WHAT do you mean by Freedom of Speech?
Freedom of speech is the right to articulate, verbally or by any other communication means, one’s perception of the world without restrictions. The term freedom of expression is sometimes used as a synonym with Freedom of Speech; however, freedom of expression does also include any action seeking, receiving and conveying information or ideas, regardless of the medium used. Freedom of Speech is recognized as a primordial Human and Civil Right around the globe. Most countries have some degree of freedom of speech or expression. These Freedom of Speech or Expression instances have been attained with lots of effort and sacrifice by those who care for the public to be well informed. What most citizens believe to know is actually the manufactured consent by the powers that be and never actual reality based on facts.
Human beings seem to be easily persuaded to believe on anything they are told on face value, yet it is very hard to convince them once they have been defrauded. The social construction of hierarchies and powers in our society makes those on the upper strata the assumed carriers of truth by the masses while those among the common, the vast majority inside our pseudo-democracy, those without a high position or power, are commonly seen with suspicion when they attempt to communicate any idea. Being aligned with the powers that be is a guaranteed of Freedom of Speech since those aligned would be perpetuating the status quo; while being in opposition with such powers is a sure way to guarantee opposition, restraint and suspicion to any speech asserted.
The right to freedom of expression was recognized as a human right under article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and recognized in international human rights law in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 19 of the UDHR states that “everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference” and “everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice”. Being able to communicate is guaranteed to an extend yet such ability and right also comes with social perils if what is communicated is found to be in opposition by the powers that be or even special interest groups. The status quo takes quite unkindly any opposition to its hegemony.
The version of Article 19 in the ICCPR later amends this by stating that the exercise of these rights carries “special duties and responsibilities” and may “therefore be subject to certain restrictions” when necessary “for respect of the rights or reputation of others” or “for the protection of national security or of public order, or of public health or morals”. The idea with such restrictions is the protection from slander and calumny by which many can be exposed to. It also prevents from national secrets to be divulged to the masses even as may would agree that in a true democratic process the citizens have the right to privacy but never the government which must respond to them. It is indeed the government who must fear its people and not the people who must fear their government.
Consequently, freedom of speech and expression may not be acknowledged as being absolute, and common limitations to freedom of speech relate to slander, insult, obscenity, pornography, sedition, incitement, fighting words, classified information, copyright violation, trade secrets, non-disclosure agreements, the right to privacy, the right to be forgotten, public security, and perjury. The previous exclusions appear to be reasonable when considering their aftermath and implication if such Freedom of Expression is not aimed at informing but hurting the integrity of others but furthermore; this ability to communicate ideas must be aimed at eventually fostering and developing dialogue and reaching a climax from such dialogue, consensus.
Does the Making of Contingencies for Harm from Slander Handicap Free Speech?
As previously stated, Freedom of Speech is a Human and Civil Right which has been acquired after much revolution, blood and fighting by the masses against the upper strata, the one percent. No one has more to lose because of the Freedom of Speech Rights of each citizen than an individual on the ruling oligarch class. So, the powers that be attempt to restrain this Freedom of Speech right by regulating it and by restraining it. Some restrictions appear to be valid others do not. The restrictions, which appear as a valid claim, as they profess to be protecting others from the individual right to speech and expression; such is the case of hate groups and hate crimes. If you were to destroy someone’s reputation with Freedom of Speech, in the form of fallacies, lies and slander, was your act a Freedom of Speech or Expression protected by the laws? What about if you kill someone who you despise; is the act of murdering someone a Freedom of Speech or a self-expression act? What about sacrificing some one in a religious ceremony, is this my freedom of expression via religion freedoms?
Justifications for such restraints imposed to Freedom of Speech include the harm principle, proposed by John Stuart Mill in On Liberty, which suggests that: “the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.” The idea of the “offense principle” (Stuart Mill) is also stated in the justification of speech limits, describing the restriction on forms of expression deemed offensive to society, considering factors such as extent, duration, motives of the speaker, and ease with which it could be avoided. The previous restrictions are part of the Red Herring within the current Freedom of Speech Rights in our society. The mere action of having the right to venting out opinions, or even grievances alone, is fully irrelevant if such opinions or even grievances are fully ignored by falling on deaf ears. The idea is always to allow for the Freedom of Speech as a mean to not only reach consensus but also to the redress of grievances as guaranteed in some constitutional clauses. Simultaneously, such Civil Right, the having the right to venting out opinions and grievances, must take place without fear of punishment or reprisals for the act of mere freedom of expression. The idea is to bring these opinions and grievances to the table to be addressed and the finding of consensus.
What about Mass Misinformation?
While attempting to regulate Speech, society as a whole must provide input if we are indeed a democratic republic with representative democracy. One key area of regulation is the way in which the media informs the masses. Due to so many lapses of misinformation by he media the Public government sought to address this issue in 1949 and the Fairness Doctrine was created by the FCC. The basic idea behind the Fairness Doctrine was that everything that was divulged by the Main Stream Media (MSM) should have to be verifiable and restraint from slander to others. So, persons working for the media could not make false claims and being immune to prosecution for misinformation. The FCC started to issue violations when claims were made and were not verifiable or even when slander took place. This set a great precedence in the county; once clear case was to allow for senator McCarthy to be removed due to his rhetorical approach without fundamental evidence for the claims made. McCarthyism died due to the clear aim and predisposition and prosecutorial effect it had for so many years calling everyone despised by McCarthy either a Liberal or a Socialist or even a Communist without any evidence. During interviews it was even quite clear that McCarthy himself had no clue as to what liberalism or even communism were yet he used these words to prosecute so many citizens.
