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Demosthenes's avatar

How important is free speech to you?

Asked by Demosthenes (10172points) 1 month ago from iPhone

I’m not referring only to the first amendment to the United States Constitution, but the greater principle of free speech.

Are there instances where you think free speech should be suppressed?

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13 Answers

KNOWITALL's avatar

Very important. It’s so important that the US is the only country who’s constitution says Congress can’t make laws to take it away. (Fun fact, the US scored higher than any other country in regards to freedom of expression. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/11/freedom-of-speech-country-comparison/)

There are cringe-worthy issues that trip my trigger, like pedophilia, but in general, no I don’t think free speech should be suppressed.

hmmmmmm's avatar

It’s a very complicated issue, and I think my views on it are evolving.

First, I don’t think it means the same thing to everyone. So, when someone says that they believe in “free speech”, the first thing we must do is define it.

Maybe you could define what you specifically mean. For example, are you just indicating a very narrow view that means that the state cannot suppress your speech? Or do you mean that all types of speech should have a platform? Does your concept of “free speech” stop at the theoretical, or does it require a means in which this speech manifests in the public sphere? Are there exceptions? Does “free speech” mean “freedom from the consequences of speech”? What constitutes “speech”, etc?

There are many possible things to discuss re: “free speech”. Could you elaborate on what you mean?

canidmajor's avatar

What he ^^^ said. The concept of “free speech” is just way too broad to define without clarifiers.

SergeantQueen's avatar

It is the first amendment. I think a lot is covered under free speech, and unless that speech is threatening or talking about violence, “I’m going to burn so and so’s house” etc. it is covered under the first amendment.

I consider the Constitution + Bill of Rights to be the most important documents America has as a nation, so I would say free speech is very important to me.

It gets weird when you talk about hate speech. Which is free speech provided you aren’t making clear and violent threats.

I think hate speech is hard to define. Some people say that saying you hate a certain type of people is hate speech, while others think it’s just a shitty thing to say. Some people consider threats of violence hate speech and everything else is just “regular” speech. I think it all depends.

I personally draw the line at incredibly violent or threatening speech. At that point, I would say it is not covered. That doesn’t mean I agree or want people to say hateful things. I just think people should be able to say whatever they want, with few exceptions.

And of course, they will have consequences for what they say no matter what, good or bad.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

I feel strongly about protecting free speech and I am against censorship. Hate speech is tricky territory which has become increasingly blurred over time, naturally this is a complex issue. I also believe that shame and shunning of speech does little to remedy the underlying motives and also fuels the radicalization of some perspectives, I tend to think it’s better to let things hit the light of day and be what they are in plain sight as I feel it’s more productive in the long run to keep communicating.

Demosthenes's avatar

@hmmmmmm I mentioned that I didn’t want to limit the discussion to the First Amendment because I am not speaking solely of the state suppressing speech (though we may talk about that). I am asking about a more general principle: should platforms be as free as possible? What of hate speech, should it be outlawed? Other countries ban denying the holocaust; should the U.S. have similar laws? How free should speech be in academia?

Dutchess_III's avatar

A lot of people make the mistake of thinking “Free Speech” applies to individuals and they can say what ever the hell they want to say.
The reality is that it means individuals have the right to criticism the government, say what ever they want to say about the government, without having to worry about repercussions.

hmmmmmm's avatar

@Demosthenes: “I am asking about a more general principle: should platforms be as free as possible? What of hate speech, should it be outlawed?”

I’m not trying to be difficult, but much more efforts in defining the terms and scope are necessary.

For example, we don’t necessarily have a common definition of “speech”, and therefore tackling the concept of “hate speech” can be difficult. Tangled within the concept of “hate speech” are issues of truth, defamation, harassment, and most importantly power. Whenever we talk about speech, we usually understand it to be public speech of some kind. If this is the case, the means in which public speech takes place is critical to the discussion. In the US, this generally means platforms and utilities which are privately held. So, yes – we’re likely moving beyond the 1st amendment discussion, which is extremely limited due to private ownership.

And since the public speech is made possible through privately owned channels, this brings up the whole issue of power and class. There are some people/groups that can make public speech, and others that cannot* (* of course, they can try, but they’re limited to the filters inherent in private ownership of channels where public speech takes place.

I am “free” to purchase a yacht, since there is no law against it. But if I attempt to exercise that right, I’ll quickly find that it’s very theoretical. But some people do have that right.

In my assessment, there is something similar with speech. The public is bombarded with speech from birth, all coming from one particular perspective and one particular socioeconomic class. There may be the occasional exposure to dissenting speech from someone on a social media platform or someone standing on the street corner handing out pamphlets. But for the most part, speech is a one-way street that happens to us. We’re primarily consumers, rather than creators. There is a great imbalance.

