CliffCentral founder Gareth Cliff said that with the benefit of hindsight, he would not defend Penny Sparrow’s right to freedom of speech.
Cliff recently gave a talk at the Free Market Foundation in Johannesburg, stating that it wasn’t his fight and the consequences were severe.
At the beginning of 2016, an unknown real estate agent named Penny Sparrow posted a tirade on Facebook that got picked up on social media.
Her post meanders through racially-charged waters before concluding: “From now I shall address the blacks of South Africa as monkeys as I see cute little wild monkeys do the same pick drop and litter.”
Following the attention Sparrow’s post received, DA leader Mmusi Maimane called for racist social media posts to be criminalised.
An online poll found that the overwhelming majority of respondents agreed with Maimane. Cliff retweeted the poll and said: “People really don’t understand free speech at all.”
The backlash was immediate.
“M-Net wanted to fire me from a stupid singing show (Idols),” said Cliff. This led to a lawsuit, which Cliff won.
Hindsight is 20/20
If he could go back in time, knowing what he knows now, Cliff said he would not defend Sparrow’s right to freedom of speech.
“I had a tiny baby of a business – a year old,” he said.
“We had commercial clients… big banks, big corporates who cancelled their advertising deals with us because they didn’t want to be associated with anything controversial. And you know what, I’ve got to make a living.”
Cliff made it clear during his presentation that he was a proponent of completely unencumbered speech, stating that political correctness is the opposite of free speech.
“It used to be the right we were worried about. Now the greatest threat to free speech comes from within [the ranks of liberals].”
People really don't understand free speech at all: https://t.co/97MWi6jrww
— Gareth Cliff (@GarethCliff) January 4, 2016