My Answers to Schmoop’s Free Speech Questions

free-speechSchmoop, an education website, has a list of Free Speach Questions. Here are my answers with my rationale.

1. Should the right to speech be absolute?

No. Inciting violence is not protected. Slander is not protected. But I believe virtually all other speech should be protected.

2. Can people be trusted to handle an unlimited range of information and ideas without any government intervention?

Yes. The government cannot be trusted to intervene.

3. If not, where should the lines be drawn?

If someone is inciting violence, they should be arrested for doing so. Otherwise, the state should butt out.

4. Should political speech be more rigorously protected than other forms of expression?

No. Who defines what is “political”? The state? Those in power cannot be trusted to define what is protected and what is not.

5. Have new technologies changed the way any of these questions should be answered?

Yes, and they continue to do so. With block chain based social networks, censorship will be nearly impossible. Anonymity allows incitement to violence and slander to occur with impunity.

6. Should students possess the same First Amendment rights as adults?

Yes. In fact, they may even deserve more tolerance if they slander someone, since at least children may not have the maturity to understand the consequences of their actions.

7. Is learning best advanced by restricting or not restricting student speech?

How is this even a question? Especially in higher education, learning occurs through the open exploration of ideas. Restricting speech prevents this.

8. Have the courts provided schools and students with a useful set of guidelines for identifying the limits of student speech rights?

I don’t believe that the courts have a right to dictate limits on students’ speech, and I don’t believe that any such guidelines would be useful. For children,¬†surely limits on what is appropriate for discussion should come from developmental psychologists, not lawyers.

9. Is the “clear and present danger test” a useful tool in sorting out protected from unprotected speech?

Yes. Here is the text of the test: “The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent.” So this test, for example, covers both incitement to violence and slander.

10. Do you agree with the decision in Brandenburg v. Ohio?

This case pushed the edges of inciting violence. Erring on the side of free speech was probably the right thing to do.

11. Is the “bad tendency test” a useful and/or legitimate tool in sorting out protected from unprotected speech?

The bad tendency test goes too far. For example, it resulted in a woman being convicted simply because of her association with the Communist Party.

12. Should pornography be protected?

Pornographic writing and art should be protected. Photo or videographic pornography involving adults should be protected if all involved participated consensually. Children cannot give informed consent, meaning child pornography should not be covered as free speech.

13. Is the Court’s distinction between private possession and commercial production and distribution legitimate?

I would say it is. Those producing child pornography are most deserving of condemnation.

14. Is the definition of obscenity provided by the Miller decision appropriate? Does this definition provide a workable tool for judges and juries?

Obscenity laws should not apply to pornography being exchanged between private citizens. They should only apply to public acts or to those who give children access to pornography.

About jimbelton

I'm a software developer, and a writer of both fiction and non-fiction, and I blog about movies, books, and philosophy. My interest in religious philosophy and the search for the truth inspires much of my writing.
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