By speech I mean a non-violent expression of OPINION on ANY subject under the sun, regardless of whether that opinion is deemed offensive by some.
By speech I do not mean a libellous (false, commercially harmful) attack on someone or any other form of direct violent harm or direct threat of violence. This means things like child pornography, speeches intended to directly provoke violence during communal violence, etc. is NOT speech but a form of violence.
There is great confusion when people mix up OPINIONS on issues (including religions) with false attacks on specific individuals or any other form of violence. Repeatedly bullying someone is a form of violence.
When it is kept clearly in mind that speech is an OPINION and not an ACTION, then the confusion becomes clearer.
All speech, like any other freedom, is subject to (social) accountability.
Comment received on my blog
I find it curious and rather naive you have defined speech as inherently non-violent thereby side-stepping the issue of allowed and disallowed speech. This short-cut and does not make good law.
Also, in your exclusions as to what is not speech, you have this:
“..Harming the reputation of a person leading to commercial loss”
Take this instance, where a bad surgeon botches up his operations every once in a while but cleverly hides the facts from the public, puts out nice ads in the local papers (effectively buying the media), donates well to aid social work etc, gets awards like Golden Peacock or whatever is easy, thus building up a good reputation. Now one of his patients squeals on him, harming the surgeon’s reputation commercially, it seems that you want to disallow such speech and/or make the patient take back the words and pay damages. Please comment.
Also you place great emphasis on accountability of the speaker which means identification, possible SLAPPS etc. Speech as a medium for whistleblowing doesn’t seem to occur to you at all.
Speech as truth-finding mechanisms are non-violent discourse and must be fully protected.
The idea of libel is a civil matter that would need be tested in a court. In in the example you cite (bad doctor), if it is demonstrated in court that the patient was right, no cause lies against any such speech by the patient. So having evidence is a good idea before directly attacking someone’s commercial reputation. Mere commercial harm is not excuse, however, for then you could never catch a thief because the thief would incur a ‘commercial harm’. Accountability is the key principle. The doctor was misleading others, so he is at fault regardless of any loss he undergoes through the ‘truth’ speech.
I think these three things: (a) non-violence, (b) truth and (c) accountibility can throw adequate light on any ‘gray’ area.
The key point I’m making in this ‘manifesto’ is about the ABSOLUTE freedom to critique/lampoon religion or have opinions on matters of science or society: such opinions can’t be objected to regardless of any “offence” felt by anyone. It is such opinions that are basically being debated. No one is worried about libel or whisleblowing here. Banning books/movies is about opinion that someone finds “offensive”. That, I’m afraid, is not tenable in a free society.