OUT ON A LIMB: First victim of Internet polls is freedom of speech

It’s always interesting to see how dearly people in a democratic country hold to the principle of free speech.

In a heated debate or argument, it’s usually the first casualty.

It’s always interesting to see how dearly people in a democratic country hold to the principle of free speech.

In a heated debate or argument, it’s usually the first casualty.

Members of country group The Dixie Chicks were lambasted when singer Natalie Maines criticized then-U.S. president George Bush and his invasion of Iraq. The backlash against the band was vigorous, vociferous and voluminous. So much for freedom of speech in the world’s greatest democracy. And don’t go thinking Canada’s any better. We can fly off the handle with the best of them.

We in the newspaper business have a vested interest in freedom of speech. Fellas like me usually have a space like this here one to fill and the expectation is that we’re going to fill it with something meaningful.

As long as it is something you agree with. Right? I exaggerate. Of course, not all readers are intolerant of opposing viewpoints. Most are willing to accept the right of others to hold a contrary point of view. But frankly, too many aren’t.

You hear it in public meetings and on radio talk shows. Anybody who has a different point of view is not only misinformed, they’re also stupid. Too many debates involve people shouting down someone with an opposing point of view. The intent is to quash any airing of a viewpoint that is misguided and moronic. At least, that’s the implication in the tone of voice people use. The message is people with the “wrong” point of view should not even be able to speak.

Which brings us to Paul Rudan. On Wednesday he expressed his opinion in this same space. Reaction to what he said has been pretty strong. In the newspaper business, that means his column was pretty successful. In fact, his column is driving readers to our website, ironically. It’s already the fourth most read story on our website. But other people are having a hard time accepting his opinion. Well, you have to, this is a democracy.

Just keep in mind that was his opinion. You don’t have to like it but as a resident of a democratic country, you do have to recognize his right to express it. Meanwhile, be aware of the difference between a column and other pieces of writing in a newspaper. A column has a name (and usually a picture) attached to it and is a personal opinion. An editorial – as seen at the top of this page – is the opinion of the newspaper. Don’t confuse the two. If you want the paper’s opinion on the World Fishing Network’s current competition, see the front page and editorial page of our March 30 edition of the Mirror.  In summary, it says get out and vote for Campbell River. And our front page photo kicked off this campaign.

Now, in my opinion, freedom of speech does have limits. Those limits lie in the deliberate persecution of ethnic and other minorities and the intentional perpetration of lies. Some people don’t even accept those limits. But I do.