Monday, December 1, 2008

Freedom Of Speech, Ideas, Opinions and Expression

Freedom of speech is the freedom to speak freely without censorship or limitation. The synonymous term freedom of expression is sometimes used to denote not only freedom of verbal speech but any act of seeking, receiving and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used. Freedom of speech and freedom of expression is closely related to, yet distinct from, the concept of freedom of thought or freedom of conscience. In practice, the right to freedom of speech is not absolute in any country and the right is commonly subject to limitations, such as on "hate speech". This is because exercising freedom of speech always takes place within a context of competing values.

The right to freedom of speech is recognized as a human right under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and recognized in international human rights law in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The ICCPR recognizes the right to freedom of speech as "the right to hold opinions without interference. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression". Furthermore freedom of speech is recognized in European, inter-American and African regional human rights law.

... Wikipedia

I am taking a poll. I have a curious question, and I would be interested to hear what your opinions are on the subject. It seems to me that, the more globalized we become and the smaller the earth is, the more we communicate across broad spectrums through the Internet, text messaging, Facebook, My Space, etc., and the more we are able to exchange ideas, the more afraid we are to speak our minds.

An idea is a form (such as a thought) formed by consciousness (including mind) through the process of ideation. Human capability to contemplate ideas is associated with the ability of reasoning, self-reflection, and of the ability to acquire and apply intellect, intuition, inspiration, etc. Further, ideas give rise to actual concepts, or mind generalizations, which are the basis for any kind of knowledge whether science or philosophy or impulsiveness.

In a popular sense, an idea arises in a reflex, spontaneous manner, even without thinking or serious reflection, for example, when we talk about the idea of a person or a place.

An opinion is a person's ideas and thoughts towards something which it is either impossible to verify the truth of, or the truth of which is thought unimportant to the person. It is an assertion about something especially if that something lies in the future and its truth or falsity cannot be directly established e.g. induction. An opinion is not a fact, because opinions are either not falsifiable, or the opinion has not been proven or verified. If it later becomes proven or verified, it is no longer an opinion, but a fact.

In economics, philosophy, or other social sciences, analysis based on opinions is referred to as normative analysis (what ought to be), as opposed to positive analysis, which is based on scientific observation (what materially is). Historically, the distinction of proven knowledge and opinion was articulated by some Ancient Greek philosophers. Plato's analogy of the divided line is a well-known illustration of the distinction between knowledge and opinion.

... Wikipedia

Ideas and opinions – we all have them. And because we are all different, our ideas and opinions are different. It is the differences of ideas and opinions that keep everything fresh. Without death there would be no life, and without ideas and opinions there would be only stagnation.

Of course, we all love the company of people who are just like us. “You eat your morning cereal with yogurt instead of milk? So do I!” *heh*. However, as I cruise around the blogs, I find all sorts of ideas and opinions that are antithesis to mine, and conversely, those are the blogs I enjoy the most. I enjoy hearing the ideas and opinions of folks who think differently than I do. I find it refreshing.

As most of you know by now, I occasionally like to voice my ideas and opinions. When I do, please don’t get your knickers in a twist. I was raised in a household where debates and differences of opinions were not only welcomed, they were encouraged.

To get back to my question, (my poll), do you find, the more we communicate with each other, the more we are becoming more afraid to express our ideas and opinions, or less afraid? If I do not agree with you – for whatever reason – or you do not agree with me, do you take it personally? I don’t mean to sound preachy, I really am interested in what you have to say on this subject. You’re all very intelligent people.

Do we really have freedom of speech? Freedom of thought? Freedom of ideas? Freedom of expression? Or have we all turned into Winston Smith?

23 comments: said...

There are paid snitch-squads on Canadian universtity campuses right now to have agents tape private convesations for breaches of political correctness. Yes.

Scary, isn't it?

Leslie: said...

What a profound post and timely, too, after having watched our own country and that to our south go through the election process.

I eat my cereal with yogurt (were you thinking of me, perchance?) And I cook my instant oatmeal with a few raisins, chopped walnuts, and/or dried cranberries! Hah!

Seriously, though, I do think that the more we're able to communicate via the channels you mention, the more we're all afraid of being "politically incorrect," "racist," or just plain "weird." Like you, I love to hear a variety of opinions on topics because sometimes I might just change my own personal opinion. I don't appreciate others shoving their opinions down my throat, though, and saying I'm wrong for my own opinion. It'd be a wonderful world if we could express our opinions openly, without censure, and without the fear that we'd be "labeled" or "condemned."

willow said...

