“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” -Voltaire
The phrase ‘Freedom of speech’ is the most heeded but at the same time the most controversial issue of the society today. It demands a complete liberty of expression of thoughts into speech by an individual. A layman would define it as “say anything, any time, any where, to anyone”. However, the exact definition is as follows:
“Freedom of speech is the right of an individual to express his or her opinion publicly without any interference, censorship or restriction”.
The right of freedom of speech is guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, to express beliefs and ideas without unwarranted government restriction but with certain limitations. Not only in the United States the freedom of speech is the most demanded right in most of the countries today and it is the basis of many democracies around the world. Freedom of speech is also a foundation for the freedom of thoughts or vice versa as every human being is free to think the way he wants to, thus it is of utmost importance to express it openly as well. Now the question is do you personally agree with absolute freedom of speech? How do you personally feel when you are free to say anything about anyone at any time? Sounds good to you, isn’t it?
Being able to speak freely is important, as every person needs to have right over is own opinions and expression of his opinions, however at the same time it is also important to realize that if you have an absolute right to say anything and you want others to respect your right, remember that at the same time others have that right too, and you are also equally responsible to respect their right too, as quoted by George Bernard Shaw,
Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.
George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman, "Maxims: Liberty and Equality," 1905.
It is this responsibility that makes it effective. As you demand freedom you are ought to provide freedom too. If you want others to be tolerant of what you say, others demand that too. Also, practically it is very difficult to pursue absolute freedom of speech. The basic reason is that man is a social animal. We live within a society, and hence we have to respect our society too. The promoters of absolute freedom are always restricted by the societal pressures if not any government restrictions. Too much freedom can led to problems like racism, religious and cultural conflicts etc, hence freedom of speech is only significant when practiced ethically in an organized society and thus require certain limitations or restrictions otherwise its not meaningful, as quoted by Samuel Hendel,
“The fact, in short, is that freedom, to be meaningful in an organized society must consist of an amalgam of hierarchy of freedoms and restraints”.