Freedom of speech has been a sensitive subject since time immemorial, especially concerning leadership, politics or authority. Nothing said is harmful until it threatens or criticizes authority. Every person has a right to express their own views about different kinds of situations and to acquire any information that they please (Mill and Rapaport 16). However, the most important consideration is to ensure is that self respect and respect for others is upheld. The modern world or society is sensitive on many topics or issues. The high diversity of opinion on the same topics is surprising. In this modern society, it is legal to express your views but what matters most is the accommodation of civility in your speech. How do we measure civility? Is it via culture, background, race, status, religion or political affiliation? Despite the choice dilemma in defining civility, freedom of speech is inevitable. Curtailing speech is not the way to bring peace instead it only destroys democracy. A country or society can only be said to be democratic if it grants the freedom of speech to any individual, group and the media (Rudinow and Graybosch 52). Free speech brings about a healthy and free nation that is desirable and it is a guard against a corrupt and tyrannical government. The same perspective runs in the private lives of individual citizens.
Free speech can be positive or negative but its effects are what matters the most. If the idea being put across is going to build rather then destroy, then it should be heard and accommodated. It is important for someone to consider the consequences of their views before sharing with other people. Free speech enables people to speak out their grievances and support what they think is right. People stand out to talk about issues that affect them in as individuals or as a society. These issues could range from cultural beliefs to poverty, as long as they address an existing or future concern. It is clear that a country or society that has been denied the freedom of speech always resorts to violent means in order to be heard. The underlying factor is miscommunication. Most times, people choose to predict rather than listen to what someone has to say. As a result, when the individual finally speaks, they selectively listen to what they want to hear. As a result, there is misinterpretation and interruptions that form precedence for future communication between the two parties. The precedence is what is called perception and perceptions shape an individual’s opinion (Mill and Rapaport 16). Opinion is rigid and can turn disastrous when individuals attempt to change. Certain groups in society face a lot of challenges because of being denied the freedom of speech. Poverty and discrimination are the main aspects that prevent people from being heard at certain levels within a society.
Free speech contributes greatly to creativity and innovation. In a business organization, employees can bring forth ideas that will help to improve the business position within the industry. Allowing employees to share their thinking and experiences is one way of customizing products and services. Employees provide a feasible sample of the customer base thus resonate with consumer preferences. In some instances, trying to voice your opinions can cause great harm including the risk of losing a job. This especially happens when an individual is opposing the company’s or superiors’ position. Suppression of speech brings about a decline in the prosperity of a business because whether the management was right or wrong, some discord takes place. The employees either sabotage the operations or rebel against the leadership. The result is a declining level of productivity.
Legal restrictions on the freedom of speech attempt to state the parameters and boundaries to be observed through free speech. Different governments have different definitions of free speech. This perception is entrenched in the values, tradition and culture of the citizens. Legal restrictions can have harmful effects depending on the application or context (Rudinow and Graybosch 55). Some ideas that are presented to us are unpleasant and horrible. However, some of these ideas have some fraction of truth which we readily ignore. There are some utterances, though hurting to some people have a positive impact to the society. Although the government sometimes plays a role in curtailing speech for its own reasons, some individuals also contribute to the suppression of speech of the minority. A government or a society will often consider actions, products, services, policies, and rules that bring forth the good for its majority and the least harm. Free speech with regards to established legal restrictions applies the same principle within the society. In the present society negative utterances are shunned and treated with a lot of prejudice without extensive comprehension of the idea trying to be put across. For example, the refusal of publishers to publish hence preventing distributions of some books because they oppose the ideas those books highlight. This is in contrary with the ideals of free speech. Free speech should be interpreted the way its literal meaning purports (Rudinow and Graybosch 55). There is no consideration from different perspectives but a common understanding that should possess the same meaning from any kind of perception. Selective application or interpretation based on consequences must not overrule the essence of free speech.
In most cases, suppression of ideas or expression stems from selfish background. This happens due to secondary and artificial interpretations that define free speech either temporarily or on permanent terms. People discourage free speech because they are afraid of the consequences of particular truths. Truth in such cases shifts individuals from their comfort zones into uncertainty (Mill and Rapaport 17). Therefore, they make all efforts to suppress the truth in a bid to retain their status and wealth. For example, individuals who speak out against politicians may end up losing their lives. A good citizen who upholds free speech will accept the fact that free speech has its own disadvantage such as; being opposed, being insulted or offended. The current circumstances full of political, social and economic should not deter the interpretation of free speech. Perception of free speech should accommodate and provide room to assess whether an individual was right in the end. Power does not allow individuals to apply subjective free speech because it amounts to suppression that translates to oppression in the long run.
