The Instigator
Pro (for)
4 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
0 Points

National Security ought to be valued above Freedom of the Press

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Post Voting Period
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after 1 vote the winner is...
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 9/16/2013 Category: Politics
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,495 times Debate No: 37788
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (3)
Votes (1)




My last debate that I tried with this topic didn't work out how I wanted it to (due to lack of a good opponent who offered more than a sentence of argumentation and ignored the rules.) Hopefully this will go much better. First round is for acceptance only.

Thank you to my opponent in advance for accepting.


I accept.
Debate Round No. 1


I thank my opponent for accepting and look forward to an fascinating round.

As the affirmative today I am upholding National Security over Freedom of the Press. Before I go any further though, I want to address something. When we hear National Security, we have a tendency to think of bad people in dark rooms with evil laughs making what we call national security decisions that are really just them planning their next big way to invade our privacy. Please, judge, remove that preconceived notion of what national security is, and any others that you might have. That's not reality, that's Hollywood. When we're talking about National Security, we're talking about the protection of lives. Let me go ahead and define a couple things first.

National Security: relates only to those activities which are directly concerned with the nation's safety (Cole v. Young,
Freedom of the Press: the right to publish news and opinions in the press without the government removing any of the information (
the Press: newspapers, magazines, and other businesses that communicate news to the public by print, television, or radio...(
Ought: moral obligation (

With that out of the way I'd like to clarify that we are discussing the Resolution within the context of Government, as they are the only ones capable of restricting the free press or making national security decisions.

My value or end goal in today's debate round is LIFE. My criterion, or the reason why Life is valuable is the NATURAL RIGHTS THEORY. I know my criterion sounds complex but it really isn't. All the Natural Rights Theory says is that by observing nature we can discern certain rights that belong fundamentally to every person. Furthermore, we can observe that life is the most foundational and most important of these rights, and I'll illustrate why this is with a simple example. If a criminal walked onto your property and pointed a gun at you, what would you be worried about more? The fact that he's infringing on your right to property, or the fact that you're about to get shot? Yes, he is infringing on your property, but the bigger problem is that he's pointing a gun at you, about to take away your life. Our natural tendency will be to save our lives first, then worry about our property later. Through this, it's clear that Life is what we naturally value highest. So let's move now to my three contentions.

We've already established that life is the most foundational right belonging to each person, and I think we can accept that individuals must uphold life. But do governments have this obligation too? Absolutely, Governments are morally obligated to uphold life. This obligation stems from two places.
Sub-point A: The Social Contract
Thomas Hobbes, one of the foremost Social Contract theorists said "The condition of man... is a condition of war of everyone against everyone. (" He then goes on to say "[before government men lived] "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short [lives]. (" The Social Contract was the solution to this problem. It outlined the commitments governments made to their citizens. It made clear that men gave up some of their liberties, like the ability to go as fast as they want in their cars, in order to have their lives protected. It follows then that a government is obligated to protect the lives of their citizens because of the contract between a government and the people.
Sub-point B: Natural Law
The Natural Rights Theory is a sort of subset of Natural Law. Natural Law states that we can discern moral obligations from nature itself. Because of the value of Life, Natural Law says that we have a responsibility to protect life to the best of our abilities. This responsibility applies to governments as well since they are moral agents.

These two sources of moral obligation clearly allow us to say that governments are morally obligated to uphold life. So how do they do this?

By definition National Security is concerned with the nations safety, and included in that is the safety of that nation's citizens. National Security then is the method used by governments to fulfill their obligations stemming from the Social Contract, and Natural Law. If we refuse to allow the Government to keep secrets in order to protect life, we take away the tool they use to fulfill the obligations they have. In order for this to be justified there must be a massive benefit that comes with restricting a government's ability to uphold life.

Freedom of the Press isn't a natural right, and it doesn't uphold a natural right. What it does do is keep a government accountable, hopefully. Now this is definitely a nice thing, but we have to place limits on it. We have to allow the government to fulfill the commitments we've given them, and sometimes this necessitates keeping secrets.

