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Debates
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? 

Post-Debate
Winner

Undecided
1 %
16 %
Against The Motion
83 %
For The Motion
Pre-Debate
For The Motion
78 %
11 %
Against The Motion
11 %
Undecided
Breakdown
Undecided
0% - Swung From the Against Side
0% - Swung From the For Side
0% - Remained Undecided
Against The Motion
0% - Remained For the Against Side
0% - Swung From the For Side
0% - Swung From Undecided
For The Motion
0% - Swung From the Against Side
0% - Remained For the For Side
0% - Swung From Undecided
Post-Debate
Winner

For The Motion
100 %
0 %
Undecided
0 %
Against The Motion
Pre-Debate
For The Motion
81 %
13 %
Against The Motion
6 %
Undecided
Breakdown
For The Motion
13% - Swung From the Against Side
81% - Remained For the For Side
6% - Swung From Undecided
Undecided
0% - Swung From the Against Side
0% - Swung From the For Side
0% - Remained Undecided
Against The Motion
0% - Remained For the Against Side
0% - Swung From the For Side
0% - Swung From Undecided
About The Debaters
For The Motion
An image of 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 With Our Families:... read bio
An image of 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 The Atlantic. He was the... read bio
An image of 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 editorial cartooning... read bio
Against The Motion
An image of 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 books. He has... read bio
An image of 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 the American... read bio
An image of 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, critical race theory,... 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.