“People need to have their views challenged and there should be nothing stopping anyone from raising their own views.”
“People should always be allowed to speak their minds and be true to who they are.” “Although I tend to think freedom of speech has to be taken as far as possible, I have to say information and knowledge is the basis of "speech".”
“You have the freedom to say what you want but you're held responsible for what you say.”
“People have a hard time seeing outside their own established framework, but in my mind, that is all the more reason to have no regulations of speech.”
A Democracy of
aged independent thought, and nearly everything on TV.
from political convictions or political opportunism. Those with
How commonplace it has all become.
political ambitions know well that lewd pictures and loutish talk leave few people dispassionate.
Americans used to like the First Amendment. Sometimes we added “but” at the end of our declaration of faith, but we had a real soft spot for the idea that speech should be safe from interference by those in power. The first of our rights, freedom of expression, was almost a civic religion, fundametal to how we defined ourselves as a nation and as individuals. Not Anymore. Sometime in the mid - 1980s, we began to hear angry citizens announce that they would accept this or that outrage no longer; something had to be done, and that something was shutting people up. Throughout the following decade and spilling into the present, we learned of more and more targets: teachers who assigned books with profanity, Websites that mentioned sex, artists who got grants, movies that provoked, songs that challenged, books that acknowledged ambiguity, anything that encour-
The First Amendement used to be the province of lawyers,
The urge to cover other people’s eyes and ears is as ancient
civic teachers, the ACLU, and the occasional politician in
and robust as the urge to shock, defy, or annoy, and words
need of a tidy stump speech. Now, we live in a time of talk:
and symbols matter deeply to most people, even when lan-
rap, memoir, news headlines that read like experimental
guage or art is peripheral to their lives. Which ones we get
fiction, conversations that erupt into blame mongering and
riled up over may vary, as will the manner , intensity, and so-
moral certitude. When this logorrhea spills over intot the
phistication of our response. But words cut close to the bone,
public arena, we turn ourselves into a nation of buttonhol-
and the umbrage taken at offending speech may be one of the
ers, all insisiting that attention be paid to our story, our be-
few things that unites across race, gender, class, and all other
liefs, our gripe. This, we tell ourselves, is democracy: one
categories we’re not supposed to speak disparagingly about.
big call-in show where fervor is a guarantee of truth and having an opinion is practically a civic duty. Through it all,
There are costs to this culture of liberty that we claim for our-
we stalk words, making numerous and noisy claims for their
selves. At times, putting up with expression that is ugly, crass,
ill effects: dirty ones cause licentiousness, sexy ones cause
wrongheaded, bad manners, bad taste, or just plain dumb is
rape, rabble-rousing ones cause, well, roused rabble.
one of them. Some objects of the censor’s wrath are meant to be in-your-face challenges: rock ‘n’ roll is all about rebel-
In this riot of word blame, not all motives are political, nor
lion, dissent courts the hereodox, profantiy aims to belittle,
are all speech desputes played out on the political stage.
and pornography is supposed to turn us on. That’s their ap-
Other countries kill their dissidents. We frustrate ours into
peal and their usefulness. Defending espression that over-
silence, trivializing deeply held convictions and turning their
steps some line by asking what all the fuss is about misses
advocates into cranks, or bribing discontent with stardom
the point. The necessary question is what kind of fuss we will
and spots on talk shows and the covers of glossy maga-
have. Will we meet speech that unsettles with the catharsis of
zines. Offending Artist of the Week. Teacher Who Can’t
response - discussing, debating, debunking, deflating - or will
Teach That of the month. All the easier to dismiss their com-
we impose ever more elaborate limits on the speech we don’t
plaints. Still, the bulk of free speech controversies arises
want to hear?
“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech . . . - First Amendement to the U.S. Constitution
section. Blake then said, “Why don’t you stand up?” Parks responded, Blake called the police to arrest Parks.
“I don’t think I should have to stand up.”
