Wikileaks & Free Speech

By Gideon Polya, MWC News,  Oct 29, 2011
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Wikileaks

Untruth must be repudiated, not punished

Freedom of expression, freedom of speech is vital for democracy, for unimpaired scholarly research and for rational risk management that keeps society safe. But what about hate speech, racial vilification or speech likely to cause dangerous public disorder? The need for democracy, scholarship and risk management means that freedom of speech must be sacrosanct but there is a place for a formal, transparent, expertly-informed judicial process that would make findings on free speech excesses but the only punishment of, for example, holocaust or genocide deniers would simply be the shame and ignominy of public exposure by such a process.

Abuses of freedom of speech can involve lying by commission and lying by omission. A good example involving lying by commission is given by the story of the shepherd boy who repeatedly cried wolf when there was no wolf but when a wolf did come nobody listened to his cries with dire consequences for the boy. This fable is acutely relevant to today. Thus the US Center for Public Integrity has reported that in 2 years after the 9-11 atrocity the Bush Administration told a total of 935 lies about Iraq. Failure of the System to expose Bush Administration lying led to the Iraq War and the utter devastation of that country.

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