubbish ones – in some way. Everybody can open up a blog or get his piece to press. Apart from some very specific calls for action or inhuman opinions everything is allowed, including criticism of an opinion!

Notes:
1. dialogue from British SF show Blake’s 7.
dialogue from British SF show Blake’s 7.

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