Free Speech Should Be Free Before the United States of America became the free nation it is today, it was ruled under British tyranny and the people that lived in the Colonies were subject to harsh laws and strict behavior regulations. These colonists had enough of British suppression and saw what a free country of America could become.
The Revolution brought death to many brave patriots, but in end it was worth the sacrifice. The United States of America was founded as free country, granting inviolable rights of freedom to all of its citizens. Fast forward to today, an era in the midst of a technological revolution where information and media can be spread across the globe in milliseconds.
People know more, are capable of accessing more information, and coming up with more meaningful ideas than ever in America. With this flood of information, it would be assumed that people would want to support the expression of thought and opinion, but that is not the case in a lot of America. There have been many movements to limit the freedom of speech and increase censorship.
This is a backwards train of thought and should be fought against to keep America the land of the free. Free speech should not be limited in order to keep citizens fully informed through media and news sources, to allow people to express themselves in whatever way they see fit, and to protect and preserve the democracy of the United States and the freedom granted to its citizens.The first very important aspect within this issue, is free speech and censorship within the media and how it impacts the general population of the United States. The first amendment was created to protect the rights of the citizens, and government interference in what information the citizens receive. Some people may look at news censorship and see a conspiracy. They see the media as the guard dog of the citizens, keeping the powerful in by informing the rest.
This is not the case. Maybe it used to be that way, or smaller less influential news sources still do this, but news censorship is a real issue. America’s mainstream media outlets are in the back pocket of the powerful such as politicians and Fortune 500 companies. In a study done by Project Censored, it was found that of the top 200 censored stories at the time of the study (1995), the majority of them could be considered political and/or corporate stories (Barbour, 2000). The media and the government do not like to call this censorship so it can be heard that the stories eliminated from a citizens news feed were not important, irrelevant, or This censorship is most likely not a result direct influence from the government or company CEO, rather a result of the threat of being condemned by one or the other. Even so, this is still an obvious infraction of the freedom of speech and should be stopped.
The mainstream media needs to stop worrying about its entertainment value, making money, and serving the “elite”. As Miriam Nelson, editor of the Wittenberg Enterprise & Birnamwood News, said through an interview about news sources is “that it exists to inform and with that comes with the responsibility of fair and balanced reporting”. She continues on later to say, “We live in an age where access to information is unprecedented. We need to honor the opportunity to look through that information and not be mislead by its entertainment value.”The second aspect of this argument, is the right of expression through whatever medium the citizen or group see fit. There are many different ways people accomplish this, from song to writing, protest to painting, or just plain spoken opinion, Americans are supposed to have all of these acts protected by the First Amendment (Newman, 2013). This is true in most cases but, there are multiple limitations that have been put in place that prevent the creation and distribution of such things. The most obvious and restricting example is the limit put in place in 1957, failing to protect the production and distribution of obscene materials (“What Does Free Speech Mean?”).
It is a very broad and oppressive regulation and is a punch to the gut to those that want to channel their feelings through their respective form of speech.Take for example authors and their respective books. These great minds are faced with a challenge that should not be a problem under the First Amendment of the United States Bill of Rights. The threat of their creation being put on the so called “banned books list” is enough to sway them from truly expressing good writing emotion and creating great works (Stone & Volokh).
Luckily there are plenty of movements both local and national to preserve the reputation of these books and keep people turning their pages. As the former president of Yale University, Alfred Whitney Griswold said, “Books won’t stay banned. They won’t burn. Ideas won’t go to jail. In the long run of history, the censor and the inquisitor have always lost. The only sure weapon against bad ideas is better ideas.” He makes a great point as he says that the ideas and emotions people think and feel cannot be controlled so why should the be blocked from being expressed to the rest of the world.
Another obstacle in the way of freedom of speech is the FCC. The Federal Communications Commision is responsible for the regulation of what get communicated over the radio, television, and phone. Theoretically they do provide good services with preventing mature materials from being easily accessed by children, but shouldn’t responsible parents be able to teach their children to view age appropriate materials. Similarly, if an adult thinks it is wrong to partake in watching and/or listening to these things they have the power avoid them (Newman, 2013). So, are regulations on media like these necessary, or are they a way for to control and weaken the American citizens’ right to free speech? The main element to this part of free speech is not only the most important, but maybe the most controversial. This is the right of an American citizen to express his or her values through speech and protest. If someone disagrees with or feels the need to speak about something or someone, they are protected by the the first amendment to do so as long as they do not become slanderous and deliberately lie to hurt the reputation of others.
Yet there are laws inplace that not only regulate speech for all citizens, but the speech of those who speak to help others. Careers like lawyers, therapists, and financial advisors are responsible to help their clients by speaking to them. It would be thought that these people would be able to say whatever they could to help their paying clients, but the law can can prevent them from saying certain things or persuade them to tell their clients.
Plus, the law only allows for licensed people to give out this information to the rest of the citizens. This does insure a good source for information but, there are plenty of knowledgeable people that cannot, or do not, have the opportunity to get their respective license and are punished by law just for giving this information out and trying to help others (Stone & Volokh). (Note: There is validity in trying to prevent scammers and people posing as these types of professionals, but the arguing point is that a citizen could get punished for trying to give advice to another which is against the First Amendment.)Also, some governmental run factions (including public colleges) have decided that they can restrict speech if it offends others. These “speech codes” have been popularized, and private companies, institutions, and universities have followed suit. These codes are put in place to try to prevent harmful language and protest, but are really just a violation to the First Amendment Rights of the citizens. If someone feels a need to protest a certain aspect whether it be in the workplace, schools, or the public, the First Amendment protects that ability.
These speech codes take that right away. Just because what is being said is not agreed with, that doesn’t mean the speaker can be be punished under law according to the First Amendment (Stone & Volokh). Though this is true, people need to understand that there is still consequences of their words and the First Amendment cannot protect people from being morally punished or even fired for saying something outlandish and dumb. This is why Ray Newman, of Patch, says that, “Responsible, mature people know when to speak and how to express their opinions without being censored.
“Finally, the First Amendment and the freedom of speech granted to the American people is what makes the United States, among other parts of the Bill of Rights, a great free country. With every limit put on free speech, another part of the once truly free democracy dies. In order for the United States of America to keep evolving and continue to be a strong country is to preserve the freedom of speech and other freedoms. If it is not protected, America could end up like the anti-utopia society of Oceania, that George Orwell wrote of in the novel 1984.
Citizens being brutally punished for thinking the wrong thoughts or speaking out against the government (Orwell, 1949). A nation like that is scary idea, but there are already aspects of it in the U.S. today. There’s a threat of government surveillance and restriction on online activity and journalism.
This type of control destroys our democracy and freedom of expression (“Free Speech”). In this era there is more information and opinions than ever and American’s should be encouraged to converse and debate issues because as Miriam Nelson says, “it is the only way to learn, grow and evolve as a society.”The freedom of America is in danger.
As an era of political correctness continues to grow, people don’t realize the importance of the freedoms given to Americans in the Bill of Rights. These rights are continually being restricted and limited which hurts the citizens, their right of expression, and the nation as a whole. The hope amongst all of it though, is that there are strong groups that are out there to support the citizens’ First Amendment rights. The support from these groups and other politically active citizens can help save the United States and her people from a tyrannical government.
If freedom in America is protected and preserved then the country and its citizens will live to be strong and prosperous for years to come.