Free Speech: Finding the Balance

The concept of free speech has been an enduring and drama-filled Issue In the united States. While Americans enjoy a much higher level of freedom than residents of oppressive and dictatorial countries in the world, the Constitution remains in some areas ambiguous and open to interpretation and manipulation. It has been – and will continue to be – difficult to find the balance between allowing generous expressive freedom and protecting citizens from the harmful effects of hate speech.This balance Is essential to the well-being of society; when either side Is missing, people suffer and the Integrity of the American people and Constitution suddenly finds itself at risk.

First, before delving into the heart of this controversy, it is necessary to define the terms “free speech” and “hate speech. ” According to the Oxford Dictionary, free speech Is, “the right to express any opinions without censorship or restraint. ” Confining hate speech to such a succinct meaning Is a more difficult task. Often viewed as speech which attacks a certain group of people, hate speech can more specifically be defined as …

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Communication that carries no meaning other than the expression of hatred for mom group, especially in circumstances in which the communication Is likely to provoke violence. It Is an Incitement to hatred primarily against a group of persons defined In terms of race, ethnicity. National origin. Gender, religion, sexual orientation. And the like.

Hate speech can be any form of expression regarded as offensive to racial, ethnic and religious groups and other discrete minorities or to women. (United States) The freedom to speak one’s mind should not be absolute – the limitless Ideal Is simply Impossible.The problem Is not In the words themselves, but rather In their consequences. Rods alone are empty placeholders, but the meaning society gives to them and the context of their use determines their acceptability and effect. There is nothing offensive about the word “fire,” but if a man stands up in a crowded auditorium and screams that word, a dangerous riot might result. In the case of hate speech, the harm often escalates beyond words. Richard Delegated, a proponent of curbing hate speech, cites an Instance of speech that went too far. In Mississippi, a lesbian couple trying to establish a rural retreat was hounded by threatening messages and phone calls, and a dead chicken with an obscene note was attached to heir mailbox” (273).

Clearly an instance of unnecessary aggression, malice, and unacceptable behavior, this incident reveals the critical need for balance between allowing free speech and protecting citizens from hate speech. Lawyer and human rights advocate David Mats expands upon the above-mentioned The right to be free to say what you want and the right to be free from hate speech targeted against you are two fundamental human rights that must be kept in balance.Neither is an absolute. Neither must be given priority over the other. Both are essential for the preservation of humanity. If free speech is given free rein, then the right to be protected from incitement to hatred it lost. If the right to be protected from incitement to hatred is given first priority, then the right to freedom of expression will be unduly threatened.

(296) Often in history, the hateful party has used its right to free speech to its advantage, stomping on the same rights of its victim.This is seen in Frederick Douglass printed speech, “A Plea for Free Speech in Boston,” in which he argues for freedom for unpopular views in December of 1860, only a few months before the outbreak of the Civil War. He recalls how a group of abolitionists assembled to discuss how to end slavery. A mob quickly attacked and broke up the rally by order of the mayor. In Boston of all places, a supposed beacon of hope in the North, slavery (a blatant denial of human rights) was defended in a city where freedom of speech was thought to be intrinsic.The anti-abolitionists had only oppression in mind; this kind of “speech” did nothing but suppress and harm. In this case, the abolitionist’s safety should have taken precedence over the mob’s right to broadcast and act upon its views. One clearly reaches the conclusion that in order to keep the proper balance, ate speech should not be protected under free speech entitlement.

Unfortunately, there is no way to regulate the daily interpersonal communication between individuals.However, when institutions become involved, hate speech is no longer merely seen as “speech. ” It then becomes a crime. These crimes are fueled by prejudice and add an additional layer to typical criminal acts Jacobs). “Unlike theft, burglary, or assault, hate crime emphasizes the offender’s attitudes, values, and character.

Lobbyists for special hate crime laws believe that prejudice is worse than all other criminal motivations” Jacobs). Awareness for such crimes is growing, but the hesitation lies in the ambiguity that often accompanies them.How can law enforcement be certain that an assault by a white man against a black man was motivated by racial prejudice? Addressing these crimes is a difficult task, but lawmakers at both the federal and state levels are currently attempting to do so Jacobs). But on the other hand, is freedom of speech not a source of pride for the American nation? In the midst of the anti-hate speech wave sweeping the county, our fundamental right to express ourselves cannot be ignored. In some cases, people are imply intolerant of different people or non-traditional views.

