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The Trouble with Free Speech

Introduced: April 25 2012

Believing in freedom of speech is as American as apple pie. But social media and the proliferation of all kinds of communication raise questions. What can be said...or put on a sign...or posted online? Some recent examples -- such as the subway sign with strong language to President Obama or the Marine who used Facebook to vent his feelings about the President or even the teenage girls who listed on Facebook the people they'd like "to kill" have people thinking twice about when speech goes "too far." What are your thoughts? Should all speech be free -- or are there limits? And who decides?

Dialogue on The Trouble with Free Speech
093:

On the world stage, we deal with people whose respect or appreciation for “free speech” is much different than ours. As Americans, we hear things that make us furious, things that outrage us – but we have learned to tolerate it, to put it in a larger context and to recognize that people have rights. In Arab countries, they hear what they perceive as an offense against Islam – such as the recent anti-Muslim movie -- and they burn things and even kill people. The person or persons who made that movie may be taking advantage of free speech, but in my mind it brings up the question, do individuals have the right to say things, make movies, or create public movements that get OTHER people killed? Maybe they should be held responsible for their expression.

315:

One of the most vicious recent tests of the right to free speech involved the church members who stage anti-gay protests at soldiers’ funerals. It is horrible to watch and you’d certainly like to find a way to shut them up – but the Supreme Court ruled they have a right. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito was the only one who disagreed that their actions are protected by law.



Note from IWD: If you’re in the mood for a little nasty humor, follow this link to a site that shows signs people have made to protest the protests of the Westboro Baptist Church. When church members appear at the funerals of service men or women, other protestors show up, too – and it has become something of a contest to see who can make the best sign.http://www.buzzfeed.com/mjs538/the-3o-best-anti-westboro-baptist-church-protest-s%20

157:

It seems that in certain situations, the First Amendment comes under special rules. In the case of the Marine, it had to do with limits on free speech of active duty personnel. I can see that. What if someone decided to post secret information about a military strategy? In this case, it was just his opinion and not classified information, but I guess when he agreed to be a Marine, he gave implicit agreement to respecting those limits.



Note from IWD: Gary Stein was given an other-than-honorable discharge after a general agreed with a finding by an Administrative Separation Board at Camp Pendleton that his comments criticizing Obama were detrimental to good order and discipline. He has said he wishes he could take back his comments Here’s a link to a good explanation of the situation that led to his being discharged. http://usnews.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/04/25/11396769-marine-who-criticized-obama-on-facebook-i-wish-i-could-take-it-back?lite%20

321:

I do feel sorry for the Marine who is being discharged for criticizing Obama. He’s served in the Marines for 15 years and served in Iraq. But he used an unfortunate phrase – “I wouldn’t obey Obama’s orders.” And he now says he wishes he had “articulated” his point better. Certain things are better left unsaid.

269:

Sometimes when people speak up in a controversial way, the law still protects them, but consequences can come from other people. One example is Margaret Court, a former Australian tennis champion who spoke out against gays. No one said she couldn’t do it – but there sure has been a strong reaction from tennis players. And some are suggesting that a court named in her honor be renamed.

033:

I actually thought about free speech today as I watched media coverage of how a “double-agent” foiled the latest plot of the bomb-maker in Yemen. As the news show gave every possible detail of how the plotters were “duped,” I thought, “Well, I guess we won’t be able to dupe them like that again next time.” Too much information!

181:

The incident mentioned in the IWD question, involving the girls who posted names on Facebook of who they’d like to kill, attracted the attention of the ACLU who filed a lawsuit on their behalf. The ACLU suit says the girls' right to free speech was violated and the use of emoticons and "LOL" showed they were only joking. Remember that, you can say anything at all if you say “LOL” after it.

136:

The First Amendment has to be one of our most confusing constitutional guarantees. Confusing in that you can find yourself on different sides of the question, depending on the circumstances. Most of the time, we hear cases where people have said something so outrageous that it seems it should be outlawed. But sometimes NOT saying something is also protected – like the girl in Pennsylvania who refused to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance. At first, the school disciplined her – and then changed their minds and said she could sit quietly and respectfully. That’s nice. But would it be different if she talked or sang through it? Something tells me it would still be protected.

