In Defense of Absolute Rights and Free Speech Against Absolute Ignorance
“It is not society, nor any social right, that forbids you to kill—but the inalienable individual right of another man to live. This is not a “compromise” between two rights—but a line of division that preserves both rights untouched. The division is not derived from an edict of society—but from your own inalienable individual right. The definition of this limit is not set arbitrarily by society—but is implicit in the definition of your own right. Within the sphere of your own rights, your freedom is absolute.” — Ayn Rand
In the name of truth, fairness and objectivity, I am posting this blog article to defend free speech and freedom itself. With the rising influence and continued spread and dominance of collectivist/statist ideas and nihilist views in the country, it is not surprising that a lot of people believe in relative rights and liberties, and take freedom for granted.
In any social or political setting, free speech is the most valuable ally of man. This freedom simply means any individual, regardless of his social status, political views, religion or ethnicity, is free from government restraint, intrusion or punitive action. Free speech or freedom of expression does not impose any form of obligation on others; it does not mean that any individual is entitled to any means or monetary support to express his personal or political opinions or beliefs at the expense of other individuals who may not wish to support him. It includes the right to argue and discuss issues with any one or any group, not to listen, not to agree and not to support one’s own enemies.
Rights and their enemies
Free speech has two underlying attributes— man’s freedom to think and to act. The first attribute postulates that man cannot be free if priori restrictions were imposed on him in order to control his thoughts or cognition. Before man can express his views or opinions about any social, political, religious or scientific issues, he must first exercise his freedom of thought. The second attribute posits that man should be free to act or to express his views or opinions without any form of restriction. Thus, free speech means freedom from prior restraints and freedom from subsequent retribution.
The ongoing attack on free speech in many countries today is mainly due to people’s ignorance of the proper concept of rights and freedom. There are two types of enemies of free speech who seek to rob the individual of his freedom to think and to act: first, the advocates of political correctness, and second, the advocates of thought control. It is important to grasp the nature of the battle of these two anti-free speech camps in order to properly understand their strategic means to attack rights and freedoms.
The first camp— the advocates of political correctness—believes that collective entities (e.g., race, cultural groups, people of different sexual orientations, religions, people of disabilities, etc.) must be protected by the state against irresponsible, unfair practice of free speech. The underlying premise of anti-free speech advocates of political correctness is that man in nature is evil who must be restrained by means of political mechanisms designed to limit his freedom to express his views or opinions. The misguided advocates of this philosophy or mentality can always claim that they are for the good of the many or some minority groups. Most of them believe in the ideal of multiculturalism so they seek to twist or shape language or discourse according to their multiculturalist agenda. Thus, they claim that a society or any group (cultural , ethnic, religious, gender-related, etc.) must be shielded against the onslaught of language or free speech by eliminating so-called hate speeches, offensive words, disparaging, bullying, and discrimination.
On its face, the anti-free speech advocacy of the politically correct appears to be socially beneficial and rational. However, what these people fail or refuse to recognize is that language is the accumulated outcome of men’s social interactions or exchanges over a long period of time that corresponds to a systemic order attained sans the employment of a premeditated overall plan. Language is a product of human experiences, discoveries, deliberate process of thoughts, distortion or appropriation of other languages, and historical borrowings. However, this does not mean that prejudices, hate speeches, language-related discriminations and violent remarks are a social construct, as most socialists claim. Since man has free will he is free to think and to act.
Free speech versus political correctness
Since the enemy of this anti-free speech collective is language, their goal is to distort it with politically correct terms like “indigenous people’s rights”, “cultural sensitivity”, “culturally deprived”, “minority victims”, etc. These politically correct newspeaks divide a society into two groups: the victims and the victimizers. Observe that when these people talk about the rights of women in this country, it is as if they’re implying that women are second-class citizens or are being deprived by men or by some unidentified social sector. Women’s rights merely implies that womanhood is weak and prone to danger, thus women need social or political protection against the dominant male gender. The politically correct claim that laws or any form of political mechanism should be put in place to protect women against men’s or some people’s verbal abuse, violence, discrimination, hate speeches, etc.
