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Free Speech: Is There Really Such a Thing?

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Free Speech: Is There Really Such a Thing?

In order to find truth to anything, one must make multiple suggestions, ask many questions, and sometimes ponder the unspeakable. Without doing so, there would be no process of elimination; therefore, truth would be virtually unattainable. Now, in our attempts to either find truth, express our beliefs and opinions, or generally use the rights we are given constitutionally, we are often being criticized and even reprimanded. Our freedom to voice our opinion(s) is being challenged, as critics of free speech are taking offense to what seems like anything and everything merely controversial and arguably prejudice. As people continue to strive for a nation free of prejudice and discrimination, where everyone is equal, safe and happy, they overlook the outcome of creating such an environment. Without different beliefs, theories, opinions and controversy, we will never advance as a people. All we would be left to do is think and speak the same, and believe the same beliefs. Our minds will no longer be able to run wild with brilliant, and sometimes controversial, thoughts; though, even if they did, we wouldn't be able to vocalize any of it. Although it is comforting to think that there will come a time when nobody will say or do anything offensive and prejudice is diminished, the reality is that a nation without the freedom to voice anything controversial, opinionated , and even prejudice, is hardly desirable as we will be deprived of intellectual freedom and truth.

It is easy to wonder whether there really is such a thing as free speech; better yet, complete free speech. ("Free" meaning unrestricted and without consequences) Sure, the majority of us say whatever we want, when we want, to whom we want, but there are some cases where our speech is hardly free. There has been many instances where complications and debates have risen over borderline comments, words, etc. People are being told that they have the ability to say whatever they want and believe in; however, many people are facing lawsuits and even consequences for doing so. With that said, one could wonder whether there is inadequacy in our constitution that is allowing people to be reprimanded for practicing their rights. However, it is not always citizens who are being challenged by the government for abuse of free speech. In his essay, "In Defense Of Prejudice", Jonathan Rauch describes an employer who "...had to desist using gender-based job titles like "foreman" and "draftsman" after a female employee sued"(6). More and more people are finding plenty of (what they consider) bias and prejudice to be offended by.

The bigger issue regarding our right to free speech has to do with censorship and what may potentially become of it. If we continue to strive for a society where we can say whatever we would like, just as long as it doesn't offend anyone, we are losing our rights altogether. Rauch quotes Salman Rushdie in his defense to allegedly offending millions of people, where he asked: "What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist"(6). Simply stated, it is nearly impossible to say anything that wouldn't offend someone; Everyone has their own perception of what they consider offensive. Being asked to refrain from using offensive language basically disables you from speaking of anything controversial and therefore we are forced to be idle-minded automatons. Our search for truth and reasoning will be forced to halt as we will no longer be allowed to wonder out loud. If the intellectuals, geniuses, and scientists of our past hadn't been free to ponder the unreasonable, one could assume we wouldn't be where we are today. For no reason should we be forced to silence our thoughts or not speak of anything unacceptable; the result could be far more disastrous than offending people.

Naturally, people can only hope for peace and happiness, but attempting to achieve it through censoring any offensive speech is a tiring, unattainable goal. Many argue that words can cause pain equivalent to any physical pain, and that there should be more of an attempt to prevent such instances. In Stanley Fish's essay, "There's No Such Thing As Free Speech And It's A Good Thing, Too", he states that "Nowadays the First Amendment is the first refuge for scoundrels" (231). Therefore, he suggests that people often abuse our right to freedom of speech, which could potentially be a legitimate accusation. But it's easy to say that any right could be abused, and despite that, we must react most rationally. Due to those students opinionated



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