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Freedom Of Speech

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#1
Vesper

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Freedom of speech is often considered to be one of the most basic tenets of democracy. As a fundamental right it is enshrined in documents such as the Bill of Rights in the United States, the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, and the European Convention on Human Rights: 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.

But how far should this right extend?

There's been a couple of things recently that have sparked my thoughts on this debate; one was the Pussy Riot incident, the other was talking to my philosophical father about it (!).

About the Pussy Riot incident; lots of people said that their freedom of speech was impinged because they were imprisoned for protesting against Putin. But was it? Ignoring the fact that some of the issues are in a bit of grey area in Russia anyway; did they really have the right to storm a church where people were worshipping in order to make their protest? I'm pretty sure if that had occurred in this country they would have been arrested for disturbance of the peace/anti-social behaviour etc. Sure, they wouldn't have been locked up for two years but they might have received a hefty fine... now if they'd have stood on the street outside of the church, that would have been an entirely different matter..?

Is freedom of speech absolute? Where do you draw the line? What counts as incitement? Surely if you're protesting about wheat prices outside of a corn miller's house then that is threatening and no longer a right? (To paraphrase a philosopher whose name escapes me).

What are your thoughts on this?

#2
Vic_Rattlehead

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I think freedom of speech should be more lenient than it already is, especially as a part of art. However, I draw the line at things that are just downright hateful, such as the Westboro Baptist Church, who don't have all that much evidence to say what they say, except that "God told them".

#3
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In the U.S., we also have an inalienable right to the "pursuit of happiness"

So in my mind, if you are harming someone through your negative words, then you can't pull the freedom of speech card.

Protesting is fine. We need protesting. It creates choices. We need choices.

But for example, say a group of bible thumpers are protesting outside of an abortion clinic. They are chanting that abortion is wrong, killing life, yatta yatta. But when those protestors personally attack the women and couples walking out of the abortion clinic, and getting in their faces and humiliating them, that is where I think it crosses the line. That is where freedom of speech has turned into an attack of a person's right to be happy. I'm not saying that women walking out of an abortion clinic are happy about it, most of the time, it is the hardest decision they will ever make. But it has turned from a simple protest to a personal attack. And to me, it no longer becomes freedom of speech. It becomes hate. And I cannot tolerate hate crimes. It infuriates me.

#4
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In the U.S., we also have an inalienable right to the "pursuit of happiness"

So in my mind, if you are harming someone through your negative words, then you can't pull the freedom of speech card.

Protesting is fine. We need protesting. It creates choices. We need choices.

But for example, say a group of bible thumpers are protesting outside of an abortion clinic. They are chanting that abortion is wrong, killing life, yatta yatta. But when those protestors personally attack the women and couples walking out of the abortion clinic, and getting in their faces and humiliating them, that is where I think it crosses the line. That is where freedom of speech has turned into an attack of a person's right to be happy. I'm not saying that women walking out of an abortion clinic are happy about it, most of the time, it is the hardest decision they will ever make. But it has turned from a simple protest to a personal attack. And to me, it no longer becomes freedom of speech. It becomes hate. And I cannot tolerate hate crimes. It infuriates me.


1. Is the pursuit of happens a right? Or just part of the unattainable "American Dream"?

2. Surely I have the right to walk down the street with a top on saying "You're a dick" and if it makes people unhappy well boo-hoo? Feelings as such do not count in the utilitarianism debate. Me hurting your feelings will not kill you/physically harm you.

3. Protesting in what circumstances? Earlier this year in the UK tube workers were going on strike because they weren't getting triple pay during the olympics. Erm... what? I wasn't getting triple pay during the olympics either and I didn't go on strike...

4. I think in that example they crossed the line by being outside the abortion clinic in the first place. It's threatening by their presence, because undoubtedly, due to mob psychology, one of them is going to become violent/burn the place down etc...

#5
pieterv

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This is a topic I'm very interested in, but I'm always wary to make a definite statement on my position because I'm not sure where I stand. I know (just like many others, I think), I'd be a hypocrite depending on the situations I'm presented with. I'm inclined to agree the Westboro Baptist Church shouldn't have the right to spew their hatred into everyone's faces but why should we be able to take that right from them if we'd allow ourselves to protest other things?

