Charter Member of the Sub-Media

May 07, 2004

Free Speech « Social Issues »

Emily asks a good question. Here's my answer:

Free speech should be the expression of a free mind. Thus, I think the guarantee to free speech should be limited to being able to express your religion, political view, and criticisms of government and religious leaders without fear of censure or censor.

That's it. Other speech need not be regulated, necessarily, but I think there is no compelling argument to guarantee the right to yell "fire" in a crowded theater, or to stand outside an elementary school shouting profanity, or to sell pornography.

I'd really prefer we started considering our rights in light of whether or not it contributes to a strong and safe nation, rather than just being dependent on what you want to do without interference....

...but that's just me. And that's why I don't agree with Libertarians.

via Jay Solo

Posted by Nathan at 06:23 AM | Comments (2)

The "right" to free speech, like any other "right" is not granted by governments, or any other man made entity. It is part of the God-given right of liberty (as expressed by Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence). One of the biggest mistakes made in discussing the 1st Amendment is that anybody who tells you to shut up is denying you your right to free speech. According to the 1st Amendment, "Congress shall make no law" preventing free speech, organization of religion, peaceful assembly, etc. If you were to delete this post, you would not be infringing my freedom of speech. Rather, you would be exercising your own freedom to print whatever you feel like. Turning to the issue of the FCC and censorship, if the FCC didn't exist, and broadcast stations were free to censor their content based on the opinions of the owners and the audience, there wouldn't be as much brouhaha over media censorship. However, when the beaurocricy steps in and an organization is created by the Federal Government that has the power to censor, then problems arise. In essence, the FCC is unconstitutional because it was created (or at least approved) by Congress. Strict Constitutionalists won't exactly see it this way because there is no actual law on the books prohibiting certain types of speech to appear in broadcast form, but the idea of a government approved and (most importantly) federally funded organization overseeing what we can hear/watch/read would have appalled the Founders. The bottom line is that it is the responsibility of the people to deem what is acceptable. No one is forcing you to listen to Howard Stern or to read Hustler. If someone argues "what about the children?" simply tell them to "keep an eye on yours, I'll watch mine." U.S. currency used to carry the slogan "Mind Your Business". Not such a bad idea when it comes down to it.

Posted by: Francis at May 7, 2004 05:25 PM

I've never been satisfied with the "if you don't like Howard Stern, don't watch", if you are offended by that image on your TV, turn it off" line of reasoning, because the Superbowl this year shows how you can be minding your own business and someone does something with so little warning you have no chance to turn it off.
...and it's not so much me being offended as not wanting to have to control every minute of my children's lives in order to allow them to live a little longer in a child's world instead of being forced to deal with adult issues before the proper time.
At what point does "minding my own business" need to get pre-emptive, I guess I'm asking. At what point do I have to start expecting that driving down the street means my child will be exposed to nudity and pornography?
At what point do I have to avoid whole city streets so my kids don't have to look at a billboard of the Barbie Twins wearing less than a square foot of cloth between them?
There used to be a thing called "standards". It had nothing to do with rights, per se, but it recognized that what might be okay for you might not be okay for everyone, so you defaulted to the least offensive, most mature, most safe, least titillating level. Now everyone is scrambling and clawing to express themselves in whatever manner they choose, no matter how foul.
At what point do I have to act because with my windows rolled up and a Blue's Clues CD playing, I can't hear it over the thumping bass and crude lyrics of the car next to us at the stop light?

So "rights" may be natural. "Rights" might not have to be granted by a government...but they do have to be recognized, because too many governments have not recognized them. Since copulating with a goat in front of an elementary school could conceivably be considered an expression of religious sentiment, we need to recognize that "rights" do not to be continually expanded and redefined upward: that way lies anarchy. It might work if everyone had the same idea of consideration. Obviously, we don't.
Thus, a libertarian view that says, "do what you want, just don't affect me and/or my property" will inexorably lead to a society in which might makes right, in which "affects me and/or my property" is defined differently by different people, and backed up with violence. That way is a slippery slope to anarchy.

Posted by: Nathan at May 7, 2004 08:23 PM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?