Tag Archives: free speech

Wait, so there’s more than can’t be said than “Kill the POTUS”?

All too many people in the United States know someone dear to them that has passed away while fighting for our country. If the death of a loved one is not enough, imagine going through the process of grieving and accepting the loss while you are at the funeral and having sick, delusional people come and protest against the death. They hold signs with phrases like “God Killed Your Sons” or “Pray for More Dead Soldiers.” To make matters worse, if you try to get the group to stop the protests, they argue that it is their right to protest thanks to the freedom of speech clause by the First Amendment. A line must be drawn as to what can and cannot be said with regards to the First Amendment and freedom of speech. Unfortunately, this issue has been occurring all too often because of the gray area in the First Amendment.

The issues that occur with the freedom of speech clause have been prevalent since the beginning of the 1900s. In fact, 168 cases have appeared before the Supreme Court involving freedom of speech clause by the First Amendment. In 1917, Judge Learned Hand said that “government can regulate any speaker who would ‘counsel or advise a man‘ to commit an unlawful act.” In that same time, the Supreme Court ruled that government can punish all speech that has a tendency to encourage illegality. Fast forward 100 years though, and as of last June, the Supreme Court has unanimously re-established that “speech may not be banned on the ground that it expresses ideas that offend.”

On the contrary, Joan Vennochi says, “The First Amendment protects the speech we hate to hear.” As hard as it is to hear, that is true. Being able to speak your mind is really nice if you are the one expressing yourself but not always nice if you are the person being expressed to. However, there still needs to be a line drawn as to how hateful the speech can be before it becomes an issue.

Ultimately, many courts have decided that the exception to freedom of speech is when it is proven that the defendant said something they knew others would regard as threatening. The statement cannot be deemed as unconstitutional if it was a mistake or they were harassed into saying the statement. While there is still a gray area, and probably always will be, by having courts put parameters on what can and cannot be said regarding freedom of speech, states have some ability to limit to some protest by speech if offensive, which is definitely a step in the right direction.


Is social media restricting your freedom of speech?

Should social media be able to restrict what you post? I think to some extent, social media should be able to control what some people post. There always is that fine line in social media of what is acceptable to post and what isn’t. If their post can be offensive to a group of people the post should be taken down. For example, saying you don’t like an actor because they’re Muslim. If someone expresses their hatred towards a person about things that they’ve done that doesn’t threaten the person that the post is about, then it’s fine. An example would be, I don’t like ______ because they said _______ about ________.

In the past two months, there has been a big debate in the Marvel community on whether James Gunn, the director of the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, should be rehired after a ton of disrespectful tweets arose from ten years ago. Everyone in the cast from Guardians of the Galaxy posted a letter in support for rehiring James Gunn despite the tweets. However, Disney made a statement that they weren’t going to rehire him. Many of James Gunn’s tweets from ten years ago were about rape and pedophilia which makes sense why Disney fired him since they’re a very family-friendly business.

The pro to having social media restricting what you say is that people being “exposed” for what they said in the past won’t bite them in the butt in the future. There is also a con to having social media restrict what you say. Many conservatives on social media feel as if censorship is a bad thing. Professor Eric Gander states in Gretel Kauffman’s article Twitter Bars Alt-Right Accounts, “…individuals who are liberal are really not committed to liberal values, they’re committed to censorship.” Now I agree with the fact of social media can’t just altogether ban alt-righters from saying what they believe, it’s just when some of their beliefs offend a group of people by being racist, sexist, etc. Social media’s platform should be as neutral as it can without restricting others rights because they don’t have the typical liberal views, but also keeping in mind one’s limits to not offend people.

Should any book be banned from access in libraries just for the fact that the ideas behind them are controversial?

Within our society and as people with many different points of view often times we want our own thought to be understood by everyone else. Although, at times debate and discussion are less emphasized and more focused on the simple desire to force others to conform to the same ideas as our own. This can be seen in instances like schools where they are deciding if they should listen to the angry parents and ban Harry Potter, a notable book, for being related to wizardry and satanism. So, we have to wonder, should we ban any books that might have some controversy with how we want to raise our children?
Is silencing the voice of the writer and practically stripping them of their first amendment right? Nytimes raises one question to the issue. How do the students feel about books being banned? After All, the students are the ones that will be reading the books not the parents, so shouldn’t the students be able to decide what they want to read? For the most part, students answered the question like Erin, an 18 year old in highschool, did by stating “The world is huge, and diverse. Books, whether fiction or nonfiction, open a little part of that world to us. …I think the books helped me to grow up, to learn about the world”. On the other hand how are we to know if the kids are ready to read some books that might require a little bit more maturity or context. We can’t just throw 4th graders into a translated version of Mein Kampf. Thoughtco thnks the answer is just providing a supporting hand if the students need it, like the introduction to the use of the N word in older literature. PBS sees every book as a learning experience and any book that is banned for sensitive material is simply avoiding the problem. Learning new information along with the context in which it is delivered will help us grow as individuals and come to better ideas. Justice Louis D. Brandeis would agree with the fact of having no books banned as seen by a famous case of Whitney vs. California Justice where he stated
*377 “Those who won our independence by revolution were not cowards. They did not fear political change. They did not exalt order at the cost of liberty. To courageous, self-reliant men, with confidence in the power of free and fearless reasoning applied through the processes of popular government, no danger flowing from speech can be deemed clear and present, unless the incidence of the evil apprehended is so imminent that it may befall before there is opportunity for full discussion. If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.”
In essence stating that free speech should be protected and if some things may not sound right, then we can talk to change it. In the end, books are meant for spreading ideas in a way that can sometimes be easier than speeches or other sources. Why not use them as tools for learning and enlightenment?


