OUR VIEW: The erosion of free speech?

While the country was gearing up for the federal election last Monday, news agencies across the country took a detour from the candidates to focus on the death of Osama bin Laden.

Many people on both sides of the Canadian/U.S. border were rightfully overjoyed, as the man that claimed responsibility for the 9/11 attacks not only killed many via al-Qaida’s various attacks but largely affected the freedoms once enjoyed by North Americans – think about what it was like to take a flight before and after that infamous day in history.

Canadians also expressed relief as a number of Canadian service-people had died in military operations in Afghanistan in conflict with members of the Taliban.

You can debate about the merits or demerits of the American operation to kill the terrorist – code-named Neptune Spear – but there was something interesting that happened on Twitter after the announcement.

Rashard Mendenhall, an American professional football player for the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers, tweeted that people shouldn’t be celebrating the death of a person they don’t know.

He even expressed doubt that the World Trade towers were brought down by the airplanes.

The fallout has been quick, as a number of people have admonished Mendenhall on forum boards and the football player has even lost a sponsorship deal with athletic apparel company Champion, who cited that it no longer believes the running back can properly represent the company and said that his statements were inconsistent with its values.

You can probably expect more fallout in the coming weeks, including some from teammates and other players.

Whether you agree with the situation with bin Laden is one thing but what is happening to free speech?

While people on both sides of the border extoll the virtues of the freedom of speech, it seems as if that right is slowly diminishing.

During the election, certain people were prevented from attending a rally with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and it is alleged that the Conservatives screened certain attendees through Facebook and removed those who seemed as if they supported another party.

Even though someone supports Jack Layton, former Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff or anyone else for that matter, they should be able to attend a public forum with our Conservative prime minister.

No matter how misguided Mendenhall seems, he has the right to express his opinions.

As Voltaire or Evelyn Beatrice Hall said, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

– The Grand Forks Gazette