We pride ourselves as Australians on being open, happy with diversity, respecting other opinions, fair go, all that. But it is an illusion, the freedom only applies to those who repeat the standard memes, follow the party line, accept the Australian mythology about who and what we are. Deviate from that and the gatekeepers will come down on you like a ton of bricks.
Express a belief that the environment must have some protections and a shock jock newspaper columnist will call for you to be strung up from lamp posts. Point out the scientific evidence for climate change and receive hate mail and death threats prompted by the shock jocks. Have a long ago family background in communism like Senator Lee Rhiannon and you will be subject to constant vile attacks.
Oppose some actions by religious organisations and fundamentalist pastors will call for your head on a platter. As they will if you support marriage equality, or abortion, or admit to being an Atheist. Question the economic orthodoxy of continuous growth, austerity, public asset sales, removal of workplace regulation, and growing gap between rich and poor, and neoconservative editorial writers will abuse you for living in the past.
Question Australia’s military record, and its American links, and be prepared for accusations of unAustralianess. Same will happen if you suggest Australians are just a teeny bit racist. And if you suggest farming has contributed not insignificantly to Australian environmental problems. And if you dare to question whether the “War on Drugs” might be a little counterproductive. And if you dare to ask why so many guns in society.
Ask why the government funds private schools, why billionaires don’t pay more tax, why the coal industry gets massive subsidies, and you will be treated with contempt and scorn by the mainstream media. Question the role of vicious shock jocks in coarsening political debate and they will turn on you in a second screaming “free speech”.
In short. You are free to say whatever you like, of course you are. March along the broad highway constructed by Murdoch and friends and they will cheer you on like a winning football team. Dare to investigate side roads, bush tracks, little diversions under bridges, and the opinion muggers will beat you up and leave you bleeding by the roadside.
Of course many of the unspeakable opinions above are specific to Australia, but others apply more generally, and individual countries will have other additions related to history, culture, religion.
I suspect everywhere, to greater and lesser degrees, freedom of expression is really the freedom to conform.