Freedom Is Not More Essential Than Safety
It is easy to embrace freedom when everybody else behaves as you would like. The challenge comes when others use it to contradict some of our convictions. Then we begin to question whether we should set limits on other people’s liberties. We will tell ourselves that the decision isn’t about being free to speak but preventing the effects of what is said. Ironically, when other people’s limit-setting curtails our freedom, we often have no qualms about launching a freedom-of-speech rampage instead of wondering whether they may have a point.
The adage that ‘your freedom ends where your neighbour’s starts’ comes to mind. So does hate speech. Some freedom arguments are so childish it is hard to find the time and energy to face them. Anybody can agree that nobody should be free to kill or steal only to satisfy their murderous or kleptomaniac nature. A hard truth to accept is that, as romanticised as it is, freedom is not more important to civilisation than rules or safety. Of course, we shouldn’t consider it any less essential: taking out any of these tenets results in a doomed system.
Thankfully, we have science. Science does not care about what we believe in: it just tells us that two plus two equals four, the Earth is round, vaccination is effective, and climate change poses an enormous threat to human civilisation. Naturally, the main caveat is that science is hard. The 2 + 2 = 4 operation is easy enough for even a troglodyte to understand and not make a fuss when they are caught cheating: “Mate, you said you had three, but you can only show us two, get out now, please.” However, a complex function or equation would prompt any science illiterate or nefarious cynic adversely affected to lash out that the calculation is wrong, fake, or some liberal or fascist (we are free to pick our poison) hoax.
Political groups can lobby against the publication of documentaries and articles that disseminate information that has been thoroughly fact-checked only because it would harm their political agenda. For instance, conservative pressure groups have been found to argue that a public medium must be impartial and not side with environmental organisations but keep a neutral position, as though the denounced issue had anything to do with anybody’s…