What is Communication Justice?

                In the United States, freedom is a right that citizens are able to enjoy; this right creates the world we live in that is made up of a diverse range of values, beliefs and traditions. While this is something to be proud of, it also creates the inevitability that we are going to disagree with each other and things we express can and will offend others. Freedom of speech is a right that we should be proud of and exercise, and in a perfect world it would be easy to say citizens of the United States should be able to express whatever they want, whenever they want, through whatever medium they choose.

Consider however, a dorm mate who posts revealing videos that potentially drive their roommate to suicide; an adult man who sells images of children in sexually inquisitive positions; a group of protestors who  taint your child’s funeral because they disagree with how they lived their lives.  In cases like this, it becomes more difficult to protect free speech and agree with Edwin Baker’s “liberty theory” which states “The liberty model holds that the free speech clause protects not a marketplace, but rather an arena of individual liberty from certain types of governmental restrictions. Speech or other self expressive conduct is protected not as a means to achieve a collective good but because of its value to the individual.” (Tedford, 441) To define what I believe should be the line that protects or punishes speech, I would like to begin by using 19th century philosopher John Stuart Mill’s ideas for philosophical grounding.

Mill’s Harm Principle is presented in “Freedom of Speech,” where Mill argues that liberty should exist where we have “absolute freedom of opinion and sentiment of all subjects, practical or speculative, scientific, moral or theological.” I extremely agree with this; no matter the subject, free speech allows for the broadening of ideas and this is ultimately good for society as a whole.  Mill does make the exception however, saying that “the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.” In order to adapt this concept to my argument, harm will be defined as an action that directly and in the first instance invades the rights of a person. Mill’s principle is best explained through his corn dealer reference, where he says that it is acceptable to claim that corn dealers are starving the poor if it is expressed through the medium of a printed page; it is not acceptable to express the same view to an angry mob gathered outside the house of the corn dealer ready to explode. The difference between the two is that the second instance instigates a mischievous act and puts the corn dealer in danger. Furthermore, Mill distinguishes between legitimate and illegitimate harm. Legitimate harm causes a clear and direct violation of rights. Mill’s Harm Principle is useful in cases with libel laws, advertising blatant untruths about commercial products, or advertising dangerous products to children.

This strategy is not always easy to apply either. For instance, in Snyder v. Phelps, the Westboro Baptist Church protested at a soldier’s funeral, waving signs expressing their extremely negative opinions about homosexuality within the military. While the group stayed within the area and time limits sanctioned by law, the soldier’s father (Snyder) argued that their actions caused “emotional distress.” Initially, Snyder was awarded in the dispute. However, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals threw out the verdict deciding that the protest was protected under the First Amendment. The case is currently being decided by the Supreme Court. To say the least many can agree that the comments expressed by the “most hated family in America” were distasteful; but for the sake of protecting the value of free speech in protests and avoiding the potential social harm that can be caused by punishing the WBC’s speech, I would argue that emotional distress is simply not enough to fall under the category of “harm” as defined earlier. For example, referring back to the corn dealer; exposing them may cause harm to their reputation and lead to severe financial hardship if he is accused of starving the poor. Financial hardship is likely to cause emotional distress; but limits on free speech should not be sanctioned by the simple fact that someone is harmed in some way; as stated earlier, their rights must be clearly and directly violated. Therefore, I would protect the Westboro Baptist Church’s speech and also limit harm to bodily harm and not include emotional distress.

Another First Amendment theorist Thomas I. Emerson would likely protect these protestor’s speech as well. Emerson distinguishes between expression and action, also acknowledging the value of free speech which leads to individual self-fulfillment, discovers truth, allows for a means of making decision democratically, and helps achieve a more adaptable and therefore stable community. (Tedford, 438) The prevalent idea behind Emerson’s “expression-action theory” is the line between expression and action. “Expression” must be freely allowed and encouraged. “Action” on the other hand, can be controlled.  Emerson explores four different problem areas where the line between expression and action can be obscure; Sedition, defamation, obscenity, and provocation to anger. Emerson protects all four categories with the exception of some circumstances. Using the example of Snyder v Phelps, because Emerson will protect defamation unless it is done privately, he will probably also protect speech against the “emotional distress” claim. Similarly, when anger is “provoked,” speech is generally protected because the audience has a duty to restrain itself. On the other hand, in a direct encounter, so as to provoke a fight, speech may be considered action and can be punished. Because the WBC did not participate in any direct speech with the Snyder family, Emerson and Mill are both likely to protect their speech.

