Comment 60032

By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted February 19, 2011 at 12:47:22

Much of this, it seems, is revealing deeper philosophical and ideological divisions. A Smith's classical liberal viewpoint about such things seems a relatively absolutist view (to quote Mrjanitor, "black and white) of such matters. To him, as with several others, the end goal is "free speech" in which each is allowed to say their piece unobstructed.

For most of the rest of us, the end goal seems to be a sharing of ideas and collective articulation of them. In this far less individualistic, more community-minded approach, "speech" is seen as a holistic part of greater questions of freedom of expression, and building community and consensus, even if we don't all agree on everything.

For the record, IMHO, this is one of the biggest dangers of liberal thought, classical, "neo", lefty, righty, whichever. By still relying on rigid viewpoints about what liberty is and looks like, anything which diverges automatically gets labelled "unfree". It presupposes an enlightened conclusion and then sets about imposing it on others, in the name of liberty. Against such a backdrop, anything that contrasts with it is seen as a threat. At best it simply re-enforces the status quo and at worst it engineers a new one. By still relying on relatively authoritarian notions and unquestioned assumptions about the One True Way To Live(tm), it inherently rejects others. And by asserting one way to be "normal", it makes that set of rules invisible, while painstakingly critiquing the rules of 'others' whilst dismissing the context.

Voluntary associations, formed for the purposes of discussion, have the right to set ground rules for those discussions. We all choose to be here, to read, to post, and to participate. These discussions are publicly viewable, and the ability to join is open. This does not, however, mean that RTH is a "public institution". Nor does the fact that it is popular and influential. RTH is still the product of a group (dare I say community), which has spent countless hours adding content. It was never supposed to take the place of the be-all and end-all of media in Hamilton, nor should it. It is a forum for a very specific type of discussion about a very specific type of issues. We talk about things in a specific way - calm, respectful and thought-out. And the successes we've all seen so far are a result of doing our best to avoid flame wars, sectarian bickering and wanton hyperbole. The point is not to give everyone their soap box here - that is the job of the internet. The point is to be the best damn soap box we can be.

If people can't get together to say something, then what's the point of free speech?

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