The body: the freedom of speech and its limits
Freedom of speech has been accepted as a universal and essential right of every human being (Belavusau, 2013). It is obvious, however, that the rights of one person should not violate the rights of another person. Therefore, the right of expressing our mind entails a responsibility: we should assess our words, bearing in mind the consequences that may follow.
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Freedom of speech in the US is guaranteed by the Constitution or, namely, by the First Amendment (Belavusau, 2013). This right is closely connected to the freedom of expression, although the latter entails the freedom of finding or expressing one’s opinion in any form and through any medium (Belavusau, 2013). The importance of these rights can hardly be overestimated. It cannot be denied that the freedom of speech is truly essential from the point of view of progress, especially when science is concerned, and this simple truth does not seem to raise objections (Powers, 2011). However, the issue can grow more controversial.
The reasons for the existing limits of freedom of speech are understandable. It is clear why information about child pornography should not be distributed or why copyright is not supposed to be violated. Yet, there are more difficult questions. For example, obscene or hate speeches are also not protected by the First Amendment. Still, how do you define obscenity? Of course, there exists the Miller test of the US Supreme Court (Belavusau, 2013). But how accurate is it in defining the boundaries of this vague term? Due to such situations, the limits of freedom of speech are being continuously questioned. The necessity of this right, however, can hardly cause doubts.
There exists several books about the dystopian worlds of the future where there is no right to speak freely, but I would rather use another example. In January 2015 twelve people who worked in a satirical magazine “Charlie Hebdo” were killed for the publications of disrespectful cartoons featuring the prophet Muhammad (Penketh, 2015). It is not surprising that a satirical magazine in the middle of Europe (France) finds it possible to publish cartoons of different political and religious figures. It is perfectly natural for a country where people are granted the right to express their opinion freely and through any means. Of course, it is also a well-known fact that the adherers of Islam take their religion very seriously and find it difficult to joke about their prophets. Therefore, it is not surprising that the Islam world found the cartoons extremely offensive and, before the attack, it would be fitting to criticize the magazine for disregarding other people’s rights and feelings, even though they had the right to act this way. Yet, the violent reaction that involved killing people changed the situation completely. It is an example of what we may expect from a world without the freedom of speech, and it is not a passage from “Fahrenheit 451” or “Nineteen Eighty-Four”, but a tragedy that took place in Europe less than a year ago.
The conclusion: thesis statement confirmed
The only logical conclusion I could make is that the balance between right and responsibility in respect to the freedom of speech is particularly difficult to find. Perhaps it is impossible to truly regulate this kind of rights on the legislative level and to walk this tightrope we should address our human decency. Still, there is no denying the fact that the freedom of speech is an essential unalienable right of every human being that should be respected and protected by the government since the alternative is indeed too horrible to imagine.
Belavusau, U. (2013). Freedom of speech. New York, NY: Routledge.
Penketh, A. (2015). Charlie Hebdo: first cover since terror attack depicts prophet Muhammad. TheGuardian. Web.
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Powers, E. (2011). Freedom of speech. Lewisburg, Pa.: Bucknell University Press.