In some countries, the politically correct succeeded in limiting free speech through laws or any form of political mechanism. In the politically correct Canada, it is now a crime to simply “speak words that incite to hate.” In 1996 a 17-year-old Canadian teen was arrested for sending a “hate speech” email to a gay activist. The email contains the following words: “Death to homosexuals; It’s prescribed in the Bible! Better watch out next Gay Pride Week!!!”
Canada’s criminal law makes it a crime to “advocate genocide.” However, the law is so broad and non-objective that it also penalizes any act “causing mental harm.” This means that political incorrectness in this country is now a crime that any man may be condemned in any court of law for whatever he thinks, says or advocates.
One recent victim of political correctness thought-police is American radio commentator Michael Savage for his so-called right wing politically incorrect views against Muslims. The popular talk show host was banned from entering Great Britain, along with a list of 16 ‘undesirables’ who were mostly terrorists, for merely uttering such words as “Islamist”, “jihadi” and “fundamentalist” on his highest-rating radio program.
Those who advocate political correctness, who are mostly leftists or statists, do not mind transgressing upon the rights of anyone to express his views, as they believed that they are acting in behalf of the so-called minority, cultural or religious groups. They firmly believe that they have the right to curtail anyone’s rights or freedom in the name of social or cultural sensitivity or social justice. Take for example the case of American conservative Ann coulter, who was banned and threatened by Canadian leftists from speaking at the University of Ottawa for her alleged crime of “hate speech”. Coulter later on told the media that her rights had been violated.
In the Philippines, Sen. Ramon “Bong Revilla” passed a politically correct measure to stifle free speech in favor of what he called “sensitivity to Muslims’ social beings as legitimate citizens” of the country.” Revilla’s Senate Bill no. 1990 states that, “it shall be unlawful for any person to use the word “Muslim” or Islamic” in identifying criminals in print, radio, internet, television including Cable Television (CATV) and other forms of broadcast media. Any person found guilty of the said violation shall face the penalty of arresto mayor (one month and one day to six months imprisonment) and fine ranging from one thousand pesos to ten thousand pesos.”
In the name of religious sensitivity, some of our politicians are willing to compromise or sacrifice our freedoms and survival even though it cannot be denied that there are some group of people who are willing to commit bombings, suicide bombings, kidnappings, or even all-out war against the government in the name of their religion. How can we properly deal with those who are determined to kill us or to wage war against us if we are legally prohibited from identifying that which motivates them?
The provision of the 1987 Constitution is very clear:
“No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.”
This means that neither the Congress nor the President can pass any law or political edict abridging our right to free speech, which includes our right to think and to express our views.
Free speech versus thought-police
On the other hand, the advocates of thought-control seek to achieve and impose their political agenda by means of passing anti-free speech laws or some political measure in the name of the greater good or public welfare. These enemies of freedom operate on the premise that absolute freedom is inimical to society or social justice so they seek to implement laws and some other measures intended to curtail or limit it. They declare that public good is superior to individual rights and freedom. When they pass their edicts or political measures in the name of the public or some unknowable good, it is not violent speeches or undesirable deeds that they seek to curtail, but human thoughts. Their laws operate as a virtual mechanism to control man’s mind by instilling fear or apprehension. A society that is confronted with anti-free speech restrictions knows very well the message: ‘If you do this, you’d go to jail!’
Thought-control is the one of the most effective yet the most evil ways to control man’s actions and deeds. Thoughts precede human actions. Before one says something or expresses his views, one must exercise first his right to think. Everything we say or do is a product of mental process or process of thought. It is this process of thought that the thought-control police seek to restrict.
Thought-control laws and legal mechanisms are commonplace in all collectivist or socialist states like China, North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela, Iran and Saudi Arabia. In China a lot of bloggers had been arrested for criticizing their tyrannical government. News reports state that at least 67 boggers had been arrested by the Chinese government from 2003 to 2008 for posting their political views online. In North Korea the number of victims of thought-control mechanisms could be worse since this despotic country is inaccessible to international media. In Saudi Arabia, a Christian blogger was arrested in 2009 for simply attracting new converts online.
