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Does Free Speech Only Apply to Those with Nothing to Say?

For those who believe wholeheartedly in the principles of democracy and liberal government, the freedom of speech is something that should subsist without any restriction or imparted conditioning. It is an accepted privilege of democratic rule, that allows individuals to express their thoughts and feelings without the fear of censorship or reprisal, and also affords them the freedom to access information in order to aid an independent quest for knowledge and wisdom.

However, if the core values of democracy are to be maintained entirely, then the freedom of speech and expression must be upheld without exception and in every viable social circumstance. If this is not the case, then the concept becomes one that actually opposes liberal rule, especially in situations where individuals are censored or punished for revealing views which are deemed to be controversial or potentially divisive. The question is whether free speech is an unconditional feature of democracy, or any applicable to those who have nothing to say.

A Case in Point

An example of this issue unfolded in the US this week, as a high school English teacher was suspending for expressing her anger and frustration on an internet blog. The text contained numerous disrespectful or insulting insinuations towards her students and the methods of teaching in contemporary society, although the writer refrained from making specific references to their place of work or individual students.Despite this, the teacher was identified by her online moniker and profile picture, and was duly suspended by her employer pending a further investigation. She has maintained that the blog was written as a process of expression, and only to be viewed by her partner and a tight knit circle of friends. Despite this, and her insistence on not mentioning the school or student names, her superiors have reacted to her candor and clearly perceived a wider implication of the pressures facing modern day teachers.

Subsequently, the incident has created a widespread debate, and one that concerns the nature of uncensored media and the freedom of speech. While certain factions of society will support the act of suspension and deem the teachers actions inherently unprofessional and disruptive, there is a strong argument that suspending an individual for vocalizing their thoughts on her profession is an act of censorship and entirely opposed to the values of a democracy.

Free Speech and the Online Revolution

From the viewpoint of education officials, the main issue with the blog appears to be the teachers observations concerning modern teaching and the struggles facing state schools. While there is no doubt that the opinions expressed were strong and controversial, they were not without relevance and expressed in a forthright and candid manner. By expressing her independent thoughts to a public audience, she has merely highlighted the very pertinent issues concerning youth culture and attitudes.In an age of social media outlets and public forums, the online revolution has provided an excellent platform for debate. In doing so, it has delivered the strongest test imaginable of the core principles of the freedoms afforded by democracy, especially with regards to the freedom of speech and information. As it is now far easier for individuals to source information and publish their opinions on live website pages, liberal governments are being forced to live up to their legislation and evaluate the fundamental values of their rule.

Democracy as an Ethos not a Policy

It is a test that the US seems to be failing at the moment, as this instance has seen an individual punished merely for an expression of their opinion. Not only have governing bodies reacted to a basic expression of freedom with swift censorship and reprisal, but they have failed to see the significance in what was written and the need to discuss the issues raised. In many ways, it is a complete failure of democratic principles, where a tax paying citizen is penalized for raising valid points and bringing them to the attention of an independent and forward thinking society.There is undoubtedly an issue with the attitudes and behavioral trends displayed by youngsters towards authority, and in particular those experienced by teachers at the front line of education in state schools. Subsequently, there is no reason for a professional in this situation to refrain from posting their personal thoughts and insight on the subject, especially in a country which is founded on the concepts of free trade, thought and speech. If it is to become acceptable for the US state or public sector officials to suspend staff who express their independent thoughts, then they must also rethink their ethos and methodology of government.

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Navaid I. Syed is the owner and CEO of / ExcitingAds! Inc. He is a medical doctor and was born in Mirpurkhas, Sind, Pakistan, on July 31, 1964. He graduated from Liaquat University of Medical and Health Sciences, Jamshoro, Sind, Pakistan, in 1990. He is Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates, Philadelphia, PA, USA, certified.

411 thoughts on “<span>Does Free Speech Only Apply to Those with Nothing to Say?</span>”

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