So, my debate topic for this class "Should freedom of speech be restricted?" I am on the no side for the debate. We have to write a research paper to help us and I'm hoping to get a few opinions on mine.
Should Freedom of Speech be Restricted?
There have been quite a few questions over the past few years about freedom of speech. How far is too far? Is there too much freedom of speech in America? Should the government step in and dictate what falls under freedom of speech and what doesn’t? These are all important questions that need to be answered.
To start answering these questions, we should first take a look at what people might consider as taking freedom of speech too far. A survey was taken by the Jacobs Media and Edison Media Research groups, who published their results in an article in the book, “Taking Sides: Clashing Views in Mass Media and Society.” They conducted an internet-based survey of forty rock radio stations across the country. The survey was conducted in both large and small markets, across various types of rock radio programming, and across various demographics. The results were surprising.
One question that was asked was, “How often does the station you listen to in the morning offend you in some way?” Remember, this question was asked across various markets, including markets that have “shock jocks” on-air in the morning. Fifty-five percent of the people who answered said “never”. One parent of a thirteen year old even commented;
“If I hear something potentially offensive, I have the right to change the station with my own hand. I am disturbed that the government will ‘parent’ me by choosing what I can and cannot listen to (pg 256).”
As a quick side note going along with this parent’s statement, eighty-seven percent of the people surveyed felt that it is the parents’ responsibility to keep adult material away from children.
Another question that was asked regarded the now infamous “wardrobe malfunction” at the Super Bowl a few years back. Fifty percent stated that it was an important issue, but only fourteen percent stated they were personally offended by it. Here’s the most surprising part of this; out of that fourteen percent, only twenty percent were Republicans and twenty-four percent were frequent church-goers.
That’s right; out of the two groups that were screaming the loudest that some form of government (in this case the Federal Communication Commission) punishment needed to be handed down, it was only a minority out of these groups that were personally offended by the incident. It’s not just in this one case either. Given the statement, “Shock Jock radio personalities have gone too far,” only thirty-five percent of the people who agreed were Republicans and forty percent were frequent church goers.
Given these statistics, the Jacobs and Evans groups were able to draw three important conclusions;
1) That what is shocking is a matter of perception and expectation.
2) An overwhelming amount of people, even across religious and political lines, are against the idea of government regulation of media content and freedom of speech.
3) The small groups of people that often protest the content found in the media do not represent the general population (in fact, seventy-five percent stated that small groups hold too much influence over fines and punishments).
Of course, while public opinion may sway the law if enough people speak up, it is not the
law in of itself. For this, we need to see the actual legal view of freedom of speech. The best place to start would be in the United States Constitution. Regarding freedom of speech, the first amendment states;
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Did you catch that? The government cannot make a law “abridging” freedom of speech. In other words, any government organization or law that attempts to control freedom of speech is unconstitutional!
Now, common sense dictates that a line should be drawn if you’re threatening physical harm on a person or a group of people. However, that is where the line in restricting freedom of speech should be drawn and not at, “this content offends me.” If we draw the line there, where do stop? At some point, everyone is offended by something they hear, or read, or watch. If we draw the line at being offended, we risk continuing going down the path that the Founding Fathers fought to avoid.
In conclusion, freedom of speech should only be restricted if physical well being is being threatened. To use a phrase that has been stated many times, the Constitution guarantees freedom of speech; it does not guarantee freedom from being offended.Last Edited by The_Duck on 03/23/2010 11:59 AM