                The 2003 Virginia v Black (Tedford 181) faces this issue of harm, where the Supreme Court punished “true threat” which is expression directed at a person or group of persons and directly places the victim in fear of bodily harm or death. “True threat” is not protected by the First Amendment. Speech that actually does lead to harm is obviously easier to punish because evidence of harm is actually visible; emotional distress seems too difficult to prove and if speech were punishable due to emotional distress, people could say they were emotionally distressed even if they weren’t; and the level of emotional behavior that arises varies from person to person therefore is difficult to measure.

                The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “all members of the human family” have certain “equal and inalienable rights” and there should be “no distinction of any kind” made in those rights, regardless of “race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status” and that there should be “no distinction made on the basis of political, jurisdictional or international status.” These ideas are appealing but are unrealistic in the fact that while they acknowledge the fact that diverse human being practices exist, they only state the idea that freedom of speech is a human right without limits. Furthermore, they fail to illustrate the idea that despite the notions presented by the Declaration, communities can establish their own standards. Take for instance, the federal obscenity law the U.S. has; there is no national standard, but a legal precedent (Miller v. California). This suggests that First Amendment protections of free speech vary by location within the U.S, and as seen in cases such as the Danish cartoons or the filming of Sex and the City 2 in Dubai, within the world. While it would be nice to say that freedom to exercise speech should be a innate right despite location, I suppose certain laws restricting speech in different areas have their appeal as well, and if a speaker violates those laws within that location, they should be subject to punishment.

                In terms of who should bear most of the legal responsibility for offensive or harmful speech, I think this burden depends on intent, but some libel laws put more burden on some plaintiffs and not others to win punishment of the speaker. In New York Times v Sullivan, a NY Times ad ran that suggested the arrest of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Alabama was part of a conspiracy to stop King’s efforts. Sullivan was the Montgomery city commissioner who filed a libel action against the newspaper and endorsers of the ad and claimed that the ad defamed him personally. Alabama law stated that Sullivan did not have to prove he had been harmed, so he was initially awarded; the Supreme Court later reviewed the case and overturned the decision, protecting the NY Times ad.

                Since this case, a public official or someone who has voluntarily put themselves in front of the public eye must prove that a libelous statement was made with actual “malice,” or “knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard to whether it was false or not.” Mill’s Harm Principle would again, support these ideas, as it is applicable to libel laws and advertising blatant untruths.

                Chaplinsky v New Hampshire was a 1942 case that signified the division of expression into two categories 1)  that which has social value as a step to truth (worthwhile speech) and 2) that which has no social value as a step to truth (worthless speech), which also illustrates the philosophical reasoning of Zechariah Chafee, Jr. This “worthless” speech includes fighting words, and language that is lewd, obscene, profane and libelous. The “fighting words” category is divided into two parts: language that 1) inflicts injury upon the listener or 2) tends to “incite an immediate breach of the peace.” I can understand why people would be drawn to Chafee’s ideas and these results from Chaplinsky v New Hampshire. However, I think that this reasoning can lead to too many misinterpretations of what kind of speech is worthless, especially when freedom of speech laws vary from state to state. Having said this, I do think there are situations in which speech can be deemed “worthless” (but again, people can disagree with whether or not they think it actually is). For instance, the “animal crush” videos we viewed in class are extremely worthless to me, yet in cases where they are used by PETA can be beneficial to society in showing animal cruelty—Chafee would also call this “worthwhile” speech because it “serves the social interest.” (Tedford, 436)

                What seems to be more useful to me if the government’s use of scrutiny levels. For example, in the 1969 case Brandenburg v. Ohio, where a man was arrested for words spoken in front of a burning cross. The government used strict scrutiny in which speech must incite imminent and immediate violence to be punished and Brandenburg’s speech was protected. I would accept the exceptions such as in Dennis v U.S. however, and apply minimal scrutiny where speech is directly threatening national security. We explored the case of Ali Al-Timimi, in which I would also apply minimal scrutiny because of the time frame of his speech which I believed to be threatening to national security. However, I know this contradicts my ideas of punishing speech only if it causes “direct harm.”