To sum it all up, National Security upholds a foundational natural right, whereas Freedom of the Press upholds an accountable government which, while nice, is by no means a natural right or more important than Life.

Therefore, I agree with the resolution and stand Resolved: National Security ought to be valued above Freedom of the Press. I urge you to do the same by voting Affirmative. Thank you.


We are debating the Issue of whether National Security Ought to be valued above Freedom of the Press. My opponent made his argument based on the definitions of National Security and the Freedom of the Press as stated in the sources he cited. Moral accountability is derived from Natural Rights Theory. Safeguarding the Natural Rights is the Government which derives this legitimization from the Social Contract Theory. According to this theory the condition of mankind is a condition of War and therefore people make concessions to the government in order to protect themselves and safeguard their Right to Life. Freedom of the Press is not considered as a Natural Right. Therefore Freedom of the Press is 'less' valuable. These are a lot of points to think about, I hope the length of the debate is adequate to address them all.

There are many routes to take in refuting what my opponent holds as a true statement. For this round I will try to show that Freedom of the Press (maybe Freedom of Information is a bit better) has an equal status in safeguarding fundamental rights as the legitimization of the Government to uphold them. I will try to work within the parameters of his argument, as much as I can, trying to show that it is a valid logical conclusion to consider that both Government and Freedom of the Press are equally important in safeguarding the Right to Life . I chose to follow this line of argumentation in this round because in his argument National Security is grounded upon the imperative to safeguard fundamental human rights, the most important of which is the Right to Life. Therefore I will try to deconstruct the argument from within showing that his combination of supporting theories and premises does not necessarily lead to the conclusion he is making.

First of all, I would like to make the following point, namely that Social Contract Theory is premised upon the assumption that the natural state of mankind is evil. I will comment that, the need to legitimize "Government" control was probably more important for Social Contract Theory than the need to examine human nature. It would suffice to question the status of Social Contract Theory to claim that the natural state of mankind is not necessarily evil. I will only point out that peaceful societies do exist and that Governments are not the only kind of social organization. For this round though I will accept that Governments operate as stated by my opponent.

I will start by addressing the fundamental "Right To Life". The "Right to Life" first and foremost has to be secured by eating, drinking, and so on. This is more important than the right to defend our lives simply because no human agent/ danger is necessary for to be a shortage of food or water. Therefore, it is primary to have a food source, but it is NOT NECESSARY to have a human threat in order to lose a food source. The Right to DEFEND life has to be applied only in face of DANGER to life from a person/people. It is not by accident that the definition of National Security involves areas such as economic security, monetary security, energy, environmental and political. Is the unemployed and the homeless worried about economic and monetary security? This is a rhetorical question leading to another path of argumentation. The point I am making is that, economic security problems, for example, are not part of Natural Law. Therefore they can not be perceived as primary threats, as compared to drought which is a natural threat. IF NATURAL RIGHTS ARE PRIMARY RIGHTS, THEN NATURAL THREATS ARE PRIMARY THREATS.

Need I point out that Governments do little to none when they are faced with the dilemma, "money or environment"? If governments were aware of their mission to defend primary human rights, then it would make sense that their actions would be more eco-friendly. I will further point out that the definition of National Security makes no mention of fundamental rights, which is telling that it is not premised upon them.

National Security, as defined, is quite different from the statement that it is used to Protect the Right to Life. The threat to LIFE can be a Natural Disaster, something which can be protected but not defended. Protection does not imply an opponent whereas defense does. In this sense it is more fundamental for National Security to protect rather than defend, simply because that, even without an opponent, there is still considerable NATURAL danger.

