KASHALIKAR: Importance of free speech cannot be underestimated nor infringed upon


Column: A Centrist View of the World

As George Orwell once said: “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” 

I cannot emphasize this enough, that no matter what your political beliefs are, you do not have the right to stop or censor someone from expressing their viewpoints. If you do not like what they are saying, then make your case as to why their opinion is wrong.

It is the Constitution of the United States that points out that free speech is protected under the First Amendment, and that also includes hate speech. I understand that hate speech can offend a group of people, but it does not give them the right to censor that speech. 

The only thing that is not protected under the First Amendment is where speech incites violence. The Supreme Court ruled in 1919 in the case Schenck v. United States, that speech is not protected if it shows a “clear and present danger.” If, for instance, someone decides to threaten somebody on the internet, then this is where their speech is not protected because it is showing a clear and present danger. 

One must be careful when they claim someone’s opinion is hate speech, because hate speech is a broad term. Not everything constitutes hate speech. 

What constitutes hate speech is where an individual gives a speech, and they talk bad about a group of people based on their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or other defining personal characteristic. 

What does not constitute hate speech is someone’s opinion on certain issues like the economy, healthcare, foreign policy issues and other domestic-related issues. 

The difference between the United States and countries that are ruled by a dictator is that in the United States, we do not censor someone’s opinion, especially when they express their frustration about certain actions made by the government. The First Amendment is the fundamental right that our founders gave us as long as we do not incite violence. 

But recently, our country has been polarized between progressives and liberals and conservatives due to their disagreement with certain policies. Groups like Antifa claim to be antifascists, but behave like fascists when they try to stop a conservative speaker from entering a college campus. 

I have an issue with this, because people should be allowed to express their opinion, whether it is on a college campus or in a public space.  

Just imagine if there was no free speech. We would be ruled by a tyrannical regime where information is controlled. You do as what is told to you. You must follow the rules, and you cannot even talk back to the officials. 

That would be terrible because countries like Russia, Iran, China and other tyrannical regimes have banned free speech, which is essentially the lack of the First Amendment. So, do we want our country to be like them? The answer is no, because our constitution allows us to express our opinion without retribution. 

To conclude, it is important to understand that free speech is one of the reasons why America is what America is today due to the fundamental values we hold dearly too.

Abhishek Kashalikar is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in Biotechnology. His column, "A Centrist View of the World," runs on alternate Tuesdays.

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