The Freedom of Expression

Entry #2 – February 19, 2017

Dear Kath,

A question that’s been plaguing me as of late concerns where the line is when it comes to the freedom of expression that has been granted to us.

See, last year, I would not have even considered the idea that there is a line to be crossed. I wrote about my frustrations concerning the lack of freedom of expression when it comes to opinions held by a minority on my college campus, and my editorials often expressed those opinions and argued towards an absolute free speech that should be unchecked and unregulated by anyone or anything.

voltaire-1
I didn’t say that, motherfuckers. (Photo credit here)

I quoted Voltaire like any pretentious pseudo-Ivy League Student would. You know that quote that everyone uses- “I don’t agree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” (Funnily enough, Voltaire never actually said that. Does that make us university students look more pretentious? It certainly makes me feel that way.)

I still stand by this statement, but at times, I do question it.

There is an answer to my question, of course.

The minute free speech becomes an issue is when the speech is crafted to hurt others.

Last year, when I wrote my grievances about the limitations that political correctness placed upon my freedom of expression and when I wrote about how the reactions to the chalk graffiti on my college campus were blown out of proportion, I confess that was out of line and that I remained insensitive to the legitimate fears of the people (which have only grown in light of our new president). I was in the wrong, and I hurt them, even if that wasn’t my intent.

I own that mistake and apologize for it.

I revisit these thoughts in light of the recent drama surrounding Pewdiepie and the anti-semitic accusations against him. I see that his content has hurt others, and I see him paying for his mistakes. But I also see that his content was taken out of context and manipulated. So it makes me think.

pewdiepie_at_pax_2015_crop
This is the face of an antisemite (and this is sarcasm). (Photo credits here)

So perhaps I should amend my question. How big of a role does context play? What do we do with free speech when the intent was not malicious? Does the message matter more than the intent, and what does one do when the original message is twisted out of existence or disappears completely?

But that’s a question that I don’t really know how to answer, so I shall leave that for you and for others to decide.

Thanks for listening.

-D

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