October 17, 2006

Freedom of Expression Must Include the License to Offend

Heralding the First Amendment, proponents of free speech champion the right to expression unencumbered by government intervention. But is freedom of expression absolute and limitless?  Should we be free to use words with the intention to harm?  Should some words remain unspoken, or does this mind-set lead us to the path of censorship?

Main Points

For The Motion
  • Any limitation of free speech opens the door to government censorship, and consequently grants political leaders the power to suppress dissent and opposing views.
  • The First Amendment safeguards Americans’ right to criticize religious, political or social beliefs or practice regardless of whether or not some may find those criticisms offensive.
  • Censorship does not alleviate existing racism or bigotry; rather, it discourages dialogue between those with opposing views.
Against The Motion
  • Freedom of speech is not absolute; it is legally limited to protect Americans’ safety and should be restricted to ensure civility.
  • Speech that marginalizes or disenfranchises specific individuals or communities should be restricted for the good of society as a whole.
  • Technological advances have given individuals an unprecedented power to amplify their voices, and as a society we must act to ensure that this power is regulated and used responsibly.
We Should Defund the Police
Winner: Yes
Yes: +2.37%
No: -2.37%
Police Unions Do More Harm than Good
Winner: Yes
Yes: +3.94%
No: -3.94%
The Police Have Become too Militarized
Winner: No
Yes: -2.36%
No: +2.36%
CLIPS BLOCK
ABOUT THE DEBATERS
For The Motion
Philip Gourevitch
Philip Gourevitch - Editor of the Paris Review and a long-time staff writer for the New Yorker

Philip is author of A Cold Case (2001) and We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed ... read bio

Christopher Hitchens
Christopher Hitchens - British author, journalist, literary critic and public intellectual who is often described as a “contrarian"

For nearly a dozen years, Christopher Hitchens contributed an essay on books each month to Th... read bio

Signe Wilkinson
Signe Wilkinson - Editorial Cartoonist for the Philadelphia Daily News

Signe is the author of One Nation, Under Surveillance, and the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for e... read bio

Against The Motion
David Cesarani
David Cesarani - Research Professor in History at Royal Holloway, University of London

David is a British scholar specializing in Jewish history and has written and edited over a dozen... read bio

Daisy Khan
Daisy Khan - Executive Director of the American Society for Muslim Advancement

ASMA is a non-profit religious and educational organization dedicated to building bridges between... read bio

Mari Matsuda
Mari Matsuda - Professor of Law at Georgetown University Law Center and an activist scholar who brings in the outsiders’ perspective

Mari specializes in the fields of torts, constitutional law, legal history, feminist theory, crit... read bio

Main Points

For The Motion
  • Any limitation of free speech opens the door to government censorship, and consequently grants political leaders the power to suppress dissent and opposing views.
  • The First Amendment safeguards Americans’ right to criticize religious, political or social beliefs or practice regardless of whether or not some may find those criticisms offensive.
  • Censorship does not alleviate existing racism or bigotry; rather, it discourages dialogue between those with opposing views.
Against The Motion
  • Freedom of speech is not absolute; it is legally limited to protect Americans’ safety and should be restricted to ensure civility.
  • Speech that marginalizes or disenfranchises specific individuals or communities should be restricted for the good of society as a whole.
  • Technological advances have given individuals an unprecedented power to amplify their voices, and as a society we must act to ensure that this power is regulated and used responsibly.