You and I do not have “free speech”

Yesterday evening, according to my Twitter timeline, a discussion about abortion was held on the BBC NI Nolan TV show which was the latest demonstration that people of considered and reasonable opinion do not have free speech.

Placed on the panel on the so-called “pro-life” side was someone with neither expert nor representative capacity. She should not have been there. The argument that this is “free speech” doesn’t fly – there are plenty of “pro-life” public representatives or indeed church figures (expert in the doctrine many follow and presumably up to a point representative of congregations). I cannot speak for the “pro-choice” advocate as I did not watch. I do not watch programmes which give a deliberate and frankly harmful platform to extremists, while denying moderate and reasonable opinion a voice (often even when someone is there to represent moderate and reasonable opinion/expertise they are shouted over).

As I have written here before, even this month, the fact is we do not have free speech. Platforms are consistently and deliberately given to extremists who shout the loudest on the basis it will rile listeners and draw ratings. But the BBC in particular cannot be about ratings. It exists to inform, not to rile. If it is to present opposing opinions (and by the way it is peculiarly obsessed about doing that, rather than just having guests who can give considered opinion and expertise without necessarily facing confrontation), these should take the form of debate, not slanging. Indeed I gather the show went on to do precisely what I advocate in an interview about drug addiction with someone who has faced it (expertise from experience without confrontation, a very sensitive and informative way to do it), but by then I have no doubt much of the home audience will have turned off in disgust (or suitably riled).

Ultimately this is making it increasingly difficult for moderate and reasonable voices to be heard just at this very precarious time in human history when we most need to hear them. It is time for the mainstream media to think again about what its mission really is.


3 thoughts on “You and I do not have “free speech”

  1. Harry Merrick says:

    I have to agree 100% on that! The BBC, along with other media, are more interested in promoting their socialist ideaologies than giving balanced and trustworthy reportage! Fake News and Alternative Facts, in other words! They are losing all credibility and should lose their rights to the Licence Fee!

  2. korhomme says:

    I think you could call Nolan a ‘conversationalist’ and as such his programme aims to ‘shock’. It is a form of ‘entertainment’, not a forum for reasoned debate; it certainly seems to be ratings-driven.

    We are all entitled to free speech, provided it isn’t incitement to hate or to violence. Likewise, we have no obligation to actually listen.

    The person to whom you refer describes herself as an ‘extremist’, biblically but not politically correct. Her views are not those that many hold, and they aren’t internally coherent. She is against any form of ‘abortion’, without defining it, referring it to as ‘murder’; she also wants a return to capital punishments. She doesn’t seem to know what the definitions of abortion and murder are. She seems not to realise that there are occasions when to continue with a pregnancy will kill the woman, and that an ‘abortion’ is the only option if her life is to be saved.

    I don’t know whether it was intentional or not, but such extreme views might well rebound against the ‘pro-life’ campaign; it was said that the has the courage to say what other ‘pro-life’ advocates think but don’t say aloud. I suspect that this is a correct understanding.

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