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Thread: When does freedom of speech go to far?

  1. #1
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    When does freedom of speech go to far?

    I've gone back and forth today about how to present this subject. I've no desire to open up anything about current politics (mods: Please feel free to lock this immediately if you think there is no way to steer free), but the topic is of both a moral and a political nature.

    Perhaps one of the most frequently touted freedoms here in the U.S. is freedom of speech. It is used as the argument to say, publish, or protest any number of things. It is used as an excuse to defend the burning of our flag by our own citizens, but in some cases it isn't upheld. In regards to the ability of speech to undermine others standing in society all to often the freedom of speech is not upheld because it violates the rights of others.

    I read an article today about a case that will be presented to the supreme court. (The supreme court ruling that will come is not the discussion, this is merely a frame for the actual question) A gentleman is suing a church organization for staging a protest at the funeral of his son. His son was a soldier who had been killed, and the church is of the belief that the deaths of soldiers are due to homosexuality. This isn't the only case I have heard of since it was fairly commonplace at one of the Army bases I lived near, and I have also read of similar protests at the funerals for college students.

    As I said, I've no desire to talk politics. I'm curious though, is this is a case where the right to freedom of speech has been carried too far? I've often heard of protests at funerals in over the last five years or so, and I think that it is a case where the protester's freedom of speech is in violation of a moral obligation that society has to allow families to buy their loved ones in peace and dignity. Should freedom of speech be allowed to excuse immoral/unethical behavior?

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    Registered User Lulim's Avatar
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    In my opinion, the wishes of the family to bury their son in peace and dignity, should be respected. I do not consider it a violation of the freedom of speech when intruders are excluded. It is, after all a private event, and the family has the right to decide whom to invite and whom to deny entrance. And they shouldn't have to suffer disrespectful behavior in addition to the suffering over the loss of their son. Whoever wants to express their protest is free to do so -- somewhere else.

    Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.
    To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits
    in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.”

    Helen Keller

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    Doh! This is the Westboro Church from Topeka right? They're a bunch of crack pots. The only members of the church are the family members of the Phelps family. That doesn't answer the question but that group makes my blood boil.
    Do, or do not. There is no try. - Yoda


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    Quote Originally Posted by papayahed View Post
    Doh! This is the Westboro Church from Topeka right? They're a bunch of crack pots. The only members of the church are the family members of the Phelps family. That doesn't answer the question but that group makes my blood boil.
    That would be the one Here I was trying to keep names out to keep things a bit general. They're the most known, and the ones named in the suit, but they're not the only groups. I've heard of other protests unrelated to this group that also occurred.

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    Dance Magic Dance OrphanPip's Avatar
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    The expression of free speech has to be limited in certain circumstances. Invading the private lives of individuals is one of them, a funeral is not a public event to be protested.
    "If the national mental illness of the United States is megalomania, that of Canada is paranoid schizophrenia."
    - Margaret Atwood

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    TobeFrank Paulclem's Avatar
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    On a slightly different tack, I've often wondered whether the freedoms enjoyed by the press are an opportunity for unscrupulous journalists and politically motivated newspapers to unduly influence public opinion.

    We've got an election here in the UK in May, so I won't refer to that, but if I refer to the PM John Major from the early 90s, (not that I'm a fan of his you understand), he was portrayed as a staid, simple idiot. he has a David beckham style squeaky voice, which all went to paint this cartoon picture of him. He was hammered by the press - on the personal level, and the Conservatives lost the election. I think they would have lost anyway, but this portrayal, I'm sure, contributed to the image of ineffectuality.

    The irony of it is that at the time he was being portrayed thus, he was knocking off one of his cabinet ministers who later revealed it in a book. He wasn't the staid, boring idiot of the press.

    My point is that such undue influence - politically and on an individual level - is an abuse of such freedom.

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    Pièce de Résistance Scheherazade's Avatar
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    Freedom is only illusion we are fond of creating.
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    Livin' in Slow Motion Hurricane's Avatar
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    Freedom of speech is probably the most vital cornerstone of America. The Phelps family/Westboro Baptist Church have every right to protest at the funerals of soldiers. I look at this the same way I look at flag burning: just because you can doesn't mean you should.
    This is not "yelling fire in a crowded theater" or anything like that. No one is in physical danger. Applying personal concepts of morals or ethics to the freedom of speech is a very dangerous thing. Protesting at someone's funeral, especially if that person gave their life for their country, is something that 99.99% of people can agree is morally repugnant, but it's just a couple hops away from no protesting at a whole host of other locations and events. I get pissed by the "General Betray-us" posters/news ads and people going around saying soldiers are murderers, but I have to remember that what to me may seem unpatriotic and disrespectful is, to someone else, a legitimate protest.
    To paraphrase: I don't defend what they do, but I'll defend to the death their right to do it.
    Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it's not.

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    Jethro BienvenuJDC's Avatar
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    The intent of "freedom of speech" was so that the government could not stifle opposing political expression. Several areas in which I think that total freedom to speak should NOT be allowed are:

    * private events (as is this example): one should not be allowed to invade one's personal lives. This also goes with "the freedom of press" in respects to the paparazzi. Celebrities should be allowed to live in peace without constant interruption. Princess Diana would probably be alive today if it weren't for these crude invasive people.

