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Menings | Opinion > SeminaarKamer | Seminar Room > English > Essays

Un-freedom of speech in South Africa

Cobus Fourie - 2009-07-29

Americans often laud themselves on their Constitution and its over-glorified First Amendment.

In essence the First Amendment is a free-for-all get-out-of-jail card which causes the country (and world by proxy) much harm.

Bigots use it to incite hatred against their imaginary cultural war foes; they use it freely, without restraint and in the worst way possible. Lies, deceit, propaganda and defamation are virally spread through mass media with the fervour that you will not encounter in any other country.

If Doctor- Charlatan Paul Cameron wants to say that "gay men are more likely to be involved in paedophilia", he does so without the slightest possibility of being arraigned or any restitution happening.

This makes the United States of Bigotry ( America) the haven of the stark raving mad, the fundamentalist and the racist, neo-Nazi, heterosexist and panderer of any unfathomable tripe.

LGBTIQ advocates from that very unfortunate fool's paradise have confessed to me with a sigh that since preposterous hate is given a free pass by government and the judiciary, their only rebuttal is to counter lies and hate with truth and counter-arguments.

In South Africa we have a Constitution lauded as the most progressive and liberal in the world, which outlaws hate speech by in effect placing a caveat on freedom of speech. I would not have it any other way. We are fortunate, but we must realise where this doctrine originates.

For many years a lot of people had to suffer for us to have the rights and freedoms that we have today, and were our history different we would have had a completely different Constitution. After the fall of apartheid we decided what kind of country we wanted to live in. The Constitution makes this a morally pluralist and egalitarian country with no group formally having the upper hand and no remnants of the fascist regime to be found. We had to endure fascism to get what we have. If only social justice didn't come at such a high price.

The South African Constitution doesn't codify the separation between Church and State doctrine, but states that no religion shall be superior to another. In the event of the religious right stymieing the rights and freedoms of the LGBTIQ community we can simply argue that our religion is one of Egalitarian Non-Fascist Humanism and that it is equally valid, thus negating their claims. Lovely concept, this moral pluralism ...

We would have been a riotous, violent and hate-ridden country (like the US) if we had had a carbon copy First Amendment; no change would have been ushered in. Militants and fundamentalists would have reigned supreme and there would have been no such thing as human rights.

Luckily we had visionaries (like Nelson Mandela - whose birthday it was the day I wrote this, coincidentally, and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu) who placed a high value on the power of forgiveness and redress in a non-violent manner. These two persons were amongst many who knew how important basic human rights are, and are the quintessential figures of virtue, forgiveness, rationality and compassion; and coincidentally they are both Nobel Peace Prize Laureates. In fact, it is no coincidence at all. At a time they both lived on Vilakazi Street in Soweto, they both were instrumental to this county's healing, and both are respected worldwide. We owe them much.

The Stonewall Riots sparked the modern LGBTIQ rights movement and yet ironically the US lags far behind in LGBTIQ rights. There it is perfectly legal for someone to get fired for just being gay or transgender. Is that a moral country? No. NARTH, Exodus International, Scott Lively and Paul Cameron churn out so much hateful trash to the detriment of everyone and they are allowed to do so unhindered.

Human rights are put up for public auction (proposition (H)8).

Lovely. Let the people decide.

A bar gets raided on the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, and one man is seriously injured with subdural haemorrhage. A doctor performing abortions gets shot dead in front of a church. A couple get harassed and manhandled for kissing in public - in a piece of open street which is inconspicuously the property of the Mormon Church. And the list is both endless and very depressing.

I would rather live in a country where I am barred from hate speech than live in one where rampant hate flourishes. Would you not?