Jonathan Eida | Opinion
Free speech remains one of the most controversial issues of our time. Unfortunately, more and more pressure is being put on our institutions and platforms to curtail people’s rights to put forward differing opinions. It should not have to be this way. People should be able to speak freely and engage in freedom of discussion. The systematic breakdown of freedom of speech should be very worrying for us as a society.
The reason this is so worrying, is that the way we as a species decipher what is right and wrong, is through logical processing. Every decision we make and every view we hold, must be thought out and subjected to critical review, otherwise it is likely to be misguided. Freedom of speech enables the cross-examination of ideas, which is paramount to finding the truth. Without freedom of speech, a gaping hole is left, that opens the door open for brainwashing and ideological takeover. Needless to say, we do not aspire to a society of the brainwashed!
However, there is a qualification to the concept of unlimited free speech, which is worth adopting. It is not a qualification in a legal or binding sense, but rather a qualification that, as a society, we should put upon ourselves when encountering a new ideas or reviewing older ones.
People should have the right to hold whatever viewpoint they want, as long as they can logically defend it. All opinions, begin equal ‘at birth’. However, once we apply logical reasoning, that is when a hierarchy of opinions begins and the less robust ideas get driven out.
The study of philosophy and ideas has been neglected in most parts of society today in favour of skills-based learning, which is understandable considering that people need jobs. Nevertheless, this has led the established order taught in schools, to be treated as gospel and never revised. In the ideal scenario, everybody should be a philosopher, constantly questioning and reviewing their own perspectives and decisions in search for truth.
In fact, the Greek philosopher Plato, in his work The Republic, advocates for a society led by the wise philosophers. They, being the most well-reasoned and knowledgeable people, would make the decisions for the rest of society.
Now, this is not a vision we aspire to, since it gives way to the elitist class who have their own biases and interests pulling away at them. However, the theory behind well-educated and well-reasoned people, who have thoroughly assessed each idea and come to a reasonable outcome, still remains an ideal. Encouraging discussion and debate, otherwise known as free speech, was the catalyst for their wisdom and it remains the key to ours. It is the duty of every citizen, in my opinion, to engage in the same methods to their maximum and there is no reason why anyone shouldn’t.
For people on the Right, the Prime Minister who gets the most plaudits is Margret Thatcher. Thatcher’s leadership style was unique. Her Cabinet Ministers all reported the same experience. Whenever they would propose a new policy, they would get a good grilling for their trouble. Every policy was logically broken down and, if it didn’t make the standard, it was immediately thrown aside. This logical breakdown of every policy is something the Right has never forgotten and remains the reason why Thatcher is so treasured. It is also the reason her policies were so effective.
Some post-modern thinkers would have you believe that all views are equally valid and all command the same level of respect and reverence. They say that all claims of objective truth are inane suggestions from a time when we knew no better. Any claims from people who say their metanarrative or worldview is superior to any other is treated with disdain.
This is why the qualification on free speech mentioned above is so important. Attitudes like this can’t exist in our society. There are objective truths. The process of finding these truths must remain intact. This is why the battle for free speech is so worth fighting for.