The concept of the Town Square (for our purposes as it relates to the CommentTalk Project) started in the 1800s in the United Kingdom. In 1196 AD, the government had erected the Tyburn Gallows in what is now known as Hyde Park and home to Speaker’s Corner which continued to operate until 1783. Almost 587 years of hangings occurred here or as estimates of over 50,000 people having swung from the rope.
The custom for the condemned was to say whatever they wanted before the executioner did his duty in carrying out the sentence. Whether it was just for seeing the spectacle of the event, to witness the condemned last thoughts, or some other reason, local people came in droves to see the sentences carried out.
What became interesting was what happened when the gallows were demolished and the land became a magnet for protests, speech, and dissent. According the the Royal Parks:
Marches and protests had long convened or terminated their routes in Hyde Park, often at Speakers’ Corner itself. Finding the park locked, demonstrators tore up hundreds of yards of railings to gain access, and three days of rioting followed. The next year, when a crowd of 150,000 defied another government ban and marched to Hyde Park, police and troops did not intervene. Spencer Walpole, the Home Secretary, resigned the next day. In the 1872 Parks Regulation Act, the right to meet and speak freely in Hyde Park was established through a series of regulations governing the conduct of meetings.
Free Speech has and is always risky. You can literally be placing your life and fortune into the words that come out of your mouth. Governments, Politicians, Corporations, and Prominent Individuals are never too keen to hear criticism of their views, actions, or policies. Subtle and sometimes not so subtle retribution is always a possibility to the speaker. In modern day, many find that the news media is the new tool of free speech oppression.
Don’t agree with their views on a story? You must be crazy, unhinged, or something must be fundamentally wrong with your character. How dare you question “the official” narrative! Sadly that’s where things are headed as we find ourselves waking up in an Orwellian nightmare.
In 1992, in the United States, it was admitted by PBS, that 6 corporations controlled the majority of the United States news and media. Now that number has dwindled to just five corporations: Time Warner, Disney, Murdoch’s News Corporation, Bertelsmann of Germany and Viacom. The news had noticeably become the same. The only difference in the televised evening news was the shuffling of the stories reported and a different human interest story at the end to slap some paint on the same garbage. Journalists from the Big 5 aren’t really journalists any more, they are parrots or teleprompter actors at best, playing the part of a concerned you or me but who get paid 6-figure salaries to look the other way.
Citizen journalism has risen up to fill the information vacuum and cover stories these corporations would rather not see. Sadly, these companies have reached their influence into popular tech platforms and are now “shadow banning” people, censoring the reach of a person’s personal opinion, or outright banning them.
We thought that adding commentary back into the internet was the thing to do. A digital Speaker’s corner where people demand the right to say what they want to say, peacefully, and where there comments get attributed like footnotes to the websites pushing the same old sad stories. So, please, join us, become a ComentTalker, rant away and maybe free thought and expression will make a come back once more.