Should Freedom of Speech have Limits? Why or Why Not?
First Amendment protection of free speech has long been recognized to be essential to democratic governance, in part because social progress would stagnate without the free exchange of ideas between citizens. However, there are practical limits to what constitutes protected free speech and these limits have been codified into law by Congress and enforced by the federal courts. This essay will argue that the First Amendment is important to protecting the democratic process, but also that the limits placed on those protections are just as important.
Dissident Speech and Material Support
During the buildup before the United States entered World War I the executive branch and Congress became so concerned about antiwar speech that they effectively outlawed it with passage of the Espionage Act in June 1917 (Finan, 2007, pp. 8-10). The wording of the Act made it a federal crime to make ""¦ false statements with intent to interfere with the operation or success of the military or naval forces." While newspaper publishers were able to end an attempt to limit the press as well, publishers who relied on the U.S. Postal System were not so lucky. The Espionage Act gave the Postmaster General broad powers to censure publications and other mailed materials that were ""¦ advocating or urging treason, insurrection, or forcible resistance to any law of the United States."
When the first Espionage Act cases eventually
According to “Freedom of Speech” by Gerald Leinwand, Abraham Lincoln once asked, “Must a government, of necessity, be too strong for the liberties of its people, or too weak to maintain its own existence (7)?” This question is particularly appropriate when considering what is perhaps the most sacred of all our Constitutionally guaranteed rights, freedom of expression. Lincoln knew well the potential dangers of expression, having steered the Union through the bitterly divisive Civil War, but he held the Constitution dear enough to protect its promises whenever possible (8).
Government censorship continued with the passing of the Espionage Act in 1917 and the Sedition Amendment in 1918. The Espionage Act and Sedition Amendment condemned any antiwar activity or desecrating of the government, Constitution, flag, or military. The American public could not have an opinion, unless that opinion supported the war and government. Even Wilson stated, "Woe be to the man or group of men that seeks to stand in our way." Government censorship and “unpatriotic acts”, as deemed by the Espionage Act and Sedition Amendment, gave birth to a suspicious nation.
This year’s election alone has brought about many emotions and deep rooted feelings that have not come out in years. Hate speech and actions carried out because of hate speech has cause a deep division in American culture. Groups like “Black Lives Matter”, “All Lives Matter”, and “Alt-Right” are all under fire for things that have been said or done in the names of these groups. There has been terrorist attacks in the names of religious groups whom believe that a newspaper or group has insulted their religion, beliefs, and gods. Not to mention our own President Elect of the United States, Donald Trump, has been accused of fueling much of the hate speech we see today. This begs the question, should freedom of speech have any restrictions or be limited in any way, or is that unconstitutional? To look at this we must first identify what “Freedom of Speech” is as defined in the constitution and how it relates to current issues in the world and in America, then I will talk about some situations where regulation is already put in place in America, lastly we will look at some situations where I believe freedom of speech could use some clarification or restriction.
America’s first president George Washington once argued at the [whenever he said this] that “If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.” It is an essential component to the daily life of any constitutional republic, such as that of the United States even though it is a right granted to all American citizens, in the past, freedom of speech has been abridged to accommodate political correctness, to prevent disruptive behavior that could negatively affect others, and to protect confidential military information.
Neil Gaiman once said, “The current total of countries in the world with First Amendments is one. You have guaranteed the freedom of speech. Other countries don’t have that.” At the time of the amendments’ creation, a vast majority of operating countries had not yet granted their people such freedoms. Granting every citizen of the United States this right seemed to have been an important landmark in this nation’s history. Along with others, this right is declared to the people in the first amendment of the constitution. The first amendment is the most important because it grants people freedom of speech, prohibits prior restraint, and declares the right to peaceable assembly.
Even in the early stages of American history there was an urge to put legally protected freedoms into written government documents. The result was the drafting of the first ten amendments to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, by James Madison. The applications of the personal freedoms described in the Bill of Rights, particularly the freedom of speech, have been challenged repeatedly in American courts of law and elsewhere. These incidents and challenges of authority reflect the defensive American attitude toward the ever-important freedom of expression and the growing significance of personal rights throughout American history.
