Freedom of Speech

Once again social media is blowing up with conservatives getting anxious that their freedom of speech is being curtailed. Once again the key word that often goes overlooked is ‘consequences’.

There are many examples of comments and positions that can have consequences. The most recent relates to the comments of Gina Carano, who played former Rebel soldier Cara Dune in The Mandalorian. Ms Carano’s comments on social media have caused frequent controversy, with remarks about transgender issues, some peculiar attitudes towards followers of the Black Lives Matter movement and spreading misinformation about Covid-19 and the use of masks. For good measure, Ms Carano also spread conspiracy theories about voter fraud in the 2020 US Presidential Elections.

She did all of this yet remained attached to The Mandalorian. If cancel culture truly exists and it’s that easy to ostracise someone, how was she able to remain in the employment of Disney/Lucasfilm for as long as she did? I say ‘did’, because in the eyes of Lucasfilm she has finally gone too far…

A bizarre comparison of the apparent intolerance of right-wing Republican views to the treatment of Jews in Nazi Germany has led to Lucasfilm announcing Carano is no longer in their employment. It’s taken a while to reach this point but her long-running habit of ill-conceived remarks on social media has finally caught up with her. She can continue to post what she wants on social media, or she can create a website for that goal, or she can voice her opinions through any one of a number of mediums. What Carano cannot do (as none of us can) is escape the consequences of her words and deeds.

There seems to be a wish to run from this word in conservative circles. New social media platforms (such as Minds) have cropped up to provide a ‘safe space’ for right-wing commentary (as though somehow Twitter, that enabled Donald Trump’s angry hate-filled rhetoric for four years, wasn’t safe). The reality? Some people wish to say what they want, regardless of how inflammatory or bigoted, and not face any repurcussions for it. They have no desire to take responsibility for their words, and as I have often said, freedom of speech comes with a responsibility to use it wisely.

The flip side to this is that people like Carano need an opportunity to learn and improve. I don’t like to believe viewpoints aren’t set in stone and that people can change. This won’t be true for everyone, but surely it’s true for some. Giving people the chance to demonstrate they can understand why their comments were damaging is as important as confronting their original bigoted perspective. This doesn’t mean Carano should get her role in The Mandalorian back instantly, but a way back to a TV career should be possible, providing she shows she’s learned from the consequences of her previous behaviour. I’m not necessarily a fan of ‘cancel culture’ (though I’m not convinced it’s as widespread as conservatives claim), unless it provides a road map for someone to learn and grow.

I know what some will think. ‘Learn and grow means conformity’. No, it doesn’t. It means recognising when you have said something bigoted, racist or sexist, and not arrogantly dismissing criticism of such behaviour. In what universe should sexist, homophobic, transphobic or racist behaviour ever be acceptable? Instead of defending the excuse of a defence of ‘liberals/the left want to silence right-wing voices’, you should be asking why the right has become increasingly associated with homophobia, transphobia, racism and sexism, and why the right wants no consequences for such behaviour. No one is stopping you from saying what you want. No one will prevent you from believing what you want. You can still worship if you believe. You can watch the TV shows and read the books you want. You can play the sports and games you want, listen to the music you want and talk to the people you want. Just remember, if you want a consequence-free world, you won’t get one.

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