Northern Ireland’s Public Prosecution Service will prosecute firebrand evangelical preacher James McConnell under the Communications Act 2003, it was revealed today.
Pastor McConnell hit headlines last year after he was heard pushing air through his vocal cords to chop up the airflow from his lungs into audible pulses, before using the muscles of his larynx to adjust the length and tension of his vocal cords to “fine-tune” pitch and tone, thus producing the natural phenomena known as “speaking.”
The incident raised heated questions about how to balance the act of “speaking” with the right not to feel offended, and about when – if ever – the government should intervene.
There are certain exceptions from the right to speak audibly – defamation and the right not to feel offended – said Harold Spritzer, an associate professor of mixology and “law expert” at Bartender’s International at Hicksville.
“Offence is caused when someone is particularly sensitive to ideas they disagree with,” Professor Spritzer explained. “In other words, when you say something someone else might disagree with, you should expect an offended reaction from other people.”
Pastor McConnell’s vocal utterances might have crossed the line, Spritzer said. “I don’t think it is unreasonable to expect what he said would incite an offended reaction.”
The science is complicated. Through the medium of air, McConnell used his capacity for speech to create an audible mechanical wave of pressure and displacement that when received by the brain (via the earhole) evokes the auditory sensation known as “sound.”
When exposed to “sound,” some people are said to experience a negative basic feeling or emotion that involves a subjective character of unpleasantness, aversion, harm or threat of harm to body or mind.
Recent studies have shown that emotional harm is equal in intensity to that experienced by the body, said Cat Mendoza, professor of veterinary psychology at Bernadean University (online).
“The effects of exposure to disagreeable ideas can be long-lasting,” said Professor Mendoza. “Pain has a shared circuitry in the human brain, and it makes no distinction between being hit in the face and losing face as a result of feeling offended.”
With rates of emotional injury at an all-time high, professor Mendoza says that protecting the right not to feel offended is more important than ever.
“The only way to counter bad vibrations is to provide legal redress for the aggrieved. We impose speed limits on driving and regulate food and drugs because we know that the costs of not doing so can lead to accidents and harm. Why should vocal cords be exempt from public welfare concerns when its social costs can be even more injurious?”
Communicating through the use of sign language, Melody Minx, a self-proclaimed Social Justice Warrior and leader of the Dumb Blondes Solidarity Movement, said McConnell’s toxic vocal cords are symptomatic of a wider problem.
“This society privileges able-voiced white men,” said Minx. “By added virtue of his Christian faith, Mr. McConnell wields an unusual amount of power and influence. When he speaks, his vocal cords actually vibrate with violence. My fear is there is going to be an increase in verbal violence as a result of his unregulated speech, which was heard by literally a number of people.”
She continued, saying: “The Dumb Blondes Solidarity Movement believes that speaking breeds more speaking. We are sick and tired, so very tired, of these vocal cord apologists demanding access to our defenceless eardrums. That’s not dialogue. It’s not debate. It’s not free speech. It’s bullying and intimidation. It’s a horror show and it must be stopped.”
McConnell is expected to be found guilty in December.