The perils of freedom of speech

New boxing heavyweight champion of the world Tyson Fury has sparked controversy with his recent comments on homosexuality and its possible links to paedophilia. The statements he has made have been highly offensive and have drawn criticism from many including prominent Labour MP Chris Bryant. There is even a growing petition to have Fury removed from the Sports Personality of the Year (SPOTY) contest. However are offensive comments simply part of the society we live in and a price worth paying for freedom of speech?

Those in the public spotlight have a responsibility over how they conduct themselves. Rightly or wrongly they are role models and what they say and do will have an impact on their fans. Fury is a very talented boxer, but has also always been a complex character who has never been shy of speaking his mind (part of his appeal!). Now with his new-found status and appeal Fury must urgently consider how he behaves and how he conducts himself and whether he needs to change.

There is a difference between defending what Fury has said and defending his right to say it. We rightly place a very high regard on freedom of speech in this country and the right of an individual to express himself or herself. This opens the possibility for opinions such as Fury’s, but remains better than the alternative when all views contrary to the norm are suppressed and restricted.

The best way to defeat these views is through challenging them in open debate. The arguments Fury made do not stand up to scrutiny and when any spotlight is focused on them they will fall apart. Society is developing and progressing and these arguments are becoming less and less common, highlighted in the contempt Fury has been held in since his recent interviews.

As a society we must always defend the right of people to speak their mind (excluding extreme examples which incite violence). Having a right to make these comments does not mean though that it is right to make them and Fury is obviously in the wrong here. The petition for him to be removed from SPOTY is quite sizeable but this would be the wrong move. Rather the right move will be to let the public show through their voting intentions what they really think of Fury. That has to be the response of a free society.

Article by Mike Hough

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