So, in my opinion, “hate speech” needs to be evaluated within the context of who holds power and the real-world effects of such speech. We need to look at the imbalance inherent in who has the ability to speak, who holds power, and who should most protect from an imbalance of speech. In other words, potential harm of a privileged group or individual is not the same as a people who are vulnerable and underrepresented in this public sphere.

It seems that much conversation about “free speech” lately is from the so-called alt-right, who are really advocating for forced platforming and safe spaces. They argue that they are the vulnerable and oppressed, despite holding financial power and reflecting the dominant views of the very companies that control the channels of public speech. These “free speech” warriors are really calling for the ability to go unquestioned. They want their speech to be guaranteed a platform and a sympathetic audience. What they really want is for others’ speech to be limited even more so that they can speak without recourse.

@Demosthenes: “Other countries ban denying the holocaust; should the U.S. have similar laws?”

While I used to vehemently oppose this, I am more understanding of why this was the case in Germany. I don’t see this as a need in the US at all.

@Demosthenes: “How free should speech be in academia?”

This is the front lines of the right-wing “free speech” movement. And it’s completely disingenuous. Sure, you are less-likely to find right-wing insanity at the university. But this doesn’t mean that there is some kind of conspiracy against the right. There is some self-filtering that goes for starters. If you are a biochemist, you can make a ton more money working for Bayer or other corporation than you can running a lab at a university. If you are a professor who has passed up the corporate life and the $ that comes with that, you are likely a certain type of person.

There is also a more important filter. That is, there are the humanities that will tend to naturally weed out the right. Besides being areas of study that conservatives and right-wing students have no interest in, you have the necessary condition that the more you understand, the less-likely you are to adhere to confused conservative ideologies. In other words, if you are compassionate and/or interested in subjects that deal with how things work and how people work, you are less likely to be a conservative, and you a far less likely once you have actually learned something.

However, don’t forget that “the university” also contains economics departments and economic schools. These are usually filled, via self-selection, with people who are completely indoctrinated into the world they are about to learn about. And once they are there, this a complete right-wing experience.

Sorry for the length of this post. But I just wanted to point out that it’s not a simple issue at all. And every possible question i could have for you to qualify a term or explain what you mean would really just create a whole new set of questions I have.

We don’t have “freedom of speech” in the sense that it’s sometimes taught. It’s really just a concept that has all kinds of real-world roadblocks that make the term “free” seem quite silly. I think it’s therefore more useful to discuss very specific examples and how we can best navigate those, rather than be so general about it as though we are uphold some mythical ideal.

janbb's avatar

I think Oliver Wendell Holmes said it best, “You are not free to shout “fire” in a movie theater.” Also, just because you have something you want to say does not mean that any entity, such as a university or a social media company, is obligated to give you a platform on which to say it.

seawulf575's avatar

I pretty much have the attitude that I can and will say what’s on my mind when I want to. That being said, as with all rights, there are responsibilities that go with that freedom. The old “shouting FIRE in a movie theater” (when there isn’t a fire) for instance poses a threat to all the folks in the movie theater. It is irresponsible. Threatening people falls into a haze area in my mind. Again, there are obvious things: “I’m going to come over there and kill you and your whole family!” falls into the threat category nicely. But not everything is a threat and that seems to be where we go so often anymore. “I think we should re-elect Trump” is often deemed a threat to society…but only by his opponents. It is kind of like Hate Speech. It falls to the listener to derive whether it is offensive or not. Most times, what could be construed as hate speech is, in my mind, ignorance. I don’t think that should be repressed. It lets everyone know exactly how that person thinks and doesn’t present a specific threat.
I think part of the problem we seem to be having with free speech these days is that we are trying to hard not to “offend” anyone. Well, at least the chosen anyones. It isn’t the responsibility of the speaker to determine how his listeners will react…he cannot control that. And we shouldn’t be trying to make the speaker try. If he is too offensive, people turn him off and move one. But just about anything you say can and probably is offensive to someone.

Blackberry's avatar

It’s not an issue for me, personally.
I keep my mouth shut regardless and mind my own business because I don’t have much to say to a lot of people.

Growing up, people used the free speech excuse to shout any random uneducated opinion, yet educated people are censored anyways for not saying what people want to hear, or to have it completely dismissed.
So it’s really only for the dumb people to use an excuse to justify being dumb and having dumb opinions.

Why do you think Dr. Fauci received death threats against him and his children, yet our president sounds like a drunk crazy person in Twitter?

Darth_Algar's avatar

I don’t believe freedom of speech to be universally applicable. Private institutions are, as far as I’m concerned, fully within their right to moderate speech as they see fit within their domain. And yes, this includes social media sites.

@KNOWITALL “It’s so important that the US is the only country who’s constitution says Congress can’t make laws to take it away.”

Factually untrue.

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