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America's Debate _ Constitutional Debate _ Limiting Free Speech

Posted by: AuthorMusician Feb 21 2017, 06:11 PM

There are two basic ways of approaching the question for debate: personal and general. So:

Where do you draw your personal line with free speech?

What would you never write about for publication or speak about in public?

Where do you draw a general line with free speech?

What would you consider wrong for anyone to write about for publication or speak about in public?

This news article prompted the debate questions:

http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/milo-yiannopoulos-controversial-breitbart-editor-disinvited-speak-cpac/story?id=45616014

Seems CPAC has drawn a line, and it's at the defense/justification of pedophilia. The subject of the story, Mr. Milo Y. Motormouth, has also lost his most recent book deal. cry.gif tongue.gif

Posted by: akaCG Feb 21 2017, 06:41 PM

Where do you draw your personal line with free speech?

Exactly where it has been drawn under our Constitution. IOW, with exceptions such as the "yelling 'Fire!'" one and such, the government should not restrict anyone's right to say whatever they want.

What would you never write about for publication or speak about in public?

The list is too long, and the various reasons have nothing to do with the concept of Free Speech.

Where do you draw a general line with free speech?

See answer to first question.

What would you consider wrong for anyone to write about for publication or speak about in public?

With the exceptions referred to in the answer to the first question, ... nothing. Even if it offends me (or anyone else) to my (their) core. That's the beauty of the concept of Free Speech.


Posted by: Gray Seal Feb 22 2017, 02:40 PM

Where do you draw your personal line with free speech?

Free speech is a limitation upon government. There is no personal line.

You can yell "Fire". There could be a fire. You can not use false speech to cause dangerous situations.

What would you never write about for publication or speak about in public?

I can not think of anything. I would not misrepresent nor lie.

Where do you draw a general line with free speech?

There is no line. I am all in for free speech.

What would you consider wrong for anyone to write about for publication or speak about in public?

There are plenty of opinions with which I have disagreement.

Posted by: Julian Feb 22 2017, 05:52 PM

Where do you draw your personal line with free speech?
What would you never write about for publication or speak about in public?
Where do you draw a general line with free speech?
What would you consider wrong for anyone to write about for publication or speak about in public?


I'll lump all these together, if I may.

I fundamentally agree with the idea that government must not be allowed to curtail freedom of speech, or of the free press.

We must remember, though, that "the free press" originally meant not that major news media outlets must be free to say whatever their individual journalists (or, their corporate agendas) wish them to say with no consequences at all (of which more in a minute), but that nobody should be prevented from accessing the mass media of the day. The closest we come to the Founder's idea of a Free Press today is Twitter, not Fox News.

Thinking about actual news media - I have no problem with them publishing anything that they wish. There's more than one outlet, and if any one of them prints things I don't like, I can choose to use another one.

But, if they publish or broadcast anything that is harmful to the reputation of any individual or business and the story being published is not demonstrably true, that individual or business should be free to pursue damages, including an equal-prominence retraction and financial damages.

Within editorial offices, I wouldn't require anything especially onerous - just some records of rigorous fact-checking and the seeking out of corroboration from multiple sources (rather than just using one source), being kept on file for (say) a year after first publication. And the test would simply be that, if a reasonable person were presented with the same evidence, would the conclusions they drew be the same or substantially the same as those drawn in publication.

Nobody gets gagged, nobody is prevented from publishing anything that is in the public interest (or simple that is of interest to the public), they are just limited to presenting information that has been through a process of due diligence prior to publication or broadcast.

That's my filtration of the whole phone hacking/libel/super-injunction/slander nexus that the British media have been guilty of/saddled with for the past decade or more. I don't see it as inimical to the idea of a free press, because it isn't the government that would be doing anything, and nothing would be "gagged" or censored b]before[/b] publication.

Most old media hates this idea, because they have become used to conflating the First Amendment rights of citizens to have access to them (traditionally via letters, now via comments online) with the First Amendment rights of citizens (which they are not), admittedly with lots of court precedent, albeit ones which mostly defend against attempts to restrict publication in the first place or against government interference.

