Should people be allowed to have complete freedom of speech/ expression?
Debate Rounds (4)
In this debate, I hope to touch upon topics media censorship, the importance of freedom of speech and the advantages/ disadvantages of complete freedom of speech . Anyone is welcome to participate.
I would like to start by reiterating my stand on this issue. My stand is that every individual should have the right to complete freedom of speech, which implies that censorship is not permitted and no person should be held legally responsible for anything he expresses. I'd like to emphasise the phrase "legally responsible" as compared to just "responsible". For the example I provided in my initial statement, if someone insults a particular religion, ethnicity, etc, he will always be "held responsible" for what he says; he will probably be criticised and slammed by netizens, which is not surprising. But my point is that the government should not be able to punish him for expressing his opinion like it would an ordinary crime, for example by fining him or jailing him. I'd like to make that clear.
I am sure that Con would agree with me that freedom of speech is important, at least to a certain extent, but I'd like to argue why complete freedom of speech is necessary. Unfortunately, I do not know exactly what Con's stand on this issue is, but I shall assume that Con thinks freedom of speech is necessary, but there are some cases where freedom of speech only causes harm, such as when one expresses an offensive or derogatory view towards a particular party. Please correct me if I'm wrong.
Freedom of speech is a basic human right. According to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Article 19, "Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice." This means that it is the right of any individual to express his ideas without restriction, and it is simultaneously the right of any individual to receive any information he wants. Censorship and restriction of freedom of speech violate both these ideas. Without this basic right, we will not be able to express our views freely and receive the information we need to be well-informed about the world we live in.
Freedom of speech is also necessary for society to progress. Historically, what have pushed societies forward are new ideas and philosophies that change the way we think. Censorship and restriction of freedom of speech prevents these new ideas from flourishing. Galileo and Darwin are just two examples of people whose freedom of speech and hence ideas were restricted. Most people nowadays see them as geniuses ahead of their time, but they were robbed of their recognition because certain parties deemed their ideas offensive or inappropriate. I hope to elaborate more on this in future arguments.
Now that I've very quickly summarised why freedom of speech is important, I want to explain why complete, and not just partial, freedom of speech is necessary. Many people advocate for a sort of "controlled" freedom of speech, as I suspect Con does. This means that individuals are given freedom of speech, but censorship might still be practised for views that are considered offensive or inappropriate, or that people could be held legally responsible for the views they express. An example would be the Singapore government. In Singapore, everyone has freedom of speech and are allowed to express whatever views they want. But citizens can also be legally punished for the views they express if these views are considered derogatory towards a particular race, religion, culture, etc. To quote Section 8(1) of Singapore's Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act, a restraining order can be made against any individual for "causing feelings of enmity, hatred, ill-will or hostility between religious groups." Just this year, a teenager was arrested for making derogatory, insulting remarks towards Christianity and was sentenced to rehabilitation.
The idea behind this is that everyone should be responsible for whatever he says; if he says something insulting towards religion, for example, he should be held accountable. I do not agree with this view as I think that views and ideas should not be censored or restricted simply because they are offensive. What matters most is its validity. For example, if one day someone writes an article saying that UFOs actually do not exist, UFO-believers would undoubtedly get offended as it goes against their views. But just because it's offensive doesn't mean that it's wrong. If it really is true that UFOs don't exist, then one should be able to assert the truth with regard to the existence of UFOs, whether or not that truth is offensive. That is why I think complete freedom of speech is necessary, and we cannot allow any view to be restricted or censored simply because that view is deemed offensive.
This is just a quick summary of all the points I hope to make in this debate. I look forward to Con's reply.
In order to clarify my stance. Let me just say I'm all for the restrictions that are currently on freedom speech being lessened. However, just allowing unpopular opinions isn't complete freedom speech. I'll explain more below.
1. Complete Freedom of Speech
While complete has multiple definitions and different meanings I will define it as Pro didn't.
Complete: Entire, full.
Now, if we were to institute complete freedom of speech, this would be a massive hindrance to our society. Complete freedom of speech would encase all forms of speech. With no laws to stop such free speech such as slander, perjury, and death threats all become legal. Courtrooms would become chaos with no laws stopping contempt of court and perjury. News stations could completely ruin other people's reputation, possibly even their social life if they were allowed to say anything they wanted about news stories with zero evidence. With this being the definition of complete free speech, it's hard not to see how the disadvantages would outweigh the advantages.