                My ideas of just communication were challenged this quarter and while I mainly seemed to refer back to Mill, I still can truthfully say determining just speech or what is punishable and what is not is difficult and always will be. For example, I would not protect child pornography but would also not punish a child who creates it in the same way I would an adult. Furthermore, if “sexting” is determined to be child pornography (which I argue it is not), I am again contradicting myself because I would protect it. Exploring different cases and principles really challenged those of my own, and allowed me to think outside of my comfort zone. I think this is the biggest thing I can take away from the course; although I already knew other groups of people think much differently than I do, to actually analyze different cases and apply philosophies, scrutiny levels, and tested my own ideas to what actually is communication justice. Ultimately, I believe it is a universal human right; but the cases presented above display my ideas of the rare occasions to when punishment should be applied.

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Sexting: a new form of expression?

                “Sexting” is a word that blends “sex” and “texting” and refers to sending sexually oriented text messages or pictures using cell phones. Statistics show that 20% of teenagers have participated in sexting, and 50% have been recipients of sexts. Laws in place would charge participants as sex offenders, and place them on the same level as rapists, or child pornographers. Is this is a fair punishment for adolescents who take pictures of themselves and send them to their boyfriends; or a jealous boyfriend who hastily forwards revealing pictures of an ex-girlfriend as a form of revenge?

                The consequences of sexting can be seen through a number of recent cases: Phillip Alpert is now a registered sex offender, who was conviceted of child pornoprahy after he emailed racy pictures of his girlfriend to over 70 people. He is serving 5 years probation, was kicked out of college and can’t find a job. A 15 year old girl in Pennysylvania girl was charged with child pornography for sending pictures of herself over the social network Myspace. And in a more tragic case, young girl Jesse Logan committed suicide after pictures she had taken of herself were sent out, causing ridicule and torture from her classmates at school; Logan killed herself.

                I believe that the current laws in place are not pertinent to the sexting issue that we are dealing with, and that a perhaps a separate set of laws should be placed that are more fitting to the “crime.” I would agree with John Humbach who argues that children and adolescents should have First Amendment protection, which I will discuss in further detail later but for the main reason being that the laws in place that are designed to protect children are actually hurting and destroying their lives.

                The instances previously noted were all discussed in the Today Show where Perry Aftab, a lawyer specializing in internet privacy and security law, and Larry Walters, First Amendment and Internet attorney share their views on the current laws in place and how they affect the issue of sexting. Out of all of the readings supplied on this section of the material provided, I agreed very much with what Walters had to say on the subject. He argues that child pornography laws were formed to punish a different kind of behavior and that the punishment does not fit the crime for adolescents and children engaging in this kind of behavior. Underage participants are being held to a criminal standard, where adults who would engage in this type of behavior would not be punished at all. He acknowledges the problem and says that it should be handled as a social problem rather than a criminal problem and that adolescents need to be informed of the potentially severe consequences that can come out of sexting. Aftab uses the case of Jesse Logan to inform teens and encourage them against sexting. 

                In a podcast interview John Humbach discusses his article “Sexting and the First Amendment,” and says that the severe sentences that are attached to trafficking and producing child pornography are destroying teenagers lives in scattered prosecutions across the country. He says that some 20 – 50 percent of teenagers in America are already registered sex offenders and that is a problem.

                Humbach’s main point is that the Supreme Court created laws to protect abuse and exploitation of children, specifically in the precedent cases New York v Ferber (1982) and Osborne v Ohio (1990), and these very laws that were put in place are actually destroying their lives. In the former, Ferber was charged with violating the New York law that forbade selling any sexually explicit recordings of children under the age of 16; the latter made new laws saying that possession and viewing of pornographic images is illegal. Humbach argues that because child pornography is considered an evil because it exploitative and abusive of children, laws cannot be constitutionally applied to things that children do on their own initiative to express their own sexuality. Under current laws for example, if a 15 year old boy or girl were to take a picture of themselves nude they would be subject to imprisonment. If their girlfriend receives it knowingly and willingly and keeps it they can be subject and charged for possession; if they send it to someone else they are subject to distribution; and if they destroy it they are subject to destruction of evidence and obstruction of justice.

