Free speech is like bisexuality – it swings both ways!

Posted: May 1, 2016 in Free speech
Tags: , , , ,

Picture1I’ve been reading with avid interest the incident of well-known journalist Rajdeep Sardesai becoming the target of vicious trolls especially after the Agusta Westland scam re-emerged from hiding where it had been conveniently placed by the UPA government for the past so many years. And then, his latest foul-mouthed outburst against trolls and then the revelation that his Twitter account had been hacked, after which he went off Twitter, has been the cause of much angst among his followers and sections of the media, who believe he is being targeted by Modi Bhakts.

Rajdeep is one of the few journalists I have admired in the Indian media right through the years, when he was a part of the print media. I always thought of him as a journalist who retained objectivity in his writings even if he was criticising someone, even though his biases have become more prominent in the past few years. It’s unfortunate that he has become the target of Modi Bhakts and trolls who have taken a dislike for him. He’s been pleading with Prime Minister Narendra Modi to control his bhakts and I’m pretty sure the PM is having a quiet chuckle at the irony of it all – that those who  propagate and staunchly defend the right to free speech are the ones asking for control on it!

But this blog isn’t about Rajdeep, but more about this whole issue of exercising free speech and complete freedom of expression.

The thing is when you call the prime minister ‘feku’ in public and believe you have the right to do so because it’s free speech, be prepared to accept the criticism when someone retaliates in any form they think right. They are also just exercising their right to free speech. Don’t complain.

I am really surprised that journalists flog this nonsense about free speech. Frankly, I think there is too much of it around. That is why on Twitter one can say whatever one wants and get away with it. Swearing and abusing is also free speech. While I understand that some journalists cannot stoop to such levels and are rightfully objecting to the foul language being directed against them, what they need to understand is that they can’t demand free speech and yet demand that some elements be censored just because they have been made the target. Simply, put, you can’t have it both ways.

Look at what is happening in the United States and the United Kingdom where a talk show host can call Trump or Cameron an asshole and continue happily without being dragged to court. A respected newspaper such as the Financial Times of London can publish a lead story headline that says boldly “ACTUALLY, GO FUCK YOUR SELF”. That is absolute free speech. Can we take it?

And when we can’t, we start comparing things to the emergency and fascism! I would have liked to see how many journalists would have written the nonsensical open letters to Indira Gandhi during the Emergency and continued to walk free an hour after it was published – if it ever got that far. It would have been ripped to shreds by a censor sitting in the very office of the media house before it could see the light of day. Or for that matter I would like to know how far prominent journalists who pens satirical pieces would have progressed if there had been no free speech today.

Journalists may be getting back at Modi for the contemptuous way he has been treating them after the elections and one may hold him responsible for his past misdeeds, but don’t expect him to act against his followers who have been viciously targeting all those who dare to take on their hero. If I was him, I would say “You wanted free speech, well, you’ve got it, SO DON’T COMPLAIN”

The proponents of free speech need to understand one thing about it –  it is a bit like bisexuality, it’s perfectly normal for it to swing both ways.

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