For months now, on slow news days, the western mainstream media often run with stories about Donald Trump’s plans to ‘end free speech’.
This is usually a few hours after attacking Trump for exercising his right to free speech, but when has consistency ever mattered in Western mainstream media?
The press are gagging on a rumour that Donald Trump will toughen up America defamation laws, bringing them into line with those of England and Wales where the courts are much more plaintiff friendly in such matters.
Far from something overly technical and boring, this issue is vital to the future of free speech. Here’s why…
Free speech in the west is not in a healthy state. People are being censored, fined and reproached for offering opinions and making factually true statements (the truth often hurts) – just the kind of thing free speech laws are designed to protect.
The result is that – as George Carlin predicted – language is being cheapened to the point of being obliterated.
The West is creeping into an age of Orwellian newspeak where fat is slim, ugly is beautiful, phobia is dislike, terrorists are moderate rebels, invasion is self-determination and war is peace.
It is true that free speech does have limits and the most important limit is defamation.
The basic definition of defamation is as follows: any intentional false communication, either written or spoken, that harms a person’s reputation; decreases the respect, regard, or confidence in which a person is held; or induces disparaging, hostile, or disagreeable opinions or feelings against a person.
Spoken defamation is called slander and written defamation is called libel.
Those in the public eye are necessarily more susceptible to defamation than those who lead relatively private lives. Donald Trump, a public figure for decades, has of course been libelled by the press, but unfortunately US libel laws are weak compared to those in Britain.
Tough defamation laws are essential in preserving the purity of free speech as a device used to inform, pontificate, preach, pronounce, hypothesise, insult, annoy, amuse and entertain.
Defamation laws should be seen as the rampart protecting true free speech from a platform where one can destroy another person’s life by writing or speaking harmful lies.
But leave it to Western leaders to get this wrong.
When people still paid attention to him former British Liberal-Democratic party leader Nick ‘Wooden Leg’ Clegg vowed to soften the way English courts treat libel cases.
This is the same illiberal Liberal leader who advocates for a state which tells business owners that their customers cannot smoke in-doors and who supported Tony Blair’s ‘religious hatred laws’ which were sold to the public as a means of protecting religious people, but which were in reality simply used to stifle debate.
The hypocrisy is mind-blowing.
Western leaders like Clegg and many of Trump’s critics want to use the force of law to make it easier to lie whilst simultaneously weakening the ability to openly and vigorously speak the truth.
I do hope that if Trump wins he brings US defamation laws into line with those of England and Wales.
A country with a Constitution whose first amendment is a protection of free speech owes it to its people to get the priorities right. In other words: Make Defamation Laws Great Again!