Home
I wonder if the right to freedom of speech is becoming functionally obsolete. If you break it into its parts and examine it, there isn't much to it anymore.

For example, as I have blogged before, if you criticize your government in any public way, it's bad for your business because all of the people who hold opposing viewpoints will prefer to take their money and job offers elsewhere. In most cases the threat of economic loss controls individuals from piping up too often. Every now and then you get a Joe the Plumber who can make some money off of speaking up, but it's rare.

There are plenty of professional pundits who will happily take sides on TV, radio, blogs, in newspapers, and in books. But most consumers of such opinions are true believers of one side or the other. Freedom of speech is somewhat useless if all it does is reinforce your existing viewpoints. And if all the media serves to do is give you a steady stream of biased information, it's functionally useless.

Assuming my enlightened readers are intellectual mavericks who sample the opinions from all sides, the Internet is making freedom of speech obsolete for you. And by that I mean there is no point in having a right allowing something that can't be stopped. It would be like banning gravity. For the true seeker of knowledge, the Internet allows one to find all variety of opinions, ranging from wisdom to fabrication. The law couldn't stop it if it tried.

Some countries censor their media and try to censor their Internet. I have to assume censoring the Internet can't work in the long run. There will be too many workarounds and too many criminals to prosecute. Those countries will learn that it is easier to control the information at the source than to control the media. As long as there are pundits willing to get paid for spreading the government's agenda there will be enough public doubt to keep revolution from happening. America leads by example in that department. (I can say that without repercussion because it isn't party-specific.)

Freedom of speech goes beyond criticizing the government. It also includes censorship of art deemed obscene. But in time the Internet will make that a meaningless right. Everyone will have instant access to any art or images they want.

This leaves us with the right to burn a flag or the right for special interest groups to donate money for campaigns. In 500 years no one but historians will remember that those rights sprang from the by-then-obsolete notion of freedom of speech.
 
Rank Up Rank Down Votes:  +5
  • Print
  • Share

Comments

Sort By:
Apr 17, 2009
Scott... I believe that you should immediately be arrested and thrown into jail and then put in front of a firing squad for uttering such sedition claptrap.

What did you say? He's allowed to say such things? It's protected by the US Constitution? Who says?!?!?! Well, I bet we could get something done about this if we were in Venezuela or China or someplace safe like those places!
 
 
Apr 17, 2009
In order to be truly exercising your right to 'freedom of speech' wouldn't you first need to have free will?
 
 
Apr 17, 2009
The government is trying to squash free speech, especially if you are on the opposing side. There were tea-party demonstrations the other day. According to the media, it was a relatively small turn-out of normal working people carrying signs. It was made out to be a minor event. That’s a legitimate method of taking the steam out of something. However, the reports from homeland security stated the people attending were more than likely racist extreme conservatives that had the potential of becoming violent terrorists and traitors to our nation. They base those statements on the fact that these people had bumper stickers and signs that opposed the current administration’s viewpoints and recent actions. These are statements made by our government to support the notion that groups like that should not be allowed to speak out. There was no violence. They obeyed the laws around protesting. They didn’t do anything wrong. They just went out to make a statement like many groups have and do. I was appalled by things the Bush administration did that resulted in the persecution of innocent people, and I don’t like where this administration is going either. They do want to remove people from the airways that don’t agree with them, and they are calling it fairness.

I’d rather have the media insult me and play down anything I’m involved in than have the government put out some of the reports they did. We as a people shouldn’t need the government to do things like that. I think we do a pretty good job of letting people know what we think, and Dixie Chicks is a great example of where that happened. Freedom of speech does work, and we should be allowed to criticize our government. Goodness, knows… nobody was shy about their opinion of Bush.

BTW… I did not get this information from FOX. I read the reports that were released by Homeland Security for public consumption.
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 17, 2009
Freedom of speech is more and less than your understanding.

Freedom of speech is an innate human right that governments should not infringe.

Freedom of speech is not, and has never been considered to be, an absolute right. A person isn't free to say things that endanger the common good. The usual example is shouting fire in a theater when there is no fire. Expression that harms others infringes their innate right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The U.S. constitution creates a government that is empowered to restrict abusive expression.

Conventions of culture also restrict speech and limit free expression. Most people, for example, wouldn't criticize a meal as a first time dinner guest. That's restricted expression.

Well educated people limit their vocabulary and grammar to the forms deemed "correct." That's self censorship.

All of this is nothing new, and none of it was new in 1787. The thing about our constitution that was new was the idea that the government can't punish expression.
 
 
Apr 17, 2009
"For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill." -Sun Tzu
 
 
Apr 17, 2009
The issue of Freedom of Speech is a legal concept that the state (government, the Man, etc.) will not prevent you from voicing your opinion. It is not an issue so much of censorship (or inability in the Internet age), but rather whether you as a blogger (or journalist, or author) should fear being arrested for daring to say something offensive to the powers that be. Sure we have societal self-regulation through capitalism and the volume of info available on-line, but ultimately it is a legal issue on whether the state can regulate what is published (either through censorship or fear).
 
 
Apr 17, 2009
Only someone who has enjoyed freedom of speech for his whole life could ever write such silliness.
 
 
+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 17, 2009
Scott, you talk about Freedom of Speech being dead, but I think it is more alive than ever. For example, when the Dixie Chicks criticized Bush and then their sales dropped, the government did nothing to interfere. The Dixie Chicks got to say what they wanted. Country music fans also got to say what they wanted, by protesting, boycotting, etc. Both sides had Freedom of Speech, and the government did nothing to interfere. Just as it should be.

Freedom of Speech doesn't mean that you have the right to be heard, and it doesn't mean that there will be no repercussions from your speech. It just means that there will be no government-caused repercussions. R. Saunders said it right in an earlier comment: Freedom of Speech (and the entire Bill of Rights) is not about what people can do, it is about what the government CANNOT do.

Even though you have no right to be heard, the internet makes it easy for anyone to be heard by more people than ever possible before.

Freedom of Speech is still necessary. No matter who is in the office, we need people to be able to criticize the government if they want to. While Bush was in office, we heard criticism all the time on TV. Now that Obama is in office, we still hear criticism all the time, just from different people. The government shouldn't silence any of it.

There has been talk recently of instituting a "Fairness Doctrine," which would limit what broadcasters could say about controversial issues. This is wrong and unconstitutional.
 
 
Apr 17, 2009
Freedom of speech is a negative right. That is, the government is required to not do something. If there isn't much that we have to worry about any more, then I'd say it has been a success.
 
 
Apr 17, 2009
Free is what free thinks. Free speech is useless until you think Freely.

As a rule,
man is a fool.
When its hot,
he wants it cool.
When its cool,
he wants it hot.
Always wanting what is not.
 
 
 
Get the new Dilbert app!
Old Dilbert Blog