                I would also agree with Humbach that the Supreme Court would not apply current precedents to auto-child porn, despite the governments “compelling reason” for halting the market for such imagery because the participants of sexting are not being forced to take naked pictures of themselves; although it may be argued that there is pressure exerted on a young adolescent to send a racy picture to their boyfriend or girlfriend, exerting pressure is not illegal. Furthermore, Humbach argues that the government should regulate behavior by making rules about behavior, not by making rules about speech about behavior. Teens engaging in sexual behavior are engaging in lawful activity; they are permitted by law to have sexual relations– teen birth rates are 500,000 per year, pregnancy rate is 750,000 per year and the average age of first experience is around 15.

                Because of the nature of the expression being discussed I will apply John Stuart Mill’s Harm Principle in which he actually directly discusses the issue of pornography. Although he does acknowledge that most people will accept that pornography should be prohibited when it involves children, he also finds it difficult to ban it in a case with consenting adults. In this case, I would apply the principle to my argument in the fact that if teens are consensually participating in the sexting, then although some do not agree with what is taking place, the participants should be protected under the First Amendment because of mutual consent and intent. Under Mill’s Harm Principle, only speech that directly harms the rights of others in an illegitimate manner should be banned.  Material that is found offensive is not sufficient grounds for prohibition. Although we have seen in many cases that sexting can potentially have very severe consequences that affect the reputation of others or cause emotional distress on participants, this is not sufficient reason for banning of sexting.

                Furthermore, I think that “sexting” and “child-pornography” should be seen as two different things, where sexting, although can possibly be a hasty decision among adolescents, can be considered a type of expression and more importantly, is delivered with consent. Child-pornography is what the current laws are set in place to avoid because they do abuse and exploit children. For these reasons, New York v . Ferber and Osborne v. Ohio must be omitted if a new definition for sexting and a new set of laws for those participants can arise. In this case, I would soley use Miller v. California,  which ruled that obscene materials did not deserve First Amendment protection if they did not past the obscenity test established in Roth v. United States and Memoirs v. Massachusetts: “the basic guidelines for the trier of fact must be a) whether the average person, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest… b) whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state of law; and c) whether the work, taken as w hole lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.”  Sexting, if based only under this precedent could potentially separate itself from the “market” of auto-porn and become something of its own.

                “Sexting” is seems to be becoming more and more widespread as technology emerges and more teens are getting a hold of the latest “smart-phone.” In his interview, Larry Walters says that teens do not realize or think that they are kids, and don’t realize the great effects their actions can have. Adults should not have to accept that this is normal behavior, but should also step in and inform their kids about Jesse Logan or Phillip Albert. One thing that I would argue against sexting is when it is not consensual, there should be a punishment, however I still uphold that the current laws in place are not suitable for the crime.

                The new issue that “sexting” has created is one that many don’t understand how to handle or even what to think of it. It is different than our notions of child pornography and the laws that were (with good intentions) applied to it years ago. Using Miller v. California and John Stuart Mill’s Harm and Offense Principles, the government should evolve as societal values and technology evolves, and create sexting as its own entity.


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Snyder v. Phelps

                After Cpl. Matthew A. Snyder was killed in Iraq in 2006, his family, like any typical family mourning a loss, wanted to do so in a peaceful and dignified manner. A group of protestors from the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas saw this as an opportunity. Like they have with many soldier services across the nation, picketed Snyder’s service with signs reading “Thank God for dead soldiers” and voicing anti-gay slurs in the hopes to get their point across that God is punishing the nation for condoning homosexuality, specifically in the military. They believe their presence at private and grievous funeral services is a way to help the families of these soldiers “connect the dots” to what they believe is their punishment.

                The protestors did not stop there, but in a poem published on their website they deemed Snyder as having been taught “to defy his creator,” and that Snyder’s father Albert raised his son “for the devil.”

                The Westboro Baptist Church is an independent Baptist church known for its anti-gay protests, picketing at funerals, protesting at Jewish institutions and desecrating the American flag. It is headed by Fred Phelps and consists mostly of members of his large family.

                Albert Snyder, the father of the marine killed in Iraq responded by suing Westboro, claiming that the church violated his privacy and inflicted emotional distress on his family by picketing near  his funeral. He called their actions “intolerable,” saying “All we wanted to do was bury Matt with dignity and respect.”

