What is Freedom of Speech?
According to Dictionary.com, it is
This has been weighing heavily on my mind of late, because I was forced to delete and block several users on the work Facebook page over the last few days. If you know the page, you’ll have seen that I work for the Government, and when you put the words “Government” and “Freedom of Speech” together, it’s usually not in favour of the state.
I have been accused of censoring free speech and having a heavy hand in promoting Government’s agenda.
Please allow me to explain why I politely disagree with that sentiment.
Last Friday, I posted a press release from the Prime Minister – regarding his trip to Brussels where, among other duties, he met with the Chairman of World Rugby. As many of you may already know, the Manu Samoa has been all over the news recently. I won’t explain as it’s been well-covered thus far.
Almost immediately, the press release post was slammed with some rather disturbing comments from users. Aside from a smattering of awful profanity, there were racist taunts, gay slurs, accusations of thievery and other unflattering words I don’t care to repeat. All over rugby.
As a matter of principle, I don’t interfere with user comments or discussions – after all, the internet is a veritable feast of expressive freedom, and as someone who enjoys this freedom herself, I wouldn’t want to be blocked from a site or a page I wish to access.
So I sat there and read every comment. After a few minutes, I found myself cringing whenever my phone showed a new notification.
I began to have visions of the page ending up like the cesspool of cruel and childish banter that is the Palemene o Samoa Facebook page.
I tried to justify the comments to myself.
“They’re allowed to say whatever they like!”
“Freedom of speech”
“Just leave it, they will eventually move on to another page”
I felt like a battered housewife, trying to make myself feel better about my inaction. I was allowing the bullies to spread their poison. Effectively giving them a voice by doing nothing.
Then it hit me. Why am I protecting them?
I couldn’t think of a single scenario where I would allow anyone to speak that way to me, my father, my mother, my sister, my brother or my Prime Minister.
So I deleted and I blocked.
There have been supportive comments about what I did. But as expected, there are those who do not agree with any censorship whatsoever.
I get it. I really do.
What I don’t get, and I don’t accept, is the freedom of speech you demand to cover the racist taunts, anti-gay slurs, uttering insulting words and profanity when you don’t agree with someone or something.
If you think you can say such vile things to the Prime Minister’s face, then you gladly accept someone saying such things to your father or your mother.
My point on the page is this – you are free to say whatever you like about whomever you like, as long as you don’t name-call or swear.
Stick to the issue. Back yourself up with facts or ask compelling questions. We may all learn a thing or two from what you have to say. And isn’t that the point of social media and social networking?
Wikipedia says that “a relationship over a computerized social networking service can be characterized by context, direction, and strength. The content of a relation refers to the resource that is exchanged.”
So what is the resource you wish to exchange with your peers or your community?
For me – I want to see some compelling questions, some smart debate, some provocative discussion that will make for some meaningful dialogue with whomever is around you or around me. I want to get something more out of my exchanges than a feeling of absolute disgust, shame, mild amusement or worst of all, apathy.
I don’t believe in censorship but I believe in common courtesy. We’re not yet lost to the faceless void of the 21st century’s developments. We are still family. We are still a community. We are still a great country.
Samoans purport to be God-fearing Christians who defend their honour and the honour of their families with passion and pride. Respect is supposed to be a huge part of our culture. The very fabric of our society is held together by our mutual respect for each other. Seems we also take pride in our hypocrisy as well.
So please……. Disagree! Argue against! Dislike! Do as you please if you feel so strongly. Just remember that when you’ve put down your smart phone, or switched off your computer screen – you’re not a faceless name on a screen. You’re the culmination of thousands of years of evolution and the most recent in a line of your ancestors.
So what do you wish to put out in to the world?