From the Past
When recalling the incident, Parks said, “When he saw me still sitting, he asked if I was going to stand up, and I said, ‘No, I’m not.’ And
When no one speaks up for what is right The Killing of Kitty Genovese. Her public slaying in Queens becomes a symbol of Americans’ failure to get involved.
When someone speaks up for what is right Detectives investigating Genovese’s
After a day at work at Montgomery Fair
Blake noted that the front of the bus was
murder discovered that no fewer than 38
department store, Parks boarded the
filled with white passengers and there
of her neighbors had witnessed at least
Cleveland Avenue bus at around 6 p.m.,
were two or three men standing, and thus
he said, ‘Well, if you don’t stand up, I’m going to have to call the police and have you arrested.” I said, “You may do that.” Parks detailed her motivation in her autobiography, My Story: “People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn’t true. I was not tired physically, or no more
It was just after 3 a.m. Kitty Genovese
The attacker entered a car and drove
one of her killer’s three attacks but had
Thursday, December 1, 1955, in down-
moved the “colored” section sign behind
drove home from work and then began
away, but soon came back again. His
neither come to her aid nor called the
town Montgomery. She paid her fare and
Parks and demanded that four black peo-
the 100-foot walk toward her apartment
victim had crawled inside the front door
police. The one call made to the police
sat in an empty seat in the first row of
ple give up their seats so that the white
house at 82-70 Austin St. She spotted
of an apartment house at 82-62 Austin
came after Genovese was already dead.
seats reserved for blacks in the “colored”
passengers could sit. Years later, in re-
a man standing along her route. Appar-
St. He found her sprawled on the floor
Assistant Chief Insp. Frederick Lussen,
section. As the bus traveled along its reg-
calling the events of the day, Parks said,
ently afraid, she changed direction and
and stabbed her still again. This time he
commander of Queens detectives, said
ular route, all of the white-only seats in the
Blake said, “Y’all better make it light
headed toward the intersection of Austin
that nothing in his 25 years of police
bus filled up. The bus reached the third
and Lefferts Boulevard -- where there
It was not until 3:50 that morning, March
work had shocked him so much as the
stop in front of the Empire Theater, and
was a police call box.
13, 1964, that a neighbor of the victim
apathy encountered on the Genovese
several white passengers boarded.
Suddenly, the man overtook her and
called the police. They identified the vic-
murder. “As we have reconstructed the
In 1900, Montgomery had passed a city
grabbed her. She screamed. Residents
tim as Catherine Genovese, 28, who had
crime, the assailant had three chances
ordinance for the purpose of segregat-
of nearby apartment houses turned on
been returning from her job. Neighbors
to kill this woman during a 35-minute
ing passengers by race. Conductors
their lights and threw open their win-
knew her not as Catherine but as Kitty.
period,” Lussen said, “If we had been
were given the power to assign seats to
dows. The woman screamed again:
Kitty Genovese: It was a name that
called when he first attacked, this wom-
accomplish that purpose; however, no
``Oh, my God, he stabbed me! Please
would become symbolic in the public
an might not be dead now.”
passengers would be required to move
mind for a dark side of the national char-
When detectives asked Genovese’s
or give up their seat and stand if the
A man in a window shouted: “Let that
acter. It would stand for Americans who
neighbors why they had not taken action,
bus was crowded and no other seats
girl alone.’’ The attacker walked away.
were too indifferent or too frightened or
were available. Over time and by custom,
on yourselves and let me have those
Apartment lights went out and windows
too alienated or too self-absorbed to “get
however, Montgomery bus drivers had
seats.”Three of them complied, but I
slammed shut. The victim staggered
involved’’ in helping a fellow human be-
adopted the practice of requiring black
didn’t.” The black man sitting next to her
toward her apartment. But the attacker
ing in dire trouble. A term “the Genovese
riders to move whenever there were no
gave up his seat. Parks moved, but to-
returned and stabbed her again.
syndrome” would be coined to describe
white only seats left.
