There is no shortage of reading material as traditional publishers, small publishing houses, self-publishing and other options allow authors to express their views. (File Photo)

There is no shortage of reading material as traditional publishers, small publishing houses, self-publishing and other options allow authors to express their views. (File Photo)

COLUMN: The freedom to make one’s voice heard

Plenty of options mean unpopular views need not be silenced

There are quite a lot of books on my bookshelf and on my reading list these days.

Some of the books I have been reading over the past year include novels by local authors I know. Others are by authors from Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, Russia, South Korea, Israel, Australia, New Zealand and other parts of the world. They include historical fiction, thrillers and novels of suspense, short stories and nonfiction works about a variety of topics.

The nonfiction books have included an examination about the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, writings by Indigenous authors in Canada on decisions and attitudes affecting them, religious works and many more topics. They represent a broad range of opinions and views.

Some of what I read is light and upbeat, but other works will challenge me and some will make me uncomfortable.

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The books I have been reading include some which were published by major publishing houses, some from small presses and some self-published works.

This is just a small selection of the books, articles and other written materials available to me. There’s no shortage of things to read.

This is why I’m puzzled by a statement I heard the other day, and not for the first time. “Conservative voices are being silenced.” At least one other person I know believes those with a left-wing slant face challenges when presenting their opinions. Others have talked about “cancel culture” and how certain segments of the population — often defined by ideology or religious beliefs — are not able to have a voice in the world.

This makes no sense. Today, perhaps more than at any other time in history, there are numerous ways to share one’s views or tell one’s stories.

Established publishing houses, whether large or small, are looking for well-written, engaging and thought-provoking works. Self-publishing, through Amazon and other platforms, gives many more authors an opportunity to have their books available in print or in a digital format.

Websites, blogs, podcasts and other digital options provide more avenues of communication. There are social media platforms where billions of people around the world can express their views. If one of these platforms suspends a user for certain content, there are other platforms with different standards in place.

And if someone can raise the necessary funding, it is possible to release a motion picture or a documentary. This is admittedly a difficult and costly undertaking, but it is not impossible.

Anyone with a point of view can spread a message, through a multitude of platforms. If someone has something to say, there are ways to spread the word, even if there is opposition.

But nobody is required to read or listen to that message.

I am not obligated to read any book or follow any message, no matter how important such a message may be. Our governments in liberal democracies such as Canada cannot and do not mandate us to read religious texts, the constitution, trade agreements or even a history of hockey. We choose for ourselves what we wish to read, view or hear.

This is something I wish more Canadians would understand — especially those who talk about conservative voices being silenced.

We have the right to free speech, but that right does not mean others have to listen.

John Arendt is the editor of the Summerland Review.

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