The same cases of anti-thought and anti-free speech persecutions took place in Iran, wherein mere criticism of the theocratic regime is against the law and a number of protesters were shot in the streets of Tehran last year; in Venezuela wherein the government shut down a critical television station and 34 radio stations; and in Cuba wherein eight political activists were arrested last year for criticizing their government.
A good example of a thought-control measure in the Philippines is the Reproductive Health bill, now euphemistically called Responsible Parenthood bill. Under the bill’s provision on prohibited acts, it is provided that “any person who maliciously engages in disinformation about the intent or provisions of this Act” may be punished by fine or imprisonment or both. Since the fall of the Marcosian wall in 1986, this bill, passed by Rep. Edcel Lagman and some of his fellow representatives in the lower house, is the only political measure designed to punish anyone for “maliciously engaging in disinformation” of its intents or provisions. What constitutes malicious disinformation? Is there any test to determine whether a person is guilty of this act? If passed, the RH bill might open the floodgates for more intrusive regulations and anti-free speech measures. This malicious insertion of an unconstitutional provision shows that our statist lawmakers in Congress may limit our free speech and civil liberties by simply passing supposedly pro-poor, anti-poverty, pro-greater good bills.
If the advocates of political correctness intend to limit free speech and freedom in the guise of multiculturalism, social justice, and minority rights, the scheming proponents of thought-control achieve their statist goals in the name of the greater good or common good.
Unwitting anti-free speech pinoys
Unfortunately, there are a lot of Filipinos who indirectly or unwittingly advocate anti-free speech measures owing to their misplaced understanding of rights and freedom. To them freedom or rights are relative, thus the latter may be limited by law or any political measure for the sake of some social good or social justice. Rights and freedom are not absolute, they claim, so they propose new schemes to regulate human thought and behavior.
The problem with these people is that in spite of their desire to (indirectly?) regulate free speech, they still have the audacity to claim that they are for individual freedom. Take for example the case of a blogger named Ilda who wrote a blog titled Do Filipinos know how to use their freedom of speech? This blog article was published on Get Real Philippines website.
The title itself implies two things: 1) Filipinos do not know how to use their freedom of speech; 2) and something must be done with this problem.
The blogger states that the “modern day so-called “advocates” get lost in their own interpretation of what their deceased idols actually meant by “free speech” and worse, they get trapped in their own dogma. It is enough for anyone to suggest that they are averse to evolving with the times.”
The problem with this statement is that it can be interpreted as a strawman argument since the blogger did not properly and clearly identify the subject of her criticism, although it appears that she is taking on “modern day so-called advocates” of free speech. The question now is: Who are these modern-day advocates of free speech who “get trapped in their own dogma”? However, let me assume that she is referring to people like me who believe that free speech is absolute. The blogger indicates that absolute right is a “dogma” that anyone who subscribes to this belief or conviction is “averse to evolving with the times.”
With this objective evaluation, it is then safe to assume that the blogger operates on a relativist premise. According to Wikipedia, Relativism is the concept that some aspect of reality, human evaluation, thought experience is relative to something else. The blogger’s view that we have to evolve with the times only means one thing— that we have to compromise free speech, freedom or rights for the sake of adapting to modern-day setup.
Since the blogger regards absolute rights as a dogma, she believes that the long-standing principle—“each individual should have the right to express whatever message he or she wants to convey”— is merely a “theory.” Let’s analyze this statement very closely. Oxford dictionary defines theory as a “supposition or a system of ideas intended to explain something.” If she firmly believes that that statement is a theory, then that runs counter to her assertion that a lot of us attempt to “deviate from what the founding fathers of the principle of ‘freedom of speech’ were trying to get across.” Since the term “founding fathers” generally and most commonly refers to American founding fathers, let me quote Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Is this what the blogger refers to as “theory”. If the “absolute” right to free speech is a theory or a supposition, then that means it may or may not affect us, or it may not be essential to human life. To claim that an absolute right to free speech is a theory is to negate the very foundation and essence of freedom. The American founding fathers clearly understood that it is “self-evident” that man is entitled to his freedom and rights, as these are part of our human nature.
