Free Speech Under Threat

A friend of mine made a joke about how easy it is to get a degree now days. Youngsters opt for weak minded, mickey mouse, courses such as ,”Travel and Tourism, Events Management, Film Studies, etc.

These are not as challenging as Physics, History or Maths and Science.

He was challenged by the group saying he was making fun of people taking legitimate courses. The challengers told him:

“You Can’t Say That!”. You’re offending the people taking the courses, you’re putting them down as ignorant. You should be ashamed of yourself.”


My friend was taken aback by the outburst.

When he told me of the incident, I immediately thought of how people give lip service to Free Speech in principle but being against it in practice.

It seemed to me Free Speech had fallen out of fashion.

So I got together with my friend, Tom, who was the perpetrator of the offending remark, to discuss how free speech is under threat.


“Tom, give me a definition of “Politically Correctness.”

“Well Dave, it’s the avoidance of forms of expression or action that are seen to marginalize, insult or exclude groups of people who are disadvantaged or discriminated against.

Language and actions that are or could be offensive to others should be avoided.”

“Right on Tom. This fear of being offensive brings to mind the Charlie Hebdo massacre, where 12 journalists were shot in the Paris offices of the satirical magazine by Islamist gunmen in revenge for mocking Muhammad.”

“Yes, that was terrible.”

“Charlie Hebdo had every right to draw their cartoons, but some people criticized them.

It seems the motto of our age is: “You Can’t Say That!”

“Dave, I am of the opinion that the only speech I would censor is: Speech that proposes or incites physical violence on people or property because that violence is illegal.”

“I agree Tom, but I don’t agree in the belief of a person’s right to suppress whatever they find offensive. Hate speech are moral views a person objects to. But one person’s hate speech is another’s passionate belief. I live by the motto, “Question Everything.”


“Dave, lets go over the main enemies of Free Speech in today’s world.”

“Okay Tom, I’ll start with OFFICIAL CENSORS in government who want to control offensive speech—enter the hate-speech laws.”

“I’ll follow up with UNOFFICIAL CENSORS. The Twitter mobs and online petitioners trying to silence everybody whose views are not to their taste.”

“And finally, there is SELF-CENSORSHIP. Because of the first two, people shy away from expressing any strong views.”


“Remember Dave, what liberty means with Free Speech in mind:

It means the right to tell people what they do NOT want to hear!”

“We need to lose the fear of free speech. There are times when you feel embarrassment because you said something different from what is expected and then you feel you should apologise the moment anybody takes exception.”

“Freedom of speech is about YOUR RIGHT to think what you like and say what you think, As long as we have expressed the truth as we understand it and then allow others the freedom to respond.”


“The Establishment promotes the fear of free speech because of their loathing of the masses, who might use the freedom as they see fit rather than as they were told.”

“Remember, as Tom said previously, direct threats of violence are NOT a free-speech issue.

But anything that restricts a person’s right to express an opinion, tell a joke, or their right to criticize somebody else for doing so—is a free-speech issue.”

“With the right of Free Speech comes responsibilities. We have a responsibility to speak what we believe to be the truth and leave others free to disagree.”


“In conclusion: We must fight for the RIGHT to think what we like, and say what we think.”

The Elite and Democracy

I recently met a man who works as an assistant to a politician and he told me what he thinks about the masses who vote and I imagine he was reiterating the views of his boss as well. They both graduated from prestige universities.

He regarded the masses with scorn and apprehension. He paid lip service to Democracy in principle but NOT in practice.

Everything he stood for was an attempt to delegitimize the results of the people’s vote.

He thought that there was “too much” Democracy because it entrusts too much influence to low informed, over emotional people.

He cited two examples: The Brexit vote and Trump’s election. He favored the current establishment idea of a second referendum vote on Brexit to cancel out the first vote. And it was the great “unwashed” deplorables that elected Trump.

He repudiated the results of these two earthquakes because he didn’t like the results.

In general he thought allowing the votes of the populace to determine important issues a threat to Democracy.

He wanted more power to be exercised by the Elite Establishment which are an insulated political class.

