We ask ourselves a lot of questions when we’re putting the show together. Should we talk about this? Is this helpful? Is it responsible? Does it make good radio? Is it interesting? Does anybody care?
This weekend, we’ve asked ourselves a new one. Do we talk about this too much? This week, the issue of freedom has reared its head. Again.
My instinct was to question what else there was to say on the matter. Haven’t we exhausted most avenues of this conversation? It was, after all, the very title of last week’s newsletter.
The fact is, the issue is inescapable. So much of the stories we have covered this year touch on ‘freedom’, in one sense or another. From Coronavirus, the restrictions, the vaccine, through to Black Lives Matter, protests, Trump and Brexit.
This week, a court ruling has blown this debate wide open. Again. Earlier this year, a woman was given a two year conditional discharge and fined £1,000 for calling a trans woman a ‘pig in a wig’ on Twitter. A pretty lame insult – but the judge wasn’t impressed, saying: ‘Your comments contributed nothing to a debate. We teach children to be kind to each other and not to call each other names in the playground.’
Now, the judgement has been overturned at the Court of Appeal – with Lord Justice Bean and Mr Justice Warby saying: ‘Freedom only to speak inoffensively is not worth having’ , and, most pointedly of all, ‘free speech encompasses the right to offend, and indeed to abuse another.’
Read that again: ’free speech encompasses the right to offend, and indeed to abuse another.’
This case lands right at the cross hairs of where freedom of speech becomes freedom to hate. So it feels fitting – for our final weekend breakfast shows of 2020 – to get into the meat of this issue. We’ll prod it, poke it, flip it over and look at it from as many angles as we can. What it means, when we are and aren’t entitled to it, who is and isn’t trying to suppress it and when it is and isn’t being abused.
There are always those who will abuse freedom – and not just freedom itself, but the subject at large. There are those who have hijacked the issue of liberty and sovereignty – emotively entwined with our sense of identity – to create divisions and sow the seeds of suspicion of those wanting to make progress or protect people. This isn’t new, but a combination of forces have helped it thrive: ease of communication, rise of conspiracy and a vacuum of decent leadership.
I’ve made the point over and over again, as recently as last week’s newsletter, that freedom is not absolute. It comes with catches and clauses that are designed to keep people safe – to ensure that your freedom doesn’t become another persons oppression.
The question I must ask myself this weekend is: have I over-reached? Are the judges right, and my determination to protect people from prejudice has over stepped the mark and become an erosion of freedom of speech? Is that even possible? This weekend, I will look these questions in the eye, and see where we end up.
As well as that, Tom Cruise has become an unlikely hero for those fed up of having a mask-less shopper breathing down their neck in the supermarket, after audio of the actor scolding staff on the set of Mission Impossible went viral. I wonder how much it would cost to hire him to stand outside Aldi on a Friday? On Saturday’s show, we’ll ask if it’s right to call people out for breaking Coronavirus restrictions.
And if you’ve ever wondered what stress sounds like – beyond the noise of grinding teeth – a composer has created a piece of music using stress data. We’ll speak to him this weekend, and see if it makes us any calmer.
See you in the morning.
Weekend Early Breakfast with Darryl Morris – Sat/Sun 5am-7am – on talkRADIODecember 18, 2020 | No Comments