The blogger says: “In reality though, each individual has to be accountable for what he or she says. Freedom of speech advocates always stress that the law protects even the smallest person in the land from being silenced.”
That statement is very much consistent with her supposition that absolute right of free speech is merely a theory. To address this contradictory statement, let me tackle first the proper concept of rights and freedom.
Are rights absolute?
Are rights absolute? What is the definition of a “right” and what makes it absolute? A right is a moral principle sanctioning and defining an individual’s freedom to act and to think in a social context. This is consistent with the definition provided by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, which states that “Rights are entitlements (not) to perform certain actions, or (not) to be in certain states; or entitlements that others (not) perform certain actions or (not) be in certain states.” Thus, this means that a right simply pertains to freedom to act— that man should be free from physical interference, coercion, compulsion by the state or other men.
There are two underlying aspects of “rights”—1) the right to think, and 2) the right to act. If any of these two aspects were limited or curtailed by the state or other men, man cannot be said to be free. So are rights absolute? Definitely.
If a “right” is not absolute it means that it is divisible or non-existent. Thus, it can either be limited or totally negated. For instance, if a man’s right to life is not absolute, this presupposes that a powerful political entity (e.g., government) has the authority to limit, curtail, or even disregard it. If a man has a non-absolute right to liberty, it means that he’s a slave or a prisoner.
Absolute rights simply mean that man— every man— has:
- the right to freedom of thought or the right to think;
- the right to freedom of action (it means that he is free to do whatever he wants to do provided that he refrains from violating the rights of others)
- to the right to pursuit of happiness and to live his life according to his free will (this means that man is the master of his soul and that his life belongs to him, not to the state, to any tribe, or to anyone);
- the right to defend his rights and values from any entity or other men.
However, there are some nihilist people who believe that freedom of speech, rights and freedom are just “artificial notion ingrained in our heads by generations of ambient messages.” Those who believe in such a mediocrity or even insanity have already suspended the validity of their minds. This is in fact worse than the claim that absolute freedom or rights are merely a theory.
If freedom and rights are artificial or social constructs, then reality is nothing but a fantasy and we’re just part of the chaos of an unknowable space they call universe. Anyone who embraces this so mediocre a notion needs to be asked: Are you a human being? If yes, what does your life require in order for you to live as a human being? Do you believe that you are entitled to your own life, liberty, property, and pursuit of happiness? If yes, then these are called rights. The word “right” is simply an abstraction, which we use to identify existing concretes or that which exists. Animals cannot perform the process of abstraction; we humans do. If we don’t have a concept of rights and freedom, then any scheming thug or criminal who acquired the power of number or the power of force can easily devour us or turn us into slaves.
Freedom, rights and the state
Since we are not animals we need a social system or a government tasked with the protection of rights. This concept of government is what the advocates of non-absolute rights fail to understand, as they dogmatically believe that if rights were absolute then there would be chaos. Such a claim is necessarily true because anarchy would ensue if we don’t have a proper concept of government.
In the distant past the nomads lived their lives in an anarchic society or territory. They had no concept of rights and government. Their case is the real, actual proof that rights are absolute and that absolute rights without government would result in chaos. Why is this the case? Because no matter how you claim that rights are not absolute, men still have the free will to think and to act.
Those who dogmatically believe that rights are not absolute are simply attempting to negate, distort or deny reality. No one has the power to distort or negate or twist reality simple because it is independent of man’s mind or consciousness. Reality is everything that exists, and man has no power to negate it because existence is existence.
