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Free Speech: How far is too far?

Fionn ponders whether ridiculing other's opinions is harming free speech


Written by Fionn McCausland and posted in opinion


This is an opinion of a young person and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of SpunOut.ie. It is one person's experience and may be different for you. If you'd like to write something for SpunOut.ie please contact editor@spunout.ie.


"Just because we disagree with someone doesn’t mean they do not have the right to be heard."

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The internet is not renowned for its friendly nature, regardless it is often indicative of how the masses process and react to the news. It is a platform that enables people to be more vocal than they would ever dare to be in person. Since the beginning of 2017 the web has been ablaze with more opinions and fragile logics than ever before. The catalyst for this, some might say, was Trump. I think there is more to it and that these pent-up frustrations have been brewing in the minds and hearts of people everywhere for longer than we care to think. Now having been stirred violently by lazy journalism.

There is now a major market for venting political vexations in a semi-journalistic fashion through the mediums of biased talk shows, web shows, television shows, radio, comedy, and even video games. It can be seen as a platform for freedom of expression, but are we taking biased news as genuine news now? Are traditional news outlets steering toward subjective political commentary a little too much? In short, yes, and Trump is only partially to blame for it.

Donald Trump, two words that induce violent spinal shivers upon typing them, has caused a storm in both traditional and social media. He is an easy target for news organisations and has brought about some incredibly shoddy journalism. Everything he does is news, even his most insignificant indiscretions. He is of course the President of The United States, but does his wearing of a military uniform at a speech addressing the military really warrant an editorial assault on his failed past in the army?

No. He was deferred, fair enough, does that impede his capacity to run the USA in any way? No. It is a cheap jab at the man, trying to discredit someone who already has no credibility. We should be focusing on the fact that he said the US Navy will be larger and better armed than it already is.

It isn’t “fake news” but it is bad news. The media should not step back from covering Trump in depth just because he and his cohorts ask them to, but they should make certain not to fuel the fire he has lit by producing the very thing he is accusing them of, sub-par reporting.

This agenda-based reporting has spawned the idea that many left-aligned people should shun and even attempt to hush those who oppose their views. One man who exemplifies this trend is professional public-parasite, Milo Yiannopoulos.

I don’t like the man, I think what he does for a living is deplorable. He feeds on negative energy like some sort of editorial dementor. This being the case for us to hush him is to tread over the concept of free speech that we hold so dear, it is in essence, hypocritical.

The man was threatened and forced to leave UC Berkeley prior to his speech at the university by students who simply disagreed with his “views”. It is preposterous. Viewers were also outraged when they heard Milo would be on Real Time with Bill Maher. Many campaigned for him to not speak on the show, this is the kind of behaviour that Trump both incites and wants because it fits his agenda to a tee. On a separate note, he has lost quite a lot of support after some unsavoury remarks on child abuse. Trolls will often trip themselves up eventually.

Just because we disagree with someone doesn’t mean they do not have the right to be heard. Given the instability of the current political climate, the frustration is understandable. Though much of our behaviour is perpetuating the very thing that we so vehemently oppose.

We have no right to criticise a man for trying to hush the media when we try to silence those who oppose us for no discernible reason other than “I think he is wrong”.

Katie Hopkins, Milo Yiannopoulos, Ann Coulter, Trump, and controversial YouTubers everywhere, need attention to thrive. We don’t have to silence them, nor do we have to highlight them when it isn’t necessary. Truth be told I don’t care about Trump’s comically small hands. I care about his alarming nuclear plan, his disturbing lack of a Health plan and the fact that he knows as much about the logistics and parameters of politics as I do about theoretical physics.

The media, both domestic and foreign, need to decide whether they are going to create actual journalism or hop on the Stephen Colbert band wagon and use Trump as easy fodder because they’re too lazy to dig up some newsworthy information. The world is more informed than ever before, therefore it is crucial that the information we as a society choose to share and disseminate is both factual and relevant.

I’m not saying take it easy on those who deserve ridicule, just don’t reach for a reason to justify attacking them. People are divided now, minority groups feel their basic liberties are being threatened and the majority are further left and right aligned respectively, than they’ve been in recent memory.

Shows such as John Oliver’s Last Week tonight and the Last Leg are funny, but they have an agenda of their own and we should examine the topics they cover through multiple outlets to obtain a more whole perspective as opposed to accepting it as concrete news. The worlds of media and politics are at war with each other, you don’t need to pick a side, just take everything with the proverbial grain of salt. When everyone is trying to push an agenda, it is our job to stand firm and separate the important from the superfluous.

Don’t become what you criticise, keep an open mind and act on your beliefs not someone else’s. 

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Published March 9th, 2017
Tags free speech donald trump online safety
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