2. Complete Freedom of Expression
In the title of your debate, you are asserting that complete freedom of expression should be allowed. This as well causes problems. People would be allowed to express hate by spray painting their black neighbor's house with the message " GO BACK TO AFRICA N***** ." It's not complete freedom of expression if this isn't allowed. I could go on, but I think you understand the general idea of what I'm saying.
3. Conflicting Rights
Both the pursuit and free speech are basic human rights. However, complete freedom of speech would allow hate speech, which would limit another's ability to purse happiness fully. Why does free speech get to trump the rights of one to be happy?
I look forward to your next argument.
1. Complete freedom of speech
Unfortunately I think Con may have misinterpreted the issue, or perhaps we just have different definitions of "freedom of speech". Freedom of speech is generally defined as "the right to express one's opinions publicly without fear of censorship or punishment." What Con seems to have defined freedom of speech as is "The freedom to speak anywhere without restriction." Both these definitions are very different. Con gave the example of a courtroom; if people were to be given complete freedom of speech, contempt of court and perjury would constantly occur. This has nothing got to do with the idea of freedom of speech; there are laws restricting people from speaking in court to prevent chaos from erupting and interference to the court proceedings. This is not a matter of whether a person can or cannot express his ideas free from legal prosecution or censorship, which is what freedom of speech is about. Con also raised the example of news stations ruining other people's reputation. For this, I would appreciate it if Con could provide an example of an incident where this happened before and the implications. Without an example, I can't argue about it clearly because I don't know what exactly Con means by "ruining other people's reputation".
2. Complete freedom of expression
Con posits that complete freedom of expression would allow for hate speech, for example insulting African-Americans by calling them "Niggas". I honestly don't see anything wrong with being able to insult people. To me, what matters most is whether that insult is true or not. Let me provide you with a thought experiment to illustrate what I mean : Let's say there's a power-hungry, greedy dictator ruling over a country who bullies and steals from the people for himself. Now let's say somebody says, "This dictator is a stupid, greedy, selfish person who only cares about himself!". Now, this is obviously an insult towards the dictator, and by Con's standards, this should be censored or the person should be restricted form saying such things as it is "hate speech" and is meant to insult the dictator. But I think differently. I think the person should be allowed to make that statement simply because it is true. If it is indeed true that the dictator is selfish and greedy, then by all means express your view about him. But if the ruler of the country was not a dictator but a kind, loving king for example, then that person should not have made that statement. The bottom line is views and ideas should not be restricted simply because they are insulting, offensive or considered "hate speech". A view or idea should only be judged based on its validity.
Back to Con's case of someone insulting his African-American neighbour, if the "insulter" is unjustified or wrong, then I see no reason for there to be any problem. At most, his neighbour could just tell him that his insult is incorrect because it is untrue.
3. Conflicting Rights
As I have already pointed out in my previous paragraphs, hate speech does not limit another's ability to pursue happiness fully. If another individual's insult towards you is untrue, then I see no reason for you to feel insulted at all. If that insult is true, however, then you could say "you deserve it" and there is nothing wrong with someone insulting you.
But I think it is more important to look at the bigger picture here of happiness vs truth. Con appears to think that views that are insulting or offensive towards individuals or parties should be restricted or censored, because this would "limit another's ability to pursue happiness fully." This is where I'd like to go back to my example of Galileo that I mentioned in the previous round. Galileo's work on heliocentrism was considered offensive and insulting to Christians centuries ago because it went against their scripture. The Church felt that Galileo was insulting Christianity by showing the heliocentric properties of the planets and solar system. They restricted him from publishing his research and expressing his views on heliocentrism. Centuries later, we hail Galileo as a genius and one of the great forefather of modern science and astronomy. Many people, even the Church, admit that they were wrong to have restricted Galileo. According to Con's logic, Galileo's work should have been restricted and should still be restricted because it is offensive and insulting towards Christians which would affect their happiness. Once again, I think differently. As I have said many times, what matters most about a view or idea is its validity and truth. If it is indeed true that the Earth revolves around the Sun, then Galileo should be able to assert the truth on the topic, whether or not it offends anyone. As Con would have it, we should continue to be ignorant of scientific facts, such as the fact that the Earth revolves around the Sun, just to make some people happy. New ideas and discoveries are what push society forward. If we are to restrict these ideas and discoveries simply because we don't want to insult or offend anyone, then we cannot progress as a society and species.
I await Con's response.
GenericUser747 forfeited this round.
GenericUser747 forfeited this round.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Midnight1131 11 months ago
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Reasons for voting decision: FF, Con forfeited half of the debate, thus dropping all of Pro's arguments. They also never had a chance to defend their own arguments from Pro's rebuttals.
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