By Kayla Coursey
Friday, December 19th, 2014
Freedom of speech is one of the fundamental rights of the American people. In the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America it clearly states, “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.” This means that you have freedom to express your opinions without fear of being silenced, censored, or restrained. You have the right to have your voice heard. However, are there limitations to this freedom?
It is common sense that you can’t yell, “Fire!” in a crowded movie theatre, and it is common courtesy to obey the saying, “If you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all.” Both instances involve an unabridged level of freedom that becomes potentially harmful to other people sharing the same space and the same rights as you. This introduces the broader limits of this freedom.
The phrase about saying nice things has been said and parroted back since elementary school years. However, this idea works better in theory than in practice.
The first page of tabloids are filled with definitely not nice things. Open your Facebook feed and you are likely to be bombarded with status updates complaining and arguing in language far from polite. Similar situations echo across the new digital spectrum our generation has come to adore; the millennial generation as a whole seems unfazed by the colorful and negative language streaming through their Twitter feeds.
The degree to which we censor our own language has changed as well as how we communicate those ideas. Generations before us lacked the digital platform from which we type obscenities and uninformed accusations into the void. Today, each individual carries the power to say whatever they want, no matter how unkind or untrue their words might be. This notion can be summed up as “Everyone is a journalist.” This is a constitutional freedom they are entitled to, the freedom of speech and the press, but is it a freedom without limitations?
The freedom of speech does arguably bear a limit: speech is free until you infringe upon the rights of other people. Yelling about a fire that very clearly is nonexistent is an example of abusing and misinterpreting those constitutional rights. Without censorship, we can discover the truth, but just as easily discover misinformed sources. The freedom of speech, as well as the freedom of the press, carries with it responsibilities like truth and integrity that, within themselves, imply limitations to this freedom.
Yes, everyone today can be a journalist through their Twitter feed; however, people easily take uniformed statements to be gospel.
So if you don’t have anything nice to say, at least try not to say anything at all.