Free Speech: Is It Acceptable to Insult Someone?

Free Speech: Is It Acceptable to Insult Someone?

FREE SPEECH: IS IT ACCEPTABLE TO INSULT SOMEONE? - Insulting a person, either verbally or through the written word is as old as sin.  Over the millennia we, as a species, have developed a huge number of ways to insult each other, not just verbally or by the written word, but with a plethora of hand and body gestures.

Free Speech - Is it really acceptable to insult someone? A look into what makes an insult and how it affects people and whether we should be allowed to do so.

We really have got insulting down to a fine art – but does our ability to insult someone us the right to do so; and in an ever growing society of political correctness is it in fact an acceptable act?

In 1669 Turberville and Savage were having an argument of sorts.  Savage, in his rage, directed a number of insults at Tuberville who in retaliation stood up, drew his sword approximately six inches from its sheath and declare; “If it were not for Assize Time Sir, I would run you through.”  At this point Turberville placed his sword fully back into its sheath and sat down.

Now Savage took offence to this act of aggression and took Turberville to court for the act of assault on another person.  His case failed as the Judge pointed out that;

A. Turberville did not take action due to knowing that Assize was in force, and;

B. No harm was intended, due to A.

This really was a classic case of taking an insult, and a reaction to that insult, too far, but have we really changed or indeed has the situation, with the onslaught of Political Correctness, actually made the situation worse.  Should be not simply take an insult with a pinch of salt and be mature enough to simply move on?  Isn’t it our right to Freedom of Speech to be able to insult another?

Personally I don’t care if someone throws an insult my way.  Someone recently said to me; “I think you are a real bastard.”  My reply… “Ah yes that appears the case, but I still have one up on you, as you only think I’m a bastard and I know I am.”  The response to that? There’s wasn’t one, in fact he had nothing left to say and just walked away.

When it comes to insults I like them to be creative, for instance…

“You have all the finesse of a Dung Beetle and you are, quite frankly, equally as disgusting, I fear however the only thing you truly lack is the Dung Beetles charm.”

Calling someone a name, such as a Dick, Pussy, Prick or other such admission is not something I personally take offence to and in fact I rarely take it in.  I’ve been called just about every slanderous slight you can think of and if I decided to take each of the perpetrators to court I would never see the outside of a court room.

My mother once said that while someone is taking about you, two things come into play:

A. You must one interesting individual for so many to want to talk about you and;

B. While they are talking about you they are leaving someone else alone.

Most of us take offence to insults of a racist nature, but again I’ve never understood why. I recently asked a friend of mine why, upon greeting one of his friends, does he always start with “What’s up my Nigger?”  Now I’m white and I am sure if I greeted one of my black friends in the same way it would cause offence.

Apparently his argument is that his friends are considered brothers and therefore the use of the word Nigger is perfectly acceptable among brothers.  I took offence to this as I wanted to know why I was not considered one of his brothers – we are after all extremely close friends and the colour of one’s skin really shouldn’t come into play in our age of equality and enlightenment – we do after all bleed red, regardless to skin colour.  His reply to that was, it’s just not the same and that’s where the conversation ended.

So, the conclusion here is that he is able to refer to another black guy as a Nigger but for a white guy to do the same is just plain taboo.

What is disturbing about the whole insult scene is that by legislating against such behaviour surely this suppresses our Freedom of Speech. Recently there has been a debate in the UK about removing certain clauses in the Public Order Act, which does make it a criminal offence to use insulting words or behaviour.

“The clear problem of the outlawing of insult is that too many things can be interpreted as such. Criticism, ridicule, sarcasm, merely stating an alternative point of view to the orthodoxy, can be interpreted as insult.” Rowan Atkinson, actor & comedian.

I recently wrote an article ‘Social Networks – Are We Becoming Less Sociable?’ in which I explored the darker side of the social networks and how many people have taken to these anonymously just in the pursuit of insulting others.  It’s interesting to note that as we are continuously legislated upon we find ways to move around such legislation through anonymity and the social networks appear to be just the place to play out a role and insult others without, as some might see it, any consequences.

Should legislation be in place that prevent us from insulting someone?  Does this restrict our Freedom of Speech?  While I personally think there should be boundaries I do not think these boundaries should be dictated to us by law.

We should be free to express ourselves and leave it to the judgment of the individual to take action against the insult – not a violent one but one that is more educated, as there are many ways to redirect an insult to those making the insult.  Are we really not mature enough to be able to take an insult and simply throw it off without legislation?

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  • Donna Wozny

    I really struggle associating with anyone who uses crass language in any manner. I believe that words have life and should be used to build character and trust, not to degrade or hurt someone. Freedom of Speech is the very ideal which strips our society of its moral obligation to one another. Constructive criticism on the other hand has a rightful place and is not used or taken nearly often enough.

    • Stuffinator

      “Freedom of Speech is the very ideal which strips our society of its moral obligation to one another” and the lack of it imprisons us under suppression of those who want to control. Would you not agree that countries like the UK and US are built on the very ideology that everyone should have a voice?

      • Donna Wozny

        Over the years, yes it has become more of a focus that each group or person can have their say. However, as with any freedom it comes with personal responsibility and is not a license to spew whatever thought pops into our heads. It has been taken to the extreme as an excuse for poor behaviour and manners.