4. I think in that example they crossed the line by being outside the abortion clinic in the first place. It's threatening by their presence, because undoubtedly, due to mob psychology, one of them is going to become violent/burn the place down etc...

I think we should just punish those who do escalate the protest by becoming violent, threatening. Not those who choose to be outside the clinic to peacefully protest it.
Crossing the line, to me, is when you start following people, deny people to get in/out, start making threats instead of "broadcasting" your opposing viewpoint.

Theoretically/ideologically, I'm closest to you should be allowed to say anything… people these days seem to think they have a right to not be offended.

#6
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Theoretically/ideologically, I'm closest to you should be allowed to say anything… people these days seem to think they have a right to not be offended.


Did you mean to be offended?

#7
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"Pursuit of happiness" is not a legal right. It is an ideal which Americans stand behind but it is in the Declaration of Independence, not the Constitution, so it has no real force anywhere in the law.

As for what you said about UK tube workers striking, power struggles are a part of labor. Workers have limited powers with which they can unionize, strike, advocate, and employers have limited powers in which they could replace or fire all the workers, or sit down and negotiate with them. The right to strike isn't really one of free speech but a right to own one's self in regards to whom and under what terms they will provide their labor. In some circumstances the workers have to give up, in some circumstances the employers give in to their demands.

#8
pieterv

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Did you mean to be offended?

You could kind of phrase it both ways I guess.
What I meant is: I think everyone does have a right to be offended, but that doesn't mean what offends someone should be stopped.
I don't agree with someone having the right to not be offended, if something offends someone that isn't a good reason to make the offending activity illegal.

#9
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"Pursuit of happiness" is not a legal right. It is an ideal which Americans stand behind but it is in the Declaration of Independence, not the Constitution, so it has no real force anywhere in the law.

As for what you said about UK tube workers striking, power struggles are a part of labor. Workers have limited powers with which they can unionize, strike, advocate, and employers have limited powers in which they could replace or fire all the workers, or sit down and negotiate with them. The right to strike isn't really one of free speech but a right to own one's self in regards to whom and under what terms they will provide their labor. In some circumstances the workers have to give up, in some circumstances the employers give in to their demands.


I'm not arguing with the right to strike. I think it's an essential part of a system where the "workers" have quite a small voice. I just don't think that not receiving triple pay for a normal days work is a necessary thing to strike over. Yes if there pay was being cut, yes if they were being picked off one by one by their boss... but they weren't. We've all had pay freezes and tax rises..

#10
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People interpret freedom of speech as "respect my opinion" and this is mostly a disease of the internet but I've seen it offline as well. You can say your opinion. My freedom of speech lets me mock you for your opinion being fucking stupid.

#11
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People interpret freedom of speech as "respect my opinion" and this is mostly a disease of the internet but I've seen it offline as well. You can say your opinion. My freedom of speech lets me mock you for your opinion being fucking stupid.


So just to play the opposite to what I really think; if you don't respect people's opinion, what do you think deserves respect?

#12
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I'm not arguing with the right to strike. I think it's an essential part of a system where the "workers" have quite a small voice. I just don't think that not receiving triple pay for a normal days work is a necessary thing to strike over. Yes if there pay was being cut, yes if they were being picked off one by one by their boss... but they weren't. We've all had pay freezes and tax rises..


If you have a position of power with which to negotiate, and a union of people operating transportation certainly do, because transportation grinding to a halt can fuck shit up, then why wouldn't you try to see what you could get?

It only seems irrational to you because you're not in that position.

#13
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If you have a position of power with which to negotiate, and a union of people operating transportation certainly do, because transportation grinding to a halt can fuck shit up, then why wouldn't you try to see what you could get?

It only seems irrational to you because you're not in that position.


No it seems irrational to me because it seems fucking greedy.

#14
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So just to play the opposite to what I really think; if you don't respect people's opinion, what do you think deserves respect?


That's subjective, not something I can make objective commentary about. And I do respect some opinions if I think they are good ones and informed ones.

