“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”
Adopted in 1791, the First Amendment, states that “Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” (Pilon, p. 13) The freedom of speech documented in the First Amendment is not only a constitutional protection, but also an inevitable part of democratic government and independence, which are essential values in our society. “Censorship,” according to Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, “is an almost irresistible impulse when you know you are right” (Sunstein, p. 25). That is why the American citizen’s right to free speech is should be held as the highest virtue and any censorship of freedom of speech should not be allowed, but only respected.
Freedom of speech is essential part of democratic government, because the only way truth can emerge is when there is an open competition of ideas. However, there is a strong support of censorship when people start mentioning extremely offensive opinions. Should the freedom of speech be limited in this case? The answer is “No”. “If liberty means anything at all,” writes George Orwell, “it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” (Cox, p. 36) If we want to enjoy the freedom fully, the full protection should be given to the freedom of speech; there are no compromises about it.
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Freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment is not just a right, which can be declared or abolished. According to the “liberty theory”, proposed by some legal scholars, freedom of speech is an essential part of the liberty of every person, who pursues an individual self-determination and self-realization (Cox, 1981). Thus, freedom of speech is also a part more global right to freedom of personal development and self-expression.
Another theoretical ground to support the freedom of speech is called “tolerance theory”. It holds that the ability to teach and promote tolerance is one of the most important assets of freedom of speech (Cox, 1981). From this perspective, freedom of speech itself excludes any type of intolerance, which sometimes appears in a threatening form (religious intolerance, racial intolerance. The “tolerance theory” implies self-restraint, which is the only appropriate response to any ideas, even those that we may personally dislike or hate. The “tolerance theory” provides a broader context for exercising tolerance in a conflict-ridden democratic society.
In legal practice there are certain restrictions on freedom of speech imposed by the Supreme Court. They define a few categories of speech, which are considered to be not fully protected by the First Amendment. These categories include defamation, advocacy of imminent illegal conduct, obscenity and fraudulent misrepresentation (Farber, 1998). However, if the speech doesn’t fall within one of these categories, there are no grounds for the government to argue that freedom of speech should be restricted because of its harmful content.
One of the common bases for partial censorship is proof that the freedom of speech causes imminent illegal action. The Supreme Court has already drawn a careful line between general abstract theories and political dissent on one hand and particular illegal acts incitement on the other. This line is drawn by definition of “clear and present danger” test (Farber, 1998). The government cannot sue the speech on the basis of its tendency or possibility illegal conduct incitement. Before any speech is punished on the grounds of incitement, there is an obligatory three-part criterion that should be met. First, the speech must directly incite lawless action. Second, the context of speech must imply imminent breaking of the law, rather than call for illegal conduct at some indefinite future time. At last, there should be a strong intention to produce such conduct(Farber, 1998).
Such “clear and present danger” test determines the level of probability of threat imposed by the speech in question. However, the actual evil, which the government tries to prevent by outlawing the advocacy, does not outweigh the harm of outlawing the free speech. Only when the imposed danger becomes evident, the freedom of speech may be questioned. But we must be aware that the price for preventing several cases of the openly declared illegal conduct may be paid by restriction of one of the most essential rights that constitute freedom for the entire nation.
For the wellbeing and public safety the Supreme Court has imposed certain regulations on the freedom of speech not because of its content, but because of the time, place and manner the speech is being expressed (Farber, 1998). However, these rules do not limit the actual freedom of speech and are not even upheld, if there is no public need for this.
However, when it comes to the content-neutral regulation, it raises many controversial issues. The content-neutral regulation requires a very careful distinction and therefore may sometimes be misinterpreted. There is a raising concern that such regulation may weaken people’s right to participate, especially if the government puts too many restrictions on how the ideas should be voiced.
Thus, by analyzing the current issues concerning the First Amendment right to free speech in the United States, I wanted to show the perspective of outlawing this right and the negative aspects that such outlawing may involve. Freedom of speech has served a crucial role for the right to dissent and for the entire principle of democracy in our society. This law was developed during the course of American history and only after numerous struggles it was achieved. The evolution of this law is still in progress, however, the limitation of the basic right to free speech may as well limit our freedom and democracy, therefore should be respected and protected.
Cox, A. Freedom of Expression. Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1981.
Farber, D. The First Amendment. NY: Foundation Press, 1998.
Pilon, Roger. (Preface) The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. Cato Institute, 2000.
Sunstein, C. Democracy and the Problem of Free Speech. NY: Free Press, 1993.
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You must have come across many news debates on news channels or must have read about many rants on the social media like Facebook, twitter and also on the YouTube about the Nationalism and Freedom of Speech. So what is this Freedom of Speech? And why is it so much related to the nationalism and patriotism about our country? Slow down a bit. We have written this essay on Freedom of Speech to satisfy all your questions, how it is related to nationalism, the origin, and history, why do we need it, limits of it and other related topics. This essay will definitely help you for essay and speech competition. As this topic is currently present in the current affairs of the country, students may also be asked to write a paragraph on freedom of speech in their exams and even for their homework. We have kept the language of this essay easy to understand yet good enough to give you the insights of the topic. So, let’s start.