In the bloggyhood, at least, I find that I am less afraid to speak my opinion, the better I get to "know" someone. And I don't take it personally. I like the variety of people I meet through blogs.

Jo said...

Ivan, I believe what you're saying. The political correct term for them is "whistle blower". And they are protected. And yes, it is scary.

Leslie, oh, goodness yes. I sometimes voice my opinion with a tongue in cheek manner, with a sort of "I agree to disagree" attitude, often meant just in humor. Most people, unfortunately, don't get it. But you know what, goddammit? I am entitled to my ideas and opinions, just as everyone else is! One of my co-workers has "Merry Christmas" plastered all over her office windows, and I say GOOD FOR HER! Bah humbug to all the political correct police!

Willow, oh, gosh, in the blogging world, I have been shot down in flames more than once! Maybe you are more polite than I am. :-)

Dr.John said...

I certainly feel free to disagree with people and to print my own views as clearly as possible. I don't mind if people disagree with me but I do get upset when they swear at me.

Jo said...

John, oh, gosh, yes. *heh* Please don't anyone swear at me. :-)

susie said...

I find that as I get older, I'm more likely to voice my opinion as I'm less likely to be concerned with what someone might think of me. Oh, my, I'm becoming an opinionated old
witch (ha ha)!

as for the elections here in the US, I think it was a lot easier to hand out labels of "racist", etc than to really listen and evaluate the opinion.

Jo said...

Susie, I have always been fairly opinionated, because that is how I was raised. And it's not even about politics, per se, but about anything. People should not be afraid to have conversations, for fear of offending someone. We are who we are.

Country Girl said...

Of course we have freedom of speech, but I find that I keep my mouth shut more often than not, for fear of offending someone.

Interesting post!

Jo said...

CountryGirl, then do we truly have freedom of speech? As soon as we worry about offending someone, that freedom has been taken away from us. You are not an offensive person. You would never walk up to someone and say, "Jo, you're butt ugly... and that dress you're wearing looks awful on you!" That would be offensive, and you are too polite to do that. But people voicing their own opinions should not be considered offensive. Ever!

Firefly said...

Freedom of speech is such a fickle thing. Encouraged as long as you say the right thing.

I always try to be diplomatic in what I say. I try to be objective, realistic and blah... blah... blah... I just don't like to be critisised or chastisised for what I say. I work in a place where I have to be very carefull about what I say for several reasons I won't go into.

the walking man said...

Freedom being an individual commodity it is up to the individuals own sense of freedom to determine if they fear their own opinion.

Me? I have never hesitated to express my thoughts. Verbally, in action or deed, no fear.

KathyB. said...

You know, I used to voice my opinion and think others would read, hear, disagree, agree, and it would be O.K. I have seemed to acquire a lot of dear and special people in my life who strongly disagree with me and that is O.K. I am all for a discussion on the pros and cons of just about anything as long as one can back up what one is saying and / or explain why it matters so dang much in spite of what they might proclaim to the world. Or anyone who will listen. But recently I have become aware of reality.That I have been grossly naive. That there are many, many people who are immensely intolerant of any ideas or ideals in conflict with theirs, and that there really is danger in expressing oneself and one's ideals. I am not sure I am up to what it takes to be open on the web. I have had a dose of intolerance aimed at me for MY opinion, and I was NOT intolerant, merely expressing my opinion..and hey, I have not ever been personally critical or hateful to another for their opinions.I would never back down or change what I feel are convictions, but I do not feel I am up to the threats and verbal and personal assaults of the people who call themselves "liberal" and "tolerant" . I do not feel called to endanger myself or my family on-line for my ideals. Instead, come on over, have a cup of coffee, a sip or two of wine , a good dinner and a whole evening of conversation..then we're talkin!And hey! I do not care if you disagree, just be able to back up your opinion with facts.

Sorry, did not mean to write a treatise on this. You are pretty good at picking topics which bring on conversation and discourse Jo!

Hilary said...

Yes we do have that freedom of speech. We also have life experiences that should be taken into consideration when expressing that freedom.