Reality versus statism
The reality is, man is man with absolute rights and freedom. These two— rights and freedom—are parts of his human nature, thus they are part of reality. It took man thousands of years since the beginning of mankind to discover these concepts. More than 2,000 years ago, Aristotle, the father of modern science, developed a mental process to understand reality: logic. It is through logic and his discovery of reason that Aristotle grasped that rights and freedom are indispensable, inalienable attributes to man’s existence, thereby proclaiming that man ‘is an end in himself, not the means to the ends of others.’ It was Aristotle who discovered that reality is objective and that man needs reason for his survival. He also understood the importance of definitions to man’s cognition. With the highly valuable contributions of Aristotle, Galileo Galilei, Herodotus, and all philosophers, discoverers, scientists, and mathematicians of the olden age to the store of human knowledge, this means that the modern world need not start from zero in order to understand the nature of reality and to discover the things that humans need in order to survive.
Reality has it that man is born with absolute rights and freedom. Anyone who claims otherwise is simply attempting to negate or deny reality. True, each individual has to be accountable for what he does or says, however, that does not justify the claim the rights are not absolute. In a rights-respecting country, anyone—even the “smallest person in the land”— must be protected by law and the Constitution from being silenced by the government or other men. This is reality!
Since man is not infallible and since rationality is a choice, man needs a government to protect his rights. The proper role of government is in fact the answer to those who claim that absolute rights would necessarily lead to chaos. What’s the proper function of government and why is it necessary to human life and affairs? A government, the powers of which should be limited by law, exists to protect man’s rights. We need a police force to protect us from gangs and criminals; we need courts to protect contracts and to settle disputes; and we need a military to protect us from rebellion, treason or invasion. Thus, there is no basis to that assumption that an absolute rights could lead to anarchy.
Free speech versus government
The blogger states: “The truth is, freedom of speech alone does NOT really protect everyone’s civil liberties”
The truth is, freedom of speech and the bill of rights are a protection against possible government abuse or unjustified invasion of private citizens’ freedom and rights. True, when you abuse your rights and injure others, you have to face the full force of the law. This is why a government exists in order to protect people’s rights and freedom. The existence of defamation law or any anti-free speech political measure does not negate the fact that rights are absolute.
Intrusive laws or any political measures designed to stifle, regulate or even abrogate individual rights and freedom are simply acts of men or any dictator or ruling class with a distorted, twisted concept of reality. To them, reality is just like a pretzel that can be twisted or shaped or misshaped according to their feelings, whims, and caprices. To control man’s mind, they can simply write laws. Then they declare that man’s rights are not absolute!
To control man’s actions, they can simply issue restrictions and regulations and mobilize an army so to police men’s conduct and affairs. All these scenarios are part of reality in all collectivist/socialist countries like China, North Korea, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Cuba, Venezuela, among others.
Laws or any political edicts do not have the power to distort or destroy reality. A dictator may be able to pass restrictive laws against free speech, but reality has it that men are still free to think and to act. Thus, the only enemy of man’s rights and freedom is a collectivist government, while its most devoted ally are those who believe and support the idea that rights and freedom are not absolute.
The blogger states: “The right to say just about anything publicly can also result in harm to other individuals or group of people. In effect, each and every individual still needs other laws to protect him or her from unfair attacks coming from those who practice “freedom of speech.” Other laws to protect individuals include anti-bullying and defamation laws.”
It is true that the right to say anything can injure the feelings or reputation of others, but this does not justify the issuance of more laws or measures to limit free speech. The problem with this blogger is that she does not know what she’s talking about. Since we only have one defamation law in the country, I tried to clarify what the blogger meant by “each and every individual still needs other laws” to understand whether she is advocating for more anti-free speech laws, however, she gave contradicting answers.
In her reply, she states that “I am talking about the existing laws and whatever congress might pass in the future as our society evolve.”
Logic tells us that since she believes that “each and every individual still needs other laws”, she has no problem with “whatever congress might pass in the future.” Basically, she is speaking of “laws” to protect individuals “from unfair attacks coming from those who practice “freedom of speech.”” Thus, she is speaking of any law that will limit our freedom of expression.
Let me tackle this issue very carefully and objectively since I observed that the blogger has the tendency to flip-flop and to twist her own statements or views just to save herself.
