Everyone has an opinion on the subject of freedom of speech or expression and naturally so do I. I am an absolutist when it comes to free speech, i.e, everyone should be able to say whatever they want. If you disagree with this opinion, I would like to request you to read through this post with an open mind and you can try to change my opinion in the comments section.
This is a topic I feel really strongly towards because I genuinely find it absurd that people are stopped from saying what they think. I mean if a thought occurs to you, it means that it has come from some sort of truth, it’s your personal truth, and it may be wrong in the larger scheme of things but you deserve the right to put it out. And the person correcting you should also have the same right, hence creating a meaningful discourse. In fact, most free speech supporters like me, at one point or another, would’ve come across this quote by Voltaire:
“I may not agree with what you say but I shall fight till death your right to say them”.
Okay, I know that most people in my friend circle and the people who will read this post will also say that they are absolutists when it comes to free speech. But I know for a fact that when they talk about free speech, they only mean that in terms of art or progressive thoughts. But I’m willing to bet that most of them will forget all free speech values once someone who’s inherently not a good person, like Salman Khan, says something horrible like “I felt like a raped woman”.
Now, here’s my take on this whole thing and this applies even to people who give hate speech like several religious/political leaders. A lot of people wanted to put Salman Khan behind bars or force him to apologize. This is the only place where I have an issue. And just to be clear, I absolutely loathe Salman Khan and I think he’s total Human Garbage but that’s my opinion and because that’s my opinion and I can express it, unfortunately, Salman can express his thoughts too. Are those thoughts pathetic and devoid of any logic? Yes. But one cannot throw him in jail for just that (One could throw him in jail for some other things, but lets not go there). My point is that the whole idea of freedom of speech is not just restricted to what you might believe in, on the contrary, it extends on to what the person opposing you believes in as well. I know that a celebrity saying that might make victims feel bad but unfortunately, that’s not a crime. I’m just being the devil’s advocate here.
See, it’s extremely easy to fight for free speech when you’re defending the rights of your favorite artists, film makers, activists, authors, etc. But you simply cannot have double standards when someone says something opposing your views. Because that would make your previous argument null and void. Let Salman or Zakir Naik spew whatever garbage they want to, beat them in an argument with facts. In fact I love that Salman said whatever he did, gives me another reason to hate on him. Now I know what he thinks for real and not sanitized bullshit that his P.R company wants us to hear.
The thing is, when you restrict someone from saying something, anything, you’re not helping anyone. Simply because you’ve not killed the idea, you’ve just shut your ears towards it. Let the ideas come out and then take them head on if you believe that they are so wrong. And people are going to communicate their ideas, whether they do it openly or publicly is the only question. A meaningful discourse will only occur if people say whatever they feel like.
Now, I know a lot of you must be wondering, “But what about hate speech”? Well, the point is that there’s a difference between Hate speech and being an accessory to a riot.
Hate Speech is:
“Aren’t XYZ people just terrible? I hate them”.
Being an accessory to a riot, on the other hand is:
“Here are your swords and guns. There are the people you need to kill. Do your worst”.
Therein lies the difference.
My opinion is that if, say someone makes a film supporting racism, you make another one against it. Or write against it. Or talk against it. Just don’t ask for it to be taken down, because that defeats the purpose. Think of it this way, if people don’t publicly state what they support or don’t support, even if it’s horrible, you’ll never have a chance to change their minds with your facts. Don’t lose out on that opportunity, you might be saving the world from the next Hitler or Stalin and you wouldn’t even know it. Don’t make such people think that they are victims of oppression because you are stopping them from voicing their opinions.
P.S – I will soon write a post about freedom of expression which is specific to art and why Films, plays, books, comedians etc. deserve to portray whatever they want.