Freedom of expression - a facade

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by Keshav Iyengar on Friday, January 9, 2015

Section
Society

Session type
Lecture

Technical level
Intermediate

Objective

To throw some light on, and provoke a little thought with respect to the concept of freedom in general and the freedom of speech and expression in particular. To establish as plainly as possible why even the voice of the most extreme lunatic fringe must not be silenced and delve into the theory of how conflict breeds creativity. To also point out why freedom of speech must be absolute and why it isn’t.

Description

Freedom of speech and expression is the cornerstone of a free and just society and India has a lot to be proud of in such matters. However, history has shown us that the loopholes contained within this freedom, that is our birthright, have done much to compromise its nature. Truth be told, freedom must be absolute. Under any other circumstances, it ceases to be freedom. For the nature of the word is such that it means nothing unless it exists in an indivisible, indelible form. Naturally, anticipating some sort of utopia would be delusional, but that mustn’t stop one from analyzing what hinders free expression in the hope that some directional shift might be possible.

Apart from being a threat to the concept of fundamental rights, subduing the freedom of speech and expression contributes greatly to the retardation of thought and formation of ideas. It is, after all, the heretic that ends up initiating the change; dogmatic systems are seldom in favour of evolution. To quote Thomas Paine from The Age of Reason, “You will do me the justice to remember, that I have always strenuously supported the right of every man to his own opinion, however different that opinion might be to mine. He who denies to another this right, makes a slave of himself to his present opinion, because he precludes himself the right of changing it.”

I propose to discuss the history of free speech in India (which cannot be isolated from the world), try interpreting it and elucidate some basic principles that I regard to be pertinent.

Requirements

An open mind

Speaker bio

I’m a musician, a student of economics and law and quite the oddball; a bibliophile of sorts with a keen interest in the social sciences. I think of myself as liberal, but definitely not leaning towards the left.
I guess there’s a dab of eccentricity in me too, but then who amongst us isn’t at least a little wonky upstairs?