Is Censorship Needed?
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Freedom of speech has always been in the news headlines as a major controversial issue. The debate on whether or not speech should be censored is the huge question that is currently being discussed. There are two sides to this argument; those who believe that people should have limitless rights to freedom of speech, and then there’s the other side of the argument where people strongly believe in limiting people’s rights to speech. It is with great difficulty that our society actually comes to a conclusion. In addition, each side has persuasive and factual points that support their argument. Discovering the argument that would have the most beneficial and lasting outcome would, in all, validate that author’s initial claim. All throughout history, a majority of problems trace back to one notorious instigator: personal expression without limits. It is evident that when people are free to exercise their rights to expression, a majority of the situations escalade into a much bigger affair. Moreover, a repetition of such events will likely lead to an imbalance in society. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution prohibits the creation of any laws that abridge the freedom of speech. However, many people do not recognize the prevailing power of the Congress and its authority to enforce or limit laws, without its actual presence in the Constitution.
Just because people are given the right to freedom of speech, does not mean citizens can say whatever, wherever they want. The problem lies within the confusion, which is amongst us all. I personally argue that there must be limitations set to keep us from experiencing social chaos. When free speech has limits, it acts as a security blanket, protecting us personally from morally unjust words and the resulting actions. Steven Heyman makes a central argument in his article, Free Speech Has Limits, which supports my views on limiting speech and states that regulation is a beneficial factor. In Oliver Kamm’s article Free Speech Should Not Be Regulated, Kamm, in essence, describes censoring free speech as social interference. He argues that protecting free speech is very important and when humans are able to speak their minds, it stimulates debate. The author writes, “Free speech does indeed cause hurt—but there is nothing wrong in this” (Kamm, 84). What Oliver Kamm means by this is free speech is often and most likely causing undisputable tension-it is inevitable. Publication is very limited in the things it can post. Although a publication company’s job is to inform the public and write about the latest new, they are limited to information that is socially acceptable.
Simon Jenkins from a story in the Sunday Times explains that the boundaries between free speech and respect are slowly but surely becoming transparent. These two topics are almost impossible to keep separated, especially when it comes to today’s publications (Kamm, 82). Oliver Kamm writes about the countless debates of nation and world speech regulation and what it is essentially doing to our society. Culture is a huge issue when it comes to the regulation of speech. In 2006 a Muslim organization claimed that a Danish cartoon defamed their prophet Mohammed by publishing this specific cartoon. One year later, the Muslim organization took the magazine Charlie Hebdo and its director to court (Kamm, 82). Although the court ruled in favor of the magazine, this controversy was like many other controversies that take place world-wide. Oliver Kamm argues that in the discussion of regulating the right of freedom of speech, there is a restraining factor. He writes, “This is the missing element in debate over the scope and regulation of speech.
The notion that free speech, while important, needs to be held in balance with the avoidance of offence question-begging, because it assumes that offence is something to be avoided” (Kamm, 84). Kamm brings up the discussion whether offence is to be avoided or not. Early as I quoted, Kamm does not believe that there is any harm in stating your piece, even when it does create hurt. Steven Heyman’s views on speech are the exact opposites of Oliver Kamm’s. He argues that there must be regulations and limits put in place when regarding the act of free speech. Heyman states, “…the regulation of free speech is needed to defend individual privacy, security, and reputation” (Heyman, 82). In other words, Steven Heyman believes that regulations of speech are put in place to personally protect each and every one of us and that free speech can potentially cause more harm than benefit. However, the problem does not just steam from these forms of speech. “Moreover, the problem is not confined to those forms of speech but extends to First Amendment jurisprudence as a whole. Contemporary disputes often involve conflicts between free expression and other values.
