Who am I?
I’m a writer, journalist, and student, currently studying for an MA in Multimedia Journalism at the University of Kent. I’ve been published in The Telegraph, the Kent Messenger, and a variety of student publications. Until June 2016, I was the Editor of The Badger, the student newspaper at the university of Sussex. You can read more about me at my website.
Why I set up this blog
I set up Free to Wax Lyrical because I believe that the right of individuals to say what they like is fundamental to what it it means to live in a free society. Without the ability to speak freely, harsh truths that need to be heard can remain unsaid, and the sensibilities of those liable to be offended take precedence over the right to speak freely.
Surely its wrong to offend someone?
Well is it? Yes, sometimes its not very pleasant for someone to challenge your core beliefs or even your identity, or to have your ‘sensibilities’ tested. Yet sensibilities shift with the times, and whilst the current frontier might be gay rights and the protection of minorities, only fifty years ago that frontier rested on the illegality of homosexuality and the threat of punishment for pouring scorn on God.
The key point is this: if you base your red line on the subjective notion of offence, then that line very easily shifts, and can turn very ugly very quickly. Instead, the line should be what I outline below.
Should there be any limits on free speech?
Yes, but only one. In a much-repeated passage, the great John Stuart Mill laid out what was later dubbed, the ‘Harm Principle’. At its heart lays the idea that the actions of individuals (including speech) should only be limited in order to prevent harm to others. Of course, the notion of harm can be interpreted in a number of ways, and many people go as far as to say that simply being offended is enough to invoke the harm principle and thereby curtail someone’s right to free expression.
Without boring you with the details of what Mill may or may not have meant by harm – and there are endless interpretations of his works out there – I take harm to mean – in the context of free expression – the incitement of violence against an individual or group.
If you do want to learn more about Mill’s principle, read my first ever blog post on this site.