Why should Freedom of Speech be extended to persons who use it to advocate destruction of that freedom for others?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The topic raised is a fairly interesting one.  I think that there might be another intricate supposition raised even before the question is addressed.  The question makes the assumption that freedom of speech should be extended in these situations.  There is a line of logic that suggests it should not be extended.  The framers did not envision a right of free speech to be something that is to provide sanctuary to those who seek to take this right away from others.  In separate instances, the Supreme Court has ruled that the First Amendment's freedom of speech clause does not automatically warrant full coverage to those who advocate speech that constitutes a "clear and present danger" or speech where violence and threats could be reasonably inferred.  The Court has ruled that it is within the Constitution's aims and goals to propose that in certain conditions that warrant the limit of freedom of speech.  Perhaps the situation that is articulated- namely, that individuals who use it to advocate destruction of that freedom for others- would be one such moment where the Constitution would suggest that free speech can and should be limited.

enotechris eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Right to Free Speech is not extended.  It is already given.  Individuals have rights not from any particular amendment, but by virtue of birth.  The Bill of Rights does not encapsulate all Rights; nor does government grant or restrict them.  Rights are innumerable.

On the other hand, Freedoms, the expression of Rights, such as the Freedom of Speech, can be restricted only if such expression interferes with the Rights of another.

As stated, all ideas should be allowed to be expressed and communicated, and the "marketplace of ideas" will determine which are valuable and which are worthless.  The bad ones are rightly interpreted as nonsense, and the proponent discredited.  That mechanism alone should be ample protection to allow for free expression of any idea.

Those who would speak freely to advocate the restriction of freedom of speech, by their very example, invalidate themselves.  Law, which is intended to safeguard rights, should be enacted in as much as one individual's free speech interferes with another's free speech.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are a few good reasons for this:

  1. How do you define "advocating the destruction of freedom for others" in such a way that you don't potentially take away all freedom of speech.  For example, if I say that rich people should not be allowed to give $1 million to political candidates, am I advocating the destruction of their rights?
  2. The best way to combat "bad" ideas is not to ban them -- it is to argue against them.  Banning "bad" ideas sends the message that they're too dangerous to be heard -- it gives them credibility.

To me, these are the two most important reasons why freedom of speech should not be limited in the way you suggest.

readerofbooks eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I do not know if I agree with your question, but I suppose that a person can make an argument that one should allow absolute freedom of speech for the following reasons. First, for there to be absolute freedom of speech, one has to be consistent, that is, to allow people to voice opinions that might be hurtful to your own. Second, in a world that is diverse and complex, at times one person's interest will be against another person's. One can argue that it is inevitable that this will be the case. So, freedom of speech in practice will curb someone else freedom. If this is the case, then why not just allow it?

mkcapen1 | Student

Freedom of speech has to mean exactly what it says.  When the government was established in the United States our forefathers took careful consideration to prevent the abuses that had been experienced by life in England through the King's laws.  When one begins to try and determine what constitutes the right to be spoken, one is taking that right away from individuals that have opposing thoughts.

With the above thought in mind, let us look at the Vietnam War.  Many Americans were in support of the political move to enter into the war.  However, as the war progressed and many of our soldiers were maimed and killed, protestors began to speak out against the war.  At fist many were shunned or even sprayed by water when they protested.  However, because of freedom of speech they were aloud to have their say even if it was not initially the majority thought.  Later, of course, it helped to bring an end to America's involvement in war.

An important part about freedom of speech is that one person can not decide what is appropriate to speak out about.  One person’s point of view is not going to be another person’s point of view.  In order to protect the right, all men must be allowed to speak out freely even if the words are not always appropriate and may be hurtful.

In pre-Holocaust Germany, the Nazi party collected people who spoke out against the government.  Had more people not been afraid to speak up then the atrocities that occurred might not have happened.

On a negative note, black people were denied the right to speak out for so long and had to go to great lengths to have the right to the same freedoms granted to white people.  At the time an entire nation of people watched in horror as many black people took to the streets to advocate for their rights.  The black people were not the majority and their trying to obtain their own rights was not the popular thing to do at the time, but without their stepping forward to gain those rights, they would not have had the opportunity to progress and would have continued to be a separate part of a society in which they have contributed so many great things.

Freedom of speech is a responsibility as much as it is a right.  It is the responsibility of ensuring that people continue to be allowed to serve all people whether one believes in what they say or not.