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RFD for US vs. European Free Speech

Hayd
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3/26/2016 6:48:40 PM
Posted: 8 months ago
The debate
http://www.debate.org...

Housekeeping
I"m honored to be nominated as a judge in this debate. I respect both bsh1 and airmax as people and as debaters. My decision is purely objective and is not personal in any way, shape, or form. My personal belief on the topic is neutral since I didn"t even know there were different approaches to free speech prior to being nominated to vote on this. As a result, I have no background or personal bias at all on the topic, which is pretty cool. I look forward to learning about it.

R1 set-up is pretty good. The resolution is normative; thus by default each side as equal burdens. Pro has to convince me that the US approach to free speech is more desirable than the EU approach to free speech in spite of Con"s reasons against it, and Con has to convince me that the EU approach to free speech is more desirable than the US approach to free speech in spite of Pro"s reasons against it. My decision comes out of which side ends up with more impact (because "On balance"").

As accepted by both debaters: the side that wins the debate is the side that balances free speech the best among the pantheon of other rights and social goods (to paraphrase from R2). Pro"s side situates free speech over other rights, that it should be top in a hierarchical structure. Con"s side situates free speech among the other rights, equal in importance; all balanced together. Both debaters raise benefits that their sides poses, and negatives of the other side poses.

My RFD goes over both cases; starting with one individual and independent argument, and then outlining the entire clash over that point, the result, and then the next independent argument of the case. I do these for both cases, and then in the conclusion list the impacts both sides have and explain why one side outweighs the other. When I cite a quote from the debate ("quote"), that is to show where the debater made that argument, and that they did.

Btw, nothing personal, but every time Con mentioned shucking the god forsaken oysters I wanted to shuck my eyes so I would never have to read that again; yet Con insisted on mentioning every...single"round. Jesus christ...

Pro"s Case
Pro"s case comes down to: any example Con can give that free speech should be restricted is not worth it ("there is nothing worth silencing free speech for"). Yet, in order for this argument to work, Pro has to give examples of a proposed reason for restricting free speech. Which is hard for Pro since he is going first. This almost works as a defensive argument since Pro"s logic is as follows:
1) X is reason for restricting free speech
2) The consequences of X outweigh any problems is may fix
3) Thus X reason is not worth it.

In order to show that the consequences outweigh the problem it fixes, we need to know what X is. Yet what X is entirely depends on Pro"s case, so this argument doesn"t really work. Pro could propose a common example that Con will probably bring up (e.g. hate speech), but he"s just speculating. So the impact of this argument entirely rests on Con"s case. Con ends up bringing up privacy and due process rights, but fails to tie it to free speech, and how giving free speech supremacy over them restricts them whatsoever. Pro proposes hate speech as an example in R2, which Con accepts, and the clash there is discussed in Con"s case because Pro introduces it as a rebuttal to Con"s case.

Pro brings up an independent point. Pro proposes that the speech that is to be restricted is that which is most beneficial to society. Thus, in restricting this benefit to society, we harm society ("speech perceived to be the most dangerous, is often speech that is the most necessary, and restricting that speech is therefore inherently and directly damaging to that society"). Con drops this argument.

In Pro"s conclusion, he brings up another independent point, which is confusing since a conclusion is what should have already been said, but, whatever. Pro brings up that you cannot separate one freedom from the rest without restricting all freedoms. ("It is impossible to separate an ideal democracy, with the greatest allowance of speech possible, and any restrictions on freedom of speech, restrict freedom, liberty, justice, and democracy at every point of restriction.") Thus, restricting free speech results in the restriction of other important rights. Yet this argument is unwarranted, why is this so? What's an example? I am not given any reason to believe Pro on this, thus I cannot give it impact.

Con"s Case
(Note: I lumped Con"s E. & B. contentions together since E. built on B., thus they weren"t individual arguments, and thus not independently grouped in my RFD in order to achieve clarity).

In general, Con"s case comes down to the European version respecting free speech whilst giving other rights value, leading to better protection of rights in general. This is because giving free speech so much value ends up giving other rights less value.

Con argues that in the US system, the absolute language makes it hard for judges to balance free speech among other important rights. Con stresses the importance of the other rights that need to be balanced with free speech: due process, property, and privacy in point E, suggesting that these rights are being restricted by the hindrance of balancing rights. That in the European version, it's "easier" for judges. Yet this impact isn"t really expanded very far, almost any point Pro can come up with outweighs making a judge"s work day easier. Con"s "legal methodology" is the same concept, the impact is largely superficial. Going through "red-tape" and easier to strike a balance are insignificant impacts. The other 2 points Con brings up are "teaching the importance of balancing rights within the legal justice system," which doesn"t make sense because it is never explained. Who is being taught the importance of balancing rights? The citizens? The judges? Besides, Con still needs to establish that rights should be balanced against each other at all, as this is the center of the debate. This would be like saying, "the benefits of legalizing abortions would be that more people would have abortions." It's circular reasoning (X is good because X is good), and thus has no impact. Con"s other point ("it impacts thinking beyond rulings") does not have any meaning. What does this result in? And why is "tackling the question of whether the values and interests trade-offs of X are worth it rather than simply asking, does X pass test Y" better? This is not explained, merely asserted. Thus I am given no reason to believe Con. This also ties into the earlier circular reasoning, as Pro is again arguing that "does X pass test Y" is preferable. Thus just stating Con"s stance cannot be considered an argument.