Now, let's say that people are starving and someone discovered a new source of food, enough for everyone. Wouldn't he be right to "Publish" such information? Of course. Would he need permission from the Government to publish this information? I don't think so because it is not necessary that the Government would be opposed to letting people know that a solution has been found. Would it be a matter of timing of the release of this information important in order to avoid panic? Maybe yes, maybe no. It is not conclusive that it would lead to reactions of panic. Governmental control is founded by predicating a natural 'badness' to human nature. I would rather argue that, although some people may react like crazy, most of them would be happy to know that a solution has been found and let the government deal with the distribution of food peacefully. Why? Simply because nations cover a huge geographical distance and most people can not get what they need without government intervention. Shouldn't they know that help is on the way? That they will live to see another day? We can even assume that the necessary food or energy source is on another planet (or it will be dispatched by another nation). How can that cause panic? How can we assume that keeping the public from knowing something like this is to its own protection?

(I obviously hate the predication that mankind is inherently evil but as I said I will not try to argue that here but only show that it does not need be so. In my opinion this premise is essential to establish oppressive governments)

Now let's assume that the basic assumption is correct and natural rights are fundamental. In such a scenario "Freedom of the Press" is important for "Natural Security" as it PROTECTS a NATURAL RIGHT JUST AS MUCH AS A GOVERNMENT DOES. The protection comes from publishing vital information necessary to secure the right to life.

My opponent used the argument of "a person with a gun coming to your property" to demonstrate the natural superiority of upholding the right to life. The same example, with a small twist, can be used if favor of the status "Freedom of the Press". The twist is that a newspaper warned people that a mad, dangerous person with a gun, was at large and also published a photo of the suspect. Someone called the police, the dangerous person was arrested, and the dangerous situation never took place. In this, and many other cases, Freedom of the Press is essential to the Protection of Natural Rights, as stated by my opponent.

Government is not, and can not be, the only source of information.

If the Government was the only reliable source of information, PRESS and GOVERNMENT would be ONE AND THE SAME THING regarding vital information sharing in relation to the protection of natural rights. We presume though that Press and Government are different, and rightly so. If the government controlled all kinds of information, that would be a recipe for a totalitarian regime (some might claim that we already live in interview of Noam Chomsky comes to my mind, but I will try to find the interview on YouTube if requested)

The final point I would like to make is that we are talking about democratically elected governments (I assume). Now I question the following. Is the Government the only institution available to safeguard fundamental rights? Would it be antagonistic to another institution that did exactly the same thing? This is a case for NGO's and voluntary organizations like "Doctors of the World". Sometimes governments face serious limitations for many reasons and that is where all these organizations step in to fill the gap. In saying this I don't question the authority of the Government but its effectiveness. Privatization can also be taken into consideration as a substitute of government control. It is logical to conclude that if other institutions are able to address vital issues, then authority over these issues is 'equal' (in a sense) to government authority. If authority can be equally distributed, doesn't this imply that authority over the right to inform can be also distributed? Doesn't this entail the conclusion that the right to be informed can be equally well practiced by others and not the Government? Don't the professionals know when they do their job well as opposed to amateurs? And in doing one's job well, doesn't he know the consequences of what he does? Therefore, isn't the Press in a better position to know what kind of information is permissible or not? (I assume yes)

The conclusion that my opponent reaches only applies to cases where the Freedom of the Press is antagonistic to National Security, but this is not stated explicitly in his argument. For example, the military has defense strategies on paper. If they were made public then they would give the enemy a definite advantage in case of war. That's why the military is extremely secretive. Now, if someone published such information, we would be right to say, that he has exposed vital national security information

I will end this round by restating what my main refutation point is. Freedom of the Press is EQUALLY important, not less, in safeguarding Natural Human Rights by providing necessary information to the public to protect the Right to Life.
Debate Round No. 2


I must say that I am very thankful for the wonderful arguments my opponent made. Already, this debate is far superior than the former one that I had on the subject, and for that I thank my opponent. Nevertheless, there are still problems with his arguments that I believe sufficient grounds for dismissing the Con side in this debate. I'll address his argument FOR con in a moment, after I address the arguments he brought against my case.

He begins by making that point that the Social Contract is just a form to justify, in essence, government tyranny. This is simply false. Although I cite Hobbes, other Social Contract theorists such as Locke and Rousseau were both concerned primarily with ensuring that a government was NOT tyrannical, especially Rousseau. This statement, then, is nothing more than pure opinion, and has no real bearing upon the debate round anyway.

