Listen up – here’s a few truths about free speech

Some people seem to have a curious idea of what freedom of speech actually means.

Firstly it’s worth pointing out that there is no explicit right to freedom of speech in Australia.

We don't have anything like the United States’ First Amendment from the Bill of Rights, that guarantees free speech (though that still doesn’t mean you’re free to say whatever you want – there are exceptions around things like defamation, criminal conduct and statements designed to incite violence, among other things).

Our freedom of speech is more implied, through a range of High Court decisions.

Okay, so back to the main point – people don't get what “free speech” means.

Your right to free speech hasn’t been taken away if a newspaper chooses not to publish your letter to the editor or a website deletes comments you made.

Freedom of speech just means you’re free to say stuff. That's it – it doesn’t mean people have to give you a platform on which to say it.

Nor are you being deprived of any right to free speech if others don’t quietly and politely listen to what you have to say, and then refrain from ridiculing you when you finish.

That’s not how it works – you can say what you want, but others are free to ignore you. They can even mock you if they find your comments intensely stupid.

Also, freedom of speech isn't limited to things you agree with. This seems to be a real source of confusion with some people.

They feel they should be perfectly entitled to say whatever they want, free of any restraints.

But, should someone say something they don't like, then it’s all “they shouldn’t be allowed to say that. There should be laws against this sort of thing”.

Freedom of speech means hearing things you won’t like – get used to it.

This story Listen up – here’s a few truths about free speech first appeared on Illawarra Mercury.


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