“Freedom of Speech” - A bigot’s last line of defence


Last month, Tommy Robinson, the Ex-Leader of the English Defence League was permanently banned from the social media platform Twitter. Twitter have yet to comment, but the reason is believed to be due to his repeated breach of the website’s “hateful conduct” policy. This comes as no surprise, as his feed was a spew of derogatory commentary about Islam, alongside propaganda of crimes carried out by people of a Muslim background which he had no doubt scoured for, to propagate and justify his xenophobic views.

His ban sparked outrage amongst Tommy’s fanbase, who made their feelings known via Twitter, stating the act was an assault on free speech as well as conjuring the hashtag #IamTommy. If there’s one thing the world doesn’t need, it’s definitely more Tommy Robinsons or people wishing to emulate him.

The same behavioral trend has followed the majority of public figures with discriminatory views and those who support them. Alongside Robinson, the likes of Nigel Farage, Donald Trump, Richard Spencer and Katie Hopkins have all been defended by their supporters, reminding us of our ‘freedom of speech’. They retort morally questionable perspectives and hide behind the guise of free speech like the term is a defence cloak for ignorance and bigotry.

Yes, we are granted the freedom to express ourselves, but freedoms are always going to change when the effects on others are added to the equation.

At this present moment, there is no law that I know of stopping me from practicing my javelin throw. Actually, I’m sure if I got really good at the sport it would be widely encouraged by many. However, if I decided to move my javelin practice from an open field to a high street during peak hours I’m convinced legal authorities may have a problem with my actions, as well as anyone else on the planet who isn’t a bloodthirsty psychopath. Why? Because actions are no longer inconsequential when the wellbeing of others becomes a factor. Why would speech be any different?

In the majority of democratic countries, expression is mostly encouraged. However when your words put other people in danger, the rules change and restrictions have to be put in place. Quelling hate speech isn’t just about sparing the feelings of different demographics It’s about making sure their humanity isn’t compromised by destructive ideologies being propelled into the stratosphere and influencing the views of the masses.

Obviously, the consequences wouldn’t be as immediate as throwing a javelin into a crowd of people, but preaching contempt for a demographic has already contributed to creating an incredibly dangerous social climate. A climate where those on the receiving end can become targets of verbal and physical abuse. What makes it worse is discriminators feel validated in their actions as they regurgitate quotes and speeches from people like the aforementioned public figures.

Consequently, if a platform such as Twitter decides to block someone’s means of communication for this very reason, I have no intention of doing anything but supporting their decision and hoping they become more consistent with their vigilance.

As for those who make a habit of poorly masking their ill-judged views by clinging to the noble intentions of free speech; I would like to remind you those freedoms are put in place in order to give a voice to victims of oppression, not to magnify the voices of the oppressors or those who share their agendas. Free speech is there to help restore and maintain equality, not to give you a platform to take it away from others.

OBV web team writer - James Prescott-Kerr