Since the blogger indicated that the Congress may pass laws in the future to protect the people against other people’s abuse of free speech, I informed her of the pending bills I mentioned above (Revilla’s Senate bill and the RH bill), which seek to limit free speech.
True, there are a lot of people who tend to abuse their rights, and this is the reason why we have high crime rates in this country. This is part of reality. However, it is wrong to blame these crimes or any form of social chaos on the idea that rights are absolute. As explained above, our rights are part of our humanity. Nobody can take that away from us. Ever heard of that old adage, “Give me liberty or give me death?” We are free to do whatever we want to do and say whatever we want to say, however, we have a government tasked with the protection of rights and enforcement of the law to go after rights-violators and bring them to justice.
Logical fallacies against free speech
The blogger then tries to educate her Filipino readers about the concept of free speech. She states: “Just about everything we say or write can fall under the banner of “Free Speech.” Someone screaming obscenities can claim that he has the right to utter the offensive words under the guise of civil liberties.”
Very true, that is why everything we say is free speech simply because this concept simply means freedom to speak— and that is absolute. When someone screams “obscenities” and then claims that he has an absolute right to free speech, he may or may not go to jail. That depends whether there is a law penalizing a simple act of “screaming obscenities.” As stated above, anyone who commits “hate speech” in Canada may go to jail because of the existence of a non-objective law punishing “hate speeches.” However, that does that mean that the right to speak is not an absolute.
The main source of logical fallacies of those who reject the idea that rights are absolute is their misplaced, crude, ignorant understanding of the concept of rights. As already stated above, a right refers to freedom of action in a social context. It does not impose any form of obligation on others. A right to life does not mean the government or someone is obliged to feed you or give you the basic necessities you need to survive. It simply means you have the right to work and to sustain your life without putting any form of burden on others. If you firmly believe that others are obliged to feed you, it means that those other are condemned to slave labor. The right to liberty does not mean you are entitled to destroy the property of others with impunity and then claim you have a right to do so. In a free society with objective laws, you would be sent to jail for violating other people’s rights. The right to property does not mean others are obliged to give you land or shelter you need; it means you are free to work and earn the fruits of your labor.
In the Philippines and in many parts of the world, there are a lot of people who believe that a “right” carries with it an obligation imposed on others. For instance, many people believe that education is a right so the government must provide it to them at the expense of those who are condemned to pay high income tax rates. Others believe in rights to health care, transport, or any form of welfare services without realizing that some other people are obliged to pay for those extorted services.
Now there’s a legislative proposal passed in the Senate called Right of Reply bill. This bill seeks to give any person the right to publish or broadcast his/her reply “free of charge”. In a previous blog, I stated the following in sarcastic manner:
“Under this democratic bill, we would have a legal and political right to bombard radio stations, television networks, newspaper companies and internet sites and blogs with hate mails without paying a cent. Heck! Is it not the duty and responsibility of these capitalist, profit-making owners of media companies to serve the greater good? Why should we even care if they go broke for simply accommodating our lengthy, publicity-seeking replies? We have a right to demand ‘something’ from those who have more in life! Why should we give a damn about the fate of the divisive editor-in-chief, the publisher or station manager, or owner of the broadcast medium who might get penalized for failing or refusing to publish or broadcast our hate mails as mandated by the bill? Don’t we have the right to be heard? Why should we even care if the individualists and the selfish think that this species of right is tantamount to confiscation of private property? We’re all part of a big society and we have the obligation to serve the common good!”
This bill is indeed a product of some people’s mediocre mentality that a right imposes obligation on others. You have a right to free speech, but you cannot force others (e.g., radio station, newspaper, and television owners) to provide you the means to express your views. This is because these media owners also have a constitutionally protected right to their property.
A good case in point is the curious case of Carlos Celdran who stormed the Manila Cathedral, disrespected the Catholic priests property right and other people’s right to practice religion, and then claimed that he had a right to free speech. Celdran and those who applauded him for his self-sacrificial act need to understand that the Catholic Church is neither obliged nor mandated by law to provide Celdran or anyone the venue for redress of their grievances. You cannot simply barged into the house of your neighbor and then claim you have a right to speak your mind. No one has the right to rob anyone. In a free society, the robber has to face the full force of law designed to punish him and to protect the innocent. The logic behind here is: You rights end when others’ begin.
