Here in the US there has been a debate about this issue for over 200 years…what is and what is not….free speech or as some prefer “freedom of expression”….but what is it…no really….what is it?
What me to thinking about this subject was something I wrote about late last year…….you see the president, the old one not the new one, signed a bill into law that basically bans “fake news””……(in case you were not paying attention then I can help)…..
That one post got the old mental synapses firing at an alarming rate….
When did the whole idea of the freedom of speech start? (The Highlights)
399BC Socrates speaks to jury at his trial: ‘If you offered to let me off this time on condition I am not any longer to speak my mind… I should say to you, “Men of Athens, I shall obey the Gods rather than you.”‘
1215 Magna Carta, wrung from the unwilling King John by his rebellious barons, is signed. It will later be regarded as the cornerstone of liberty in England.
1516 The Education of a Christian Prince by Erasmus. ‘In a free state, tongues too should be free.’
1633 Galileo Galilei hauled before the Inquisition after claiming the sun does not revolve around the earth.
1644 ‘Areopagitica’, a pamphlet by the poet John Milton, argues against restrictions of freedom of the press. ‘He who destroys a good book, kills reason itself.’
1689 Bill of Rights grants ‘freedom of speech in Parliament’ after James II is overthrown and William and Mary installed as co-rulers.
1770 Voltaire writes in a letter: ‘Monsieur l’abbé, I detest what you write, but I would give my life to make it possible for you to continue to write.’
1789 ‘The Declaration of the Rights of Man’, a fundamental document of the French Revolution, provides for freedom of speech.
1791 The First Amendment of the US Constitution, as enshrined in the Bill of Rights, guarantees five freedoms: of religion, speech, the press, the right to assemble and the right to petition the government for the redress of grievances.
And the debate has continued almost non-stop since 1791…..
For a little historic perspective on the subject of free speech…..
Millions of Americans support free speech. They firmly believe that we are the only country to have free speech, and that anyone who even questions free speech had damn well better shut the #$%& up.
Case in point: In a recent essay in The Daily Beast, Fordham Law Professor Thane Rosenbaum notes that European countries and Israel outlaw certain kinds of speech—Nazi symbols, anti-Semitic slurs, and Holocaust denial, and speech that incites hatred on the basis of race, religion, and so forth. The American law of free speech, he argues, assumes that the only function of law is to protect people against physical harm; it tolerates unlimited emotional harm. Rosenbaum cites recent studies (regrettably, without links) that show that “emotional harm is equal in intensity to that experienced by the body, and is even more long-lasting and traumatic.” Thus, the victims of hate speech, he argues, suffer as much as or more than victims of hate crime. “Why should speech be exempt from public welfare concerns when its social costs can be even more injurious [than that of physical injury]?”
There is also a very good piece on the subject from Australia…..
The term “free speech” is not ideal. The “free” part skews in favour of those who oppose regulation and the “speech” part puts the focus on the spoken word, even though the discussion embraces wider communication including art, writing, films, plays, flag burning and advertising.
It might, therefore, be better to drop the term “free speech” to highlight that the debate is really about whether or not we should regulate the communication of ideas, thoughts and beliefs.
Source: Explainer: what is free speech?
This is a right that we Americans need to protect.