Democracy and Freedom of the Speech Go Hand-in-Hand

In an environment where a celebrity-turned-politican can rouse up support through anger and vitriol, I think it is only natural to be wary of how people use speech. It becomes viewed as a tool of fear, a force to fight against, and this can lead people down the dangerous path of trying to fight fire with fire. From that sentiment springs the dichotomies of right and wrong, as well as the idea that the ends justify the means: if you’re so clearly and obviously right, anything you say or do should be for a just cause, even if that means silencing the opposition, right? But such thinking is on the precipice of censorship, and a sense of righteousness can blind people to that.

Whenever I think of the core functions of democracy, I think back to Yang Wen-li in the Japanese novel/anime series Legend of the Galactic Heroes. When comparing  democracies and dictatorships as forms of government, Yang emphasizes that while a good, strong, and just dictator can create more sweeping changes and reforms at a quicker rate, a terrible dictator is beyond dangerous. They can seize and maintain power forever, suppress the people, and can only be removed with a great deal of effort. In contrast, it may be harder to get things done in a democracy, but the constant renewal of leadership means that, even if we get some bad politicans, they can only last so long. Democracy has greater potential for change, even if that change comes only in fits and starts.

I think freedom of speech serves a similar role in society, and that in order to have democracy you need to have an environment where people are free to speak their minds. The risk that comes with this is that people may not always say things we’re comfortable with or agree with. This does not mean that we cannot criticize ideas, or how they’re delivered, or that something like hate speech should just be allowed to flourish. However, this also does not mean that the solution is to shut them up or to try and “overpower” them. I do believe that, on some level, part of the reason racism keeps rearing its ugly head is that people are shamed into silence, and they harbor these feelings so that they take the first opportunity for them to voice their feelings in a way that feels empowering. If people speak at each other, it cuts off avenues for dialogue. It’s perhaps no surprise that American politics seem to often be games of one-upsmanship and stifling the opposition, as opposed to trying to find compromise and promote candid conversation.

As an anime and manga blogger, I know this isn’t the sort of topic readers would immediately expect, but I think it is relevant to how fans as people interact with the various worlds they engage in, be they discussions of fiction, participation in their local communities, or engagement in political forums. I hope that we remember that democracy and freedom of speech are not static tools, and they are best utilized as dynamic, ever-changing entities.

5 thoughts on “Democracy and Freedom of the Speech Go Hand-in-Hand

  1. technically hitler was elected by the democratic process. what actually keeps the highest level of government from becoming a dictatorship is a system of checks and balances, spreading power out across many different entities that are held accountable to one another (though this contributes to gridlock). the real problem with democracy is having a homogeneous, poor, uneducated majority that can turn the political system on its head with a few simple messages as with hitler, various communist revolutions, and trump.


  2. @continue, the diference is that Hitler did have the support of older Freicorps, and the activity of the Sonderkomando making agressive fits against jew citizens and political adversaries. The Weimar Republic that collapsed upon his rise to power, was basically a weak State burdened by the heavy fines imposed by the Allies (in the aftermath of the 1ºWW), and german people were still aghast by the defeat, and the proverbial empoverishment it ensued.

    The comparison is not apt, as you see. (also, the Law of Godwin is utterly ridiculous to use nowadays, you know.) I don´t like Trump, but he has won the election fair and square. Hitler, did not do so, (his political party needed the support of other parties in the Parliament, and in the end, Hitler forced the hand of the Cancellor Hindenburg to concede his seat) he recurred to underhanded tactics to shoehorn his enemies, inside and out of his own political party.

    It is not beffiting of USA´s prowess, to belittle it´s own democracy. You have “check & balances” rules in your political system. Use them. He is now your President, and to rage like that gives the idea that Hillary should have won “because she is better”. No. This is democracy. The design of democracy was not to offer contentment to all, but to provide choice. And the choice is limited in duration, so you don´t have to suffer for long in case of a bad choice. But you can´t ignore completely Trump´s voters. That´s elitism, or I´d say, “handpicked democracy”.

    Good luck.

    (I do say this from Spain, which has a worse political situation, but because we do know that here,the traditional parties, and even the new ones, can´t help but to get mired in corruption cases.But we don´t have same tradition of how to handle the REAL parts of a democracy. It´s accountability, the true benefit of what a democracy (and its Rule of Law) can offer.
    So, I´d say to both the blog´s comentator and the person I´m responding, that the USA is orders of magnitude more advanced in what it means in that sense. The Founders of the United States knew this, and wanted it to be held upright. Accountability, which means being impartial, observing and careful. I leave it at that.)


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