How Free is Freedom of Speech?

Sofia Pugliano '21, Staff Writer

 

Lately, there have been many discussions about Freedom of Speech. The ability to openly vocalize our opinions on political issues is a privilege that not all societies have. However, many Americans disagree on what Freedom of Speech truly means.

 

What is Freedom of Speech?

Freedom of Speech is the right to express any opinions without censorship or restraint by the government. In the First Amendment in the U.S. Constitution, it states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

 

What is the appropriate way to practice Freedom of Speech?

Many people believe that Freedom of Speech is the freedom to simply express any and all opinions without anyone arguing against them and without the threat of facing repercussions, but this is not the case. Freedom of Speech is the right to express any opinions without censorship or restraint by the government, not the freedom to blackmail others, commit perjury, or speak about a particular people group in a discriminatory way. “Free Speech” that is degrading to a certain group of people because of characteristics like race or ability is not what the First Amendment was created for.

 

How can Freedom of Speech cause real change?

Understanding the true definition Freedom of Speech is equally as important as knowing why it is so important. One of the main reasons why this American right is influential is because it enables people to share and gain knowledge about a political situation, such as human rights violations against a certain group of people. By educating others about injustice using their Freedom of Speech, normal citizens can motivate others to rise up against discrimination. Freedom of Speech allows movements and revolutions to begin, which encourages those in power and ordinary people to create positive change in their world. Some examples of Freedom of Speech in action are movements such as Black Lives Matter and Times’s Up. The people behind these movements express their opinions about the systematic inequalities in our country, and the government cannot censor or constrain their right to speak freely. This right is essential to a democratic society because it allows the voiceless to express their opinions and passions, often sparking progress toward social justice.