In his mind some voters (the elite) were more equal than others (the populace).


So, what’s happened to: Government of the People, by the People and for the People?

It seems that the Establishment always tries to SCARE the electorate into okaying things that the electorate didn’t want and then they go ahead and do it.

After listening to this man, who fancied himself a member of the Elite, I had to write a blog on the “Elite Repudiating the People’s Will”.

So, I met up with my buddy, Tom, to have a discussion on the Elite and Democracy, on which I would base my blog.


“Hey Tom, give me a definition of Democracy.”

“Well Dave, it’s a system of government where the citizens exercise power by voting and the majority wins.

In our system it’s called representative democracy, where the people elect reps from among themselves and these reps are supposed to act in the interests of their constituents.”

“That just about sums it up, Tom. Now, I will give you a definition of “The Elite Establishment”.

It’s middle and upper class professionals who dominate politics, culture, education and the media. They try to enforce conformity, they want to regulate speech and distill the truth for the masses.”

“That’s it, Dave. And I would add they are a closed group that want to perpetuate themselves and their position. They are insulated from the wider population and they want to make sure their interests are met.”


“So Tom, what recently have the Establishment repudiated?”

“They repudiated the Brexit referendum results and the election of Trump, in so doing they denied the validity of the results and they refused to accept them because they didn’t correspond to their interests.”


Then the Elite started talking about their low opinion of the judgement of the voters. They even tried to play the “Race Card”. But you can’t write off millions of voters by using the over-worked race card.”


“So Tom, what needs to be done?”

“In my mind, Democracy has to be lived more than once every election.

We need to defend democratic principles instead of it being a case of “too much democracy”, there is at the moment far too little democracy.”

“I think the Establishment are trying to take the people out of Democracy, by saying: The people are ignorant, the people are irrational, the people are gullible and finally the people don’t know what’s good for them.”

“So, the Elite,” Tom said soberly,” think it’s better to leave the big issues to them, they know what’s best for the people. They are the “experts.”


“The political debates on TV are over-rehearsed and empty.

The electorate is reduced to the role of passive spectator.

Local public debates in town halls is a lost art, it should be revived.

Maybe there could be more debates on the internet.”

“All good points, Dave. One argument against popular democracy is that voters are at the mercy of the Media. Much of the top echelon of the Media Empires are now seen as part of the Elite. The people listen exclusively to the Media and are unduly influenced by them is a Myth.

Trump was elected despite being vilified by the Media. He won the election though he only was supported by two major newspapers.”

“Right on Tom, the media reflects the issues of the day, it doesn’t dictate them.

It reflects public life and it helps to shape our perception of it, but we don’t have to be totally influenced by it. We can think for ourselves.”


“Tom, I believe political power is exercised from on high by an insulated political class. What’s to be done?”

“Dave, I believe we need MORE debate and participation in the Democratic process. We need to put the people back at the heart of Democracy.”

“We need to go over the basics of democratic freedom, because these basics are glossed over and forgotten in a world where everybody pays lip service to Democracy in principle while trying to deny it in practice.”

“Okay Tom, lets list some of the basics. I’ll start with:

Direct Democracy where the culture is infused with public debate, town hall style, where the people’s will is paramount. Maybe more debates on the internet where the Elite would read and listen to it and pay attention.”

“I’d like to talk about the Masses, Dave. This is the group that you and I are in and which the Elite look down on as a mob of deplorables. It’s called Mass-Bashing.”

When it comes to making political decisions the wisdom of the Masses is better than the narrow view of the “experts”. The Masses bring real life experience to the table.”

“How about this: Don’t out source authority over major issues to unelected judges.

Unelected judges should NOT sit in judgement of political issues affecting the whole of society. These issues need the widest public debate.”

“The Elite want to beat us into conformity and they want us to believe they are the experts.”


“So, in conclusion, we need to put the people (demos) back in Democracy and give them the power and control (kratos) to make informed choices through public debates that our officials listen to and act upon. I’ll leave you with this:





Becoming a Better Listener

“I have a brain that’s skating on the thin ice of anxiety, depression, depersonalization and just being alive,” said Larry.

