I have acquired a lovely big box full of kittens. Look at them. Aren’t they cute and loveable? And so many of them too.
So here’s the deal. Every time someone complains about how the freedom of expression of dickhead radio jocks has been stifled as a result of the advertiser boycott of Radio Live, one of these cute animals will die.
Don’t make me do it. I like cats, but this is an important issue. Do you want to be the one who caused Fluffy to have a terrible accident?
So go back and rewrite that newspaper column or blogpost, because if you publish that piece bemoaning how people are no longer free to say whatever they want then I will do it. I will!
A reader writes:
You have said that if I express my views on this subject you will kill those fluffy little kittens. I’m shocked that you would stoop so low just to silence a few inconvenient truth-tellers. But I also cannot bear to think of those poor creatures suffering because of something I wrote. The guilt would be overwhelming, and I would feel as if their blood was on my hands.
I feel as if I have been threatened and intimidated into silence. You are denying me the freedom of expression, and as such are taking from me a basic human right. What has our society come to when I can’t say what I want without any consequences? You’re really no better than Joseph Stalin.
Please withdraw your threat, Comrade, so that I may complete and publish my blogpost bemoaning the state of free speech, while drawing comparisons with medieval France and the Weimar Republic.
That’s an interesting point, Chris. It’s a good thing for those kittens that your complaint about freedom of expression related to my threat, rather than the advertiser boycott.
I have now acquired another box of kittens, which I will put aside in readiness for the next time someone complains about my threat.
Another reader has written in:
This really isn’t amusing. Threatening the lives of cats is not cool. Who do you think you are? Gareth Morgan?
G Morgan, Wellington
But it’s not a threat. People can say and do as they like. It just happens that if they say or do certain things, a box full of cute and fluffy kittens will come to a ghastly and monstrous end.
Another reader writes:
I don’t get this post. Are you trying to make some sort of point about freedom of expression? By threatening death to these cats, are you trying to show that the people complaining about freedom of expression have a valid point?
Surely you could have done a better job explaining what you meant. Why should I waste any more time reading your blog? I’m going to tell all of my friends about this post, and I bet that by the end of it you won’t have any readers left.
You’ll be sorry.
John, it’s not my job to explain what my posts mean. I put them out there, and then people can take from them what they want. They often don’t have any meaning at all.
I just read what John wrote. He doesn’t get it, does he?
You are not stopping me or anyone else from writing or saying whatever they want.
All you’re saying is that if someone writes or says something you don’t like, something might happen. The words we use have consequences. Sometimes good, sometimes bad.
If I tell my wife she has put on weight, she might realise I‘m a douchebag and leave me. If I go to a dinner party and complain loudly that the food is disgusting, my hosts will probably kick me out of their house. If I write a newspaper column saying that a prominent Auckland businessman enjoys regular sexual congress with an antelope, he will probably sue me and my newspaper for defamation. If I walk up to a patched Black Power member and tell him he has a small penis, he will probably punch me in the face. If I stroll into a family restaurant at seven o’clock in the evening and start to preach the evils of abortion, I will probably be told to leave.
If someone lends me a megaphone and lets me use it to annoy or abuse people, then someone will eventually tell the owner of the megaphone to stop letting me use it. If the owner of the megaphone doesn’t listen and doesn’t take it off me, then someone might even get a petition going or start a media campaign to pressure the megaphone owner. Someone might sign such a petition even though they live in a different city to the guy with the megaphone, because they just don’t think people should use megaphones to say offensive things. Eventually the person who owns the megaphone might take the thing back. Has the annoying man with the megaphone been wronged? Surely not. It’s not even his megaphone.
If you say or write something that people don’t like, then you should expect them to object. They are entitled to express their views just as much as you are. When people cry “freedom of expression! free speech!” in these circumstances, what they really mean is “I have a right to say whatever I like about anyone, even if it causes harm to other people, but you have no right to tell others what you think about me.”
Free speech and freedom of expression are never absolute things. It’s complicated. Why don’t people get this?
Bob, Palmerston North
PS If you refuse to publish this comment I will regard your decision as a violation of my fundamental human rights.
Sorry, Bob, but I was too busy drowning kittens to read your comment.
Another reader writes:
I am outraged that you could even consider hurting those cute little kittens. If you don’t immediately withdraw your threat to kill them I will be left with no choice but to contact the police and SPCA.
Wait, what? Is that a threat? Are you trying to tell me now what I can say or do? I said something you didn’t like, and now you’re going to make my life difficult. Is that it?
So now it’s a crime to kill kittens?
That’s appalling! What about my freedom of expression? Where are my rights?
[note: no real kittens were harmed in the making of this post]