Freedom of speech

The City of Nanaimo sent threatening letters to several websites with the goal of shutting down negative comments

Please accept my thanks for John Harding’s editorial on May 17 which details how the City of Nanaimo sent threatening letters to several websites with the goal of shutting down negative comments about some city personnel.

Perhaps the Nanaimo city fathers should recall one of the most important of all sayings in a free society which goes like this: “I may not agree with what you have to say but I will defend with my life your right to say it.”

The principle is known as “freedom of speech” and has been the hallmark of democratic, free societies for decades, even centuries, but I must sadly note that the very concept of free speech is now under broad, and I suggest, dangerous attack. We see this trend in colleges and universities across Canada and America where speakers offering pro-capitalism or pro-Israel discussions find themselves banned from speaking, find their supporters subject to physical attack and find their public displays ruined, even destroyed.

We find the same tactic used by anti-Trump forces who attempt to shut down debate using mass demonstrations which disrupt the workings of free societies to accomplish their goals — in the process completely forgetting the meaning of the quotation cited above.

I can vividly recall a wonderful example demonstrating adherence to the principle of free speech. About 50 years ago, a neo-Nazi group planned a demonstration in the Chicago suburb of Skokie, home of many Jewish survivors of the WWII death camps. Many were horrified at the implied insult and tried to stop the demonstration, but in the end the neo-Nazis were allowed to demonstrate — and were ridiculed and rendered ineffective by the accumulation of negative public opinion.

That is the way free societies are supposed to work.

Leonard MelmanNanoose Bay