Pro responds by questioning what rights are really being lost by having unlimited speech? And this is a very impactful objection, for Con did not provide any examples, or explain at all how these other rights are repressed. Pro also shows that the absolutist language prevents discrimination from occurring because in the European version, since judges are allowed to decide free speech, they are able to twist the idea of hate speech to achieve social and political aims (e.g. offending Christianity).

Con responds to this by discrediting each of Pro"s examples of hate speech being twisted to achieve social and political aims. He strikes down all but one by showing that the cases are irrelevant because they were either dismissed from the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), ruled based not on hate speech but violation of other laws, or never even went to the (ECtHR). All that stands is the last example (the Holocaust deniers), which Con argues is a minority group of people, thus has a minor impact. Yet dropping this one example proves Pro"s point true, that the European courts are capable
Hayd
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3/26/2016 6:48:53 PM
Posted: 8 months ago
aims (e.g. offending Christianity).

Con responds to this by discrediting each of Pro"s examples of hate speech being twisted to achieve social and political aims. He strikes down all but one by showing that the cases are irrelevant because they were either dismissed from the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), ruled based not on hate speech but violation of other laws, or never even went to the (ECtHR). All that stands is the last example (the Holocaust deniers), which Con argues is a minority group of people, thus has a minor impact. Yet dropping this one example proves Pro"s point true, that the European courts are capable of achieving social and political aims by twisting hate speech. It has happened, and can happen. Con also argues that this hate speech prevents conflict; for example Bosnia, which has a lot of ethnic violence. Restricting hate speech reduces and prevents ethnic violence. Pro responds to the ethnic violence by explaining that if I say something that makes someone go on a murderous rampage, the problem is with the individual going on the murderous rampage, not me (viz., the problem is not with free speech, but with Bosnian civilians). Pro defends the court examples by explaining that unpopular speech is discouraged. Pro brings up another example to prove this; case of politician Geert Wilders being banned from UK because of unpopular speech towards Muslims. Con claims that this is a new argument, but it's not. In R2 Pro writes,

"What value can come without restrictions on being able to say what one wants without the fear of legal consequences? Well, a lot, and modern social progress proves this to be true."

And then in Pro"s evidence introduced shortly after,

"legislation has ensnared speech it was likely never meant to punish."

Con claims that unpopular speech will always be discouraged socially, so legal discouragement has no weight. Yet it is an extra discouragement atop social, as well as social pressures being irrelevant to the resolution. Con"s second objection is confusing, and concedes the point, saying that what unpopular speech is not legally tolerated is clearer in the European version. But the point of the argument was that unpopular speech is not tolerated in Europe at all, so saying that Europe being clear in what they don"t tolerate concedes the argument. Con then brings up that hassle isn"t an issue because many groups in Europe spout unpopular views. Yet this is a new argument, one Pro can"t respond to, thus thrown out. Thus, Pro proves that free speech is discouraged in the European version.

Con then brings up the Press Freedoms Index to show that Europe is more "free" than the US. This is an appeal to authority, and Con gives no reason to buy the credibility of his source, or explain why his source is right. How did his source come to find it more "free"? This would make a better argument than just asserting it so. Even if Con wouldn"t have done this, he has to give me some reason to give his source; given that his source directly proves his entire side right. When it is this paramount of a stance, it must be given some kind of reasoning. Thus this has no impact.

Conclusion
Pro did not have much of a case, it consisted of a defensive argument, and two small points, one of which was unwarranted. The majority of clash ended up on Con"s side of the debate, wherein Con failed to refute the fact that the European version discourages free speech on unpopular viewpoints. Con proposes privacy and due process rights as important, yet fails to tie them to free speech. The impact of this argument would be that these important rights are repressed to make way for the supremacy of free speech. Yet Con fails to give one example of this being true, thus this is irrelevant.

On Pro"s side, I have that speech that Europe restricts is that which society most needs to hear, and that the European version discourages free speech on unpopular views (which actually goes to further warrant the first point), and on Con"s side I have nothing. The methodology points were negated, as was Bosnia, the due process and privacy, and balancing of rights. Thus, Pro"s case outweighs Con"s, Pro wins.