Essay on Freedom Speech and Expression
Do you realize everything you post on social media is seen by thousands of people? People like your friends, acquaintances, family members and even the people you don’t know show their opinion on your post and that is how the social media sites are designed. You make an opinion about something and you’ll find many people who will disagree with your opinion. So they just go and show you why your opinion is wrong according to them by putting some sensible arguments or some just curse you because you disagreed with their opinion with no logic at all. Is this a good thing to do? Human beings are created in such a way that they can see, think, analyze and make a decision about everything. Different people can analyze the same thing from the different point of views. It is not necessary to agree with something because everyone else is agreeing or supporting it. And this is where the freedom of speech comes into the picture.
So, what is the freedom? Putting into simple words, freedom is where you can think, believe, act, speak, live, gather, worship whatever, wherever and whenever you want. Yes! You can speak whatever you want until unless you are hurting someone deliberately. Freedom of speech and expression is the first and most important condition is the liberty. Freedom of speech and expression is the right to express your thoughts and opinions by words of mouth, writing, printing, pictures or any other way. Yes, any citizen of the country has a constitutional right to freedom of speech. This right to freedom of expression is not only protected by the Constitution of the country but also by other international bodies which are working in the favor of human rights.
The right of speech has been always hindered by the rulers from the ancient times too. In the ancient society, people were not allowed to speak against the king, government and the God. The people who used to raise their voice and make an opinion about the king or the God were used to face severe punishment and even the death. In ancient Greece, the Greek philosopher Socrates was executed because he was accused of talking about the Gods and influencing the youth of Greece negatively. Galileo, who in his research found that earth is not at the center of universe and sun doesn’t revolve around it but earth does, he went through a lof persecution for expression his reseach because it against belife of the church. In the pre-independence era of India, people were not allowed to talk about the British empire, gather for a cause and saying, “Inquilab Zindabad” which means “Long live the revolution.” People were punished harshly for raising their voices against the government.
After the independence of India, there was a strong necessity to make a law to protect people from expressing their ideas, beliefs, and opinions without the fear of punishment and that is how the right to freedom of speech and expression took birth in India. There is a little to no difference between freedom of speech and freedom of expression. Speech is the form of expression. But not everyone expresses their ideas and opinion only through speech. Freedom of expression is a broader sense of freedom to express your thoughts and opinions in many ways like writing, printing, pictures etc whereas as the freedom of speech focuses on the right to speak specifically.
As liberty of speech gives you the power and right to express your thoughts and opinion to the world, it has some limits too. You cannot say whatever you want about anyone or anything. You cannot compromise the security of the state and friendly relations with the foreign states. This means a person who is responsible for protecting and classifying information cannot disclose it under the freedom of speech as it might hamper the security of the state. Also, a government official cannot use it to talk about the relationship with the foreign states. You can not take advantage of it to damage the public order. It means freedom of speech doesn’t allow you to shout “there is a bomb!” in crowded places like theatres, malls etc. You cannot accuse the court and talk anything wrong about the court, it will be the contempt of court. Defamation of someone is not allowed, decency and morality cannot be compromised under the freedom of speech. Incitement to an offense which means you are not supposed to provoke people to do unlawful behavior by your speech or expressions. You cannot defame the jurisdiction and integrity of India by your speech and expression.
The why do we need the freedom of speech and expression? Expressing one’s ideas and opinions without the fear of punishment is not the only purpose of freedom of speech. We need it because discussing the issues openly with people can bring out the best solutions to the problem. It is the way of self-fulfillment and self-development. If we are free to decide what we can speak, hear or read, then it will definitely help in our intellectual growth. A democracy works because of the people and if people are not allowed to say what they want then people won’t participate in the democracy and the democracy will not grow, hence to the smooth and stable working of the democracy the freedom of speech is needed.
As more of anything can create problems too and freedom of speech and expression is no exception to that. Today this freedom is used for wrong purposes, it is misused to hurt the sentiments of people from specific groups, spreading hatred, hurting the beliefs of people, spreading wrong information, influencing people in a negative way, all under the name of exercising their right to freedom of speech.
Freedom of speech is the most precious liberty for the people. It gives us the power to speak, read, believe, think, worship, act whatever and however we want. But with great power comes the great responsibility. (Yes, this line is from Spiderman movie.). We need to cherish this freedom and not to abuse for sake of politics, malpractices and ill intentions. A lot of people from dictatorial regimes don’t get a chance to say anything. We are fortunate to have it, we should respect it and keep using it to strengthen the democracy and also question its stakeholders.
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Here in this article, have given this information in essay format, but with little modifications, you can easily write a great speech from it. And if you summarise the overall topic that will give a good content for paragraph writing.
I hope this essay gives you enough knowledge about freedom of speech and expression. If you liked this article then please let me know in the comment section below to motivate me to write more and help people more. Thank you. 🙂
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