027:

It’s annoying. It’s infuriating. It can really get your blood boiling. But free speech sets us apart from others, so we have to honor it.

093:

On the world stage, we deal with people whose respect or appreciation for “free speech” is much different than ours. As Americans, we hear things that make us furious, things that outrage us – but we have learned to tolerate it, to put it in a larger context and to recognize that people have rights. In Arab countries, they hear what they perceive as an offense against Islam – such as the recent anti-Muslim movie -- and they burn things and even kill people. The person or persons who made that movie may be taking advantage of free speech, but in my mind it brings up the question, do individuals have the right to say things, make movies, or create public movements that get OTHER people killed? Maybe they should be held responsible for their expression.

315:

One of the most vicious recent tests of the right to free speech involved the church members who stage anti-gay protests at soldiers’ funerals. It is horrible to watch and you’d certainly like to find a way to shut them up – but the Supreme Court ruled they have a right. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito was the only one who disagreed that their actions are protected by law.



Note from IWD: If you’re in the mood for a little nasty humor, follow this link to a site that shows signs people have made to protest the protests of the Westboro Baptist Church. When church members appear at the funerals of service men or women, other protestors show up, too – and it has become something of a contest to see who can make the best sign.http://www.buzzfeed.com/mjs538/the-3o-best-anti-westboro-baptist-church-protest-s%20

157:

It seems that in certain situations, the First Amendment comes under special rules. In the case of the Marine, it had to do with limits on free speech of active duty personnel. I can see that. What if someone decided to post secret information about a military strategy? In this case, it was just his opinion and not classified information, but I guess when he agreed to be a Marine, he gave implicit agreement to respecting those limits.



Note from IWD: Gary Stein was given an other-than-honorable discharge after a general agreed with a finding by an Administrative Separation Board at Camp Pendleton that his comments criticizing Obama were detrimental to good order and discipline. He has said he wishes he could take back his comments Here’s a link to a good explanation of the situation that led to his being discharged. http://usnews.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/04/25/11396769-marine-who-criticized-obama-on-facebook-i-wish-i-could-take-it-back?lite%20

321:

I do feel sorry for the Marine who is being discharged for criticizing Obama. He’s served in the Marines for 15 years and served in Iraq. But he used an unfortunate phrase – “I wouldn’t obey Obama’s orders.” And he now says he wishes he had “articulated” his point better. Certain things are better left unsaid.

269:

Sometimes when people speak up in a controversial way, the law still protects them, but consequences can come from other people. One example is Margaret Court, a former Australian tennis champion who spoke out against gays. No one said she couldn’t do it – but there sure has been a strong reaction from tennis players. And some are suggesting that a court named in her honor be renamed.

033:

I actually thought about free speech today as I watched media coverage of how a “double-agent” foiled the latest plot of the bomb-maker in Yemen. As the news show gave every possible detail of how the plotters were “duped,” I thought, “Well, I guess we won’t be able to dupe them like that again next time.” Too much information!

181:

The incident mentioned in the IWD question, involving the girls who posted names on Facebook of who they’d like to kill, attracted the attention of the ACLU who filed a lawsuit on their behalf. The ACLU suit says the girls' right to free speech was violated and the use of emoticons and "LOL" showed they were only joking. Remember that, you can say anything at all if you say “LOL” after it.

136:

The First Amendment has to be one of our most confusing constitutional guarantees. Confusing in that you can find yourself on different sides of the question, depending on the circumstances. Most of the time, we hear cases where people have said something so outrageous that it seems it should be outlawed. But sometimes NOT saying something is also protected – like the girl in Pennsylvania who refused to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance. At first, the school disciplined her – and then changed their minds and said she could sit quietly and respectfully. That’s nice. But would it be different if she talked or sang through it? Something tells me it would still be protected.

