Speak out

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When it comes to a free and open society, there is nothing more critical to its maintenance than the concept of free speech.

The idea of free speech is one that has always been and continues to be a subject of heated debate. From the very earliest times, it has been a back-and-forth between the people that would like to stifle ideas and the people that would like to debate those ideas.

As with all things, we’ve settled on a middle ground on this issue, favouring the shades of grey between the two stark options of black and white. The most famous example of the limits of free speech is that you cannot yell “fire” in a crowded theatre. In this case, although you should theoretically be able to yell anything and be covered under freedom of speech, the resulting damage you cause in pursuit of this freedom is generally seen as unacceptable. Even though it is the most famous example, such an event rarely, if ever, occurs.

In most cases, the dangers of free speech are expressed in speech that incites hatred towards a group of people, and Canada, along with many other nations, has strict laws that deter such “hate speech.” Although some might argue that these checks and balances are a damper on freedom of expression and permeation of ideas into the public discourse, they are sometimes necessary to protect people from the power of speech.

Even with the dangers, in a democracy, individual voices are a way to hold various organizations and individuals to account. Unfortunately, as individuals, people are not always able to make their voices heard. The Internet, which was once a model of free speech and allowed everyone to have their say, has become a cacophony of loud, careless opinions. While everyone is able to voice their viewpoints, in such an atmosphere it is difficult to make yourself heard and even more difficult to hold people accountable, as they can continuously go back and edit what they have written in the past.

That is why print media is so important. Taking the time to physically write and print a viewpoint gives the writer time to reflect on what they are writing, weigh what they are saying, and find a deeper meaning in what they want to express. I cannot count how many times I have sat down to write an angry article that was very critical of something, only to discover that after reflecting on what I was upset about, my offence was not warranted. In a world where people are able to voice their thoughts immediately without reflection, print media generally stands as a bulwark against rampant misinformation based more on feeling than on facts.

Not to mention, once something is printed it is nearly permanent. It is easy to hold someone accountable when that person has stated his or her case in a newspaper, because you have the actual proof right in front of you in a format that cannot be edited at the whims of someone looking to change what was said in the past.

That is where you come in. As an active member of our society, you have the civic responsibility to speak up when you see injustice happen. What better way to make yourself heard than to take the time and write about what you’ve witnessed and call to account those responsible? As I’ve pointed out, print media is something with a weight behind it that blogging and Internet news stories simply do not. What you say, even though it might not be read by as many people, is louder because you took the time to articulate your thoughts into an article that has permanence to it.

And, if you can’t find any injustice that needs to be addressed, you can always write about bunny rabbits.

Edward Dodd
Op-Ed Editor

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