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Experimental Essay (Brainstorm)

meerajay's picture

Experimental Essay Discussion: Freedom of Speech and its Limits 

  • What truly constitutes Freedom of Speech in America and what are the extremities or boundaries of it?
    • Tocqueville: “If someone were to show me a tenable intermediate position between complete independence of thought and total servitude, I might adopt it, but can such a position be found?” (205)
    • The question here is of how much the government should control speech. Because at the crux of the problem, speech can be regulated so that all voices, including those of the marginalized in society, can be heard. If all speech were free, then there is a possibility that the majority would drown minority voices out.
    • If you defend the rights to Freedom of Speech, then you must defend all kinds of free speech and not just the mainstream, accepted forms that are believed to be politically correct.
    • Tocqueville argues that Freedom of Press is a dilution of media power, because of the intense input of opinions. Because there is no control over the information, they become less effective in stirring the public.
    • Tocqueville defines mores as customs, habits of the heart, something deeply ingrained in a society in a way that is different from ideology, even less intentional than ideology
      • Tocqueville pp. 291: He describes an incident where he asks a Pennsylvanian why “freed Negroes are not allowed to exercise the rights of citizens. They pay taxes. Is it not right that they should vote?” The man responds that there is nothing in the law that states that they cannot vote, but that they choose to “voluntarily abstain” because they will be mistreated by the community. “The law here has no teeth if the majority refuses to support it.”
      • The mores of society, in this case, state that African Americans, despite being citizens, cannot vote, so society itself places control on their freedoms, and not the law.
      • In the same case of freedom of speech, can mores be used to control certain types of free speech as being hateful and wrong?
      • Consider the Charlie Hebdo incident
        • People rallied behind a magazine that was meant to be blasphemous and incendiary.
        • The magazine even received an award for spreading principles of free speech given by the PEN American Center gala.
          • Some would argue that awards should not be given for free speech because it celebrates certain forms of free speech and not others. What do you think?
          • Also consider the so-called freedom of opinion in the tri-co. Liberal political are the majority in the tri-co (or at least in the bi-co). Does this contribute to the silencing of conservative speech?
            • Furthermore, does this perpetuate the Bryn Mawr or bi-co bubble?