Georgia Reporter

July 25, 2011

How Valuable Freedom of Speech Is

Freedom is something that all men want to have. No one would want to be trapped into doing something that is against his will. Throughout history, man has always placed a lot of value on the freedom to choose for himself and the freedom to express what he wants either through writing, through speech, and even through art.

The value of freedom of speech has always been emphasized. In fact many of the world’s greatest leaders fought wars just to preserve the freedom to express oneself honestly and openly. As prevalent as the fight for freedom of speech are the efforts of many men to inhibit other people from exhibiting and practicing this right.

Today, freedom of speech is alternatively referred to as the freedom for experience. Majority of the governments from all over the globe have implemented laws and regulations to safeguard this basic human right. However there are certain limitations to how a person can express himself. There are even instances wherein a person is inhibited from exercising this right. Congress has established certain approved scenarios where this can be implemented. One of the things that should be remembered is that the right to self-expression does not only relate with speaking but with writing as well.

The expression of freedom of speech can also be through other means such as through singing of songs, playing of certain types of music, the promotion of ideals, and through wearing statement shirts or clothing. The last one may be very familiar since a lot of people wear shirts with largely emblazoned text on the front which may be used to convey one’s emotions for the day or one’s belief. This is the reason why politicians during election time give away shirts, caps, armbands, and other types of clothing with their names printed on such materials.

Being given the freedom to express oneself and one’s belief does not mean that he can say whatever he wants or do whatever he wants to do anytime he wants to without regard for others who may be affected. An example of this is when one keeps on shouting obscene words in a very public place such as in a mall or in a movie theatre. What one says or do should be done with respect to others. It should be hate speech towards certain races, sex, and age. Another thing which one has to control is the telling of false stories especially when this could ruin other people’s reputation. If one does this, then he might be charged with an offense which is punishable by law and this is called libel or defamation of character.

On the other hand, one has to consider that “freedom of speech” means basically nothing if we’re only talking about popular speech. Nobody would ever contest your right to profess your appreciation for ice cream, or post your own insanity Workout review online. In fact, some would argue that the most unpopular and offensive forms of expression are the ones most in need of defense, as well as the benchmarks by which we gauge how truly free we are.

The right to have freedom of speech is very important due to a number of reasons. First of all, it helps encourage the expression of beliefs and ideas which is where the concept of democracy is firmly based on. Because of this, democratic organizations and governments are preserved. It also impresses on democratic government leaders the need to be always truthful and tolerant of what others think. It also helps broaden the understanding not only of those in government positions but most important to the ordinary citizen.

Limitations and Exceptions to the Right for Freedom of Speech

The freedom of expression is something that is enjoyed by many individuals. It includes not only what is spoken. It does not even have to necessarily involve the use of any words. It could be through the use of symbols or art. All of these are kept safe by the First Amendment.

There has been some concern regarding what can be considered as protected speech and what is not. This is especially true in the case of artistic and symbolic expression which includes pictures, movies, music, and paintings. As many people say, with freedom comes responsibility and this remains true with the right to free expression. The courts have identified certain exceptions to the First Amendment. These things have been considered exceptions because they are possibly harmful to the public. It is indeed very important for one not only to know what these exceptions are but also to gain basic understanding on each of them. It is also important to note that some of the things that are protected by the First Amendment may contradict the deeply set cultural values of a community.

Defamation is one of the exceptions to the right of freedom of speech. This is a false statement in the guise of being factual which has a negative effect on another individual’s reputation. This means that a person’s right to express himself is limited if what he expresses whether written or spoken will harm another person. This is an act that is punishable by law. For written words, one can be charged with libel and for spoken words, one can be charged with slander. In some cases, defamation can be very hard to prove in court especially since a person is entitled to have his own opinion and doing this is not classified as defamation.

Another limitation to the freedom of expression is when one says something which causes panic. A good example of this is when one shouts “fire” in a crowded shopping mall. Fighting words are also exempted from the freedom of speech. This encompasses speech that when uttered may cause injury to others and may cause the peace to be disturbed. This however needs to be thoroughly considered since that one person may have been provoked to release those so-called fighting words.

Speech that relates to the incitement of crime is also not covered by the First Amendment. When one speaks in order to encourage another person to commit something that is considered to be against the law, this is not considered to be part of one’s right to free speech.

Sedition involves conduct which is committed against the state in an effort to overthrow or do harm to the government. This will vary depending on one’s present situation. Obscene words are also not part of one’s right to freedom of expression and there is a test that governs this limitation. This is one of the most controversial exceptions to the First Amendment. Many people disagree on the parameters that are used to measure if a certain word can be considered obscene or not.

Initial Stages in the Development of Freedom of Speech

Every individual is free to speak or express their feelings and opinions. Many years ago, freedom of speech has been amended. The problem of hate speech is considered by lots of different countries including the United States of America. Most of these countries are implementing laws so that it can be restricted. Some countries considered the hate speech as a bad effect in the community. On 1787, the Constitution of the United States was drafted. By the following year it was approved and it was being processed in 1789. In 1791, the ten amendments constituting the Bill of Rights were implemented. The new government’s powers with the consideration to speech were controlled by one of these ten amendments. Legal debates about free speech and hate speech have been made. The first amendment was explained in the middle of these debates.

The definition of the first amendment is just the same as many articles in the constitution. They are all uncertain and it gives a universal orientation for central action. But it was made open to conversation. A justification for a wide principle of freedom of speech is not offered by the Constitution. Aside from this, little guidance is offered by the Constitution. When applying the general principle to hard cases, the rationale can be vital. The first amendment cannot be used anywhere. It can only be used to the federal congress. Until today, this amendment is still leading in the courts. There is a great possibility that books, films, and speakers can be controlled by the state and local governments.

The rules and ideas of the federal and state governments about association and freedom of speech were examined during the First World War. Because of this war, federal and state governments were forced to do this. The American involvement in the First World War has increased. Because of this, numbers of issues and organizations came out. An Espionage Act was approved by the federal government in the 1917. In the following year, several amendments were added. These were referred to as the Sedition Act. Because of this, disloyal criticism of the government becomes illegal.

Anti-draft and anti-war were tried to be restrained. This was made by the Postal Service through not allowing it from the mails. The mail of organizations was removed and some socialist party leaders were convicted because of this. The conviction was under the wartime acts. This is for their resistance to conscription. There is one of the organizations that against United States involvement in the war. This organization is the American Union against Militarism or the AUAM.  During the First World War, a military draft was established. The AUAM was very concerned about this draft. They are also interested about the attempts that were done by the Postal Service to the war policy.

Cases about free speech have occurred. There is a lot of important free speech cases happened. One of these cases was on 1977. Many debates still happens after many decisions made by the Supreme Court. Free speech is still controversial and they are arguing things about this.

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