Exercising my freedom of speech

[Originally written on 01 January 2009]

Another blog, another one trying to say something to the world… Who cares? Does the voice of one matter? And will it be heard? In this ‘information era’ we’re living in, everyone can have their opinion and share it with everyone. I can think, write, say whatever I want, and some will listen. So what? Will it make any difference?

There’s this interesting phenomenon going on: the more people talk, write and show, the more difficult it is to know if they are telling the truth. They have the freedom of speech, but no obligation to tell the truth.

OK, so we all have a freedom of speech. Everyone can share their opinion. And they do it. So what? Do you know the truth about things? I definitely don’t. I hear my neighbour saying: ‘Our street will be repaired next spring. They said so in the news.’ Then I read in the news: ‘The streets in this district are going to be repaired next spring.’ Then the owner of the small shop nearby says: ‘They say they will be repairing the streets here, but the workers say this street will not be repaired.’ So do I know the truth? And how will I know it? Well, I can go to the mayor’s office and ask the people in the administration.

Alright, so here’s the problem: why would I need to read the news or to listen to other people? Yes, they are exercising their freedom of speech and everyone says what they want. But they are not informative. When I need this information, I have to ask the authority.

The freedom of speech became a subject of discussion when there was no freedom of speech. It was supposed to bring the truth to the public, because the truth was hidden. There was one source of information, and the authority got to decide what would be reported as truth. Of course, that led to manipulation. So the people decided: when this ends, we’ll no longer have only one source of information. When this ends, we will let everyone speak freely, and by doing so, we’ll finally know the truth about what’s happening.

So, here we are, exercising our freedom of speech. The consequences of it? Well, a freedom of speech, of course! Nothing more. No truth revealed.

Actually, the freedom of speech has led to disinformation. Do you know exactly what happens to the world? Whom do you trust to tell you? And why do you trust them? How have these sources gained your trust? Have you checked if what they are telling is true? Have you checked their sources? Do they have the most readers? And is that a criterium? Maybe they have the most readers for other reasons. And what is more, do you actually trust the judgement of these thousands anonymous readers? Do you think they have checked if the news was true? Do you think that mattered to them?

How can you tell that one source is trustworthy if it’s the only one that says the truth? Don’t people tend to believe the mass? ‘You’re the only one that says ‘white’, everyone else is saying ‘black’, so why would I trust you?’

Which is more important? How many people are saying something or who these people are? Well, I think it’s more important who they are. There is always at least one person that really knows the truth. This person is trustworthy, therefore authoritative. Sounds familiar? Authority!

So why am I exercising my freedom of speech? Only for the sake of it. If I happen to be a witness to something interesting, I will share it. Because then I would have the authority to do so. It doesn’t really matter if you would believe me or not. After all, we all have the freedom of speech, and no obligation to tell the truth. It is just an option.

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