No it seems irrational to me because it seems fucking greedy.


Maybe it is, but that's the nature of the beast. Labor is an eternal power struggle. It is a little more complicated when there are public workers involved, because people say "that's my tax money paying for them, so why doesn't the state do something to stop them?" but the state just can't fire everyone if they are strongly unionized and they serve an essential function.

If you were a worker there and you thought you could win, then you might be pleased to try. Perhaps it's greed but that's human nature. It's hard to persuade people to act utilitarian when their benefactor is the state - a seemingly infinite source of wealth and power. Of course, states too are limited which is why in America people have anger towards teachers' unions for causing budget deficits.

But a teacher rationally wants a teachers' union to be strong as possible, and a tube worker naturally wants whatever pay increase they can reasonably bargain for.

#15
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That's subjective, not something I can make objective commentary about. And I do respect some opinions if I think they are good ones and informed ones.



Maybe it is, but that's the nature of the beast. Labor is an eternal power struggle. It is a little more complicated when there are public workers involved, because people say "that's my tax money paying for them, so why doesn't the state do something to stop them?" but the state just can't fire everyone if they are strongly unionized and they serve an essential function.

If you were a worker there and you thought you could win, then you might be pleased to try. Perhaps it's greed but that's human nature. It's hard to persuade people to act utilitarian when their benefactor is the state - a seemingly infinite source of wealth and power. Of course, states too are limited which is why in America people have anger towards teachers' unions for causing budget deficits.

But a teacher rationally wants a teachers' union to be strong as possible, and a tube worker naturally wants whatever pay increase they can reasonably bargain for.


That's the crux, right there.


And to respect; do you think you could respect someone who for example, is a staunch Christian, who had really thought about their beliefs and come out stronger for it? It's what someone said; it's not the belief but the question that is more powerful.... etc

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I think both the strike and the respect discussion is actually off-topic, isn't it?

The right to free speech and the right to strike are separate things, the right to free speech allows you to complain about your salary, but striking goes further than just voicing your opinion. To be honest, I'm not sure how striking works, when it's allowed and when it's not, I just think it's different from just free speech since your actions go a lot further than just voicing your opinion.

About respect, I think it really just boils down to an individual and is actually separate from the free speech debate since respecting or disrespecting someone doesn't mean any opinion is being voiced. If the question is whether you should be able to disrespect anyone and be allowed to voice your opinion of them, I think you should be.

Edited by pieterv, 31 August 2012 - 11:00 AM.


#17
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I think both the strike and the respect discussion is actually off-topic, isn't it?

The right to free speech and the right to strike are separate things, the right to free speech allows you to complain about your salary, but striking goes further than just voicing your opinion. To be honest, I'm not sure how striking works, when it's allowed and when it's not, I just thin it's different from just free speech.

About respect, I think it really just boils down to an individual and is actually separate from the free speech debate since respecting or disrespecting someone doesn't mean any opinion is being voiced. If the question is whether you should be able to disrespect anyone and be allowed to voice your opinion of them, I think you should be.


Not really. Their both facets of how far a persons freedom of speech is allowed within society's norms and boundaries.

#18
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That's the crux, right there.


And to respect; do you think you could respect someone who for example, is a staunch Christian, who had really thought about their beliefs and come out stronger for it? It's what someone said; it's not the belief but the question that is more powerful.... etc


If they aren't going to make any undue moral judgments about me or others, then they have my respect in the sense that I don't seek to argue with them or mock them or change their minds.

That's the crux, right there.


What was the outcome of the strike?

#19
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If they aren't going to make any undue moral judgments about me or others, then they have my respect in the sense that I don't seek to argue with them or mock them or change their minds.



What was the outcome of the strike?


They lost. And were told to work for normal pay, just like everybody else.

#20
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They lost. And were told to work for normal pay, just like everybody else.


Then what's the problem? They attempted to win something, they didn't have the force to, so they lost.

I'm just saying, you're portraying them as inconsiderate people for fighting for their interest. Not just as individuals but their interest as a group. But that's just what anyone would do.

#21
pieterv

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Not really. Their both facets of how far a persons freedom of speech is allowed within society's norms and boundaries.

