Should people be allowed to say deeply offensive things in public?Many people have views that are deeply offensive to the majority of Americans. Speaking these views in public can cause people...

Should people be allowed to say deeply offensive things in public?

Many people have views that are deeply offensive to the majority of Americans. Speaking these views in public can cause people serious emotional distress and do damage to our social cohesion and well-being. Should opinions that are considered highly offensive by most normal people be permitted in the media? Where should we draw the line?

Asked on by stegny

9 Answers | Add Yours

brettd's profile pic

brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Defining what is legally considered offensive, or deeply offensive, is incredibly difficult because no one standard of decency exists in any society. What is offensive to your pastor is different than what is offensive to your grandmother which is different from what is offensive to a football player. What if we werer to attach fines or jail time for deeply offensive speech, could it be enforced? Do we want to spend our limited law enforcement dollars in that area as opposed to violent crime?
litteacher8's profile pic

litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Allowing people to say deeply offensive things in public is the American way.  We may not agree with what people say, but we should defend to the death the right to say it, to paraphrase.  It's hard to accept.  This is why we allowd the Nazis to parade.  We are America, warts and all.

herappleness's profile pic

M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Freedom of speech is a granted right that we all enjoy as Americans. However, what is exactly the point of offending anyone when it is not necessary? However, if you are referring, for example, to criticize someone using every single word that comes out of your head, then you have to be very careful because whatever comes out of your mouth can make you or break you.

Additionally, what one says, the world owns; what you keep is owned by you. Always keep the communication of any information, or opinion, as your most precious treasure. Communication is power. However, the correct choice of words will be the beginning, or the end, of you and the ways others see you.

kapokkid's profile pic

kapokkid | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

I would agree that people should have the right to voice their opinions in public even if they are offensive.  If they are calling for people to harm other people or to carry out violent acts for any reason, then you've crossed a line.

But if people want to deny the holocaust, they should be allowed to.  If they want to declare Obama as the anti-christ, they should be allowed to.

If they suggest that someone ought to shoot their state representative because they don't agree with him, they should be prevented from doing so or face consequences for doing so.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Obviously, Post #2 meant the 1st Amendment, not the Second.

The real problem with trying to ban stuff that offends people is that anything can be deeply offensive to some people.  This is even true of things that we now believe strongly to be true.

For example, what Martin Luther King, Jr. was calling for would have been deeply offensive to many whites, especially in the South, at the time.  But there is no way that we would look back and say that he should not have been allowed to speak.

A second point is that there is no clear line between political opinions and offensive speech.  If I say that I think that illegal immigrants hurt the country because they commit more crimes than others and because they use up too much of our money for social services, is that a political opinion or is it offensive speech?  It's too hard to draw the line and so there should not be any line drawn.

linda-allen's profile pic

linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted on

Until the 2nd Amendment is removed from the US Constitution, Americans have the right to say whatever they want to say, wherever and whenever they want to say it. Who defines what is offensive? I am highly offended by profanity, yet you can't turn on the television without either hearing foul language or the bleep meant to cover it up. People have differing opinions, and just because we don't like someone's point of view or the way a person phrases his or opinions, we can't ban that person's speech.

acompanioninthetardis's profile pic

acompanioninthetardis | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted on

Frankly, i believe that if a person knows that other people are going to be offended by whatever strong statement they will make, then they should not say it. if they know that it will offend someone or it will cause them distress in any way in the public, then they should just keep to themselves. If they are asked their opinion in the public and they know that it will cause major distress, then i would just suggest that they tell the person that they Have a differing opinion that contradicts theirs. but i think all of this would be a bit easier if people would respect each others opinions, just respect that every one is entitled to their own beliefs and thoughts and its fine even if its actions as long as those actions do not bring harm to another person. If offensive material is in the media, and it HAS to be shared, then they should portray it to a point where everyone can understand or be open to it because when offensive material is told over the media, only certain people are agreeing about the comments, whereas others will feel completely offended and will be segregated in a way because they wont be able to try to reason with the other party's opinion.  

laurasdad's profile pic

laurasdad | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted on

Should people be allowed to say deeply offensive things in public?

Many people have views that are deeply offensive to the majority of Americans. Speaking these views in public can cause people serious emotional distress and do damage to our social cohesion and well-being. Should opinions that are considered highly offensive by most normal people be permitted in the media? Where should we draw the line?

One could object to your assumption that the majority of Americans are deeply and easily offended.  A more accurate statement would be that politically correct speech has usurped the rights of Americans to speak freely on subjects ranging from politics to religion to sexual preferences.  The results of speech control have manifested insincerity, fear and frustration as a free people struggle to communicate ideas and opinions.   We have lost our national identity and influence as we pretend to be what we are not.  Not content with simply controlling what people think (or more specifically what certain people (white/male/Christian/conservatives) think), there are those who would impose thought control by indoctrinating and legislating what is considered acceptable speech by self-anointed 'higher-thinkers'. 

I beleive that most Americans have thick skins.  Only those who have succumbed to seeing themselves as victims tend to be upset by what someone says.  After all, if we limit a person's right to speak their mind, we limit our own rights to do the same.  In this time of 'toning down the rhetoric', perhaps what we need to do is to speak honestly and not resort to false comraderie.  Honest discussions and real solutions cannot be had as long as people are tip-toeing around the problems.

frizzyperm's profile pic

frizzyperm | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted on

  • Should a persuasive and charismatic Nazi be allowed to deny the existence of the Jewish death camps in WWII?
  • Should a firebrand communist be allowed to call for the overthrow of capitalism and the installation of a single-party state?
  • Should a die-hard Muslim be allowed to call for the end of liberalism and the creation of a theocracy?
  • Should a right-wing nutcase be allowed to say that 9/11 was a conspiracy?
  • Should a Catholic be allowed to describe homosexuality as a sickness?
  • Should an anarchist be allowed to call for the total abolition of all forms of government?

Should you be allowed to post your request to freely discuss the limiting of free-speech?

Be careful what you wish for.

We’ve answered 318,993 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question