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Thursday, 10 January 2019

Freedom of speech

In his 1941 State of the Union address, US President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave his Four Freedoms speech, being the freedom (1) of speech, (ii) of worship, (iii) from want, and (iv) from fear. That speech also introduced extraterritorial application of American values and "made a break with the tradition of United States non-interventionism" (Wiki).

The freedom of expression, which is (much) broader than (just) speech, was subsequently incorporated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948. Eight countries abstained from adoption, including Russia and Saudi Arabia.

Since 1986, the European Union presented another set of Four Freedoms, being free movement of (i) goods, (ii) capital, (iii) establishing and providing services, and (iv) persons. Obviously, such freedoms matched the European Economic Community (1957-1993).

This change in the meaning of the Four Freedoms underlines a change in societies at large. A positive explanation would be that the original four freedoms had become irrelevant. A negative explanation would be that prosperity & wealth had become more relevant (for governments and citizens) than the freedom of speech.

Recently, the Dutch translation of the Nashville Statement caused a lot of mostly negative attention. Wiki: "The Nashville Statement is an evangelical Christian statement of faith relating to human sexuality and gender roles authored by the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) in Nashville, Tennessee."

Some Dutch people even pressed charges against several of the about 250 persons who supported this Dutch translation of religious principles. They claim that the Nashville Statement is discriminatory against the LGBT community. Hence, Dutch prosecutors are to decide if this Dutch translation breaches Dutch law (eg, Dutch News).

To me, the fundamental freedom of speech is (much) more important than the alleged breach of other people's feelings, rights, or whatever. I am also reluctant to restrict the freedom of speech in case of Holocaust denial or hate speech in mosques by imported imams. Monetary fines and/or extradition works much better than restricting freedom of speech.

It's quite worrisome that people want to restrict other people's right to express themselves just because those opinions are not liked and/or welcome. Once you start restricting freedom of speech, there's no end to that process. Your (grand)children will face the consequences.

If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next (1998) by Manic Street Preachers


Note: all markings (bolditalicunderlining) by LO unless stated otherwise

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