Our freedom of speech and personal liberty has been smothered. Though the most recent US Presidential Election saw the power of the liberal media, the comment section in British Newspapers have become increasingly filtered and limited. The freedom of speech across the UK media has gone, argues Donald Forbes.

Freedom of speech is not the same as being able to say what you like. Speech means communication with others. Feel free to tell your bathroom mirror what you want. If you cannot speak freely in the public square, and you can't, you do not enjoy freedom of speech.

Here in the West, we no longer have freedom of speech; or at least not as we understood it until quite recently. This is extreme, I hear you object. But look at the evidence.

In the United States whose electorate is evenly divided between Left and Right, the daily media is almost wholly under the control of liberals. Germany has hate speech laws which Austria is about to copy. In France, the Le Pen family of Front National fame have been convicted of hate speech, and on other pretexts, although their party is the country's biggest. Holland prosecutes Geert Wilders.

The UK is not immune even without the Independent Press Standards Organisation. Fleet Street has always considered certain topics ineligible for debate because they contravened an unwritten public interest. More accurately, an interest decided on the public's behalf by people we don't know but who have that power.

Behind the public condemnation of the Charlie Hebdo massacre and the attacks on Jyllands Posten for publishing the Mohammed cartoons was disapproval that a line had been crossed. No one would ever say that the Charlie victims got what was coming to them. But it was implied that if you play with matches in a gunpowder factory, there are consequences.

In fact, after the outrage had died down over the decapitation of a French schoolteacher by a Chechen Muslim last month, some in the French media suggested the victim shouldn't have provoked Islamists who organised his gruesome death.

I'm only talking so far about the adult world. Free speech on university campuses has long been pointing all four paws at the sky and the students who cannot bear to hear a word that offends their half-formed minds are tomorrow's enforcers of permissible speech in the outside world.

It's not an exaggeration to say that in terms of personal liberty of thought, we are slowly and wittingly garrotting ourselves. What is more, illiberal liberalism is being superseded by progressivism which is even more intolerant.

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The constrained state of our freedom of speech was amply demonstrated by the US presidential election. Ninety five percent of the daily media supported one candidate and was willing to tell any lie for him despite his manifest unfitness for the office. The determination to elect Joe Biden was quasi-fanatical.

When you pit the power of the New York Times, the Washington Post and the television networks against the conservative media, it's no contest. Liberal media reach 10 Americans for every one that sees the handful of conservative dailies or Fox News which has anyway changed sides.

Western governments do not control the media as the old Soviet Union did but the effect is similar; a big freedom of speech deficit compared with one that was total. The effect either way is destructive of democracy and crushes the free exchange of ideas that keeps our societies healthy, fair, and innovative.

Why is the role of the media still so critical when its power is said to be much weakened? Donald Trump's personality could well have lost him the election on its own despite journalists' biases. Like it or not, the media still exert an outsize influence on what we think.

Even people who say they hate journalists (there are lots, but you know that) get all of their information about the world from the media; their opinions are shaped by that whether they are aware of it or not. Don't believe what you read in the newspapers, it used to be said. But we do anyway.

No one ever thought freedom of speech was the freedom to shout fire in a crowded theatre; it's accepted that free speech is not absolute. But they thought it meant open discussion of the political and moral issues of the day, however difficult: immigration, criminal policy, abortion, capital punishment, race, sexual and other civil rights to name a few.

Some of these are matters of settled law but that does not mean they are written in stone and can be forgotten. The obvious reason is that they have on-going effects that may require correction or overturning. We will never find out what alternatives there are if the nexus between politics and the media, enforced in the name of an increasingly spurious liberalism, keeps them off-limits.

There is more speculation in the media about the future of climate change, about which neither politicians nor journalists know much, than what sort of place the UK will be as a result of mass immigration. But we can foretell quite a lot about what the place will be like with a population of 75 million rather than 65 million. It seems they don't want us to know the answers.

Some of the most interesting commentary in recent years came from "below the line" from commenting readers who provide a glimpse into how ordinary people think. But editors are retreating from such unfiltered opinion. The Guardian and the Telegraph comment sections are a shadow of what they were; garrotted.

We still read good journalism, but it is written within the limits of what is up for discussion and what is not. What is not allowed can be broadly defined as whatever the likes of troublemakers like Nigel Farage and Tommy Robinson stand for. What is conforms closely to the consensus adhered to within the establishment of which the media are part – and freedom of speech it is not.

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