One of the most beautiful things about free speech is not that it merely allows to express good ideas, it also allows us to hear bad ideas. When the public is exposed to bad ideas, the public will bring their judgement in full force. Bad ideas are criticised, ridiculous ideas are ridiculed and through this process, society improves. When it comes to speech, sunlight is, indeed, the best disinfectant.
My home city of Cape Town has hosted a wonderful example of this.
An event advertised on Facebook has recently gone viral due to its exclusion of ‘CisHet men’ (see Martin van Staden’s article for the full description). The event was subject to enormous trolling and the concept, name and rules were mocked mercilessly. The event was shared by multiple people and has now become well-known in some South African online circles. It is not famous, it is infamous.
I will not speak of my own views regarding this event, however, I do think that it is a wonderful example of what happens when an idea, which the public sees as being bad, is well and truly exposed. In order for the event owners to be successful, they needed to advertise the event and they did so in this case by having a Facebook event page which was open to the public. The public saw this as a result, and merciless mockery and trolling followed.
As mentioned above, this is how society improves: Good ideas are praised and bad ones are shunned and ideas which are just ridiculous are subject to ridicule. It should come as little surprise that in a society which is against discrimination, discrimination or exclusion will be criticised. The same could go for anything else on the event page, from the original title ‘Men are Trash’ to the absurd spelling of the word ‘womxn.’ No bad idea is safe from indignation, criticism, or ridicule.
SEE ALSO: Good and bad ideas by Nicholas Woode-Smith
This is one of the greatest reasons why it’s important to protect freedom of expression, which includes expression of bad, bigoted or otherwise unpleasant ideas. When these ideas are made illegal, they are driven underground, away from the light of public. These ideas are then effectively ‘protected’ against their own fate as the public simply cannot lay judgement on them. For this reason, it’s as important to protect the ability to express bad ideas, as it is to express good ideas. More speech is almost always better than less speech, and this event is a prime example.
It’s for these reasons that I support the organisers of this event to have any exclusionary policy they like. They will do so at their own intellectual peril.