When I Googled ‘freedom of speech’ recently it brought up many things that I hadn’t considered. I simply though it meant you were allowed to say whatever you wanted without fear of recrimination – something I thought that could ever fully be achieved. I mean it’s damn near impossible for every single person on this planet to have the same opinion. And boy how boring would the world be if we were indeed all identical? So why the need for free speech to be defined?
The Internet, well Wikipedia to be precise (not the most reliable of tools I know) state it’s so you can speak freely without risk of government retaliation or censorship. Freedom of expression is another term.
And why am I writing to you about this? Well, it is because of Stephen Fry and his discussion earlier on the week about freedom of speech, which unfortunately took a nasty turn and ended up with him being all over the media for portraying victims of sexual abuse as ‘self pitying’.
Everyone has the right to freedom of speech, but not everyone has a platform that enables them to be heard by the masses. And with that platform surely there needs to be a sense of responsibility about what you are saying and an awareness of who you could hurt? Especially if you are representing a mental health charity, which of course Stephen Fry does.
And I get that it can be frustrating for him given that he feels so strongly about being able to speak freely, but I do not understand the thought processes that led him to believe that his words were acceptable. I’ve watched the interview several times and tried to see if anything reported has since been taken out of context or if he’d been misquoted, but I don’t think it’s that simple. Only he can understand what he meant. He is so used to being regarded as a sensible and powerful voice with regards to mental health that maybe he simply got carried away.
But my point is that when you know millions of people listen to every word of your free speech you do, whether you like it or not, need to reign in your words and opinions if they are going to be damaging to people who have suffered serious trauma in their lives. No one needs to be told they are self pitying. No one needs to be made to feel any worse when they have without doubt suffered enough.
Some things really do need to be left unsaid.
From, me x