07 October 2016

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Is freedom of speech always good? + SUNDAY meeting

Dear friends,

Our meetings will now be on SUNDAY and start at the usual time of 6:30pm
at the Centro Segoviano.

The topic for this Sunday is: Is freedom of speech always good?

Both Lola and I have written a short essay on the topic and although we
come to the same conclusion we get there from different routes.

Essay on topic: Is freedom of speech always good?

Freedom of speech is in my opinion generally good but we need to admit:
not always, as it is most necessary to be an educated person and what we
say should enrich other people.

When there are possible insults, one should be smart enough not to air
them aloud. So to use appropriate words is very important, and respect
of others, too.

Since today there are no religious authorities or philosophers that may
reach a general audience, and as it seems that ethics is not quite
widespread, politics seems to be the only field to express ideas.
D.Trump is an example of wrong doing as he doesn't respect the opponent.
He mixes up different questions and confuses the audience endlessly.
He's cheered up for being a rascall and wraps up a bunch of insults in
an uncoherent speech.

In politics all must be said with an elaborate purpose. Orators are
nowadays cheap people profiting from general ignorance.

Insults from Deputies representing a political party should not be used
to express disconformity and should be restrained by speaker in
Parlament, if not fined, for not respecting basic rules of education.

Society agreed not to restrain freedom of speech, so it may be
acceptable that anyone utters every opinion, any idea no matter how
silly, non consistent it is, the untouchable principle of freedom of
speech should be kept up, but what happens when people are not aware of
the consequences of their spoken words?

It is most likely that an inevitable self-censorship emerges to avoid
unpleasant reactions from the audience, to restrain that wonderful
freedom of speech we all want.

Freedom of judgement is a different thing, as it implies controversy
which is always necessary to follow the developement of an idea.

On the other hand there's been lately an undesirable reaction to the
unlimited freedom of media or common people who ban some presumed
corrupted people of influence, or public figure caught in some misuse of
public funds or unpaid taxes. Some defending counsels use lies and there
is a general consent to accuse liars. Truth is more difficult to find

I think that to give word to a fool is however, a way of creating noise
and lower standards of intelligence.


Madrid, 5th Oct., 2016

Is free speech always good?

Free speech is always good. But what is free speech?
Whilst human rights charters "guarantee" the right to free speech they
are very silent to what constitutes free speech. Looking at legal
systems we get an idea of the parameters of free speech. There is a real
possibility that free speech may exceed the bounds of decency. Certain
openly spoken speech can lead to incitement that in many jurisdiction is
a criminal act.

Incitement usually provokes people to cause physical harm to others or
likely to lead to physical harm. Such illegal speech might stem from
racial, political or sexual orientation. However, although the bounds of
decent free speech might be exceeded sometimes such speech is not
necessarily criminal. For example slander or libel. Causing harm to
others or likely to cause harm to others ought never to be seen as part
of free speech.

Therefore, free speech is certainly not saying what comes haphazardly to
one's mind. And it's certainly not about expressing haphazard opinions
that may influence others to cause harm. Thus shouting the proverbial
alarm word "fire" in a theatre is not free speech. But expressing the
opinion that everyone should eat chocolate and brandy cake for breakfast
is, as far as I know, not an incitement to cause harm to others. It
would be an interesting test case in a court of law to see if such an
opinion expressed openly in the diabetes ward of a hospital would
qualify as a form of "incitement likely to cause harm to others."

Free speech, therefore, occupies the centre ground from what is legal,
what is political and what is philosophically ethical. As I have already
said what is legal depends on how the courts interpret opinion from
speech provoking others to cause harm.

So what are the boundaries of free speech? I argue that the best way to
consider this question is to look at the negativity of events. Meaning
what are the political reactions to certain types of free speech? For
example if in my opinion I express distaste to the head of state's
fashion style and nothing happens; maybe create a few comments on
Facebook but that's it. In this case we can assume that there is a high
level of political tolerance to free speech. But this really doesn't
tell us much. However, if I'm arrested the following day and sent to
prison then this is telling us a lot; there is no tolerance to free
speech in the country.

But we mustn't confuse political intolerance with incitement to cause
harm. But this is where the real political debate starts. Where does
free speech end and civil disobedience begins? And finally at which
point does civil disobedience become a revolution or civil war?

It's therefore reasonable to accept that there are boundaries to free
speech, but this in itself is not free from political and philosophical
consequences. Indeed political issues also tend to be philosophical
issues. A purely philosophical moral issue is whether intentionally
telling lies is part of free speech? Of course, I don't mean
insignificant white lies but real factual lies. We know that the
350million pounds the Leave campaign insisted will be divert to the NHS
from the EU budget during the Brexit referendum in the UK was a monster
big lie. There is no such money being paid to the EU.
So does it mean that free speech must always be factual speech apart
from opinion, interpretation of the facts and extrapolating conclusions
from the facts? Indeed it does seem like it, that free speech is always
about facts. If it wasn't it would be just as divisive as political

But this also means that we need to have access to the facts. And this
implies two important principles, freedom of information and freedom to
gather information. In other words, governments must make information
available to the public. But what legitimate information can the public
have? On the one hand we don't really need the launch codes of any
nuclear arsenal, but should we be told about malfunctions of the system?

Freedom to gather information is usually a term we use for freedom of
the press and to investigate and gather information. Today we can safely
assume that although mainstream media is not controlled by the state
like Pravda used to be controlled, but the sanctity of profit over
anything else, means that what is in the public interest need not be
what is in the interest of profit.

We know that free speech is important because, as I said, it is overseen
by no less than Politics, Jurisprudence and the ever present Philosophy.
Unfortunately this interest in free speech does not mean that everyone
is interested in protecting free speech, after all free speech is a
powerful weapon.

Best Lawrence

tel: 606081813
philomadrid@gmail.com <mailto:philomadrid@gmail.com>
Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com.es/
PhiloMadrid Meeting
Meet 6:30pm
Centro Segoviano
Alburquerque, 14
28010 Madrid
Metro: Bilbao
Open Tertulia in English every
Thursdays at Triskel in c/San Vicente Ferrer 3.
Time: from 19:30 to 21h

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Is freedom of
speech always good? + SUNDAY meeting

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