New media such as Facebook hate it even more, because they don't define themselves as media at all. Instead, they see themselves as software platforms, and every problem is one which has an insufficient algorithm. The obvious solution, instead of chasing AI that can prevent users from spreading demonstrable untruths as fact, is to employ some editorial staff (moderators, for instance). They don't have to trawl the entire output of every user, since 'fake news' memes are hardly ever originated by single Facebook users, but by external websites being linked to by FB users. That's a lot easier to police. And rather than waiting five years before they can find sufficiently clever AI, they could and should just employ some editors/moderators NOW and then use the software AI as it develops to supersede them. Governments job should simply be to hold Facebook as responsible for the spreading of demonstrably false and damaging stories as any other media outlet would be if they did the same (i.e. under US laws, not very, and only under particular circumstances, but more than they are now).

Twitter is a bit different, not least because it still makes huge losses, and it's ONLY really users that publish anything. Their algorithms are crude by comparison, so while you only see what you follow, you aren't getting bombarded with stuff from other sources the algorithms think you will like.

My personal line is I try not to say anything I know to be untrue, and if I am shown that something I have said is provably untrue, I am generally open to retracting it.

I would never knowingly say anything for publication that is deliberately offensive to innocent third parties (I will happily say deliberately offensive things about someone I am setting out to offend devil.gif ).

My general line is as outlined above.

My consideration of things that should not be published is stuff anybody says that any reasonable person would consider to be untrue if presented with the available evidence.

I'm uneasy, indeed somewhat hostile, to the idea that the measure of what should or should not be said is whether someone finds it offensive or, worse in my opinion, that someone thinks that some other, unspecified person who has expressed no opinion, might find it offensive. That said, I do think that there's a time and a place for most forms of communication, and 'political correctness' is at root simple a code of good manners to avoid saying controversial things at the wrong time or in the wrong place (or to the wrong person).

I don't actually consider the deliberate courting of controversy, such as Milos Yiannopoulos's comments about paedophilia, are speech which should be completely condemned for him saying it at all. Certainly, I disagree with it, but I'd rather most taboos were spoken about openly so that everyone knows who the idiots or the dangerous are, rather than hidden behind social taboos so we just have to guess/assume.

One last thing, I wholeheartedly agree with the comments of Professor Brian Cox on freedom of speech, who said

QUOTE
The problem with today’s world is that everyone believes they have the right to express their opinion AND have others listen to it.

The correct statement of individual rights is that everyone has the right to an opinion, but crucially, that opinion can be roundly ignored and even made fun of, particularly if it is demonstrably nonsense!

Posted by: akaCG Feb 22 2017, 10:49 PM

QUOTE(Julian @ Feb 22 2017, 12:52 PM) *
...
... 'political correctness' is at root simple a code of good manners to avoid saying controversial things at the wrong time or in the wrong place (or to the wrong person).
...

A code of good manners is a tool that helps facilitate communication between/among people who hold opposing/varying views. Political correctness is a weapon that is used to silence people who hold opposing/varying views.

The former is a friend to freedom of speech. The latter is an enemy to freedom of speech, and its inevitable (if not vigorously opposed by everyone who cares even a whit about protecting freedom of speech) denouement is ... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newspeak.


QUOTE(Julian @ Feb 22 2017, 12:52 PM) *
...
One last thing, I wholeheartedly agree with the comments of Professor Brian Cox on freedom of speech, who said
QUOTE
The problem with today’s world is that everyone believes they have the right to express their opinion AND have others listen to it.

The correct statement of individual rights is that everyone has the right to an opinion, but crucially, that opinion can be roundly ignored and even made fun of, particularly if it is demonstrably nonsense!


So do I.

Posted by: entspeak Feb 23 2017, 03:20 PM

There does seem to be this confusion in this country with regard to Freedom of Speech. Nothing that has occurred with regard to Milo Yiannopoulos, for example, has anything to do with Freedom of Speech. In this country, you have a right to freedom of speech - you do not have a right to a private forum in which to engage in it. Yiannopoulos once called himself a "martyr to free speech" as a result of being banned from Twitter - which is just a load of hogwash.

The problem will come when government tries to pass laws that police or regulate speech we don't like.

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