    * openly vulgar expression: whether it is vulgar verbal language, gestures implying generally unacceptable ideas, and indecent exposure or pornographic presentation. These things should obviously be considered according to societies standards. Many things today would be outlawed 100 years ago.

    * protesting competitive business: This is not referring to questionable business ventures that may be offensive to certain communities (like a strip club, a warehouse, or anything that may disrupt the particular community). I am referring to one supermarket being picketed because it is non-union. This violates the business of one individual or company over another.

    This is in my own humble opinion. Total freedom (in any area) is not always good.
    Les Miserables,
    Volume 1, Fifth Book, Chapter 3
    Remember this, my friends: there are no such things as bad plants or bad men. There are only bad cultivators.

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    Vincit Qui Se Vincit Virgil's Avatar
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    As kooky as the protest is, they have a right to freedom of speech. The only place freedom of speech should be curtailed is in the event of violence of some sort. We allow the KKK and the Neo Nazis to march and speak. This is surely not as outrageous as either of those. As long as the protestors are not intruding on private property, they have a right to make their point heard.
    LET THERE BE LIGHT

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    Wolf Revolte's Avatar
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    Whats moral and what isn't is up to individual opinion.

    I do not like when people shout out hate words towards other people, they shouldn't be banned from their stupidity.

    People need to learn how to treat one another with respect, that's something they have to figure out on their own.

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    Registered User Emil Miller's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paulclem View Post
    On a slightly different tack, I've often wondered whether the freedoms enjoyed by the press are an opportunity for unscrupulous journalists and politically motivated newspapers to unduly influence public opinion.

    We've got an election here in the UK in May, so I won't refer to that, but if I refer to the PM John Major from the early 90s, (not that I'm a fan of his you understand), he was portrayed as a staid, simple idiot. he has a David beckham style squeaky voice, which all went to paint this cartoon picture of him. He was hammered by the press - on the personal level, and the Conservatives lost the election. I think they would have lost anyway, but this portrayal, I'm sure, contributed to the image of ineffectuality.

    The irony of it is that at the time he was being portrayed thus, he was knocking off one of his cabinet ministers who later revealed it in a book. He wasn't the staid, boring idiot of the press.

    My point is that such undue influence - politically and on an individual level - is an abuse of such freedom.
    There is a line to be drawn between freedom and anarchy, but the trouble is we all have our own idea where that line should be drawn. That is why we have laws to ensure that anarchy is kept at bay. If those laws are not enforced then anarchy will prevail and "freedom" will cease to exist. Obviously there are libertines who don't want laws, but only because they fondly believe that their absence won't affect them personally. As far as the UK is concerned, the press are supposed to be answerable to the Press Complaints Commission which is truly a toothless tiger; as are other government appointed quangos in our "freedom" loving democracy.

    {edit}
    Last edited by Scheherazade; 04-13-2010 at 06:48 PM. Reason: political comments

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    Freedom of speech doesn't mean anything anymore mk. Americans vent but they use this as an escape valve rather than attempting true social equity, and even outside of this treasured sense of autonomy in the West, increasingly, humans are controlled by the process, whether it is a Katrina victim trying to reclaim a loved pet, or someone like me who has spent 24 months in hell trying to get a new power chair. I can scream all I want, threaten this, or that, but the system in which no one is accountable because they are following regulations, this destroys vulnerable people.

    I was doing much better before the ADA ever became law, and I can tell you why: Title II recognized that disabled individuals were a minority who needed protection--once the ADA passed, the statue said, okay, when we do this, we take this away from you, which is why traditional activism winds up being fools gold.

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    Jethro BienvenuJDC's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jozanny View Post
    Freedom of speech doesn't mean anything anymore mk. Americans vent but they use this as an escape valve rather than attempting true social equity, and even outside of this treasured sense of autonomy in the West, increasingly, humans are controlled by the process, whether it is a Katrina victim trying to reclaim a loved pet, or someone like me who has spent 24 months in hell trying to get a new power chair. I can scream all I want, threaten this, or that, but the system in which no one is accountable because they are following regulations, this destroys vulnerable people.

    I was doing much better before the ADA ever became law, and I can tell you why: Title II recognized that disabled individuals were a minority who needed protection--once the ADA passed, the statue said, okay, when we do this, we take this away from you, which is why traditional activism winds up being fools gold.

    wow...are you done?

    What does this have to do with free speech?
    Les Miserables,
    Volume 1, Fifth Book, Chapter 3
    Remember this, my friends: there are no such things as bad plants or bad men. There are only bad cultivators.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BienvenuJDC View Post

    wow...are you done?

    What does this have to do with free speech?
    Everything, because fidelity to procedure takes precedence over freedom to use your voice. You don't see much of the underclass online, ever ask yourself why?

    In other words, when constraints impede resources, freedom of speech becomes irrelevant. The LitNet community is primarily suburban, not exclusively, but primarily, dominated by housewives, female teachers, and their kids. Persons like myself are thieves in the night, and obviously disliked for it--but even if I publish an article about reform in medical equipment--it does not stop me from being vulnerable to being forced into a nursing home because I cannot get what I need--and this is what I mean. Human rights as an intellectual concept is meaningless if you are starving to death.
    Last edited by Jozanny; 04-13-2010 at 08:57 PM.

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