Facts, Opinions and Freedom of Speech

Don’t get me wrong, social media is brilliant. The manner in which it’s managed to reshape how we view communication is extraordinary. At the same time, it’s managed to skew the ideas we have, as a society, of fact, opinion, and freedom of speech.

From an honest standpoint, I’m one in the boat that facts are the most integral parts of the way the world works. Facts make up the basis of what we believe, of what we can trust, and of what we have the right to say.

I have no qualms with people expressing controversial opinions, in fact I encourage people to give opinions that might not be viewed in perfect light; but opinions need to be based on fact.

For instance, I can’t go around saying that everyone who will vote for Donald Trump if he wins the Republican nomination is stupid. To do that, I would need definitive proof that every single individual who cast a vote was lacking in intelligence, or lacking in common sense. As someone who does not have the means to prove that that was the case, I would not say it.

People will disagree with me, saying that freedom of speech allows them to say what they want. That’s not the case. Freedom of speech allows any individual to express opinion or expression without interference, yes. What people don’t realise, is that no one will be subjected to treatment that is degrading (degrading being defined as causing a loss of self-respect; humiliation or degrade being to treat poorly or without respect).

What does this all mean? Well, in simple terms, if I call all Trump voters stupid it breaches their right to not be treated in a degrading manner, the insult having the ability to both A) damage self-respect, B) Humiliate and C) disrespect. This quite comprehensively breaches their rights to articles 18, 19 and 21 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 

If it was fact that 100% of people who support trump fit the categorical definition of stupid, then there would be no degradation, because no argument could be made that it was damaging, humiliating or disrespectful, because it was an opinion based on a statement of fact.

Before people start thinking their opinions fit the bill of freedom of speech, realise that your freedom can not breach the rights of someone else, or to quote the commandment, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour”. And yes, everyone is your neighbour.

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Facts, Opinions and Freedom of Speech

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