We Should Restrict Freedom of Speech

Last updated: November 21, 2019

Is it ever right for Governments to restrict freedom of speech?

We Should Restrict Freedom of Speech
Yes because...

Free speech is an inherently ambiguous concept that requires definition and interpretation; Governme...

Free speech is an inherently ambiguous concept that requires definition and interpretation; Government is the obvious place for such clarifications to be made.
No because...
Governments should be distrusted. (a) Many political theorists argue that checks and balances need to be put in place in order to prevent Governmental abuse. The right to freedom of speech is too important to leave in the hands of Government. (b) An independent judiciary, or politically-independent body for assessing such circumstances is the only place that can effectively guarantee.

We Should Restrict Freedom of Speech
Yes because...

Irrespective of its US provenance, we recognise that 'the most stringent protection of free speech w...

Irrespective of its US provenance, we recognise that 'the most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic.'[[Schenck v. United States, 3 March, 1919]]. Thus shouting fire in a crowded cinema when there is no fire, and you know it, is wrong. We accept this limit on free speech, therefore the principle is conceded.
No because...
'After all, the practical reason why when the power is once in the hands of the people, a majority are permitted, and for a long period continue, to rule is not because they are most likely to be in the right, nor because this seems fairest to the minority, but because they are physically the strongest'[[CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE, H D Thoreau]] Tyranny of the majority is as good a reason as any to prevent Government from being involved in censorship - the majority of the population may be anti-homosexuality, or anti-immigrant, or indeed pro-genetically modified foods. In a healthy democracy it is vital that smaller groups be heard, and there is no way to guarantee these voices if the Government can restrict free speech.

We Should Restrict Freedom of Speech
Yes because...

Speech acts lead to physical acts. Thus pornography, hate speech and political polemic are causally ...

Speech acts lead to physical acts. Thus pornography, hate speech and political polemic are causally linked to rape, hate crimes, and insurrection.
No because...
Society is self-regulating. (a) The link between speech acts and physical acts is a false one - people who commit hate crimes are likely to have read hate speech, people who commit sex crimes are likely to have watched pornography but not necessarily the other way around. Viewers of pornography and readers of hate speech are therefore not incited to commit anything they otherwise would not do. (b) Exposing pornography, hate speech and political polemic (extreme nationalism etc.) to society increase the likelihood that it will be discredited and defeated, rather than strengthened through persecution. This is Milton’s argument from 'Areopagitica' (1644) - truth will combat error.

We Should Restrict Freedom of Speech
Yes because...

Government must protect its citizens from foreign enemies and internal enemies - thus freedom of spe...

Government must protect its citizens from foreign enemies and internal enemies - thus freedom of speech can be acceptably curtailed during times of war in order to prevent propaganda and spying which might undermine the national interest.
No because...
The government may well wish to surpress publication of information that would be prejudicial to its success in the next elections or its war campaign, but it’s in the public interest to know about their dirty dealings or illegal activities.

We Should Restrict Freedom of Speech
Yes because...

Some intellectual views are antithetical to beliefs held by major religions. In order to protect the...

Some intellectual views are antithetical to beliefs held by major religions. In order to protect the religious from these views, we should prevent people from saying these offensive things.
No because...
Although some views that may be expressed might be contrary to religious teaching, we must defend the rights of the non-religious within any society too.

We Should Restrict Freedom of Speech
Yes because...

We need to protect minors (those under the age of majority) from exposure to obscene, offensive or p...

We need to protect minors (those under the age of majority) from exposure to obscene, offensive or potentially damaging materials.
No because...
Arguments that invoke censorship of materials for minors are just that - arguments for the censorship of materials for minors. They do not concede the general principal that censorship is good because until the age of majority the state acts in loco parentis and must act as a conservative parent at that.


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