I disagree, striking goes beyond "speech" or expression. When striking you're taking action that harms your boss/business beyond just expressing your opinion and trying to engage a discussion. You could argue punching someone is "expressing your opinion" but just like striking it affects them more than when you just voice your opinion and try to engage a discussion.

Also, as I said, the right to respect/disrespect someone is separate from the right to express that (dis)respect and how you're allowed express it.

#22
Brian Gag

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I think a lot of people misinterpret the US Constitution's first amendment to be about something it isn't.

"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."

That's the entire text of the amendment. Forty-five words. It seems most people overlook those first five words. "Congress shall make no law." This pretty much means Congress can't prevent us from saying things that others may not agree with. While certain statutes and laws are in place when it comes to threats of violence or sedition, for the most part people can say what they please. This means, for instance, that those with controversial or inflammatory viewpoints can still espouse their beliefs to others, as long long as they're not inciting violence.

Personally I like this idea. It lets me easily figure out who I should avoid.

However, the first amendment only affects Congress. This is an important distinction. More private authority figures (bosses, proprietors, educators, parents, etc.) can still enforce codes of speech and conduct that carry penalties for violating them. Even then, some private employers have been taken to civil court for terminating someone's employment based on their political beliefs - or the expression thereof.

In the U.S., we also have an inalienable right to the "pursuit of happiness"

Actually, that's in the Declaration of Independence. As much as I would love it to be, it's not legally binding. You won't find that string of words anywhere in the Constitution.

#23
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I think freedom of speech should be more lenient than it already is, especially as a part of art. However, I draw the line at things that are just downright hateful, such as the Westboro Baptist Church, who don't have all that much evidence to say what they say, except that "God told them".

If the Baptists never spoke up, the majority of people would never have a reason to realise how fucked up belief systems like theirs are. I like to think the radicals keep people in check in their own way.

3. Protesting in what circumstances? Earlier this year in the UK tube workers were going on strike because they weren't getting triple pay during the olympics. Erm... what? I wasn't getting triple pay during the olympics either and I didn't go on strike...

Off topic but I found the strike threats from transport services (tube, airports etc) during the Olympics to be horribly opportunistic. Especially the tube workers. No sympathy for any of them.

#24
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If the Baptists never spoke up, the majority of people would never have a reason to realise how fucked up belief systems like theirs are. I like to think the radicals keep people in check in their own way.


That's a very good point, I never really thought of it that way. :)

#25
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Why should we have the right to voice our opinion on matters of state, religion, and anything else we damn please? There's potential there for someone to get hurt, as well as to injure our own infrastructure, it's an unneeded privilege.

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Why should we have the right to voice our opinion on matters of state, religion, and anything else we damn please? There's potential there for someone to get hurt, as well as to injure our own infrastructure, it's an unneeded privilege.


And yet surely oppression of it is not desirable either? So where does one draw the line?

#27
fukingcounterstrike

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And yet surely oppression of it is not desirable either? So where does one draw the line?

xD my comment was pure sarcasm. I think there is no line to be drawn. Free speech is free speech. Like anything else you use it with common sense. You provoke someone, you're probably gonna get punched in the face, you make legitimate threats, you are handled with proper means. Why must there be a line to be drawn? I say the freedom should not be infringed upon by any means and allowed to it's fullest.

#28
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xD my comment was pure sarcasm. I think there is no line to be drawn. Free speech is free speech. Like anything else you use it with common sense. You provoke someone, you're probably gonna get punched in the face, you make legitimate threats, you are handled with proper means. Why must there be a line to be drawn? I say the freedom should not be infringed upon by any means and allowed to it's fullest.


I suck at reading sarcasm... :P

#29
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Well even if it's sarcasm, it's still an interesting point of view. That people should be protected from freedom.

#30
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I suck at reading sarcasm... http://www.greendaycommunity.org/public/...

I bet most people do (literally). Lack of voice tone never helps. I suppose I did want to be devils advocate at the same time just to show the opposite end, cause I wouldn't want anything to drift in that direction if any lines were to be drawn. Yeah...



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