Rights and crimes
The blogger said: “A defamation law is an attempt to balance the private right to protect one’s reputation against the public right to freedom of speech. Defamation law allows people to sue those who say or publish false and malicious comments. Anything that injures a person’s reputation can be defamatory.”
She also states: “It is very difficult to rebut statements made in mass media. There have been so many cases where people’s reputations have been destroyed by media attacks in the country.”
It seems that the blogger did her research well. I don’t have any problem with this statement except that it was copied from an online source without proper attribution. I’m not saying that the blogger, who definitely did her research well, committed the crime of plagiarism, however, it’s very clear that the passage was lifted from this online source.
The second statement may be considered a good example of patchwork plagiarism lifted from the same online source. Again, this is just my assumption. I’m open for any rebuttal.
Now let me use as example a plagiarism case. A lot of people were sued for committing plagiarism for the reason that the owners of copyrighted books or novels are protected by intellectual property rights. Book authors and novelists consider writing as their source of livelihood, thus anyone who steals their idea may be liable under the law. This is because plagiarism deprives the authors of books of their right to acknowledgement or source of income.
The blogger states: “Since that is the case, there are Filipinos who insist that setting up standards or some kind of guidelines is tantamount to suppression of freedom of speech. They even claim that people can say or write offensive language directed at individuals as they please and still be accepted as merely exercising their “freedom of speech.”
As to her first line, I agree that any standard or guideline is tantamount to suppression of free speech. As to the second line, it is true that we have the right to say whatever we want to say yet we must be ready to face the consequences of our actions. Anyone has the right to go to jail or to go to hell!
She then listed a set of community guideline or standards, which she copied from Oregon University website:
We further affirm our commitment to:
- respect the dignity and essential worth of all individuals
- promote a culture of respect throughout the university community
- respect the privacy, property, and freedom of others
- reject bigotry, discrimination, violence, or intimidation of any kind
- practice personal and academic integrity and expect it from others
- promote the diversity of opinions, ideas, and backgrounds that is the lifeblood of the university
This is actually one of the fundamental logical fallacies committed by the blogger, which explains her crass skepticism of the concept of absolute rights. In my online debate with the blogger, I tried to explain to her that the bill of rights is a protection against government abuse, thus it does not extend to private individuals. For instance, SM malls may limit the right of its patrons to free speech by setting up guidelines and standards. Again, a good case in point here is the epic case of Carlos Celdran.
The bill of rights is a safeguard against government abuse and its agents. For instance, the right against unreasonable searches and seizures does not extend to private individuals. In the landmark case of People v. Marti, the court ruled that the bill of rights may not be taken against the acts of private individuals. It may only be directed against the state and its agencies tasked with the enforcement of the law. 
The blogger needs to understand that the community guideline she copied from a university website is only applicable to privately owned properties, such as schools, subdivisions, condominiums, golf clubs, resorts, hotels, private buildings, and private homes. Nobody has the right to invoke anyone’s right to free speech within anybody’s property. Such guidelines and standards cannot be translated into laws due to constitutional provision.
She then supported her ignorant, sophistic, misplaced understanding of the law and the concept of free speech with the following statement:
“Never mind that offensive language directed at individuals actually discourages free flow of discussion. You can say that they are being very ignorant of the law. Which is why discussions on forums in the Philippine setting quite often turn into mere noise.”
Well, it appears that the blogger is the one who is “being very ignorant of the law” since community guidelines are perfectly legal since they are imposed on privately own properties, thus her crass assumption or theory that some people think that “setting up standards or some kind of guidelines is tantamount to suppression of freedom of speech” is highly misplaced. She is clearly barking at the wrong tree!
The blogger then concluded her article with the following statement:
“To achieve harmony, we must set up systems of communication that will force people to take responsibility for their statements, have the opportunity to make corrections and apologies, and lose credibility if they are repeatedly exposed as untrustworthy. Most of all, we must resolve to uphold the highest standards in practicing our freedom of speech.”
