“Free Speech?”


In light of the awful things, which have happened in France over the last week, it is worthwhile as a secular, humanist to say how abhorrent and inhumane these acts were. They are not acts of religious zeal but are acts of terror and criminality. They are designed to cause a reaction and not a proactive response. It is the proactive response which we as a society should be measuring and putting in place and we look to our institutional leaders for this.

Reactive behaviours are not what are required at the moment.

But let us examine first the call for “Free Speech”. The fact is we do not have free speech because this is always constrained by the law and the law states quite clearly that if our speech or actions incite hatred or violence then we are not permitted to say or act in accordance with how we wish to behave.

So people exercising their right to free speech also have a responsibility to stay within the law.

Free Speech is also not a part of a society, which allows institutions to withhold things from us through D notices and prevents lawful disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act as frequently, happens. Thousands stated “Je Suis Charlie” one man in France said something different on social media and was promptly arrested. Who then does “Free Speech” apply to? Just those we wish to hear?

I believe Tony Blair once said, “The worse thing I ever did was to allow the introduction of the Freedom of Information Act”. That one statement encapsulates what our political leaders really think about us the electorate who put them in power over us.

It is noteworthy that after each terrible terrorist event our political leaders decrease our freedoms through legislation. 9/11 in the USA and 7/7 in UK are all examples of increases in legislation, which impacted upon our civil liberties as individuals, and now once again, Cameron is proposing to legislate against social media, a free space area for individuals to share ideas.

The facts are, that there are about 3.3 million people in UK who follow Islam as a religion, the estimate is about 300 individuals are suspected by the security services of being involved in terrorist activity from that group.

So, 300 people are holding 63 million of UK citizens to ransom and subject to increasing loss of freedom and free speech and the reaction of our highly intellectual and experienced political leaders is more legislation against us the majority. Increased legislation means lazy legislative practitioners. We have ample laws to deal with this threat and so our protective services must work harder to protect us.

There was a security failure in France, it never needed more legislation, just better practice.

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