Monday, January 17, 2011

If Free Speech is Chained, Is It Still Free?

Simon Jenkins of the UK Guardian wrote an article about how free speech can not exist with out some government controls, because we are too stupid to know when we are hearing bad things.

Of course the real things that need chaining, according to Mr. Jenkins are talk radio, and Fox News. So, really, Mr. Jenkins wants to silence political speech on the right. This makes sense as Mr. Jenkins presents a straw man from Texas, who believes that the US is going to have to step in and bail out Europe from the "Arabs" and the "baby killers." This straw gentleman was only informed by Fox News. This, and being from Texas, made him incapable of forming a complete thought in his head. Mr. Jenkins, if you indeed actually met someone like this, I would have to question your ability to discern a person well accustomed to thinking and a moron. In truth, I believe that you did not meet such a person, and my references to this being a straw man should have tipped my hand...

Having the freedom to say exactly what you want, no matter how nutty, is something that Americans uniquely enjoy. It is an absolute foreign concept to Europeans. How anyone could just voice opinion on the open airwaves is just not done there. The government controls most media, therefore the public only hears what the party in power wants them to hear. Their speech has chains. My question to these people is, should your opinion fall out of fashion with the powers that be, should your speech be chained?

The big problem with limiting speech is always who does the limiting? As Madison so aptly manipulated, people always work in their own self interest, therefore they will always work to repress thoughts that do not line up with their own. Free speech forces them to attempt to defeat these opinions with counter arguments. When speech is "chained" these differing opinions will be squelched by force of arms. Which would you rather have?

The very thought that someone might be incarcerated because of what they said was so abhorrent to the Founders, that they placed, at the very top of their Bill of Rights, the protection for speech. They had seen their friends, family, and loved ones removed for them, even killed for what they said. Never in our new country, they said as one voice. This was unheard of in the world... And still is. Walk up to a police man in Germany and give a big old Heil Hitler. See where you end up. Profane the name of Muhammad in Iran, and see where you go. The simple and true fact is that very very few countries actually have a guarantee of freedom of speech in their founding documents. Most, like in Europe, pay lip service to the freedom of speech, but nearly all have some provisions that allow the country to limit speech in some way.

Is speech free, if you can limit it? No.

Opinion Piece

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