“Without the freedom to offend, freedom to speech ceases to exist” – Salman Rushdie.
You cannot expect people to accept or agree with all of your thoughts. When we are offended, we would like the ability to call out those who offended us. If we only agree with freedom of speech in what we believe, then we don’t support freedom of speech at all. We have no power over how our speech is received. It’s the person who is receiving that decides its’ power.
People have the right to say and think what they want to. Freedom of Speech has the freedom to hurt unless it implies the death or physical hurting of someone. One of the problem of freedom of speech is that often we have to defend people that we find outrageous, disgusting and unpleasant. Freedom of speech doesn’t mean a free pass to tell whatever is on your mind. The right to offend is legal, but it is not moral for someone to do it. There is a very thin line between freedom of speech and offending someone. The prime example of this is a recent issue that took India by wildfire. A comedian named Tanmay Bhatt made a few videos making fun of Sachin Tendulkar and Lata Mangeshkar, both who have done extraordinary work in their respective fields. People lashed out against him on social media and urged him to take down the video. The problem grew bigger when people were offended by this and started filing FIR cases against him. A small thought expressed by him, cost him a lot.
There is no proper fix to this problem. We cannot remove the right to speech from everyone, that’s not the fix. The people have to differentiate the good from the bad, the controversial and offensive from normal expression of thoughts. There are many people around the world openly giving hate speeches, influencing a large number of people. Hate speech is free speech, but it comes at the cost of hurting sentiments or disintegrating communities. It is our job to recognize it and stay away from it. We should remember that freedom of speech is not a license to abuse, it is a responsibility.
Gayatri Baiju (XI-B)