independent

Monday 24 June 2019

'Freedom of speech' being used to silence opinion

JOE LEOGUE

YOU know the drill by now. Some public figure makes controversial comments on air or in print and all hell breaks loose.

Twitter lights up with indignation, angry comments on online, news sites and forums are posted in their hundreds and phone-in shows are inundated with angry calls and texts rallying in disagreement with whatever the wind-up merchant du jour has said.

Yet, as night follows day, the backlash to the backlash follows the reaction to the controversy.

The old classic 'PC brigade' line is trotted out first and it is inevitable that before long those who support the controversial opinion are claiming that freedom of speech is under attack.

It has happened time and time again across a number of debates on social issues, and is an exercise in doublespeak that would have Orwell wishing he'd thrown it into '1984'.

The principle of 'freedom of speech' is now being used to silence opposition to unpopular opinions.

Criticism of such opinions is being distorted by the vocal minority and presented as an attempt to gag them.

This alleged silencing is almost always attributed to liberals who go against conservative opinion.

"They're all for freedom of speech until they hear something they don't like" is a sentiment regularly spun by conservatives. But bear this in mind: when was the last time you heard an Irish liberal send a solicitor's letter over something said in the media that they didn't like?

When was the last time a media outlet paid out tens of thousands of euro to someone with a liberal viewpoint because they threatened legal action?

So who is silencing who?

Freedom of speech means that you have a right to express your opinion as you see it. It also means that those who don't agree with you can call you on it.

Corkman

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