Some individuals restrict speech because they imagine they are being attacked. They feel pity for themselves even when the idea put across does not affect them. For example, a satiric cartoon portraying politicians as fat, greedy hedonists was removed from a gallery when a “woman of size” complained that it insensitively equated greed with fatness. The purpose of this cartoon was just to bring out the greediness of the politicians but the woman found it offensive. When almost everything that is said is being seen as victimisation, then the freedom of speech is being suppressed (Rudinow and Graybosch 57). If an individual’s actions or utterances are insignificant to a whole population then it is no use paying attention to them or seeing one as a victim. Misinterpretation of some acts and utterances is what causes disagreements among different people and certain groups. Some photos and speeches which are intended to condemn bad acts are being banned and branded as hate speech. Information brought forth to teach people especially on social media is being seen as pornography hence avoided. Schools should start teaching students how to accommodate free speech. Education exists so that people can comprehend ideas that are communicated, to avoid perceiving them as attacks. Education should establish free speech, especially as positive ideas that can benefit the society.
There have been circumstances where free speech is fought with excessive force. This occurs where an individual or individuals decide to protect someone identified by the society as evil and a danger to the rest. Typical example through history is when witches were shunned and would be set on fire in medieval Europe. The society had vague definition of who a witch was and would pick on peculiar habits or belongings to identify witches. Therefore, some circumstances were and are malicious thus call for individuals to protest on behalf of victims (Collste 328). Such individuals or witnesses cannot freely share their input of someone already branded including; witches, rapists, murderers and extortionists among other categories. Very few individuals will intervene for a suspect witch or thief in the presence of a lynch mob. Speaking out about such issues could only bring uproar from the people. It is clear that rape should be totally condemned but trying to protect a person considered a rapist could have detrimental effects.
True commitment and upholding of the freedom of speech is a very difficult task for people. Although they support it, they tend to suppress it in instances where they imagine they are being attacked even if the idea being put across is beneficial. If such individuals are the ones graduating from schools, in future the freedom of speech will be totally curtailed. More restrictions are being put on speech preventing ideas that could help the society. For example schools are shunning debates that they think are affecting their cultural and religious beliefs.
Society has a great role to play concerning the freedom of speech. It is the one that stops the government from offending the people by speaking out about acts of unlawfulness. It speaks out about the morality that should be upheld. This is to enable the younger growing generation to grow up into reasonable and moral human beings. Such acts as abortion are what the society could focus on. If the freedom of speech is curtailed on such matters of great importance then the present society will grow into a spoiled group of people. The young generation grows up not knowing the truth about certain important facts (Collste 331). After this young generation reaches the adult phase, it is almost impossible to be corrected. They indulge in acts they think are right and only realise they are wrong when is too late.
With the increase in people who view themselves as victims of free speech, there is also an unfair treatment brewing up. People are treating others according to the views they believe and subscribe. The transgender and the gay people are the ones suffering much. They are discriminated because of what they believe in. Some countries and societies are shunning them claiming it is a breach of their culture/ religion to support their practices.
Some groups who consider themselves powerful are attacking the media because they are against the ideas being aired out. They attack movies, television programs and advertisements with an intention of silencing ideas that they consider offensive to themselves. Free speech should be without restrictions and exceptions (Rudinow and Graybosch 58). People should be allowed to air out their views without being subjected to stigmatization and victimization. What people need to understand is, one can never know if you are right unless they listen to someone else who has a conflicting opinion.
The problem is some individuals are making utterances that cause pain to others in the name of exercising freedom of speech. This is a lack of sensitivity and compassion to other people’s feelings. It is a selfish kind of behaviour that brings out the freedom of speech as a bad thing. For example racism is one factor that brings up many views from different kinds of people. However the fact is that utterances and acts that uphold racism inflict long-term pain and suffering especially to the African American society. People being discriminated against race, is not acceptable even by the law.
Freedom of speech should be regulated appropriately so that it can uphold human rights. The important aspect to determine is the limit that should be placed concerning the freedom of speech. The limit should not be set too high so that it renders people silent but rather be adjusted so that it can suit everyone (Mill and Rapaport 17). A lot of freedom is not good either. Hurtful utterances can cause pain or suffering to an individual or a certain group of people. It is important for people to form opinions carefully and not impose them on anyone unless they are surely very true. Ethics should be advocated for, in pursuit of the freedom of speech. A person has the right to say or do anything they wish according to their own judgement. However, if those actions or utterances affect others negatively then the person has to be held accountable for their speech or actions.
Collste, Goran. Ethics and information technology. New Delhi: Delhi New Academic Publ., 1998. Print.
Mill, John and Elizabeth Rapaport. On liberty. Indianapolis: Hackett Pub. Co., 1873. Print.
Rudinow, Joel and Anthony Graybosch. Ethics and Values in the Information Age. Boston, M.A: Wadsworth Publishing Company, 2002. Print.