Freedom of speech is still not a blank cheque.

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Fionnbharr Rodger’s responses to an opinion piece reagrding his first article ‘Freedom of speech is a blank cheque.’ Photo Source: The Daily Times.

 Fionnbharr Rodgers, Contributor. 

 I was not surprised at all by anything I read in Martin Mulvanna’s response to my last article, to a frustrating extent in fact, as it was exactly of the variety of opinion which has come to define the majority on the issue of free speech and, thus, precisely what I was arguing against in the first place.

Mr. Mulvanna began by refuting my assertion that rights and responsibilities go hand in hand, arguing instead that such a sentiment would see rights as mere ‘concessions from the government’ and would establish a system of prerequisites before people are allowed to collect their rights. He wrote that rights are ‘fundamental, innate in all of us,’ which is not something which needs to be said to anyone who has passed second year politics, and moreover he glosses over the nuance of those words: rights being innate within one, means they are the same for everyone else and thus at some point boundaries will collide. He selects a quote to aid him in his venture, writing that ‘nobody has to pass an ethics test or gain a licence in logical argument in order to qualify for freedom of expression,’ and so why should such be the case for freedom of speech? To make this point is to ignore the existence of the real world, as any non-hermitic being will come across several tests of their ethical code throughout their day to day life: according to various legal sources and scholars, Mr. Mulvanna has the right to life, and therefore I surely have the responsibility not to take him out into the middle of Strangford Lough and encase his feet in a pair of concrete DMs.

He agreed with me that some opinions have more merit than others, but spun the wheel round and promptly moved the vehicle into the other lane, which must have caused great upset to the other drivers, as he asked the question ‘who is to decide which opinions are better than others?’

The answer there is of course empirical evidence.

Mulvanna’s next step was to accuse me of a ‘deeply elitist sentiment’ and an underlying belief that the general public are stupid interpreting one vaguely humourous line of my article to be a dig at the working class, as the great unwashed; in fact, it was a dig at the English. I find it more interesting that Mr. Mulvanna assumed I was referring to the working class as uneducated and inherently bigoted, as if that demographic was a monolithic body. Furthermore, there is a strong tradition of and respect for education among the working classes of Newry, Mourne, and South Armagh, which elevates their thinking beyond the low-lying facilities of the Daily Mail comments section.

Far and away, and it cannot be denied, that education has been the greatest catalyst for social change; all people have a phenomenal capacity, and this is recognised when they are given the opportunity to realise it for themselves.

Martin ‘Wolfie’ Mulvanna appears to have interpreted my words as a manifesto of sorts which seeks to establish a Nineteen Eighty Four-esque society where the proles are kept from ‘sticking their noses out,’ and in rallying the huddled masses against me he passes over the true target of my ire: Katie Hopkins. Not just Ms. Hopkins, but the particular unhappy group of well-paid naval gazers of which she is a card-carrying member;  unchecked, uninformed media harlots who churn out a weekly dose of snake oil to disenfranchised and embittered groups badly in need of proper representation rather than the an enemy to spit upon.

Anyone who produces an argument which has no basis in reality should not expect to have their opinion respected and treated with any level of seriousness above that of an Aardvark dressed as Marlene Dietrich, roller blading down Brighton pier; anyone who deliberately seeks to offend, even going so far as to use hate speech, should have their arse held to the fire of public decency.

In life, one cannot expect to get away with an ill-thought and barbed pattern of communication without having manners put on them, and thus my argument is that, in the interests of sheer efficiency, we ought to cut out the middle man and put manners on ourselves.

Once everyone has raised the standard of thought and debate which they expect from themselves, then they are adhering to their social responsibilities and are due respect: it is then that we can reach a ‘higher quality of disagreement,’ as Sheikh Dr. Muhammad Al-Hussaini put it.

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