ward the window seat; she did not get up
plight of African Americans and the civil
So, following standard practice, bus driver
to move to the newly repositioned colored
“I was afraid” “I didn’t want to get involved.” or
“When that white driver waved his hand and ordered us up and out of our seats, I felt a determination cover my body like a quilt on a winter night.”
tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was forty-two. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in. I did not want to be mistreated, I did not want to be deprived of a seat that I had paid for. It was just time... there was opportunity for me to take a stand to express the way I felt about being treated in that manner. I had not planned to get arrested. I had plenty to do without having to end up in jail. But when I had to face that decision, I didn’t hesitate to do so because I felt that we had endured that too long. The more we gave in, the more we complied with that kind of treatment, the more oppressive it became.” Rosa Parks played an important part in internationalizing the awareness of the
Values served by the protecting of Free Speech
I have to say information and knowledge is the basis of “speech”.
Assuring Individual Self-Fufillment
Free speech enables individuals to express themselves, create and identify and, in the process perhaps, find kindred spirits. Freedom of speech
Facilitating Participation by Citizens in Political Decision - Making
thus becomes an aspect of
A community in which free
speech is valued and protected is likely to be a more
Citizens will not make wise and informed choices in elections if
candidates and proponents of certain
The Discovery of the Truth
policies are restricted in their ability to communicate positions.
When truth and falsehood are allowed to freely graple, truth will win out.
Freedom of Speech in America means that the government bodies do not have the right to censor speech. I think American free speech is just fine, and is one freedom I will fight tooth and nail to maintain.
Creating More Robust and Interesting Community
Creating a More Adaptable and Stable Community
A society in which angry and alienated citizens are allowed to speak their mind will be more stable, as people will be less likely to resort to violence. It has also been pointed out that allowing the alienated and discontented to speak freely enables government to better monitor potentially dangerous groups who would otherwise act more clandestinely.
energized, creative society as its citizens actively fulfill themselves in many di-
Checking Abuse of Governmental Power
verse and interesting ways.
As Watergate, Irangate, Clintongate (and all the
other “gates”) demonstrate,
True freedom of speech allows the expression of ALL points of view – not just the ones supported by the majority (or loudest).
freedom of the press enables citiznes to learn about abuses of power and then do something about the abuse at the ballot box, if the feel so moved.
Freedom of speech, especially through our practice of extending protection to speech that we find hateful or personally upsetting, teaches us to become more tolerant in other aspects of life - and that a more tolerant society is a better society.
Yes, all speech should be free regardless of content.
No, some things like racist and derogatory speech is better left unsaid.
Maybe, it depends on how indecent/shocking the speech is.
I am undecided. 49% 25% 18%
Do you believe in total free speech?
Do you think Americans take free speech too far? 39%
Freedom of Speech is a human yearning - insistent, persistent, and universal. Speech may be uplifting, enlightening, and profound; but it is also degrading, redundant, and trivial. Speech may be abstract and theoretical, a near cousin to thought; but it is also concrete and immediate, filled with calls to action, intertwined with conduct. Speech may be rational, contemplative, orderly, organized, and soft; but it is also emotional, raucous, chaotic, untidy, and loud. Speech may be soothing and comfortable; but it is also vexatious and noisome. Speech may confirm and affirm; it may be patriotic and supportive of prevailing values and order; but it may also be challenging, threatening, and seditious, perhaps even treasonous.
Free Speech is very important and is something that we need to use more to better ourselves and our world.
You have a voice and you have a
Freedom; use it! Be true to who you
SPEAK whatever is TRUE whatever is NOBLE whatever is RIGHT whatever is PURE whatever is ADMIRABLE whatever is YOU.
are, and don’t be afraid to stand up
and say what is right. Think it. mean
it. Say it. Think it through, then make sure you mean what you say,
then say it. Everyone has a time in their life when they should have said somehting, they should have done the right thing. But they were afraid,
embarrassed, thought no one would
listen, their voice wouldn’t matter, or didn’t want to get involved. This is a
group of people who had that time,
but they are not afraid anymore.