Mackerel’s recent single “Same Love” contains a line that provokes deep thought and consideration. He says, “America the Brave still fears what we don’t know. ” This powerful line should really make the listener stop and think. Towed fear different people and practices because they are truly bad? Or do we fear because we do not fully understand? Songs overall purpose is to promote LIGHT acceptance, openly discussing what should not even be an issue in the 21st-century western world.

Medial Pinto addresses this concern in an article published by the Oxford Journal ofLegal Studies with the very appropriate title, “What are Offences to Feelings Really About? ” Pinto discusses religious objection to a gay pride parade in Jerusalem; religious minorities claimed to be offended because homosexuality violates their beliefs. She writes that there is, “no legal protection from mere insult to feelings and sensibilities. ” Moreover, why should there be? If the “offending” parties are merely promoting and expressing themselves with speech void of hate, their right to free speech must be supported in order to maintain the necessary balance.Even if the expressed views are unpopular or disliked by factions of society, they must be tolerated; for if the balance becomes skewed toward protecting and regulation, the sphere of speech becomes stifled and oppressive.

The American media is a prime target for criticism – television, magazines, music, and advertisements are attacked daily for clamoring violence, promoting sexuality and patriarchy, defining the “ideal woman,” and are basically attributed as the cause for every shortcoming or misbehaving of practically any individual.Blame it all on the media. If a young girl develops an eating disorder, it is automatically linked to media erasure; surely she saw her favorite television series characters displaying flawless perfection onscreen night after night. But how realistic is that? Anyone who understands something as serious as an eating disorder knows it is not simply a fashion statement or a “phase,” and it is often linked to depression and chemical imbalances – not because a famous actress has a flat stomach and is a size O.If another young woman is open about her sexuality, it is often blamed on the “corruption of the youth” caused by promiscuous television teens.

Maybe this young woman is acting out because of a much deeper issue, or maybe she Just enjoys sex. The media is no doubt persuasive when it comes to advertising; but, after all, that is its purpose. If it avoids any form of hate speech, is it not free to broadcast any chosen message? The current anti-media wave violates the freedom vs.. Protection balance.

A large portion of this criticism is driven by feminist sentiment, hence the above examples using young women. Critics rail against any portrayal of a sexually submissive woman, and their use of the term “submissive” extends to something as normal as dressing to attract a man, shaving body hair, or wearing perfume to be more desirable. Even more under attack is the “traditional” woman or family, where opponents reject men in dominant roles, like head of the family or a successful lawyer; and women in supporting roles such as a “stay-at-home mom” or office secretary.Whether they like it or not, these roles still represent a large portion of society, and media forms are ultimately designed to appeal to as many people as possible. In fact, the very foundation of television programming is shaped by gendered that determine network programming schedules (daytime, prime time, and late night), genre forms (soap operas, cop shows, situation comedies), and character types dumb blondes, male hunks). (Watkins) If certain television programs want to display gender assumptions, so what? There is a simple solution for those offended by such displays: do not watch those programs.If popular magazines only display thin women with flawless skin and stylish clothing, and Jane Doe believes reading such magazines will damage her self-esteem, it follows that she will not choose to read those magazines.

Maybe some people even like to see the ideal person in the media; perhaps it provides an alternative take on reality or an enjoyable escape from the confines of reality. Media outlets should be forded the same right to free speech that individuals enjoy and should not be censored and silenced because certain people disagree with their projections.Freedom of speech is a complex matter, and its problems cannot be resolved with a simple explanation. Even in the United States, its lines remain blurred and controversial. However, we can synthesize its issues and develop certain standards by which we act and for which we establish laws. In general, the solutions all revolve around balance – the right to speak and the right to be protected from hate are both essential and interdependent. With this in mind, lawmakers can attempt to create an environment which fosters freedom and the flow of ideas for the greatest amount of people.