                When Snyder sued Phelps in Maryland he was awarded $10.9 million, which was later reduced to $5 million. On appeal, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals threw out the verdict deciding that the protest was protected under the First Amendment.

                The issue we are faced with is whether or not funeral picketers should be punished due to the individual harm and emotional distress that they inflict, or if there is a responsibility to avoid the greater social harm that might be caused is there is a restriction on what protestors can say.

                I think that most of America can agree that the public display by the protestor’s is appalling, and families, parents should have the right to bury their child in a peaceful and reverent way. However, I think that the Phelps case does bring an important question forth, challenging the government’s ability to protect individual’s speech, and that restrictions placed on protest could lead to greater negative effects on the right to exercise free speech.

                In his expression-action theory, Thomas I. Emerson decides that the best way to distinguish between what crosses any boundaries in the right to exercise Free Speech is between “expression” and “action.” More specifically I will look at one of Emerson’s grey areas, Defamation, where he claims that “defamatory remarks are protected under the expression-action theory, for such remarks are classified as expression so long as they concern public issues. In the area of private libel, the right of reply is preferable to a suit for damages. However, when libel is directed toward a private individual in a way that does harm to that person’s feelings, it shifts from expression to action (comparable to assault) and is no longer protected. A suit for damages would be permissible in such instances of ‘defamatory assault.’”

Here Emerson restricts hurtful speech that is directed at single victims and it is important here to remember the distinction between public and private.

It is extremely difficult for me to even attempt to be persuasive in this essay because I so strongly agree with the expressions of the WBC. They make it their job to travel thousands of miles to protest—gay or not—homosexuality at the funerals of soldiers who died in action. However, because they publicly protested within their limits, did not enter the church, and ceased before the funeral service began, I would have to apply Emerson’s theory to the notion that the Phelps’s did not engage in any private attack.

In constructing my argument, I also did some research and found that Snyder’s exposure to the offensive demonstrations did not come from physically seeing or hearing them. Rather, he first viewed them on television later that day while watching the news. Furthermore, he didn’t see the website poem against his family until he was searching on the internet some time after. (Weber) This evidence suggests that since the protests were not even directly seen by the Snyder’s during that time, it can’t be considered direct assault.

On this case specifically, I would impose strict scrutiny, which states that the government must prove that is has a compelling reason to regulate or punish the speech and restriction not overly broad or vague and advances government interest. My precedent case will be Brandenburg v. Ohio, where Brandenburg was arrested for words spoken in front of a burning cross. The case was overturned however, and the court announced an incitement standard, which claimed that speech must incite imminent and immediate violence to be punished.

In a 2007 documentary they were named “The Most Hated Family in America,” so while I feel that what they did is not right, it comforts me in knowing that there is little disagreement with that and perhaps more people need to come together, fighting against them for their own First Amendment rights. Presently, there is a group called the Patriot Guard Riders, who have grown to a 22,000 membership and make it their job to form a human shield in front of the protestors so that mourners can’t see them. If they think it is necessary they will rev their engines to drown out the shouts of the Westboro group. More and more groups are banning together to silence the WBC.

Although the Phelps’s defendants are rejoicing the death of a man, a soldier, and a son, I believe that their expression is not showing immediate danger and should not be punished. I have gone back and forth on my decision and this was very difficult to write, but I think that the greater social impact that a decision like punishing the Phelps’ can have on Free Speech for all is worth avoiding, and while our Freedom of Speech is a right that should be exercised responsibly, we do not always agree with what is being expressed. Therefore, I will uphold the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals opinion.

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October 4, 2010 My God… Your Speech!

                I claim that laws governing communication justice should primarily protect a presumed universal human right. Although it is difficult to say that this is a black and white issue, I believe that it is more just to protect an individual universal civil liberty than it is to distinguish between group identities.

                Diversity has and will always exist in the world; different people or groups believe that their way of thinking or acting is “better,” and conflict arises. I would like to say that this conflict arises in an appropriately fashioned way, but unfortunately that is not always what happens. Still, I do not think that shaping laws that protect a group identity would best protect the community as a whole, because it would deprive outsiders from speaking freely, or even thinking freely. The universal human right that should be protected in my claim is freedom of speech. Steven J. Heyman wrote that supporters on things like hate speech argue that such speech causes serious injury to individuals and groups because it assaults their dignity as human beings. The response to this, which I would agree with, is that our commitment to free expression is measured by our willingness to protect it, even when it causes serious harm or offends our deepest values.