Again, it is important to objectively and carefully analyze this one so to avoid committing red-herring or context-dropping.
When asked what she meant by “systems of communication that will force people to take responsibility”, the blogger said she was referring to the rule of law. I tried to explain to her that the term “rule of law” has a distinct meaning and it cannot be a system or any form of system. Wikipedia provides the following definition of rule of law: “a legal maxim which provides that no person is above the law, that no one can be punished by the state except for a breach of the law, and that no one can be convicted of breaching the law except in the manner set forth by the law itself.”
Ignorance versus free speech
In reality, the rule of law is the embodiment of all laws designed to protect rights and impose government authority and powers. One doesn’t have to be a lawyer or a legal expert to understand that the blogger’s “systems of communication” is not and cannot be the same as— or even synonymous to—rule of law. Since she’s talking about the use of “force” here, any first year law student would think that the blogger talks about any law, policies or political edicts designed to “force people to take responsibility for their statements.” The blogger needs to understand that even the guideline she mentioned does not “force” anyone to take responsibility for their statements, to correct their mistakes and to issue apology.
What is clear is that the blog gives the whole picture of the author’s advocacy:
- She claims that absolute right (although worded in a very exact manner) is simply a theory.
- She claims that those who subscribe to what she calls “dogma” (that rights are absolute) are “averse to evolving with times.”
- She advocates that “each and every individual still needs other laws to protect him or her from unfair attacks coming from those who practice “freedom of speech.”
- She advocates setting up “systems of communication that will force people to take responsibility for their statements, have the opportunity to make corrections and apologies, and lose credibility if they are repeatedly exposed as untrustworthy.”
With all the evidence and arguments presented, let the reader judge whether the GRP author of this fallacy-riddled blog article is an advocate of free speech or thought-control.
I was also engaged in an online debate with a few people who believe that rights and freedom are not absolute. My arguments, which are a summary of this entire blog, are as follows:
“Absolute means “not qualified or diminished in any way; total.” If rights are not absolute, then they are divisible and can be diminished. By whom? By the government. If a “right” is not absolute, it means that it comes from the state or any higher being.
Rights are part of our humanity. The questions that one needs to answer are: Are you a human being? If yes, then are you a free man? Do you need freedom? Do you need rights? Now, the bill of rights is a political recognition of man’s rights, which are inalienable. However, there’s a notion that when you say that “rights are absolute”, this gives you the license to do whatever you wanted to do. That may be the case, but one needs to understand that one’s actions have its own consequences.
On the other hand, those who oppose the idea that rights are absolute proposed for their curtailment. These people simply think of rights as “collective or collectivised rights.” They’re thinking in terms of collective. They need to understand that there are only individual rights. Your rights. My rights. For those who think that they can simply harm others for they believe that they are entitled to absolute rights, they need to know that those others are entitled to their rights as well.
What is the missing entity here? The government. What is the proper role of government? A government exists to protect rights. Does a man need an entity (e.g., government) to protect his rights? The answer is YES. This is because without a government there would be chaos, and anyone would be compelled to turn his house into a fortress to protect his life and property against any intruders, gangs or criminals.
Observe that when the leftists and statists attack freedom they begin by attacking its very foundation. When they attack freedom, they attack its essence by claming that it is not absolute. Why? Because they see society. They see man as a collective. They consider individual a threat to a collective or a society. Rights are not absolute, they claim, because they believe that society must be protected against individual greed or selfishness. They see individuals as innately part of whole; a social construct. Since they disregard the fact that rights come from our humanity or human nature, they declare that rights are not absolute or even non-existence and then demand that man’s freedom be curtailed or limited. What only exists is collective good, and this gives them or the government the justification to write laws or edicts designed to limit or control individual behavior, thought, or act.
Now, here’s my question to those who take the theory that rights are not absolute on faith: If you were a bureaucrat (or a thought-police), how would you propose to control my thoughts so to forcibly impose your belief that rights are not absolute?
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