I think that the important part of expressing an opinion is that it clearly stresses itself as such; "This is how *I* feel about such and such" or "This may or may not be fact, but it is to *me*." It's an important qualifier that doesn't invade or disqualify equal personal truths which are as valuable to others as yours are to you.

Opinions shouldn't be made to hurt. Neither should the response to an expressed opinion be made to hurt, but the individual human experiences shape us and sometimes, one persons' freedoms are another's chains.

So I'm cautious because the typed word could so easily be misunderstood and intent misplaced. I speak my mind when I feel it's important. And I tread lightly when I think that the potential consequences are more important. Every now and then the two mesh beautifully and occasionally they backfire. It's all a matter of picking your battles and judging what scars may arise. Hopefully none.

To me, I'd like to see the kind of thoughtful expression of speech which shows something far more than tolerance of others. I'd like to see respect. I believe there'd be far less conflict among those who express themselves with genuine respect for those around them. But I don't think many of us have mastered that fine art yet.

Charles Gramlich said...

I think folks are scared because with the ease of reaching people provided by the net, it means we might reach more and more that disagree with us. One disagreement in private is one thing. A dozen is harder to take.

Jo said...

Firefly, oh yes, on many matters it is important to be diplomatic, especially if we are not on neutral ground, but I think we should still be free to voice our ideas and opinions.

Mark, you are becoming more and more rare in this world, sadly.

Kathy, "That there are many, many people who are immensely intolerant of any ideas or ideals in conflict with theirs, and that there really is danger in expressing oneself and one's ideals." Oh, yes. And those people can try to be very intimidating.

Hilary, oh, of course, respect. I think the basic foundation of any conversation is respect. Courtesy and manners are very important. Stating an idea or an opinion should never be offensive or in the form of an attack. People should fee free to engage in lively repartee without being afraid, and I see that disappearing, slowly, bit by bit, not only in the written word, but the spoken word. Maybe it is because people have lost the art of conversation due to "sound bites" in e-mails, text messaging, etc. Folks never have an opportunity to flesh out their thoughts. I have seen people being personally attacked (called names) for saying the most innocuous things. I actually find it quite frightening, that so few can intimidate so many.

Charles, yes, and conversely, on the Internet, people can personally attack other folks in ways they would not do in real life, especially if they are hiding behind a false "persona".

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

I always tell the truth but sometimes when I am uncomfortable, I may avoid saying anything. However, the more you know me or I know you, the more you will hear the truth (as I see it) from me. I believe political correctness is politeness turn psychotic.

Jo said...

LGS, YAY!!! As long as we treat each other with respect, as Hilary says, we should be able to discuss and exchange ideas and opinions. What the h*ll kind of world would this be if we could not??? Where would all the great thinkers have gone? Where would all the great ideas have gone? They would have died in infertile ground!

Bandobras said...

Self censoring is done all the time and usually for good reason. If you can't say something nice don't say anything is not a bad start. Official censoring is insidious and scary. It always begins by outlawing vile and despicable speech, think Zundel, KKK idiots, sexism, racism etc. It always ends up limiting criticism of the government and stifling debate that is important to hear.
People died so we have these rights and we need to protect them. Even when that means allowing the despicable.
Political correctness is not correct.

Anonymous said...

I feel very comfortable about expressing my ideas and opinions when I'm face to face with someone. But on the internet? Not so much. That's where Big Brother lives.

Jo said...

Bandobras, oh, yes I think we all self-censor ourselves. It's necessary and it's called good manners. However, I have a way of speaking my mind that gets me into trouble. But I never mean to offend... *sigh*

Carl, yes, face to face is better, because the spoken word is easier to understand than the written word. We can use a smile where it is needed, to show that we do not mean harm, but that we are speaking with irony or humor. The written word can be misunderstood in its "tone of voice".

Error said...

We all have freedom of speech, which is to me quite regrettable. I'm no extermist or such, but I do think that some people should not be allowed to speak their mind with no limits, as they can be talking nonsense, and in the same time manipulating weak minded people.

I've never shared that thought before, because some time I'm afraid that people don't take time to understand it totally, and see me as some extremist guy. I'm aware that such speaking could shock.

It's quite the same with the freedom of the press. In France, the president spend most of his time to talk about his girlfriend than political issues.

I hope reading this hasn't been too diffcult, first because of the opinion, and second as english is not my first language.

Anonymous said...