I wanted to help people like Larry so I embarked on a journey to learn more about Listening Skills.


It boggles the mind how many qualities a Listener Helper needs!

They are:

Empathy—this is very important for successful helping.

It’s the ability to be in another’s shoes, to see their world from their perspective.

Gaining understanding of another’s problems.

Sincerity—being genuine means that you are what you seem.

Respect—to enable someone to talk to you about their issues you need an attitude of acceptance and respect of their struggles.

Integrity—act with honesty and uprightness in your dealings with those you try to help.

Resilience—helping people through talking is very demanding. You need strength of character to cope.

Humility—consider your own failings and remember you are NOT superior to the help-seeker.

Fairness—treat people as equals. As a helper strive to recognize any tendencies to behave unfairly and overcome them.

Wisdom—you need to be well informed and you need to have an open mind.

Courage—listening to difficult issues requires courage, you may feel out of your depth. You might have to compromise one value in favor of another.

Competence—is a combination of knowledge and skills and knowing when to use them.

Listen Carefully—so that the help-seeker can work out for themselves what the problem really is and what to do about it.

Assertiveness—the ability to stay true to yourself and what you think is right, to speak plainly and directly without being aggressive or imposing your ideas on another.


Then there is the problem of recognizing your own barriers to listening.

You bring your own history to the helping situation which can be a help or a hindrance. Your defenses protect your value system when listening.

Your defenses can be a BLOCK to the helping situation. Such as:

Judging others by your own set of values.

Advising—you need to be listening and just be present. You don’t have to search for advice because you might miss hearing about a person’s feelings.

Being Right and Comparing—your opinions and convictions are unshakable.

Listening is hard work because you’re always trying to assess who is more competent—you or the other person.

Filtering—you listen to some things but not others.


Sometimes you have to CONFRONT the help-seeker by drawing their attention to discrepancies and gaps in their story.

Confronting may be uncomfortable and you will need careful phrasing to prevent confronting being viewed as an attack.

Questioning can be tricky because it puts the client in a subordinate role or on the defensive.

If you have to question, use OPEN questions.

That means asking questions that encourage elaboration.

Such questions begin with how, when, what, where and who.

Avoid beginning with WHY? Because they tend to sound accusative and demanding.

You ask open questions to fill out the story and to gain a more complete understanding of the problem and the help-seeker.


It’s also important to encourage the client (help-seeker) to explore their problems.

You must consider the whole person in context to give you a better understanding of the problem that is brought before you.

Try to identify the signs of distress:

Body—is there disturbances in patterns of sleep and eating or symptoms of panic. Are there facial tics and body stiffness.

Emotion—is there strangeness of feelings or the person might appear withdrawn or listless.

Sensation—are there heart palpitations or shallow breathing.

Thinking—they might have disordered thinking which is a by-product of shock and stress. Until there is catharsis (releasing of emotions) the person may NOT think straight.

Behavior—the client can act erratically or be prone to obsessive behavior. They may be snappy and negative in their responses.

Spirit—distressed people become dispirited and lose faith in life.


A good Listener has to recognize issues that Cause or Result in Distress, such as:

Dealing with Change—many of the issues which present themselves to you as a listener helper are concerned with CHANGE.

Many people have never learned to manage change. Anxiety comes with change.

People become paralysed in the face of change (death of loved one or illness, etc).

Working with Loss—many of life’s changes involve some sort of Loss. Loosing health or loved ones or a job leads to negative self-judgement and self-esteem.

Dealing with Life Stages—the stages are transitions such as childhood, adulthood, employee, spouse, parent, pensioner, all involve adaptation and stress.

Controlling Unmanageable Feelings—negative thinking, mood swings, depression, etc. To be in the grip of unmanageable feelings is disorientating, worrying and extremely unpleasant.


Points to remember:

The best place to find a helping hand is at the end of your arm—in other words, help yourself with the aid of a good Listener.


Criticism should always leave a person with the feeling that they have been helped.


It’s nice to know that when you help someone up a hill you are a little nearer the top yourself.


Now I need to get some practice with listening to peoples problems.