He then in the next paragraph says something fascinating. He says "it is not by accident that the definition of National Security involves areas such as economic security, monetary security, energy, environmental and political." I have to ask the question, what definition of National Security is he getting this from? He was silent on the subject of my definitions, and therefore concedes to them. Under this logic he accepts my definition of National Security, which mentioned nothing but the protection of a nation's safety, and by extension, their citizens.

He then brings up a Natural Disaster, and at this point his arguments against my case and his arguments for his side collide.

He says that the threat to Life can be a Natural Disaster, and that this doesn't fall under my definition of National Security. This is simply not true. My definition of National Security is concerned with the safety of the nations citizens. A Natural Disaster would absolutely compromise the citizen's safety and therefore falls under the definition of National Security provided.

And now we get to his argument, which he states most clearly at the end. He claims that National Security and Freedom of the Press should be valued equally. I must ask, by what standard? I absolutely without question support the idea that Freedom of the Press is important, I even say so in my case. What I do uphold though, is that when in conflict, National Security should be valued above the Freedom of the Press. My opponent gives several examples in which the Press could assist the protection of people's foundational Natural Rights. Although this is by no means the press's primary motivation, and the press only does this by a long chain of events (usually involving the Government stepping in to help, alongside NGO's) this is in some sense true. However, I could show my opponent equal examples of where only National Security can protect the citizens.

The point is that we can go on endlessly listing pros and cons for each side. We both recognize that both have pros and both have cons. But, here's the problem. If my opponent wants to prove that both sides should be valued equally, he must do a survey of all of human history and show why EXACTLY 50% of the time National Security should be valued highest, and EXACTLY 50% of the time Freedom of the Press should be valued highest. And, my opponent hasn't done this in the slightest! If he does not do this, he can't prove that they should be valued equally! He can only prove that he THINKS they should be valued equally.

Furthermore, I'd like to point out my definition of ought. I defined ought as morally obligated. My opponent didn't even mention this definition, therefore conceding it. However, my opponent has failed to prove why governments are morally obligated to value both sides equally, and therefore has failed the burden the topic set for him. He has failed to do this because he has failed to provide a source (such as Natural Law or the Social Contract) for this governmental obligation. Therefore, he can't state a moral obligation, because he has no valid obligator who can impose this obligation! So, even if my opponent could prove that both should be valued equally, he hasn't proven the topic false, because he hasn't proven a moral obligation.

In conclusion, I stand by my statement that Freedom of the Press doesn't uphold foundational natural rights. It does hold a government accountable, which by extension could uphold Natural Rights. However, by that point it is no longer the Press upholding the rights, but the Government.

So, at the end of this rebuttal, I still stand firm in my belief that National Security ought to be valued above the Freedom of the Press. I believe this because of the impossibility of the task that my opponent has set for himself in his argument, as well as failed to prove a moral obligation, which the topic demands. Also, because I believe that my opponent has failed to firmly and adequately refute my points.

Once again I sincerely thank my opponent for this fantastic debate that is in process. I look forward to his responses, and urge a vote for Pro.


Although I hate technicalities, in this round I would like to proceed with a technical refutation of his argument, which it has been hinted upon, but not properly addressed in the previous round. I will try to make precise and concise statements in order to leave myself room to discuss the points that he raised in this round.

The technical refutation goes as follows and has two aspects: The first aspect of the refutation is that a definition of National Security has been provided by my opponent in the second round as follows: "National Security: relates ONLY (my capital letters) to those activities which are directly concerned with the nation's safety (Cole v. Young," (round 2)

My opponent chose to use the Cole v. Young in order to ground his definition, which refers to the dismissal of federal employees! ( The dismissal of an employee has nothing to do with Freedom of the Press. To my defense comes the directly relevant case of NY Times vs the United States and the ruling of the Court (which "judged whether the 1st Amendment freedom of the press was absolute or if it could be abridged in favor of national security".) (note: I am from Greece, but I am using the 1st Amendment as I believe the case is made is the context of US Laws)

