2 Reasons Why Public Forums Matter

| March 10, 2012

The issues, underlying the issues, raised recently on Fox in FOCUS are important and worthy of addressing. We’ve witnessed frustration, thoughtful feedback, anger, disappointment, and support, none more important or valid than the other.

At the core of any discourse lay both, the principles of free speech, and the ethics of censorship.  When matters are contentious, this can be an awkward and uncomfortable process to watch.

Community members are free to express dissatisfaction and protectiveness, agreement or dissent. Neither are out-of-line and none warrant censorship.

Many contributors, no matter their position, have chosen the anonymity option. Although each one has their own ‘personal’ reasons, it is possible that everyone’s reason is very much the same.

free expression is necessary: as assuring individual self-fulfillment; as a means of attaining the truth; as a method of securing participation by the members of the society in social; including political, decision-making; and as maintaining the balance between stability and change in society.

We don’t have the same anonymity – the comfort of being just one in a crowd – that larger centres have.

Anonymity provides a level of honest sincerity for some; it can lower inhibitions for those who would not otherwise comment; it has assisted in exposing injustice or persecution; sometimes it masks motives and hidden agendas, or at the furthest extreme, unleashes unbridled vitriol. We’re seeing most of that as the pros and cons of the anonymity debate play out on the site.

Censorship issues are also inherent in statements like “business being lost just may not be worth it,” or if you print certain issues, opinions, news – “We’ll boycott. Both suggest that only certain choices, stories, audiences or opinions are acceptable or worth it. Both suggest that there is a ‘magic’ formula or higher authority for determining what’s relevant.

Fox in FOCUS is still a very new resource; it’s evolving; The audience is also new to the resource; they too are evolving. I trust we will all find our way through the controversies. Community members continuously scrutinize, consider and assess this site’s value, content and participants. It experiences ups and downs. At times opinion is favourable, at times it is not.

Opinion suppression and censorship appear in many covert, not so obvious – behind the scenes – forms also. For example:  governing bodies withholding information from the electorate, squelching discussion, demeaning the people they’re meant to represent, refusing to participate or inform, dodging fair inquiries and then insisting the electorate is uninformed or apathetic; individuals, corporations or politicians threatening reprisals if their will or warnings are not followed; entities sabotaging the exchange of information and ideas by declaring topics off-limits; bullies coercing their victims into doing as they’re told.

This, probably the most  widely quoted assessment of freedom of speech, was written by Professor Emerson in 1963:

Freedom of expression is a cornerstone of a functioning democracy. Freedom of expression promotes certain societal values.  Maintenance of a system of free expression is necessary:

  • as assuring individual self-fulfillment,
  • as a means of attaining the truth,
  • as a method of securing participation by the members of the society in social, including political, decision-making, and
  • as maintaining the balance between stability and change in society.

Our constitutional commitment to free speech is predicated on the belief that a free society cannot function with coercive legal censorship in the hands of persons supporting one ideology who are motivated to use the power of censor to suppress opposing viewpoints.”

“Censorship is the suppression of speech or other public communication, which may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or inconvenient to the general body of people as determined by a government, media outlet, or other controlling body.” (source:Wikipedia)

That’s a big chunk of quotes, to be sure. In this case, they’re warranted. They go well beyond any one person’s opinion, including mine.

These fundamental concepts and principles are, at times, difficult to uphold and challenging to honour.

Ideally, our perception of free speech and censorship will resolve, expression will evolve organically over time and we’ll all be better for it. It’s ok to struggle right now.  Today, I received word of second thought, regret and apology, they are equally regarded and accepted.

Yep, sometimes it sucks to be Fox in FOCUS too.

Related post: Good ole’ fashioned letters – new fangled commentsкаркасные дома сип панели

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  1. Barb says:

    Continued from a previous discussion. http://foxinfocus.ca/2012/03/07/snow-fall-and-poor-street-conditions/

    Jody Davidson says:
    March 14, 2012 at 9:35 am

    I think it’s funny people have so much to say but the only person to put their first and last name was Robin Gervais! Everything is easier to bitch about when it is anonymous!

    Robin Gervais says:
    March 14, 2012 at 3:09 pm

    Jody and other observers of the forum please do not think any less of the anonymous posters. The reason I sign my full name, and not fear any retaliation, is because I am in a unique situation. I do not fear that my business will be hurt because in the last 5 years I haven’t done 10 cents worth of work for any of the local oil companies. Though I work for oil companies like Esso, CNRL and Talisman everywhere in the province. The local oil companies, or should I say the local bosses, will not hire me. This is a direct result of the 18 months I sat on the town council where I spoke my mind. Because of this I was black balled.

    I also no longer fear retaliation toward my family as my boys have seen firsthand that threats of law suits, false accusations and attempted character assassination go with the territory. It’s been hardest on my wife.

    I think the most important thing is that the discussion takes place. It is the message that is important not who sent it.

    Even in the discussion about snow removal some of the comments attacked people and complained about Fox in Focus. They sure sound like they came from someone trying to deflect attention away from the town and I wonder who they work for? But with anonymity you have to take the bad with the good and read between the lines a little.

    My biggest concern is that the town is going to shoot the messengers by trying to shut down Fox in Focus. This would be a real tragedy as the town has numerous problems that need dealing with. These discussions I hope will encourage the town council out from under their cone of silence.

    Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  2. mom says:

    Well done !

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  3. FC resident says:

    Thank you for honouring our right to free speech.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

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