Should There Be Limits on Free Speech?
All speech that does not harm someone should be legal.
This may be a Q1 violation if your definition of "speech" or "harm" leads to conflict with your other beliefs, or if there is speech you would like to penalize even though it hams noone.
This is a Q2 violation if you would want to restrict some people’s speech more than your own.
Before you can protect speech, you must decide what speech is. For the purposes of free speech, which of the following would you consider to be "speech"?
- Spoken words and sign language for the deaf.
- Books, articles, and other writing.
- Art (sculpture, paintings, graffiti, photographs, dance, performance art, comic strips, etc., whether or not everyone agrees that it is art).
- Advertisements and bumper stickers.
- Skywriting and crops planted to form messages.
- T-shirts with messages on them.
- Jewelry that incorporates symbols (religious or otherwise).
- Web sites and Internet forum postings.
- Refusing to speak.
Once you define what speech is, you must define what types of speech should be considered too harmful to be legal. Which of the following do you think should be legally protected speech?
- Swearing in public.
- Using made-up words such as "gosh darn it" and "jackhole" that are only reminiscent of swearing.
- Using a racial epithet or speaking out against a racial group.
- Using foul language in public because you have Tourette’s syndrome.
- Telling a bawdy joke in the cafeteria at work.
- Chatting around the water cooler when you are supposed to be working.
- Peacefully protesting the passage of a law.
- Violently protesting the passage of a law.
- Boycotting a business whose practices you do not approve of.
- Complaining about the government.
- Advocating the overthrow of the government.
- Blasphemy against a religion you do not believe in.
- Intentionally spreading government propaganda.
- Mentioning those few scientific studies that support your company’s position but not mentioning that hundreds more are against your position.
- Writing a newspaper editorial that has a political bias.
- Telling a lie in court while under oath.
- Lying about the cause of a problem to avoid responsibility.
- Speaking disrespectfully to the police, your supervisor, or your parents.
- Slapping someone for speaking to you rudely.
- Discussing organizing a union with your coworkers.
- Inciting a riot.
- Trying to goad someone into hitting you.
- Teasing a man because of his weight.
- Criticizing a restaurant with full knowledge that it will likely cost the restaurant business.
- Throwing a tomato at a lying politician.
- Covering a house with toilet paper.
- Asking someone, "How’s the family?" in a way that implies that their family may be in danger if they cross you.
- Threatening to hit someone if they don’t shut up.
- Asking an airport security person if he wants to frisk you for hand grenades.
- Teaching high-school students something that you believe is true but that many people do not consider true.
- Teaching college students something that you believe is true but that many people do not consider true.
- Copying an essay on World War I from an encyclopedia and using a thesaurus to change a bunch of the words so your teacher won’t be able to say it’s plagiarism.
- Singing a popular song out loud after everyone on the bus has made very clear that they want you to stop.
- Yelling back at a movie in a theater.
- Yelling back at actors in a play.
- Shouting "Fire!" in a crowded theater.
- Heckling a stand-up comic.
- Performing a parody of a popular song.
- Sampling a song in your rap performance.
- Pornographic magazines.
- Photographic child pornography.
- Hand-drawn child pornography.
- A photograph of your own naked baby.
- A tasteful photograph of a woman breast-feeding.
- A group of men meeting to discuss how the law could be changed to make pedophilia legal in some circumstances.
- Blowing a whistle during a football game so that players think the referee has signaled the end of a play.
- Cussing at your computer when you are home alone, unaware that the neighbors can hear you.
- Complaints about work written in your private diary.
- Complaints about work written on your anonymous public blog.
- A fantasy about blowing up your workplace, stored on your home computer.
You are encouraged to leave your answers to the questions posed in this post in the comments section. This post is based on an excerpt from Ask Yourself to be Moral, by D. Cancilla, available at LuLu.com and Amazon.com. See the 2Q system page for details of the philosophical system mentioned in this post.