I’m a great believer in a universal right to the freedom of speech, and I tend, in general, to be an opponent of censorship, although I always think it’s worth being warned about the content of material so that we can choose whether or not to partake of it. Classification of films would be a fairly decent example of that.
I believe that we should all be allowed to express ourselves, but I think that with that right we must also embrace our responsibilities.
In June, I wrote this as my FaceBook status.
People can and will and should be able to say whatever the hell they please on any subject on which they care to express themselves. I'm all for it. I positively encourage comments to my blog, and I have never deleted a comment, despite disagreeing with many of them. I also rarely engage with commenters that I disagree with, not least because I have the main floor and it seems rude to take over the comments too. I would say one thing... I would say this: My blog has my name and my likeness on it, and everything I say, I say under that banner. I do not hide behind any kind of pseudonym and nor do I choose to cloak myself in any kind of anonymity. We should all stand up and be counted, particularly if we believe so strongly in something that we decide to write about it with uncompromising vehemence in a public arena.
|Caroline Criado-Perez has left the building|
Yesterday, I wrote about Caroline Criado-Perez and her campaign to have women represented on British bank notes when the designs for the currency are next changed. She succeeded in her endeavour, but the backlash on Twitter was extraordinary. I learned, in this morning’s papers, that CC-P has now left Twitter.
Caroline Criado-Perez’s freedom to speak has been compromised. The haters, stalkers, slanderers... the men who threatened her with unspeakable threats of violence... have won. Their freedom of speech has been upheld.
Freedom of speech should be a universal right, and my point is that with rights come responsibilities.
Caroline Criado-Perez put her name and her face to her Twitter account. We all knew who she was and what she stood for. Those who attacked her did so from behind Twitter handles and avatars that the police and even Twitter were apparently incapable of tracking back to actual people. There are laws against slandering an individual, against threatening behaviour, against stalking... These men were not exercising their right to freedom of speech they were menacing an innocent woman and they were doing it masked.
These men were bullies and cowards, and, one way or another, our society has allowed them to effectively hound this woman into silence. It is almost impossible for me to express how appalled and disappointed I am by this.
What these men did must surely have been criminal; at the very least, it was morally reprehensible.
Caroline Criado-Perez stood proud and shouted back as hard and for as long as she was able, and I hope that when she has recovered she will return with renewed vigor. For now, it is up to the rest of us to shout on her behalf and on our own behalf... to shout and rant and rail for what we believe in and to do it in our own names so that the World knows who we are and what we stand for, and if the World crushes us into silence I hope that there will be others who will stand in our places for a time before they, too, pass the baton...
It is our right and it is our responsibility, and the two go hand in glove.
For those who want to slander and threaten and menace... In the end, they, too, will be made responsible for their words.