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Freedom of speech and freedom from consequences July 16, 2019

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

I was entertained by this from a Dublin taxi driver in the IT recently…

Sir, – I believe free speech is dead and buried in this country.
I am a Dublin-based taxi driver, and as such I hear a lot of comments and opinions expressed by my customers in relation to various topics.
I have learned through my own experience never to engage in such conversation, as it can be detrimental.
I would like to give you some examples of why I hold this view.
While listening to a conversation regarding the gay marriage proposal, I was utterly frowned upon for expressing the view that I would be voting against it.
I expressed a similar view point that I would vote against the abortion referendum, and was ridiculed for having done so.
Regarding the Brexit debate, at the absolute insistence of my customer, I dared to share my thoughts with her, and declared I was a strong Brexit supporter.
This lady, having literally thrown the fare at me, and abusing me by calling me every name she could think of , left my car in an extreme rage. She then stood outside the car, and proceeded to perform Nazi salutes towards me.
I had informed this customer twice, prior to her insistence, that I do not talk about politics or religion. – Yours, etc,

Some interesting responses after that to the letter =- for example the person who writes that while sharing none of his views:

Ultimately, in any democracy, respect for the views of our opponents is important.
I believe that pillorying the likes of [the letter writer] is unhelpful, and so give him credit for publicising his experiences. – Yours, etc,

And another:

Sir, – Paul O’Beirne seems to believe that the right to freedom of speech carries with it a right to uncritical agreement with one’s opinion. No such right has ever existed, nor should it. Free speech applies not only to your letter writer but also to those who would disagree with him. – Yours, etc,

It seems to me that the last letter gets to the heart of this. The right to expression is one thing. I’ve no issue with anyone articulating a legal opinion in a reasonable manner, whether I agree with it or not. But that right to expression doesn’t mean that the opinion has to be agreed with. I’m not certain that throwing a fare back or making Nazi salutes is necessarily the most cogent response to an opinion one disagrees with but the presumption that articulating an opinion in and of itself means people cannot or should not respond seems utopian – as well as an infringement on the right of expression of others.

It reminds me of hearing about other sites (ASF’s for example) where some have demanded access to respond to the thoughts of those who run them. This betrays a significant lack of understanding of the processes at work. There’s no compunction on anyone to offer a right to reply in the context of social media or to engage with others. That’s a right that is variable and determined by those whose site it is. And the idea that this response is a right is very curious. The point is I or anyone can start a site and again within legal limits say pretty much anything. But I’ve no right to demand a response and there’s no right for others to have their responses articulated on the site. Nor can I prevent someone from setting up another site where they fisk this site. Though why someone would bother is a different matter.

In an odd way the person writing the first letter gets it – they don’t articulate opinions that may draw negative responses because… well… they don’t want to draw negative responses. This isn’t an infringement of their right – it’s their taxi after all – they can pretty much do what they want. Rather it is that, perhaps unconsciously, they wish to control the nature of the response. Again that’s fine if they are happy to put the energy into it. I don’t think I would. But they cannot reasonably claim to be surprised if they articulate an opinion that is controversial or contentious and that generates a vehement response.

And this works other ways too. Those of us who have been in taxis and heard sub-racist or misogynistic talk from those driving them (a minority in my experience but not unknown to many of us) will know the times we’ve kept schtum because we need to be somewhere – or stopped the car early in order to get out.


1. EWI - July 16, 2019

You don’t really understand how both Facebook and YouTube are serious paths to radicalisation until you’ve heard repetition of the most batshit propaganda off both sites by family and friends.

Time for some serious ‘Praxism’, WbS. When’s the CLR YouTube channel appearing?

Liked by 2 people

WorldbyStorm - July 16, 2019

Agreed – definitely paths to radicalization – ah a YouTube channel – hmmmm


Joe - July 16, 2019

No. I say CLR should go back to photocopied sheets to be distributed in pubs and other venues. The internet was a fad.

Liked by 4 people

WorldbyStorm - July 16, 2019

That’s a great idea. 🙂


Daniel Rayner O'Connor - July 17, 2019

To taxi drivers as well, perhaps?

Liked by 1 person

WorldbyStorm - July 17, 2019

Without question!


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