Works Cites:
“What To Teach Students About Censorship And Book Banning In America.” ThoughtCo. N. p., 2018. Web. 20 Feb. 2018.
Whitney v. California [1927] 274 U.S. 357 No. 3 (Supreme Court of United States)
Schulten, Katherine. “Are There Books That Should Be Banned From Your School Library?.” The Learning Network. N. p., 1285. Web. 20 Feb. 2018.
Strum, Lora, and Lora Strum. “Banning Books Like ’13 Reasons Why’ Makes It Harder For Teens To Open Up To Adults, Author Says.” PBS NewsHour. N. p., 2017. Web. 20 Feb. 2018.

Large Corporation Donations

Freedom of speech can also be recognized as freedom of expression and when congress passed the case Citizens United v.FEC in 2002, it has since allowed large corporations to take advantage of free speech by donating to presidential candidates. Should corporate donations be protected by the 1st Amendment? According to National Review, last election many of the smaller donations were given to the smaller candidates whereas a majority of the large corporation donations were given to the bigger candidates. With corporations taking a stance and donating in their favor with higher quantities than individuals, democracy can tend to lean to the candidate with more funding than the other. When the fairness of the electoral process is affected, that should be a sign to keep this from happening.

Showing one’s support towards candidates is respectable and should be protected, although it should be regulated on the quantity of donations. According to Slate, nontraditional free speech is still free speech and can not be regulated because of the title “free speech”. Regulation on free speech only takes place in private locations and other instances, but does not affect donations. With the title free speech, the quantity of donations can not be regulated which creates a loophole. While the 1st Amendment gives us a lot of power, it is hard to decide what is too much or too little power. For these reason it is clear that money should not be recognized as free speech by giving too much power to corporations.

Works Cited:

Kairys, David. “The Misguided Theories Behind Citizens United V. FEC..” Slate Magazine. N. p., 2018. Web. 20 Feb.2018.


Minnesotalawreview.org. N. p., 2018. Web. 20 Feb. 2018.


“Citizens United — 2016 Proves Its Critics Wrong | National Review.” Nationalreview.com. N. p., 2018. Web. 20 Feb. 2018.


Supreme Court thoughts on Peaceful Assembly and Free Speech outside clinics

The first amendment states “Congress shall make no law respecting[…] the right of the people peaceably to assemble”. Peaceably being the key word there. The wording of the first amendment allows the government to step in if the protest becomes violent or dangerous, but where do we draw the line on where they should step in? This has been a big issue for awhile now with pro-life activists staging rather aggressive protests outside abortion clinics, and even a shooting rampage in Massachusetts in 1994. When young women are walking into a clinic, it isn’t fair for them to be screamed at by other women, telling that that they are going to hell, and a murderer. It is because of this that a few states have enacted laws creating a buffer zone around clinics where protesters must stay a certain distance from the clinic (typically around 50ft) and leave a bubble around any patients coming to or from the clinic in order to improve patients feeling of safety. However many feel that these limits infringe upon citizen’s first amendment right to peaceful assembly. There are many pro-life advocates who just want to have a quiet friendly chat with patients and show them that there are other options. The Supreme Court just struck down a law about this issue in 2014 when Massachusetts buffer zone law came into question. The Justices decided that limiting all speech in this way was a violation of the 1st amendment, and suggested that Massachusetts change the law to limit certain kinds of speech, ie harassment and threats, rather than banning all speech. This is ruling is interesting however, because only a few years before, the supreme court voted to uphold a similar law in Colorado. Clearly this is an issue that falls in the grey area of the law, and work still needs to be done in order to solidify the boundaries of peaceful assembly and free speech.


