The Cost of Free Speech

‘Talk is cheap!’ So the saying goes, and if you take a quick look at the output of the UK’s dailies, you would probably agree with that statement. If you took an in depth view, who knows what you might find. Probable bribery, phone tapping, email interception…oh wait!

Mainstream media in the 21st century has become somewhat of a joke. Rather than being stalwarts of independent reporting, they have become the dancing monkeys for the regressive left, and/or right-wing nationalist organ grinders. Padded to the nines with semi naked women, sports “news”, and reams, and reams of tropical rain forest waisted, covering the latest “I’m-a-celebrity-wannabe/has-been-come-dancing-X-factor-smokescreen-extravaganza-extraordinaire!” True independent reportage, in these dark days, would appear to come in the form of a match…in the vacuum of space.

If you are at either end of the political spectrum, you are free to speak your mind. In fact, the tabloids will print your hate filled vitriol in letters six feet tall on their front pages, (or hide it in their Op-Ed’s). If however, you are like the majority of people on the planet, who’s views are more or less centre, then not only is your opinion not wanted, if you do find a platform, you will find yourself actively censored…or worse…six feet under.

So no, talk isn’t cheap. Not honest, impartial talk at least. The amount of blood spilled over the centuries by ordinary people on the street, trying to have an objective conversation about the suffering of humanity, leaves a lot to be desired.

Just ask few bloggers in India, or Saudi Arabia, or even maybe cartoonists in France…ah, wait! I think a visit to the local medium will be in order, unless of course you have your own ouija board, or crystal ball.

Take, for example, the case of Raif Badawi, who has been sentenced to ten years in prison, and 1,000 lashes, for the crime of ‘insulting Islam’. According to reports in the media, Islam was deeply offended by what Raif had said about her, and her husband decided to press charges on her behalf, due to the fact she’s a woman, and has no legitimate rights as a human being.

Last Friday, (8th January 2016), a petition of 250,000 UK signatures were delivered by Amnesty UK, to the Saudi Embassy in London. No doubt, they, along with over 750,000 other voices across the globe, will be ignored by King Salman.

I blogged about this case, a year ago, in my old format, and the thing that shocked me the most, was not the violent nature of his first 50 lashes, nor the fact that this case is complete BS. No. What shocked me the most was the amount of bloggers who didn’t even know about this case.

A small fraction of those bloggers had heard something-or-other about a blogger in Bangladesh being attacked. None had heard about any of the four secular bloggers that have been hacked to death, or the publication by Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT), of a global hit list of bloggers.

Go back a decade to the Jyllands-Posten cartoons of Mohammad, and the 200+ deaths, from protests and attacks on Christians across the Muslim world, stirred up by Danish imams.

I am just old enough to remember the uproar, when Salman Rushdie’s book ‘The Satanic Verses’ was published. Protests and book burnings. Bookstores were firebombed, publishers were killed, a fatwa issued, and several attempts on Rushdie’s life. All over what is essentially a fantasy novel.

One could mention the choke hold on publications by nazi Germany, the book burnings, the publication of a list of authors who’s work was banned.

The first version of a list of books banned, (Index Librorum Prohibitorum), by Pope Paul IV in 1559. In fact, most European countries governments and churches of the 16th century were actively trying to regulate and control print.

We could continue back throughout the centuries, to find a myriad of examples where religion and politics has forcefully tried to silence any form of critique, right back into Ancient Rome, and Greece. Socrates was sentenced to death because he refused to have his philosophical teachings censored.

We have the greatest access, and largest available network of listeners in the history of information, and it’s all free for us all to use as we see fit, but it seems that we are being shouted down from both sides, to the point that those that wish to have this balanced conversation are forced to take up the worst kind of censorship, ‘self censorship‘.

One can only dream of a time, long after our demise, of a utopian world where society is truly in harmony, and our words and ideas, are not blocked from public viewing.

Until then I leave you with the profound words, etched on the cover of Charlie Hebdo one year after the attack on their office in Paris.

“1 year after the murderer is still at large”

 L’Humanité sans frontières,

the Humanist Blogger.



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