027:

It’s annoying. It’s infuriating. It can really get your blood boiling. But free speech sets us apart from others, so we have to honor it.

027:

It’s annoying. It’s infuriating. It can really get your blood boiling. But free speech sets us apart from others, so we have to honor it.

136:

The First Amendment has to be one of our most confusing constitutional guarantees. Confusing in that you can find yourself on different sides of the question, depending on the circumstances. Most of the time, we hear cases where people have said something so outrageous that it seems it should be outlawed. But sometimes NOT saying something is also protected – like the girl in Pennsylvania who refused to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance. At first, the school disciplined her – and then changed their minds and said she could sit quietly and respectfully. That’s nice. But would it be different if she talked or sang through it? Something tells me it would still be protected.

181:

The incident mentioned in the IWD question, involving the girls who posted names on Facebook of who they’d like to kill, attracted the attention of the ACLU who filed a lawsuit on their behalf. The ACLU suit says the girls' right to free speech was violated and the use of emoticons and "LOL" showed they were only joking. Remember that, you can say anything at all if you say “LOL” after it.

033:

I actually thought about free speech today as I watched media coverage of how a “double-agent” foiled the latest plot of the bomb-maker in Yemen. As the news show gave every possible detail of how the plotters were “duped,” I thought, “Well, I guess we won’t be able to dupe them like that again next time.” Too much information!

269:

Sometimes when people speak up in a controversial way, the law still protects them, but consequences can come from other people. One example is Margaret Court, a former Australian tennis champion who spoke out against gays. No one said she couldn’t do it – but there sure has been a strong reaction from tennis players. And some are suggesting that a court named in her honor be renamed.

321:

I do feel sorry for the Marine who is being discharged for criticizing Obama. He’s served in the Marines for 15 years and served in Iraq. But he used an unfortunate phrase – “I wouldn’t obey Obama’s orders.” And he now says he wishes he had “articulated” his point better. Certain things are better left unsaid.

157:

It seems that in certain situations, the First Amendment comes under special rules. In the case of the Marine, it had to do with limits on free speech of active duty personnel. I can see that. What if someone decided to post secret information about a military strategy? In this case, it was just his opinion and not classified information, but I guess when he agreed to be a Marine, he gave implicit agreement to respecting those limits.



Note from IWD: Gary Stein was given an other-than-honorable discharge after a general agreed with a finding by an Administrative Separation Board at Camp Pendleton that his comments criticizing Obama were detrimental to good order and discipline. He has said he wishes he could take back his comments Here’s a link to a good explanation of the situation that led to his being discharged. http://usnews.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/04/25/11396769-marine-who-criticized-obama-on-facebook-i-wish-i-could-take-it-back?lite%20

315:

One of the most vicious recent tests of the right to free speech involved the church members who stage anti-gay protests at soldiers’ funerals. It is horrible to watch and you’d certainly like to find a way to shut them up – but the Supreme Court ruled they have a right. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito was the only one who disagreed that their actions are protected by law.



Note from IWD: If you’re in the mood for a little nasty humor, follow this link to a site that shows signs people have made to protest the protests of the Westboro Baptist Church. When church members appear at the funerals of service men or women, other protestors show up, too – and it has become something of a contest to see who can make the best sign.http://www.buzzfeed.com/mjs538/the-3o-best-anti-westboro-baptist-church-protest-s%20

093:

On the world stage, we deal with people whose respect or appreciation for “free speech” is much different than ours. As Americans, we hear things that make us furious, things that outrage us – but we have learned to tolerate it, to put it in a larger context and to recognize that people have rights. In Arab countries, they hear what they perceive as an offense against Islam – such as the recent anti-Muslim movie -- and they burn things and even kill people. The person or persons who made that movie may be taking advantage of free speech, but in my mind it brings up the question, do individuals have the right to say things, make movies, or create public movements that get OTHER people killed? Maybe they should be held responsible for their expression.

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