The Central Dilemma For Freedom Of Speech Essay

The Central Dilemma For Freedom Of Speech Essay

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The central dilemma for freedom of speech lies within the Constitution itself, in that an individual’s right to expression is simultaneously paired with the larger collective goal of equality. Some argue that with the only way to combat inequality due to hateful speech is with speech itself. However, proponents of enhanced speech regulation argue that freedom of speech allows for maintenance of the status quo of powerful majorities reigning over the weaker minority opinion. Thus, freedom of speech does not support inequality in society because it allows for marginalized groups to express their opinions and counter hateful speech with speech of their own.
Freedom of speech assures that a powerful government does not use speech restrictions to override the power of the democracy. In Schenck v. US (1919), Schenck spoke out against the government by protesting the draft and encouraging men to fight conscription, and was convicted of violating the Espionage Act of 1917. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of speech restrictions, arguing that words that “create a clear and present danger…will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent” (Justice Holmes qtd. in Fraleigh and Tuman 57). Schenck’s speech was definitively chilled simply because his opinion was unpopular, and of the minority opinion. Although it was valued political speech that peacefully criticized a government action, nonetheless the Court ruled against protection because his speech had the potential to disrupt the opinion of the majority: the US government. This case demonstrates that the government tends toward using the power of suppression to prosecute minority opinion rather than shelter it. Fortunately, the clear and present danger test has b...


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...tration to cease. Rather than stifling the speech of minorities, freedom of speech for all allows the opportunity to combat hateful speech with corrective speech, and thus eliminates the potential for minority speech to be censored unduly. Thus, freedom of offensive speech does not promote societal inequality, but rather ensures protection for all speech.
Freedom of speech remains a crucial component in supporting equality in society because unpopular opinions often suffer the most repression. Additionally, if one does protest to certain speech they consider harmful, fighting that speech with speech of their own often proves to be the best remedy, as evidenced by Collin. Rather than supporting inequality, freedom of speech ensures that those of unpopular or minority opinions have the equal opportunity to share their beliefs alongside those of the majority judgement.

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