The Price of Free Speech

Re: Blogs and Freedom of Speech

To the Editor:

Since the birth of our nation, we have been reaping the benefits and paying the price for the premiere amendment to our Constitution, one the most challenged and, often times, abused of our freedoms as citizens — free speech. The framers of the Constitution had admirable intentions when they used the term "speech" to address an individual's personal voice. However, we know today that speech is more than verbal expression, but includes non-verbal, visual, and symbolic messages. Our first amendment right does not permit us to cause panic, it does not permit us to showcase obscenity or defamation, it does not permit us to breach peace, to incite crime, to encourage fights, or to promote rebellion. These crimes are commonplace. For any person or group to gather anywhere, in public or private, and be allowed to offend the first amendment with illegal behavior such as the aforementioned is a moral and ethical crime that must no longer be allowed.

Our Supreme Court justices have heard, and continue to hear, cases of persons and groups suspected of breaching the right to freedom of speech, but they are not interfering with the free exchange of ideas because they feel that they may infringe upon rights as granted by the first amendment. "The interest in encouraging freedom of expression in a democratic society," according to Justice John Paul Stevens, "outweighs any theoretical but unproven benefit of censorship." Where does this leave us as citizens when we are plagued with obscenity, defamation, breach of peace, incitement of crime, fighting words, and sedition in our society on a daily basis? We are paying a high price for our freedom of speech. In essence, our Constitution protects the speech of all citizens — the peacemakers and those who hate. Where do we, as a peace-seeking nation draw a line?

English philosopher John Stuart Mill articulated that, "... the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others," but far too often we see persons and groups that are infused with hate preaching and teaching intolerance against other groups of people. Such behavior is taught to future generations and this leads to ongoing communal discord. The platforms of hate must retire, as they, undoubtedly, breach the highest law of this land. As citizens, we must work together to make our lives, our communities, our country, and our future greater. Love unites and hate separates; the concept is simple. We will not find peace in our homes, communities, or anywhere as persons and groups are allowed to gather and preach hate. Our freedom of speech is a right, yes, but when our expression becomes offensive and infused with intolerance and hate, society in general pays the price.

John D. Evans
Oak Park, Ill.

To the Editor:

'Tis the fourth of July, 2006. During a game of Yahoo's Mahjong Solitaire, I tried to remember each of our Bill Rights. I couldn't remember all of them so I looked it up on the internet. In spite of the trivial banter in the chat room I thought maybe some one else would appreciate the refresher. I began listing the rights, one by one. Immediately, the room banterers snidely remarked on my effort to be appear intelligent, of having way too much time on my hands, etc. No one recognized the Bill of Rights. After the Fifth Amendment, Yahoo kicked me out of the room and refused to allow me in for an extended period. I'm amazed that even the Bill of Rights has become subversive material, not tolerated on Yahoo.

Vickie Ensor
Phoenix, Ariz.