“The Bill Of Rights: A Transcription.” National Archives. N. p., 2015. Web. 13 Feb. 2018.
“Court Strikes Down Abortion Clinic “Buffer Zone”: In Plain English – Scotusblog.” SCOTUSblog. N. p., 2014. Web. 13 Feb. 2018.

Free Speech In The Workplace

Recently free speech in the workplace has become a bigger concern among the public after a Google employee was fired for sending out a memo criticizing the company’s policy. Many were defending the former employee, explaining that the information he provided was something that should be exposed so a change can be made, and he was within his free speech rights. So, the question is are employees protected by the freedom of speech clause of the First Amendment? Generally the First Amendment only protects a citizens rights from the government. Private workplaces are allowed to create their own policies on the matter, and employees are required to follow them. An employee of a private corporation will not be protected by the first amendment if they were to say something the company considers defamatory. I agree that if something slanderous or defamatory is said towards an employer or company by an employee, the employer is well within their rights to fire them for it. However if someone has religious, political beliefs, etc, that differ from their employer, I feel the employees should be fully protected by the first amendment from losing their job for that reason. For example, in 2004, Lynne Gobbell was fired from her job simply for having a John Kerry bumper sticker, which her employer disapproved of. This is just one of many examples that puts Jeanette Cox’s quote, “to keep your job, you often can’t say what you like.”, into context. So in conclusion, Are employees protected? Generally speaking, no. There are basic things employees are allowed to discuss and still be protected, such as wages and hours, however the employers still will have final say in what is considered acceptable while under their employment.


Works Cited:

Speech Codes: Are They a Scourge or a Savior to Free Speech?

Many people know the First Amendment: the right to expression, the right to peacefully assemble, freedom of the press, the right to petition the government, etcetera. However, not many people know where the boundaries of these rights lie. People push these boundaries all the time and right now college campuses are but one example. Administrators at colleges are attempting to enforce speech codes. Yet, does enforcing speech codes violate the right to free expression described in the First Amendment? How far can speech codes go before the contradict the rights to free expression and peaceful protesting described in the First Amendment?

There are many ways speech codes could be enforced. But depending on how they are applied, they could break the First Amendment. A few forms of expression, specifically in regards to free speech, that are not protected by the First Amendment are slander or libel, fighting words, and obscenity. This means that someone can not go in front of a crowd and defame, insult, threaten, or say anything that may be considered hate speech to someone without consequences. One example of hate speech can be seen in a video of Milo Yiannopoulous at UW Milwaukee. In this video, he verbally attacked and degraded a transgender student. They still were spoken with no point other than to make fun of a subject and way of life that Yiannopoulous did not agree with. Another example of hate speech and fighting words is threats. As stated by Ben Shapiro, some people “greeted the birth of [his] second child by calling for [him, his] wife, and two children to be thrown into a gas chamber”. There was no purpose to this statement other than to express a disagreement with his religion. Under the First Amendment, hate speech is not something you can say without consequences. Speech Codes cannot be used to prevent speakers with controversial opinions from speaking. They cannot prevent people from peacefully disagreeing and debating about topics. However, speech codes can apply consequences if that speech becomes hateful or slanderous since that speech would no longer be protected under the First Amendment.

Some Speech Codes are also attempting to limit the student’s right to peacefully protest a speaker. The First Amendment specifically says “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble”. To restrict the right to peacefully assemble is a direct violation of the First Amendment. Yet, as seen on the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education website, also known as FIRE, some college campuses are restricting the student’s rights to peacefully assemble and protest on the grounds that they are disrupting the speaker’s right to freedom of speech. Furthermore, the Wisconsin Campus Free Speech Act states that “protests and demonstrations that interfere with the expressive rights of others are subject to sanction”. There must be a line drawn as to what qualifies as disruptive and interfering demonstrations. The line is whether or not there is any form of violence or hate speech. If a protester simply said the speaker was wrong, held signs, and argued about right versus wrong, nothing can be done about it because they are protesting peacefully, as the First Amendment says they can. However, if a protestor started doing damage or cursing out the speaker, then they would have to face consequences. Recently at UC Berkeley, protesters became very violent at a speech by Yiannopoulous and had to be escorted off the premises. UC Berkeley encompasses what a protest that is not protected by the First Amendment is, and what Speech Codes can restrict.

In the end, Speech codes can be useful to make speeches more peaceful and clearly define punishments for breaking that peace, however, they must still subject to the First Amendment.


EBSCO: The New Battle Over Campus Free Speech

Milo Yiannopoulos verbally attacks a transgender student (1:30-3:05)

The Atlantic: The Glaring Evidence That Free Speech Is Threatened on Campus

Wisconsin Campus Free Speech Act

A few examples of Hate Speech against Ben Shapiro

Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE)

UC Berkeley