The Fairness Doctrine is Removed
In 1987 to 1988 then neoliberal President Ronald Reagan, constipated horse and sparrow supporter, caused a great deal of harm, among many other decisions he made, to this free expression and free speech clause by eliminating the Fairness Doctrine. The Fairness Doctrine was a policy by the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) which had been introduced in 1949, and which required the holders of broadcast licenses both to present controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that was, according to the Commission’s view, honest, equitable, and balanced. By the previous, the FCC aimed at preventing the dissemination of propaganda or otherwise misinformation of any kind.
What followed thirty years later is the catastrophe of having the most ill-informed citizens over the face of the earth. The Fairness Doctrine did allow for filtering of information in the sense that it prevented unverifiable speech to take place on information media, mainly news and news related programming mainly those involving politics and social issues. The many Rush Limbaugh of the world were born, the Jerry Springers and the Geraldo Riveras; soon, the entire TV programming looked more like a circus inside a zoo. But there was more to it, now the most abhorrent socioeconomic fallacies could be sold to a population fully ill informed, the U.S. population. Now slavery became freedom and private corporations, the unaccountable tyrannies, became democracy.
Since the 1980’s the U.S. private sector has not only taken over the air waves but it has also made citizens believe the fallacy that their democracy can be privatized to the unaccountable tyranny. Today, news networks can spread the most fallacious and irrational news about free market fantasies or anything else without any restraint. This catastrophe has been a marriage made in hell since the elimination of the fairness doctrine came attached to the underfunding of Public entities such as schools. The U.S. education has the lowest scores in Math and even Science thanks to the overcrowding of classes which forces Public schools to be privatized so the problem is moved elsewhere and the profit created goes to the oligarch class as it has become typical these days in the U.S. lack of humanities and many other subjects not being typically taught in U.S, schools. Not only has our education system gone out the window but a major part of the problem comes from the number of ill-informed ignorant people that the elimination of the fairness doctrine and forced school privatization has created.
Humans without Humanities dance with Capitalists who can’t Count
Our children living and growing in the U.S. today do not have a clear understanding on most humanities or humanities related subjects even as we live in a nation that claims to be the holder of most freedom in the world. Our U.S. children living and growing in the U.S. today do not have any advanced math knowledge even as we live in the most capitalistic nation in the world. If our citizens were to be well educated from the beginning, not only would be wiser citizens but would have a better understanding of the world around them. The stupefied current population is the simple byproduct of those who need sheep instead of a system who fosters true freedom and integrity.
According to the University of Stanford, the field of humanities can be described as the field of study of how people process and document their human experience. Since humans have been able, we have used philosophy, literature, religion, art, music, history and language to understand and record our world. These modes of expression have become some of the subjects that traditionally fall under the humanities umbrella. Knowledge of these records of human experience gives us the opportunity to feel a sense of connection to those who have come before us, as well as to our contemporaries. Those who are taught and engaged by he field of Humanities at he academic level tend to have a wider view of the world and other cultures and ethnic groups.
Ignorance is quite marked by very little understanding on humanities issues as opposed to a wider and more mundane view of the world. Ethnocentrism, Euro-centrism and other intellectual deficiencies are clearly marked by lack of information on knowledge that pertains to other humanities may this be knowledge about cultures, countries, languages, religions (even in absence of personal religious belief), literature, art, music and even historical context of other lands and peoples. Our U.S. population has clearly marked deficiencies on the field of humanities and such deficiencies are becoming quite marked in the face of the most backwards and anti-academic administration the U.S. has had in the White House. The neglected and much ignored field of humanities may be the cure for our population deficiencies on his subject of humanities.
Freedom of Speech is Eroded from its Roots
The U.S. Supreme Court has also been hijacked since the failed 2000 election, a failed vote recount; so the appointed judges have followed endorsing irregularities such as voting suppression and political repression (Protesting being criminalized despite being protected under the first amendment and the Redress of Grievances clauses). The infamous Citizen united decision was one of these nondemocratic made decisions where one person one vote was superseded by anonymous endless campaign donations.
The Citizens United ruling, released in January 2010, eliminated the corporate and union ban on making independent expenditures and financing electioneering communications. Citizen united gave corporations and unions the green light to spend unlimited sums on ads and other political means, calling for the election or defeat of individual candidates. Remember, if politicians take the dough, now they represent the wealthy contributor donors and not their constituents who elect them.
Citizen united decision said that it is legal for corporations and labor unions to spend as much as they want to convince people to vote for or against a candidate. The decision did not affect contributions. It is still illegal for companies and labor unions to give money directly to candidates for federal office; but, then and again, what are Super-pacs for? The court said that because these funds were not being spent in coordination with a campaign, they “do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.” This decision relinquishes individual right at the-ballot and replaces them with wealthy donors behind the scenes while keeping the facade of a fair democratic process which is not by far.
Dialogue and Consensus as Climax to Freedom of Speech and Expression
Freedom of Speech becomes a Red Herring when such right is fully disassociated from actual dialogue. Freedom of Speech simply becomes the Freedom to Rant over Rant if there is no implicit and explicit goal behind it. Freedom of Speech is not just an act and a right for no one to care for regarding what has been said; instead it is much more, it is a primer to the goal of consensus. Freedom of Speech needs to have a goal that reaches beyond the mere right to express any thought, passion or idea; Freedom of Speech and Expression must ultimately reach to dialogue engaging and provoking which culminates in consensus, as all dialogue should. Consensus, the mutual agreement between two rational agents, must be the final goal to the intellectual intercourse that dialogue, even sweaty Socratic Dialogue, can potentially provide.
Let’s keep always in mind that a true direct democratic process is not the the byproduct of the rule of the ignorant manipulated mob; as it takes place in the good old USA. A true democratic process is indeed the agreement between the groups as to what the best course of action is without external corporate or other forces interference.