Opinion: Free speech under threat

The right to free speech is gradually being eroded.
The right to free speech is gradually being eroded.

Intolerance. Now there is a word to conjure with. It seems to apply more and more these days.

Over the last decade we have seen a huge rise in political correctness in our society, along with the rise of social media, where anyone can respond instantly to any comment or statement made by politicians or people in the public eye.

I view with dismay some of the comments that are posted on media like Twitter or Facebook, which become increasingly distasteful and savage and include threats of violence or similar to anyone who opposes the poster’s views. The UK used to be renowned for its policy of free speech where anyone could climb upon the soapbox and speak without threats of violence – hecklers certainly, but usually good natured.

Hyde Park Corner was a typical venue where one could see on a daily basis someone giving forth on a pet subject. Letters to one of the newspapers was another way of commenting on events, often written with wit and a degree of worthwhile debate.

Modern media has changed so much of this and, as seen recently, when some Labour politicians dared to oppose their leader’s views on the vote on air strikes in Syria, the result was a flood of vile and vindictive threats against them. We love to have a moan about our politicians, be it national or local, but they should not be subjected to this level of abuse.

The outcome of all this is that our right to free speech is gradually being eroded. It is a brave person who comments on anything that goes against the flow nowadays. They know full well that the chance of getting abusive threats 
is very real. Some subjects are now so out of bounds, like religion, immigration, and multi-culturalism. We, as a whole, daren’t even speak out loud in case the racist finger is pointed at us.

I can’t help wondering if free speech is something we will look back on with nostalgia as it becomes a thing of the past.