Even if he chose the first paragraph of the definition in the source that he cited (which I accept as a source) it still wouldn't be sufficient for him to warrant the initial claim. My refutation of the extended definition has to do with morality and the "ought to " morally connecting conjunction. Here's the problem with the extended definition... it goes without saying that the definition must hold true for the entire scope of the definition. Since the term "National Security" was employed in the construction of his premise, UNQUALIFIED and therefore in its totality, if I can show that an aspect of the definition fails to surpass in importance the Freedom of the Press, then I am justified in considering the definition refuted.

1st argument ( with moral obligation considered)
Freedom of the Press must hold true for every nation and every government. It is a fact that more than two nations and governments exist. Now, let's suppose that the Press of a Foreign Nation is free and it provides another (our) government with important information for its National Security. Unless we have a Double Standard for Morality, then we will come up with the paradoxical conclusion that we have to consider as morally inferior something that offers an advantage to our National Security! If anything, in this context, Freedom of the Press is NOT LESS IMPORTANT. Our Moral Obligation would apply for OUR NATION, but NOT TO OTHER NATIONS. I would like to ask my opponent WHERE does he make the claim in his argument that National Morality has DOUBLE STANDARDS. Nowhere!

Unfortunately I logged in a bit late to further continue with my argument...I am sorry about that!
Debate Round No. 3


Well, as this is my last speech I'd like to begin by thanking my opponent sincerely for a fantastic debate. I've enjoyed it thoroughly, and hope that the feeling is mutual. With that said I'd like to address a couple things before the debate is over.

First, I'd like to point out how many arguments my opponent failed to respond to in his last post. Although I understand that he didn't have time, the fact remains that many of the point I made in Round 3 remain unchallenged. Now, since I will not be able to respond, I ask the voters to consider all the arguments not refuted by Con to be won by Pro.

With that said, let's move to the arguments my opponent did bring up.

His first point was a technical refutation of my case. He claims (rightly) that I didn't define National Security in relation to the Freedom of the Press. I completely agree, but he appears to think this invalidates the definition itself! This is demonstrably false. At the point in my case where I defined the terms, I was not yet constructing an argument for the Pro side. I had stated that National Security was the protection of lives, but not that it was better than freedom of the press yet. My goal there was to provide definitions that both the Pro and the Con could use.

If my opponent thinks that I have to define national security in relation to the freedom of the press he needs to prove that 100% true. He has failed to do this.

Now he next brought up New York Times Co. v United States. Apparently, he believes that this case defines both National Security and a Free Press. However, he hasn't provided a concrete counter-definitions to my current definitions. Therefore, my definitions are the only ones presented in the round.

However, I am glad my opponent brought up NY Times v US. The ruling in this made an interesting point. Although it DID rule in favor the press, it also made it clear that the freedom of the press could be abridged in scenarios like troop positions, etc.

This case actually supports my side, then!

His only other point as about the double standard of morality he claimed I set up. This simply isn't true.

See, under my definition of National Security (which has a valid source and is the only official definition provided in the round and therefore must be accepted) the safety of the Nation's citizens is part of it. So, to answer his argument, it depends on if national security even exists for the nation giving us the information. Let me explain.

We know human rights abuses are going on in North Korea. We know that the people there are not safe. If their press leaked information to us that helped us, they would not be valuing the free press over national security, because there is no national security in the country at all!

Take England, though. In England there are no known human rights abuses going on by the government. So, if their press leaked information that helped us, it would be wrong for them to do so because they would be valuing Freedom of the Press over National Security.

My opponent claims that the conclusion that I come to in the England example is paradoxical. I fail to see how. Being consistent isn't being paradoxical. Consistency, doesn't equal contradictory.

