Why freedom of speech is a human right

|

Kevin Mangelschots

Freedom of speech is a human right. It is even written down in the free speech amendment law. And rightfully so. Everyone should have the right to voice their opinions, regardless if it’s a popular point of view or not.

Yet, freedom of expression is not absolute. And since it is a civil right, it is considered so normal to the point that we often take it for granted. Not truly realizing just how important it is to maintain a peaceful and cooperative society.

Let me explain why free speech is absolutely necessary for a well functioning democracy.

free speech amendment

The freedom of speech amendment means that the 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.[1]https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/first_amendment

This is what we consider to be the first amendment of free speech.

Freedom of speech limitations

Image of a silhouette talking in a microphone while a woman makes the gesture to be quiet.

Nevertheless, freedom of speech is not absolute and does have its limitations in some cases, which is actually a good thing.

The 1st amendment does not mean you have the right to slander, or to incite others to commit unlawful behavior, for example. Furthermore, pornography, copyright violation, the right to privacy, fighting words, and classified information are all good examples where limitations are placed upon to protect the safety of the citizens.

These regulations are placed to prevent harm to others, and consequently aids to maintain a cooperative, civilized society.

Other limits include:

  1. Stirring discrimination, violence, hate, or separatism against others in public
  2. Denialism, which means falsification or distortion of historical records
  3. Press offenses
  4. Propagating thoughts about racial superiority or racial hatred
  5. Belonging to, or collaborating with a group or organization that repeatedly expresses favoritism or segregation
  6. Abuse of communication tools, written insults, and stalking

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

What does freedom of speech mean?

Freedom of speech is a principle that supports the right of each individual in a society or community to articulate their thoughts, ideas, and opinions without fear of censorship, legal punishment, or retaliation.

However, the free speech amendment does not mean that one is free to say whatever they want in an attempt to harm other people. This is why our freedom to express ourselves is not absolute.

For instance, discrimination, hate speech, defamation, and making threats, to name a few, aren’t allowed, and are even punishable by law.

How political correctness and freedom of speech influence each other

Illustration of a politician smiling with the word “obey” written in black letters above him.

Political correctness and freedom of speech do not often go hand in hand. That’s because they both desire different outcomes, and thus, contrasting roads to achieve those results.

Free speech sometimes means voicing thoughts and sentiments that go against the grain. Political correctness, on the other hand, values conformity by preventing radical opinions and other forms of expression that are deemed inappropriate.

That’s exactly why political correctness and freedom of speech are frequently at odds with each other.

However, the right to voice one’s individual, personal thoughts and opinions means that we got to have the right to risk offending another person. As long as the comments remain within reason, of course.

But the lack of censorship is not absolute, and we must not misuse this freedom of expression to harm our peers intentionally, or to instigate others to commit violence or other improper activities against the law.

Advantages of freedom of speech

Young woman giving a double thumbs up.

  • Creates the foundation for a civilized debate

    One of the advantages of freedom of speech is that it creates a platform for civilized debates where we can voice our views and ideas respectfully to each other.

    Without, people would not get the opportunity to voice their concerns and as a result, get oppressed eventually.

    If it wouldn’t be a human right, then there’s a large possibility that our society would collapse sooner or later, and turn malevolent with just a few people taking all the power for themselves while oppressing the rest.

  • It helps us to understand each other better

    Image of a person of white and black skin color holding hands.

    We can’t understand each other if we’re not allowed, or too scared to voice what we are really thinking.

    People differ in personality, thoughts and thus, perspective. Yet, it is important that we make an effort to comprehend each other as well as possible to prevent tension and violence as well as possible.

    This can only be accomplished if we’re daring, and willing to talk and debate with each other with an open mind, and without any prejudices.

  • It allows us to improve society

    Multiple people thinking individually will always come up with more good, and novel ideas than only a couple of people can by attempting to make the rules.

    Working together has always been vital for our species’ survival. Combining our brainpower for the greater good of society has multiple practical benefits such as being capable of improving each other’s ideas, new perspectives, and speeding up the process.

  • Freedom of speech protects the minority

    Image of multiple pawns standing together with one pawn standing separated alone.

    The minority has always had a hard time surviving. This is true for animals in the wild, but for humans as well.

    Often times, the minority ends up being assimilated, or cast away by the larger group. Power in numbers is a real thing indeed, albeit not always positively.

    Free speech promotes different kinds of thoughts, and makes it, so even the minority can voice their opinions without having to fear the repercussions of the rest of the population.

  • It allows different opinions, ideas, and thoughts

    It’s a fundamental right that allows for different kinds of ideas. This is especially useful and important in a large society because every individual is different.

    That’s why we must often seek to find a middle ground in order to live together peacefully. Trying to take into account each other’s feelings, viewpoints, and contrasting views.

    Yet, different perspectives are typically necessary to solve certain problems. Because a different approach is oftentimes needed rather than the thought processes that created the problems in order to solve these issues. No matter how unpopular those different ideas sometimes are, they’re still essential to fix things.

  • Freedom of speech allow us to accommodate to an ever-changing world

    The quote, “what change do you want to see in the world? What role will you play in that change?” written on a white background.

    Life is continuously changing. Technology keeps advancing, health care keeps progressing, which means our lives also change rapidly, to which we must adapt swiftly to not get left behind.

    Freedom of speech is a fundamental right that allows us to accommodate to our ever-changing world as fast and efficient as possible.

    Sticking our heads together will generate multiple ideas and novel, better thoughts faster than only a few individual minds can. That’s on average, though, and is still dependent and influenced by the intelligence of those singular minds compared to that of the collective.

Why is freedom of speech important?

The word “why” written multiple times on a blue background with question marks surrounding it.

Freedom of speech is important because it’s the foundation for a civilized society due to promoting polite debates, gaining a better understanding of each other, and protecting the minority.

This creates a cooperative environment that we can utilize to improve society as a result. That can’t be accomplished if we prevent others from speaking their mind because they would be unable to share their thoughts, and perhaps, good ideas.

Freedom of speech examples

The word “example” written in red letters on a white background.

Some possible examples of freedom of speech in the real world include:

  1. Sharing our opinion on social media platforms and the internet
  2. Through publishing books, articles, interviews
  3. Sharing our thoughts through the radio broadcasts and television
  4. By producing creative arts such as paintings, or songs

Conclusion

Image of someone protesting with the sign reading, “I disagree with my opponent's positions but support their right to express them freely.”

Freedom of speech is a human right and is essential to maintain a peaceful and cooperative society. It is a basic right that we must protect at all cost.

Our society isn’t perfect, but life is a privilege denied to many. That’s why we should be glad that we have a chance to improve our existence, and that of others.

Every individual has their own personal responsibility to protect and guard our right to free speech. However, the first amendment does not mean that our ability to say things unpunished are absolute, as hate speech and classified information etc. are still off limits.

If you see, or notice things happening that go against the right for expression, then you have the responsibility of speaking up. We’re in this world together, and that means that it’s each individual’s duty to make society a better place to live in.

References

References
1https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/first_amendment