                A moral way to act dates back centuries. There seems to be an innate sense of morality in most people. In the Sinai story, we see God imparting his laws on to the people in exile. I am Catholic, but I feel that even if I set aside my personal values and beliefs the Commandments that God gives to his people are simply guidelines for living a happy and honest life: “Do not steal, do not kill, do not lie… etc.” What I saw that was unrealistic about the story was the definite consequence of breaking these laws, and the fact that the people did not seem nor want to have any kind of thought on the matter. Ultimately, what I see about this story is a moral set of guidelines that we still seem to follow innately today. It does not support my argument due to the fact that these people were given one mindset to follow, but does in the sense that I believe people should act morally, including in cases of free speech.

                At Seattle University, diversity is something that is valued. The only way that we got to be the school that we are is by accepting and seeking out culturally diverse students that can bring and share their ideas to the campus. We do not always agree with each other, but without at least hearing what the other has to say, progress and expansion of the mind would never exist. In the Burnstyn v. Wilson U.S. Supreme Court case, this idea is examined.

                The 1952 case determined that certain areas of the New York Education Law allowing censorship in films, or revocation of a license for showing a motion picture on that ground that it was “sacrilegious” was a “restraint on freedom of speech.” It was argued that motion pictures are a significant medium for communicating ideas, that motion pictures should be entitled to the same protection of the First Amendment despite the assumption that they may “possess a greater capacity for evil,” and that New York cannot censor motion pictures due to the fact that they broadly deem them as “sacrilegious.” I think that this last point supports my argument in the sense that “sacrilegious” is a term that varies among groups and it too broad a term. This is exactly what I see wrong with the idea that laws should govern expression to primarily protect a group identity; who is to say that group values should be protected and why? I think that what it should come down to are basic human rights: we are all equal, despite our physical and cultural differences, but we are all entitled to freedom.

                I believe that Burstyn v. Wilson can also outline reasons for why illustrations should be protected. We discussed the controversial cartoons of Muhammad which were first posted in Jyllands-Posten in 2005 and more specifically the efforts by Yale University and Yale University Press to keep the images from Jytte Klausen’s book “Cartoons That Shook the World,” and along with this to keep any other drawings of the prophet out of the book as well.

                The cartoons that were published in 2005 led to riots in the Middle East and Africa, where embassies were burned, Danish goods were boycotted, and ambassadors from Denmark were recalled. 200 people were killed. The images are offensive and it is disturbing that something like this can cause people to behave in such a way and kill each other, but I do not agree with the Yale University Press decision to keep the images out of the book, and think that it is odd that they extended the suggestion to the book’s author to also keep out other images of Muhammad. I think that doing this simply keeps the images from this book, but does not keep them out of sight. Furthermore, I agree with Klausen’s statement that reprinting the cartoons was needed so that discussion could take place. Reprinting the images may be seen as “gratuitous” as Yale University Press’s John Donatich stated, but not printing them seems to be almost dishonest. After all, the book is titled “Cartoons That Shook the World.” The difficulty of the argument arises when considering the uproar and even deaths that the cartoons caused.  

                I would also protect the speakers who created “Ecce Homo.” Their pictures were shocking, linking famous biblical situations and homosexuals. Some consider the pictures an expression of Christian love while others consider them to be sacrilegious. We read that LGBT members had different reactions to the photographs as well, where some claimed it was the first time they felt embraced by the church, and others felt even more alienated than before by the church. Either way, the photographs were an exercise of free speech and I would have to agree with the article when it argued that pictures should not be removed because we find them difficult on a personal level. Therefore, they should be protected under the same precedent in Burstyn v. Wilson.

                I believe that freedom of speech is the universal human right that needs to be protected. It is essential to expansion and growth in the human mind and in communities. It seems that even if a particular form of speech is viewed as a hindrance to this expansion, this notion would be incorrect because of the very fact that it is discussed and analyzed, even if by only one single person. For instance, we would not have material in this very course if we were not able to access and view forms of speech are viewed as offensive. Unfortunately, this right is exercised in a way that is suitable for everyone, and this is where the conflict arises. However, I see the conflict as potentially bringing more good than harm. Disagreements, differences and opinions will always exist; the question is whether or not people will always express them.

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