Yet we have no coherent framework that would allow us to determine when speech should receive constitutional protection and when it should be subject to regulation. As a result, controversies over freedom of speech often appear to be irresolvable” (Heyman, 82). The way people interpret the meaning of the First Amendment causes this present controversy pertaining to free speech. The rights-based theory is the best solution to the problem of regulating speech, in the eyes of Heyman. This theory contains a framework that is mainly constructed on the idea of a principled view of the first amendment when discussing freedom of speech. Steven Heyman argues that the rights-based theory is supported by solid support found in the American Constitution, this idea is familiar with our current political culture, plays a lead role in American law, and provides legitimate points that could possibly solve this prolonged debate. Heyman writes, “Some forms of expression—such as incitement, threats, and fighting words—should be denied constitutional protection because they infringe the fundamental right to personal security or freedom from violence. I argue that the state should also be allowed to protect the right to privacy against unreasonable intrusion or exposure” (Heyman, 84).
The rights-based theory follows Heymans beliefs on free speech and supports his argument of having the states enforce these laws. To set fourth these laws would hold people responsible for their actions on the exact grounds they live on. Just like the majority of laws and amendments located in the United States Constitution, the amendment stating that citizens have the right to freedom of speech also has ‘invisible’ limits. Although these limits are not stated word for word in the constitution, it is an implied concept, and it is the same for many other laws we have today. The riddance of all limitations on free speech is a timely and foolish process. The way our society functions today shows the main reason for regulating speech. Although Oliver Kamm argues that limiting ones speech dispels conversation, as a society we need speech regulation to protect oneself from discerning unwanted expressions. Oliver Kamm makes his case by stating that regulating people’s speech is intentionally removing discussion, especially when it pertains to our news/publication structure.
“The author alleges that speech at its most extreme draws attention to social problems and stimulates debate, and moderating speech undermines this process” (Kamm, 82). Kamm does not realize that removing limits, in turn will essentially create chaos between the masses. Our countries history is a perfect example of why removing limitations or regulations do not turn out to work in our favor. In fact it does the complete opposite. Implementing Oliver Kamm’s key argument structure into our society would be the same as intentional destruction. Specified by Heyman in his article, the interpretation of the First Amendment is a difficult challenge to fix. However, setting specific limits to speech and implementing the rights—based theory helps clear up this confusion. As stated earlier, the ruling structure of our country has inferred power over the constitution and can, at any given point, limit these rights. “First, freedom of speech is an inherent right that belongs to individuals both as human beings and as citizens in a democratic society.
Second, like all rights, free speech may be regulated to protect the rights of others” (Heyman, 85). Restricting people’s powers of speech is keeping the countries best interest in mind. As stated in my initial argument, Steven Heyman’s main argument protects people’s natural rights as well as themselves from harm caused by vicious and unneeded speech. Heyman writes “…free speech generally should be considered a fundamental right. At the same time, that right is bounded by the rights of other individuals and the community. More specifically, an act of expression should be regarded as presumptively wrongful and subject to legal regulation when it (1) causes or is otherwise responsible for (2) an infringement of a fundamental right belonging to another, and (3) the actor has a level of fault that should make her responsible for that result” (Heyman, 85). These objectives depict the boundaries for which speech should not overstep and honestly, who could disagree? Countries enact laws and Constitutional practices in hope to diminish these exact results, which would take place without any speech regulations. Heymans argument states reasonable aspects that could have the potential of resolving the dispute over speech regulation.
Heyman, Steven J. “Free Speech Has Limits.” Free Speech and Human Dignity. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2008. Rpt. in Civil Liberties. Ed. Auriana Ojeda. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2004. Opposing Viewpoints. Opposing Viewpoints In Context. Web. 24 Feb. 2013. Kamm, Oliver. “Free Speech Should Not Be Regulated.” Civil Liberties. Ed. Auriana Ojeda. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2004. Opposing Viewpoints. Rpt. from “The Tyranny of Moderation.” Index on Censorship (Feb. 2007): 82-86. Gale Opposing
Viewpoints In Context. Web. 6 Feb. 2013.