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Should Freedom of Speech Be Absolute?
0What’s This About?

Freedom of speech is considered a fundamental human right by many. Yet, we cannot seem to reach a consensus on its execution. Some argue that limits should be set on certain forms of expression, while others maintain that societies should uphold free speech at all costs. So, which is it? How far should we take free speech? Let’s find out.



This house believes that free speech must be absolute.



Pro


Should Freedom of Speech Be Absolute?12“I agree…”

Free speech should be unrestricted and absolute as it is a crucial component of a functional and diverse society that facilitates civil discourse. We should all be allowed to express any belief, thought, idea, and emotion we hold without being hit with censorship or prosecution, as every person views the world differently, and that’s good. For any democratic society to exist and thrive, there must be an open, honest exchange of ideas, with opposing points of view heard, debated, and ultimately respected. On a political level, free speech can expose and challenge injustice, such as discrimination, inequality, or corruption, and hold those in power to account. It also fosters the development of further knowledge and innovation by allowing us to explore ideas and opinions in an unrestricted fashion. On a more personal level, the freedom to express ourselves however we choose is intrinsic to our personhood and happiness.



Con


Should Freedom of Speech Be Absolute?20“I disagree…”

As important as free speech may be, it should be limited in certain circumstances to maintain the safety, health, and well-being of others. People often invoke the freedom of speech to wash their hands of any negative consequences their statements would bring. Yet their words do nonetheless leave an impact on others. We see this with unsubstantiated and defamatory claims that target and marginalize specific individuals or groups, misleading statements that manipulate public opinion, insensitive remarks that bring psychological harm to victims and survivors of violence, and misinformation that can spark panic and fear in a population. I believe we can justify censorship and regulations in such instances to ensure that people do not exercise free speech in a way that incites hostility and unrest and disrupts public order. It is one thing to express our opinions, but intentionally insulting and hurting someone else is quite another.



Pro

Stifling free expression, even for what some may consider to be a “good” cause, can have a silencing effect on certain groups or individuals, discouraging them from forming and exploring their own opinions and ideas. Furthermore, imposing any limitations on speech is veering into dangerous territory. Attempting to control speech in any way, including insulting or factually incorrect statements, would mean assigning gatekeepers to decide what we can and cannot express in public. But the subjective nature of speech and the lack of consensus on who would be qualified to determine what kind of speech should be limited would make this process ripe for abuse. The lack of clarity makes it very easy for an oppressive government to enforce restrictive laws for political purposes. In any case, just a glimpse at human history would make it plain that there are always dire consequences to limiting free speech.



Con

Unrestrained free speech would expose vulnerable and easily influenced individuals, such as children and teens, to graphic and violent language and dangerous ideas that could endanger their well-being. By limiting access to these kinds of materials, we would be protecting them from potential harm. In addition, while freedom of expression is a cornerstone of human rights, a free and democratic society requires it to be practiced conjointly with other fundamental rights. Free speech alone can even encourage discrimination and inequality. Any form of communication in speech, writing, or behavior that attacks or uses pejorative or discriminatory language concerning a person or a group based on who they are would isolate people from one another and barricade the progress of minority groups within society. In this case, limiting free speech would help ensure that people are not subjected to socially unjust opinions and prevent further dissemination of fear and hatred.



Judge’s Comments

Both sides have raised some very intriguing points. What do you think about this issue? Where would you place limitations on free speech? Research on your own, and let me know what you think!


Yesel Kang
Copy Editor
 
인쇄기능입니다.
1. What are the main arguments made by the first speech of the pro side?
2. What are the main arguments made by the first speech of the con side?
3. What are the main arguments made by the second speech of the pro side?
4. What are the main arguments made by the second speech of the con side?
 
1. Do you agree with the arguments of the pro side? Explain why or why not.
2. Do you agree with the arguments of the con side? Explain why or why not.
3. Which side has more convincing arguments? Explain your reasoning.
4. Which countries in the world limits freedom of speech? Why do they do so?
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