So, in conclusion, my opponent has failed to successfully refute my arguments. His argument against my definitions fails because he is importing arbitrary requirements without proving their worth. His argument from a Double Standard of Morality assumes that that being consistent equates to being paradoxical or contradictory, which he hasn't proven. Furthermore, just including an argument about morality doesn't mean you have fulfilled the burden of the Resolution. He has still failed in his burden to prove that governments are morally obligated to value National Security and Freedom of the Press equally.

Therefore, my opponent has failed to prove the resolution false, has failed to provide a counter-case to my own that withstands any sort of scrutiny, has failed to respond to the majority of arguments presented in the rounds, and hasn't proven the majority of his claims that he HAS made true.

With all of that considered, I still stand Resolved, that National Security ought to be valued above the Freedom of the Press. I thank my opponent once again for a fantastic debate, and urge a vote for Pro.


papadoi1 forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4
3 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Posted by Chrysippus 5 years ago
As Con never accepts Pro's definition of National Security, and instead offers his own, rather more inclusive definition through his R2 arguments, Pro has no grounds to dismiss Con's definition in R3 and following. Con should have stated his definition more explicitly, but as it was the whole crux of his R2 arguments, one can hardly miss it.

R4 is one sided due to forfeit, and Pro has his opportunity to restate his case. Con has dropped all of Pro's arguments by not showing up for R4 and only posting half of R3, so Pro is correct here in claiming the victory by forfeit.

Conduct and arguments to Pro; this could easily have gone the other way had Con completed the debate.
SP/G tied, no complaints. Fairly well formatted, and cleanly written. Sources tied.

I find the constant admonitions to "vote Pro!" annoying and unnecessary. Claiming victory at the end of each round is excessive; limit yourself to the end of the debate, where you can demonstrate how thoroughly you've beaten your opponent's arguments with a finely-crafted summary. Claiming victory any earlier just looks like arrogance.

Pro, make sure to establish any foundational concepts you are going to use. The social contract, for example, has not been a widely accepted theory of government since the middle of the 19th century; Hobbes and Rosseau are not foundational to modern theories of government, and in fact, are in many ways antithetical to the modern concept of rights. If you are going to lean on them, you will have to re-establish the validity of their beliefs; it is not sufficient to say "the Social Contract implies xyz," we also need to know why we should accept the concept of a non-voluntary contractual association between the governed and the ruler. Hobbes was able to rely as a given on the broken, violent nature of mankind and the need for a Monarch to restrain that nature; you do not have that luxury.
Posted by Chrysippus 5 years ago
This debate deserves an in-depth vote, because both sides put a good effort forward; this is a cut above the majority of recent debates on this site, even as truncated as it is.

I read the whole thing through carefully, and I believe that, had Con been able to post his full R3 & R4 arguments, he would probably have won this. His arguments are carefully constructed and thorough, and he makes fewer leaps of logic than Pro does. The round and a half that he forfeited prevents me from awarding him the Arguments points, because he does drop all of Pro's arguments; but the arguments he made are stronger than his opponent's counterparts.

Pro asks us to accept a great many things without giving adequate justification; government's responsibility to uphold life, the validity of the Social Contract, or of Natural Law are three major points that he introduces without much support. Con failed to adequately challenge him on these, but did rightly call him on his statement that freedom of the press was not a basic right. Con equates freedom of the press to freedom of information and shows how it can be vital to preserving life. Pro lacks an adequate defense against this, and instead makes a absurd demand for Pro to prove - across all of human history! - that freedom of the press supersedes national security in exactly 50% of cases; a demand both unjustified, abusive, and impossible, not to mention uncalled for by anything in Con's arguments, which are limited to showing freedom of information being at least as important as national security, if not synonymous.

Con's major argument was that the right to life, and the security of the nation, was primarily concerned with securing the basic necessities of life, and only secondarily to violent threats. His functional definition was challenged by Pro, and what little remains of the debate devolves into wrangling over the definition of National Security. RFD continues in next comment.
Posted by Chrysippus 5 years ago
All that work, and no-one has even commented?

How sad.

Looks like a well-fought debate; pity about the final forfeit.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Chrysippus 5 years ago
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Total points awarded:40 
Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comments.