Saturday, 17 April 2010

UKIP - Oops!

Over in Cambridge, the UKIP candidate is apparently one of those who insists that Madeline McCann was killed by her parents. She doesn't have a particularly blemish-free history, this candidate.

That's not the 'oops'. This is:

A UKIP spokesman, quoted in the Sun newspaper, said last night: “Whilst having every sympathy with the McCanns and their predicament, UKIP believes in the freedom of speech.”

I am fully supportive of freedom of speech. So I have no problem with people going around making assertions based on no evidence at all - our government and their advisors do it all the time, so why shouldn't everyone be allowed to do it?

But there is another side to freedom of speech. You can say whatever you like but you take responsibility for it. This means that if you falsely accuse someone of something, and they, for example, lose their job because of it, you would be prosecuted for the harm you cause.

Free speech is not free of responsibility. It does not mean you can shout 'Paedo' at a teacher, get them sacked and go on your merry anonymous way. Well, in Labour's Britain it happens all the time but that's because we are ruled by dribbling loons who wouldn't know 'fairness' if you rolled it up really tight and inserted it into their brains through their nostrils. In a sensible world, accusers would not be permitted to be anonymous unless there was a very good reason for it.

Free speech also carries responsibilites that do not, or should not, involve the law. If you go around making accusations for which you can present no evidence, one consequence will be that people will not trust you. If you accuse the parents of a missing child of killing that child and hiding the body - with no evidence to prove it - then people, on the whole, aren't going to like you very much.

If you do that and then stand for election, well don't get too hopeful about the result.

So the UKIP stance on free speech is fine with me. Say what you like. Remember, though, that there are consequences to using that free speech. There can also be consequences in supporting the speech of others. Even if you don't really support it, but the people you want to vote for you think you do.

This is a potentially very big electoral 'oops'. It doesn't just affect Cambridge. The Sun is not a local paper. It affects every UKIP candidate everywhere.

It should not be simply dismissed by UKIP as 'free speech'. Free speech can offend people and they have no right not to be offended. However, they do have the right not to vote for someone who offends them.

Free speech is a great thing, but it comes with consequences.

10 comments:

Mark Wadsworth said...

And the aurdience said...

Junican said...

Freedom of Speech means that one can say anything that one wants, without being prosecuted or persecuted merely for saying it. If one says something that scandelises another person, one must be prepared to 'prove', or at least 'back up' what one says. But, there is a defence against libel and slander that what one says is 'fair comment', which means that it is possible to have doubts about the truth of some statement or about the qualifications of the person who made the statement.
What seems to have gone wrong with the idea of free speech has been the government's attempts to re-define freedom of speech. Unfortunately, at the moment, it seems that the courts are going along with the government.
It is hard to believe that this situation can continue for much longer before a judge says, "Erm......I do not think so." At which point, the whole edifice will collapse.

JuliaM said...

"...ruled by dribbling loons who wouldn't know 'fairness' if you rolled it up really tight and inserted it into their brains through their nostrils."

That's a pretty long route to their brains. Try a lower orifice.

Fausty said...

Why the candidate had to mention the issue at all, is beyond me. It's hardly uppermost in people's minds! Why put it on a leaflet?

Angry Squaddie said...

Still going to vote UKIP though.

AS

almighty said...

i believe in the party not the individuals, you will always get twats.

Free speech is worth what you pay for it said...

"It does not mean you can shout 'Paedo' at a teacher, get them sacked and go on your merry anonymous way."

Errr... What?

Since when does shouting 'Paedo' at a teacher get them sacked? Whatever happened to those old fashioned concepts of 'evidence' and 'innocent until proved guilty' and 'beyond reasonable doubt'?

No. If an anonymous person shouts "Paedo" and gets a teacher sacked, and the teacher turns out to be innocent, then the person who sacked a teacher without proof gets sued, not the anonymous commentator.

If you're talking about someone exercising their 'free speech' by making a false complaint to the police, (or a baying mob complete with pitchforks and burning torches), that's different. But if I can get sued just because I can't prove what I said in public about Mo and Aisha, where can it end?

Anonymous said...

But there is another side to freedom of speech. You can say whatever you like but you take responsibility for it. This means that if you falsely accuse someone of something, and they, for example, lose their job because of it, you would be prosecuted for the harm you cause.

That is false:

Murray Rothbard, on who owns a reputation:

...should “libel” and “slander” be illegal in the free society?

And yet, once again, how can they be? Smith has a property right to the ideas or opinions in his own head; he also has a property right to print anything he wants and disseminate it. He has a property right to say that Jones is a “thief” even if he knows it to be false, and to print and sell that statement. The counter-view, and the current basis for holding libel and slander (especially of false statements) to be illegal is that every man has a “property right” in his own reputation, that Smith’s falsehoods damage that reputation, and that therefore Smith’s libels are invasions of Jones’s property right in his reputation and should be illegal. Yet, again, on closer analysis this is a fallacious view. For everyone, as we have stated, owns his own body; he has a property right in his own head and person. But since every man owns his own mind, he cannot therefore own the minds of anyone else. And yet Jones’s “reputation” is neither a physical entity nor is it something contained within or on his own person. Jones’s “reputation” is purely a function of the subjective attitudes and beliefs about him contained in the minds of other people. But since these are beliefs in the minds of others, Jones can in no way legitimately own or control them. Jones can have no property right in the beliefs and minds of other people.

...

We can, of course, readily concede the gross immorality of spreading false libels about another person. But we must, nevertheless, maintain the legal right of anyone to do so. Pragmatically, again, this situation may well redound to the benefit of the people being libelled. For, in the current situation, when false libels are outlawed, the average person tends to believe that all derogatory reports spread about people are true, “otherwise they’d sue for libel.” This situation discriminates against the poor, since poorer people are less likely to file suits against libelers. Hence, the reputations of poorer or less wealthy persons are liable to suffer more now, when libel is outlawed, then they would if libel were legitimate. For in that libertarian society since everyone would know that false stories are legal, there would be far more skepticism on the part of the reading or listening public, who would insist on far more proof and believe fewer derogatory stories than they do now. Furthermore, the current system discriminates against poorer people in another way; for their own speech is restricted, since they are less likely to disseminate true but derogatory knowledge about the wealthy for fear of having costly libel suits filed against them. Hence, the outlawing of libel harms people of limited means in two ways: by making them easier prey for libels and by hampering their own dissemination of accurate knowledge about the wealthy.

Leg-iron said...

The 'free speech' issue isn't as clear as it appears. Especially where it conflicts with the basic libertarian 'do no harm' approach.

Because free speech can do some very real harm. Speech is not harmless. It will take some thinking about.

Free speech is worth what you pay for it -
Whatever happened to those old fashioned concepts of 'evidence' and 'innocent until proved guilty' and 'beyond reasonable doubt'?

Labour have deleted those. Now an accusation stays on file even if it has been disproven. A CRB check will find it.

So if an anonymous calls you 'paedo' and it is subsequently disproven, too bad. You still can't get a job working with children.

Even if you are a plumber who can fix the school toilets.

Sue said...

I do think that people in a position of power should be much more careful of what they say. What on earth is she going on about the McCanns for?

Other than that, it's a point of respecting each other's privacy, decency, honour, manners and sometimes, just minding your own business.

These are things which are sadly lacking these days. The role models that this last generation have grown up with, politician's greed, scandal ridden magasines, bad taste TV shows like Jerry Springer, sportsman misbehaving etc.. is not a good example for how to behave.

And to think, the British used to be known for their manners.

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