They are proud of who they are and of what lessons those experiences
have taught them. They have repented and used their voices and taken action.
Chemise McDaniel - Goode
There was this girl at my High School. Everyday this group of girls would make fun of her and pick on her until she cried. And Everyday, along with everyone else, I would just watch pretending not to notice or hear what was happening. I never stood up for her or told the group of girls to stop. I didn’t want them to pick on me too if I said something. I always thought about that girl, and regreted not helping her. Later in life I was confronted with a similar situation and this time I knew I wasn’t going to sit back and do nothing . I spoke up and helped the girl who was being harassed. I knew the truth; of the regret i felt from the past and the right thing to do now. We are still friends today.
going to the district tournament to qualify for
right, but one day he took it too far. He hit my mom and beat her while
apartment complex. As we were walk-
It was my senior year of high school and I was
state in wrestling. I was in charge of the scale
that everyone would weigh in on at the tournament. I messed with the scale so that it would tell
me I was lighter than I really was, because I was tired and didn’t want to cut weight anymore. It
also showed that everyone else was lighter too. So they thought they were fine and they stopped cutting weight. We go to the tournament and two
of the guys didn’t make weight because of what
I did, so they didn’t get to wrestle for the state
When I was a kid my mom started seeing this guy. He never treated her I just watched quielty not sure what to do or how to help. I felt so many emotions of anger, guilt and sadness. I saw my mom going through
so much pain and I just sat quiet, alone and afraid. As I grew older my mom went through different boyfriends but none were as bad as that
guy. Until one day she brought him home. This guy not the same as the
one from before, but he treated her in the same way and hit her too. I
knew I had to stop him and stand up for her. I wasn’t afraid anymore and he would not do this to my mom. I stood up to him, and he left. My mom has never been hit again
tournament. One of them was a senior and it was his last opportunity, the other was a junior who
was doing so well everyone thought he would
have won. Two years later I finally confessed and
apologized to both of them. It affected these two guy’s lives, and I felt so much remorse for what I had done.
My friend and I were leaving her
ing we saw a couple acting strangely in their idling car. The girl seemed
upset, and it wasn’t just that she was acting strange, but there was something more, something not right with
the way he was treating her. So we felt compelled to stop and ask if everything was all right. She said it was
fine, but would not look at us. The
I had this friend. This friend that I had always looked up to and respected. As we grew older we changed so much in who we were, our morals and character. My
guy seemed irritated with our con-
friend started treating people differently than I did, mainly he treated girls differ-
never been able to forget that night.
and took advantage and I didn’t say or do anything to stop it. Finally I decided that
cern. So we just walked away. I have
ently. I sat back and watched him treat his girlfriends with no respect. He cheated
I knew there was something wrong
I couldn’t do that anymore. He was a good friend yes, but what he was doing was
and I didn’t help her. That girl who I knew needed help. I know that I will
do everything in my power the next time. I will help the person in need.
wrong. I told him I didn’t agree and I was going to tell her the truth. I did. I stood up to my friend and now that girl is with a great guy, very happy and grateful for me speaking up.
“To speak his thoughts is every freeman’s right, in peace and war, in council and in fight.” -Homer
“Freedom of speech, if it is to be real, must be extended to all and not be the prerogative or special gift of anyone.” -Luis Aguilar
“Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience above all other liberties.” -John Milton
“The most tyrannical governments are those which make crimes of opinions, for everyone has an inalienable right to his own thoughts.” -Baruch Spinoza
“In a free counrty we punish men for the crimes they commit but never for the opinions they have.” -Harry S. Truman
“Without Freedom of Thought, there can be no such thing as Wisdom; and no such thing as public Liberty, without Freedom of Speech.” -Cato
think it. mean it. say it. “Free Speech is the matrix...the indespensable condition of nearly every other freedom.” - Benjamin Cardozo