POLS 15 – Freedom of Expression I


[music] We begin our exploration of civil liberties with what many would consider perhaps
the most important of those liberties: freedom of speech. Or more properly, freedom of expression. The First Amendment says,
“Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech,
or of the press.” We cherish our right to freedom of speech, but it also leads to some
negative consequences. At times, speech can be offensive
or even threatening. So why do we allow
hateful groups to march or Holocaust deniers to take out
advertisements in the newspaper? Because in America, we believe in what’s
known as a “marketplace of ideas.” The theory is that by
allowing everybody to speak, the truth will hopefully emerge over time. There’s no guarantee of it, but it’s more likely than
if we suppress speech. But what about speech that’s hateful
or speech that’s clearly false? Well, the answer isn’t censorship. The answer is more speech! And hopefully, the good
will drown out the bad. An important thing to keep in mind is that the First Amendment
only applies to the government. It does not apply to private individuals
and private organizations. So it doesn’t apply to things like boycotts organized by people who are
opposed to something someone said. It doesn’t apply to protests
against offensive speakers. And it also does not apply to employers who can fire people for exercising their
free speech rights in many instances. Another thing to remember is that the First Amendment only protects
speech, not behavior. But a lot of behavior is
to convey a message, and many of these are protected
by the First Amendment. Some examples include expressing your feelings this way or this way. It’s also upheld the right of schoolchildren
to wear black armbands as a political statement. Finally, although we use
the word “speech,” it’s actually much broader than that. Freedom of speech also includes the right
not to speak on a topic. It includes the right to listen because
speech is useless without an audience. And freedom of speech applies to
far more than just speech. It applies to art and music, movies,
plays, and all methods of expression. In fact, it is more appropriately known
as freedom of expression. [music]

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