Back in the year of 1791, when our grand country was at the tender age of fifteen, two gentlemen gathered together to form a written document that would protect their newly attained freedom. These written principles, later know as the Bill of Rights, were penned primarily by George Mason and James Madison. The Founding Fathers of the American public’s home country. It is interesting to note that not only were these two men the authors of Bill of Rights but were also successful in their own careers too. George Mason, a prospering planter in the state of Virginia and James Madison a graduate of the College of New Jersey, known as present day Princeton. Madison was a lawyer by trade, but was driven with a profound interest in ministry. They came together to compose one of the greatest treasures in the nation’s history: the Bill of Rights. In this written expository, this author will be discussing the first of the ten of these amendments: the amendment that guarantees Americans the freedom of Speech. The necessity of free speech and the important values it contains is a main foundation for this country, therefore, Rosenblatt 's argument for the freedom of “expression” is valid because it certifies our right to speak freely, form an opinion, and exercise the correct function of democracy while on American soil.
Government censorship continued with the passing of the Espionage Act in 1917 and the Sedition Amendment in 1918. The Espionage Act and Sedition Amendment condemned any antiwar activity or desecrating of the government, Constitution, flag, or military. The American public were almost at a point where they could not have an opinion, unless in support of the war and government. Even Wilson stated, "Woe be to the man or group of men that seeks to stand in our way." These acts of censorship gave birth to a suspicious nation.
For centuries the debate over how far our first amendment extends has reoccurred and been ever present in the court system. The Alien and Sedition acts was the first time it became noticeable that there were limits attached to our speech. They can be traced back as the beginning of this issue, since the dilemma of what exactly “freedom of speech” means began being argued. Multiple different scenarios were brought forth to the legal system in order to determine whether punishment was due or the act was excusable, simply because of the fact that our government was slacking in establishing a set-in stone meaning behind the first amendment.
Free speech is the backbone that holds democracy together. Without a free speech, ideas would not be challenged, governments would not be kept in check, and citizens would not be free. John Stuart Mill said once that, “If all mankind minus one were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person then he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.”( Roleff, 21). The right to free speech is essential to “egalitarian democracy,”(Tsesis) however, this right is not absolute and must be limited in certain situations.
Furthermore, these laws are particularly important because they deal with discussion of public issues and debate on the qualifications of candidates. This sort of speech allows citizens to make an informed decision about which candidate they will elect. This is crucial to the operation of the government, for those who are elected will shape the nation in a profound way. As legal scholar Alexander Meiklejohn argued when explaining the necessity of protecting political speech, “self-governance can only exist insofar as the voters acquire the intelligence, integrity, sensitivity, and generous devotion to the general welfare that, in theory, casting a ballot is assumed to express.” For these reasons, the ability to spend money on elections is essential to the First Amendment, as it allows for the communication of ideas and opinions that are crucial to democracy. The need to protect this first amendment right, however, is balanced against the need to avoid corruption in federal elections.
Freedom of expression has always been a heated and heavily debated topic throughout our society, more so in recent times due to the increasing amount of freedoms that we gain. However, it is only natural that free speech be something of extreme amounts of conflict since this right is expressed in the very first amendment of the Constitution. But, how loosely should such an important document within our history be interpreted? This has been a question for years, and it is obvious that this particular amendment presents itself through our day-to-day activities. The real issue with freedom of speech is that, even though it is presented to us, there are obviously people who would abuse it to invoke emotional distress, or even to invoke acts of
out (there were more than 30 different pamphlets) to the public. These pamphlets came in many varieties of languages and explained America’s involvement with the war. As time went out, the Committee of Public Information began to push the war stronger and stronger through propaganda. This was not the approach that Creel preferred. Creel preferred the softer approach of persuasion by letting the statistics do the persuading. Soon the Committee of Public Information began to lose touch with its original goal. The Committee became submerged with patriotism with the population in its sight. As more time went on, their goal became less about persuading America and more about purifying America by any means. For many people, the war was not only over seas. Our own people were now bringing the war onto home soil. In June of 1917, the Espionage Act of June 1917 was passed. This act permitted Postmaster-General Burleson to censor United States mail at his
Is Freedom Of Speech a true thing? You might want to think again. Over the past couple of centuries it has changed. You used to be able to say anything and everything you wanted. Now you say something and you are immediately thrown in jail. Like what happened to Bradley Manning over the past year and a half. He released documents about military killing innocent people and what does our government do? They threw him in jail. The military did not comment on the situation because they knew it was true. He wanted people knowing what they did was wrong and he got in trouble for it. I do not see that they should have thrown him in jail. What my concern is do we actually have Freedom Of Speech? Are we allowed