How Free Is Freedom Of Speech

1282 words - 6 pages

How Free Is ‘Free Speech’ When Society Disagrees?
Free speech is a complicated issue, not just in the United States, but in many other countries as well. Unfortunately the freedom of speech is not as simple as saying anything at any time. While by law, everyone in the United States is entitled to the freedom to speak their minds, social expectations and mainstream culture restrict what people are able to say. However, as society has progressed many social changes have been made by people who have refused to be silenced by mainstream culture. Movements such as the Civil Rights Movement and the LBGTQ movement have been started by people who have fully used their rights to free speech. This ...view middle of the document...

In countries such as North Korea the ruling regime will monitor and censor all domestic news outlets, this limits the information in the country. Internet, Radio and television is all regulated and governed strictly, ensuring that only ‘acceptable’ information reaches the people (Sedaghat). This extreme version of censorship is what most American’s fear when informed of the government’s power of censorship. American’s have grown accustomed to the information always available to them and losing the basic right to information is a scary prospect. However, in times of crisis or during delicate negotiations with potentially hostile groups it is not always best for the public to be fully informed.
The USA Patriot Act was passed through congress in October 2001. This Act gave a new level of power to law enforcement officials. These powers enabled policemen and women to conduct searches without warrants, monitor financial transactions, detain or deport, and even monitor people who were suspected of terrorist acts. According to the Act these actions could take place without the public or those involved knowing about the surveillance.

While the first amendment prevents the government from actively silencing anyone from speaking their minds. It does not, however, prevent mainstream culture from oppressing minorities wishing to speak their minds. This tragic fact means that those who do not meet society’s expectations or fit the ‘mould’ can be ostracized, cast out or targeted by mainstream society. The fear of becoming a target of others hate is an unappealing idea and is often enough to keep minorities quiet and suppressed. One example of such oppression was the segregation and violence between White and Black people before and during the Civil Rights Movement. Prior to and during the 1950s many people were suppressed and afraid to speak out against the racism evident in society. While at the time the government was not entirely removed from the scenario, those who believed in equality were silenced by fear of retaliation from extremists.
From the mid-1800s, a group known as the Ku Klux Klan appeared and dedicated itself to responding violently to those who spoke out against white supremacy. (History.com Staff) An example of such targeting after standing up for what they believe in was Rosa Parks in 1955 when she refused to stand for a white man on a bus. Parks not only lost her job at a tailoring shop but also received death threats. Death threats bad enough that Parks and her family moved in 1957(National Parks Service). When interviewed about her courageous decision to stay seated on the bus Parks said that she was tired, but not physically. She stated that ‘the only tired [She] was, was tired of giving in.’ (Lewis) Parks’ decision to ‘sit down’ for what she believed in ended up having results that were exactly what...

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