Free Speech


Free Speech Essay, Research Paper

When the framers of the United States Constitution drew up the first amendment, they made an emphasis on free speech. Included in this first amendment were the freedom of the press, freedom of religion, right to assembly, and the prohibition of censorship. In this essay, the topic of hate-filled speech and its relation to the first amendment will be examined. For starters, the topic of hate-filled speeches at college campuses will be shown. In addition, the fact of whether or not there should be limits on free speech is reviewed. Finally, the views of philosopher Immanuel Kant will be incorporated.

At college campuses throughout the nation, groups are being formed that are centered on the discrimination of race, sex, or creed. The fundamental question concerning these groups remains, should they be allowed to form? If so, should they be given the right to speak? The answer to this is open to everyone s interpretation. There is no answer to this that will please everyone. However, if we look back on the Constitution, we will find that these groups should be allowed to form and speak. The framers of the Constitution did not specify that the first amendment did not apply to people of poor taste. They also did not say that there must be one vantage point for the entire nation. This was a major reason that the colonists wanted to form a nation of their own, one that would encourage the free exchange of ideas, no matter how strange or distasteful.

When people hear groups that preach hatred and discrimination, they instantly want them to be banned. The Religious Conservatives demand for censorship or legal

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action. However, this is not legal. If all they are doing is speaking, then they should be allowed to do so. Just because someone is speaking, it doesn t mean that we as citizens have to listen. The best thing to do is ignore these people. All that gets accomplished by bringing their names in front of the press is that they become a legitimate organization.

I don t think that Nazis are right. Their treatment of Jews during World War II involves some of the most disgusting and horrifying acts that mankind has ever seen. However, that does not give us the right to shut off their message. The way to defeat their message is to teach our children that this type of organization is not morally acceptable. In fact, if we begin to outlaw and censor every aspect of media that we do not agree with, we will begin to resemble the early stages of Hitler s Nazi Germany or Stalin s Communist Russia. Censorship is the first step to empires such as these.

However, when these groups speech becomes and endangerment to our society, this is when they should be shut off. When a speech by a Nazi results in an angry mob that claims hundreds of lives, this is an example of free speech gone too far. However, we must be careful not to cross the line between protection and infringement of rights.

The best way to combat hate groups and their speech is through education. This pertains not only to educating your children, but other children as well. A major reason that civilization appears to be getting out of hand is that we have stopped educating and started banning. It seems to be much easier to take someone to court to stop his or her message rather than to fight that message through education. A prime example of this is the movie The People vs. Larry Flynt. The film, which shows the court cases involving Hustler Magazine founder and editor Larry Flynt, can serve as a clear example of

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protecting the first amendment. Flynt s lawyer, played by Edward Norton, explains to the Supreme Court that although many people do not agree with Hustler s portrayal of nude women and sexual language, we cannot simply censor this material due to poor taste. Although the framers may not have anticipated profanity such as Two Live Crew s music, I do not think that they would choose to ban it either. When the subject of censorship becomes due to someone s personal interpretation, we as a nation are headed for trouble.

Finally, the philosophy of several authors will be discussed. Immanuel Kant was an 18th Century German Philosopher who authored such works as Critique of Pure Reason and The Metaphysics of Ethics, was a believe of critical reasoning. Kant believed that people should live their lives in accordance with the laws of pure reason Kant 317). Kant also said that people s individual freedoms must be protected. If people are banning someone s beliefs based solely on the fact that they do not agree with them, then this is not in accordance with pure reason. If a person is to believe with Kant s philosophy, then they would say that everyone should be heard. In fact, a popular message should be heard, but an unpopular message should be given every opportunity to speak that the popular message was given. People may then be allowed to believe or denounce these speeches.

All in all, free speech and the first amendment that binds it is the most controversial and key amendments to the entire United States Constitution. Despite the fact that hate groups may say things that are unpopular or even horrifying to nearly all of us, this does not give us the right to shut off their voices. Even the small percentages of

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people who believe these sickening speeches have rights. Poor taste does not equal a forfeiture of all civil rights. We as a nation must ensure these civil rights for all citizens, or the affects of censorship may become a threat to us all.

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