For the last week or so, I’ve been wanting to write about a single sentence (actually a sentence fragment that is a sentence on its own) I found in Guerrilla Learning a couple months ago. It seems as though the lack of understanding of the implications of the statement insist on cropping up in the blogosphere. Recently, ‘liberal society’, ‘freedom of speech’ and ‘censorship’ have been mentioned.
…freedom is not inconsistent with obligation. – Grace Llewellyn
It’s been my plan to describe here the things I said in a conversation with my oldest 3 children regarding that statement. And, to go a bit further into the issues of sociology, liberty and politics. For the last 2 nights I have been unable to collect my thoughts around those ideas because of the things I mentioned in the first paragraph. What I realized last night is that the pressing issue is the nature of the use of these terms.
The reason (other than being an idealist) I’m quite bothered by this is the fact that these variations of freedom of speech are being used as incantations (C.S. Lewis used this term to describe words and phrases which were used ‘for their selling power’ not for ideas or meaning they represented).
Even though we don’t discuss it publicly (well, I guess I am now), Andrea and I consider the atypicalife blog to be hers and this one to be mine. Since we both have the ability to post in each other’s blog, there exists the possibility that one of us could post something which the other disagreed with in the other one’s blog. The way we handle that is that, excluding incidental things like birthday greetings, neither of us post in the other person’s blog without running the post by each other. In fact, Andrea has already seen this post up to this point.
I haven’t pointed that out to say that we have issues. What I’m trying to say is that for all intents and purposes, this is my blog. Within the webosphere, this is where my freedom of speech exists. If I write in your blog (eg. via a comment form), you have the ability to decide whether anyone other than you and I see it. And there is nothing that I can do about it.
While no one has suggested it here, there have been accusations that both moderating comments and refraining from linking to another site was tatamount to censorship and being against freedom of speech. And, if I can be blunt, both accusations are nonsense. They make absolutely no sense. If I am under some bizarre obligation (i.e. to freedom of speech) to let anything and everything through and refer readers to every opinion different from my own; if I’m required to post content here under any form of duress, where is MY freedom of speech? Couldn’t a group of dedicated like minded individuals simply drown out everyone else?
Freedom of speech does not mean that every place must give way to your voice. It does not mean that I am obligated to provide everyone with an avenue of speech. It does not mean that the world owes you a free place to speak (although such places exist). I have been paying for domains, webspace and bandwidth for years. And I’ll keep paying, because my freedom and yours is worth far more that what this costs me.
You see, your freedom of speech is inexorably linked to mine. If you set out to take away my freedom of speech, you destroy an argument in favour of your own. If my freedom of speech is worthless to you, why should anyone else value yours? If you value freedom of speech, it is your responsibility to take every available measure to safeguard the freedom of others.
(And, that leads me to what I discussed with the children which I’ll address in another post.)