Another blog that I read, https://sometimesitsjustacigar.wordpress.com/, had a piece about the recent furor regarding Germain Greer and her being refused a voice at Cardiff University. A comment on that post about “free speech” really ticked me off and I’d like to talk about that.
If you want, you can refuse to listen, refuse to read what I write, ignore anything I say. It will disappoint me, as I like it when people read what I write but, I won’t complain. I won’t go running to the media complaining that I have been denied a voice, because I haven’t. The fact that I can write this and post it on my blog is a freedom that I can enjoy. Whether or not anyone reads it is up to those who find it, not me.
I have opinions. Sometimes I like to share those opinions. Some people may not agree with them but, hey, that’s what debate and argument is all about. I won’t shove those opinions down anyone’s throat, I cannot force anyone to agree with me and I cannot force anyone to like what I say, but I still have the ability to say it.
I am a woman, a woman with a transsexual past. Consequently, any person with an opinion that seeks to deny my existence, or claims to know what I think or how I feel, will be in disagreement with me. I will tell them that they are wrong, and argue the point with them but, if they do engage with me, I don’t have to listen. I don’t have to spread the word. I am under no obligation to allow them a platform and I can quite happily tell them to shut up.
This isn’t denial of free speech. As an individual or an organisation, not providing someone with a platform to speak isn’t a denial of their rights, nor is it silencing them. Its an exercise in free speech itself.
If I were to stand in Parliament Square in London, espouse my dislike of certain policies enacted by the government, and then be arrested and taken away on the orders of the government, then that would be suppression of free speech. If I wrote something on my blog which was then deleted by GCHQ, then that also would be suppression of free speech. Conversely, if I were denied any form of media through which I could express my opinion, then that would be denial of free speech. Any form of suppression of opinion by a government is denial of free speech.
Anything else is simply “I don’t want to listen to you.”