by Kenneth Justice
~ In the United States and most other Western Countries men and women enjoy freedom of speech. We’re free to say what we want about most anything that we want…..
—) call the Prime Minister a nut-job; you’re allowed
—) tell everybody you believe that space aliens spawned the human race on the moon and then impregnated the earth; you’re allowed.
Freedom of speech is not something they enjoy in certain places of the world such as North Korea; call President Kim a ‘human right’s violator and a uncaring douche bag’ and if you’re a North Korean citizen life is NOT going to go well for you afterwards.
I appreciate freedom of speech and I’m also very reticent of the responsibility that comes with living in a society where we can say whatever we want. You see, the ‘responsibility’ factor is important; it means we can’t yell “fire” in a crowded movie theater (you’d be breaking the law) and even though you have the ‘right’ to call your boss a ‘bald headed ungrateful pig!” he also has the right to say to you ‘fired!”
I’m closing in on the end of my first full year of blogging and freedom of speech was something I wanted to maintain here on my website; I wanted readers to feel free to say whatever they want without fear of me censuring their comments. I don’t believe I have a corner-on-the-truth; I’m open to hearing all sides of an issue so I don’t have a problem when people disagree with me. And because of my devotion towards the concept we call ‘freedom of speech’ I’ve always left the comment button open; no moderation, whenever people type and click ‘reply’ it was immediately made public.
But then this past week came along……….
Look, I’ve shared before the various criticisms that people have leveled at me via my blog. Through email and by public comments people have called me quite a few…uh…colorful names, and this year has been an interesting period of growth for myself as I’ve had to learn how to deal with people (whom I don’t even known) saying very nasty things about me and my ideas.
And then this past week came along……..
This past week started off strong; earlier in the week a fundamentalist Christian read an old article of mine and not liking what I had to say; he made it very clear that The Culture Monk is “ignorant” and expressed a few other comments about the problem with my mental faculties.
Okay…so I’m a big boy, I read his reply and moved on.
Then, on an old post I wrote about the subject of gay marriage a reader called me a four letter word that starts with a “C” and ends with a “T” coupled with comments in which the reader says that The Culture Monk hates gay people.
To top it off, by mid-week a reader made a comment that The Culture Monk twists the truth and tries to hit on “fat chicks in order to “****” them” (I’m sure you can figure out what the expletive might be).
And thus, for the first time in my blogging career I deleted comments. I felt terrible, I had never deleted comments before and part of me felt as though I was violating these two readers ‘freedom of speech”.
I wasn’t particularly ‘mad’ at the readers for saying these slanderous things against me, but it seemed as though they did not take seriously the ‘responsibility’ that comes with freedom of speech.
You see, we all have the right to freedom of speech……but it is unethical to slander an individual. In fact, in the United States if someone slanders you; you have a legal right to sue the person if you so desire.
Slander is when you say something false about someone’s character; and it doesn’t matter whether you ‘really believe’ the false claim or not….it is still slander.
Thus, we have a right to stand up for what we believe in, we have a right to speak our minds, and we have a right to go on people’s blogs and tell them what we ‘believe the truth to be’. But we have a responsibility NOT to slander.
—) We need to be respectful when we disagree
—) We need to remember that we ourselves when making a comment could be mistaken or wrong
We need to use terms like “I believe you’ve gotten the facts wrong” as opposed to “you a^* h***, you’re an ignorant idiot that is twisting the story!”
And so on Wednesday I felt the need to begin moderating the comments on my blog. Regular readers and commenters to my blog would not have noticed any difference; if you’ve posted in the past you still have carte blanche and you’re replies are instantly made public by WordPress like they’ve always been……
but for new readers I’m now moderating each of the comments. Its been quite a bit of work this past week because every day I get alerts that inform me “you have a pending comment” and I have to leaf through each of the them to hit ‘approve’ and since I’m usually away from my computer, its somewhat of an arduous task to accomplish on my smart phone.
—) I feel guilty having to moderate the comments of new readers.
—) I feel like I am violating their freedom of speech.
—) I feel like I’m being some kind of big brother looking over their shoulder
And yet at the same time, its troubling when people slander me and accuse me of things that are completely false and untrue……
I think I’m going to have another coffee now and remember the good times when freedom of speech seemed so much easier….
Categories: Culture & Society