Bonsant 1 Corey Bonsant Mrs.

Field LNG 406 22 March 2011 The Strength of Liberty in Free Speech and Expression The freedom to use communication and expression is the subject here. Even those who are not privileged enough to own this unalienable right know what it means, for they are constantly reminded they that do not have it. The Dictionary.com reference center defines freedom of speech as “the right to express information, ideas, and opinions free of government restrictions”. The meaning of free speech has also come to encompass the freedom of expression or any form of communication. It is the freedom to post on blogs, the freedom to express dissent or agreement, the freedom to affiliate yourself with any idea or philosophy. The freedom of speech is the right to a voice. This freedom is rarely taken for granted because we feel it must constantly be protected, whether it is from foreign enemies or from those influential corporate and governmental influences within our nation. An example of the latter, President John Adams signed the Sedition Acts into law which prohibited government criticism only seven years after the ratification of the Bill of Rights. It was only after Jefferson took office that this law was revoked and its victims’ pardoned. Though it is very real, the freedom of speech isn’t just there. It is not a permanent irrevocable possession, like the freedom of thought. It is the freedom to express those thoughts that may be curtailed. It is a right, but unfortunately not a guarantee. As such, it is like life and

Bonsant 2 liberty, and the right to pursue happiness. These are all rights, and they may all be taken away. Though we may all be free to live and pursue happiness, it is our voice that makes us unique. It is the freedom of speech that allows for disagreements too. Everyone must be allowed this right within a governed body for this freedom to function. Otherwise, it is a mere concept with no strength or value. Noam Chomsky, linguist, philosopher, and political activist famously said, “If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all”. Free speech can only prosper when its adherents truly believe in the ideal, and it is such a thing we can only believe in it if we value the right of others to have this right as well. I have heard many people say they wish Muslims weren’t allowed to wear turbans because “they can easily be used to hide bombs”. Ironically, these freedom-loving Americans want the same things the dictator wants: to deny another’s freedom, to have ‘control’ over that domain of expression. The meaning of free speech is only what we make it. It has two parts, the idea and the collective body. The collective body must preserve the idea; keep it ideal and away from the path to annihilation. Free speech is an ideal. It is not entirely possible, for to have free speech is to be free from authority in that domain. In our society, when one abuses their right to free speech to verbally harass a fellow citizen, they are disciplined. The victim of the abuse has had their rights trodden on, and the abuser has been punished for practicing his ‘free speech’. The justification is that concessions must be made in free speech to preserve our overall freedoms in particular circumstances, and some might argue that it loses its definitive meaning because of this. If it were implied that free speech does not belong to us because of this enforcement however, I

Bonsant 3 would disagree. The right to a voice is not the same as the right to take someone else’s. We must remember that free speech is dependent on a sort of mutual respect. It is the right to be your own person. In the coming decades there are sure to be matters that concern this right, as there are today. Matters concerning our freedoms today include hate laws, security, and many other types of legislation backed by state or federal authority. On the question of freedom and security, Benjamin Franklin said, “Those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither” in his proposition at the Pennsylvania Assembly in 1775. This must hold true for any realm of freedom we are privileged enough to enjoy, including speech. The irony of free speech is that the ideal must allow for others to express that it should not exist. When deciding on any legislation that may directly or indirectly impact our freedom of speech, the true value and definition of this idea must be kept in mind to preserve the reality.