We live in a time where public figures are defamed, denounced and demonetised for the things they do and say. One side calls this an appropriate response to people saying or doing something that is socially inappropriate, while the other calls it an attack on freedom of speech.
So, which is it?
James Gunn was fired by Disney for some distasteful jokes he made a decade ago. Alex “Boris” Johnson is currently being accused of islamophobia for making public islamophobic comments. And Alex Jones has been removed from many mainstream, public platforms for peddling lies and conspiracy in the form of legitimate news.
This morning — as I sipped on some cheap coffee, wondering where it all went wrong — I found myself thinking back to distasteful jokes I may have made to friends when I was younger, or even something that I’ve said in private more recently, that wouldn’t sound great if taken out of context.
I don’t think I’m prejudiced in any way, and if I don’t understand a perspective I tend to listen to that perspective before doing some research for myself. So I think I’m okay on that front. However, I do tend to make inappropriate jokes, but usually at the expense of politicians, rich celebrities or anyone else in a position of power; Punch up, never down.
Then I realised something; I’m not currently trying to make a studio movie, hold political office or run a factual news outlet. The examples I gave, along with 99% of the people who’re publicly shamed on social media, are usually trying to hold a position of perceived power or desired status. If James Gunn, Boris Johnson and Alex Jones were sat at home, saying the same things and not trying to make money or gain status from their opinions — nobody would bat a solitary eyelid.
This means that — in my opinion — they still have freedom of speech. Our leaders and spokespeople should be held to a higher standard, as they have the power to influence others; Especially children, and people who’ve unfortunately had a lack of education.
If a teacher acts inappropriately in school, then you suspend or fire that teacher, but if a student misbehaves then you give them detention. That’s because the actions of the teacher effect the whole class, whereas the actions of the child would typically only effect themselves.
My favourite element of idealised free-market capitalism is the power to “vote with your wallet”; The ability to dictate the shape and landscape of society based on who or what you give your money to. In modern living this could also mean time, patronage, or even your own vocal opinion of that person.
If the majority of the public voice is “we don’t like what you’re saying” then that person will be dragged through the social media mud before losing their job, and potentially their status.
Although, there are those who specifically love to support people who’ve been publicly shamed for saying terrible things, but that’s another beast entirely.
Let’s take Alex Jones for example. He’s someone who still has his website and news show, on which he can say whatever he wants (as long as he’s prepared for defamation and libel lawsuits). He has been removed from speaking these things via privately owned companies. His freedom of speech has not been infringed upon, the market has simply said, “No — You can’t make money from us anymore”, and the majority of people have agreed.
As a side-note, I think that Alex Jones could make all of his problems go away if he started each show with the disclaimer:
“The following is a work of fiction, any and all people you see on this show are characters. This show is not to be believed as it’s not properly researched and each segment is shoddily designed to peddle you another useless product. This is not a news program and you should not use InfoWars as a source of information, any more than you would use a toaster as a source of the concept of righteousness.”
I’ve seen Alex Jones fans defend his show as “It’s not real and if you believe that s**t, then shame on you.” But the fact is that people do believe that s**t, and that s**t is dangerous if believed.
Anyway, my point is that Alex Jones can still attempt to make money from his brand of conspiracy news via his own channels, but if the market eventually decides to no longer monitise him in that way, then he can’t claim an “attack on freedom of speech” — he’s just bad at making money correctly.
Let’s look at Boris Johnson, who recently said that Muslim women in burkas look like “letter boxes” or “bank robbers”. He has refused to apologise for his comments, doubling-down on his Islamophobia. Now, I understand that burkas are a misogynistic tool designed to suppress and control women, but neither Boris Johnson or myself are Muslim, so it’s not up to us to decide when that particular revolution comes about.
The majority of muslim women have some excellent opinions on the use of burkas in their faith, and those are the people who should be listened to — Not chubby little Eton boys who never managed to attain their fathers love, or hold an erection for more than ninety seconds without being in a shower.
See, that’s punching up.
My point is that if Boris was just some guy at the pub, who made those same comments, then people would laugh nervously before directing the conversation somewhere else. Johnson, however, is Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom, who is looking to make a bid for Prime Minister in the coming months and years. If public opinion says his comments aren’t okay, then guess what? We don’t have to keep him in a position of power.
But who will be left to be in positions of status and power if we all say bad things from time to time? Well, it’ll be made up of those like James Gunn, who actually apologise for what they’ve said, instead of deflecting the problem back onto anyone else. It’ll also be made up of those from younger generations, who’ve been taught that their actions and words have consequences.
As soon as James Gunn’s ability to make independent movies, Alex Jones’ right to a personal website or Boris Johnson’s right to have private opinions — are infringed upon, then we’ll have a bigger issue. As that hasn’t happened yet — we don’t. The “free” market and democracy are simply doing their thing.
Now if you’ll allow me to be intentionally flippant to close:
Alex Jones, Boris Johnson; famed conservatives — does this mean you hate capitalism and democracy?
Today is Saturday, August 11th and I’ve nearly been in America for a whole year.
Tip My Jar?
If you like what I write and can spare a dollar, then it’d be a greatly appreciated act of kindness! If you like what I write and can’t spare a dollar then I greatly appreciate you! If you hate what I write and also can’t spare a dollar, then why are you still reading this?