Is It Time to Restrict Freedom Of Expression

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Was this ever real? Was there ever a point in history when people could express themselves any way they wanted without fear of repercussion? Real or not, the illusion of free expression has carried with it a burden to all who operate under its perception. We presume we are able to follow this decree by the letter and laws are created under this presumption, industries are allowed to flourish under this presumption, and we often refer back to this rite in instances we feel individuals are being suffocated for having an opinion.

In principle, freedom of expression applies to all and we are all afforded the luxury of expressing ourselves any how we want so long as it doesn’t break any other laws. We can publicly criticize our leaders, state our religious or non religious beliefs, or rate the food and service at a restaurant we dined at the night before.

But what if in criticizing our leaders we incite a mutiny? What if in defending our religious or non religious beliefs we cause hatred and ignorance towards the other faiths? What if posting a poor review starts a thread that leads to that restaurant going out of business?

You may say these outcomes at the least are a necessary ends to maintaining our freedom. After all, change is based on ordinary citizens fed up with the current conditions and using their voices to organize others of similar beliefs to make the necessary changes. Sounds peachy!

But what if the intention for change isn’t positive. What if the revolutioners role is to oppress, detain, behead, incite fear, or just be regular old assholes? How would we now view their right to free expression? Should we give it to them even though they have made their intentions clear? Should we let the media, mainstream media to which most everyone has access, should we let them continue to be a platform for these negative, dangerous, damaging messages to be heard by impressionable minds who may decide to take up these causes?

We have to ask ourselves – what is freedom of expression worth? When we look at societies in which these rights are not given, societies which inhibit a citizen’s right to learn, right to access information, right to freely practice their faith, we shake our heads in shame and judgement at the arrogance of any body in power dictating what their people are allowed to consume. But I must ask – are we much better off having complete freedom to create and consume information that is purposefully misleading due to some unknown (or known) agenda? Put another way, is it OK for conservatives and liberals to be that far apart on how to run a country and distribute content for the everyday people to choose sides knowing that content is misleading and without obligation to follow through with any of it?

And this is my point. When I ask “Is it time to restrict our freedoms,” I’m really asking “Is it time to increase our accountability?” The idea of freedom of expression goes only as far as the guiding principles allows, as far as those who consume its message allows, and I say it’s time to redefine those principles.

If I post a comment to a platform specifically aimed at someone with the intent of causing harm which then leads to that person being harmed (be it suicide or at the hands of others), then I need to be held accountable.

If I am a media outlet constantly showing images and giving descriptions of how a lone wolf can incite fear and carry out violent and murderous acts of hate against another group and that leads the viewer – young, impressionable, unsure, unstable – to then follow those descriptions, then as a media outlet I must be held accountable.

The alternative to this accountability is the proliferation of hate and the rise of those sitting on the fence of deciphering their character being subjected to this hate and then jumping off the fence only to land on the wrong side. Without accountability, freedom is like a lit match in the middle of the forest and the more it spreads, the harder it is to put out. And if that is true, then we are the winds fanning the flames allowing it to burn every branch it touches.

So what are we to do? Should we sit back and impose our right to freely express ourselves without regard for how those messages are interpreted? Or should we regulate our right to free expression and hold these messengers accountable for the presumed outcomes? Whatever the answer will dictate the social and cultural tone of the next millennium. Are we really prepared…

Kern Carter

Before anything, I am an author. My debut novella "Thoughts of a Fractured Soul" follows a Millennial dreamer from adolescence through to adulthood as his ambitions slowly become fractured by the responsibility he feels to his family, his environment, and as his own misguided decisions force him down a path of accepting mediocrity. Blogger and Content Curator: As a freelance writer and blogger, I create written content across various online platforms, including right here on Linkedin. My pieces always involve topics that reflect my own experiences projected onto Millennial culture. Having a strong understanding of social media has allowed me to create and curate content throughout those streams and have a measurable online influence. I've been able to establish a growing audience from around the world who connect to my pieces and are open to my perspectives. Public Speaker: Getting involved in Public Speaking allows me to present my messages in a different settings and really speak to audiences and fans from a much more personal narrative. It's also given me the privilege of speaking on topics in which I've become well versed, including topics of independent work (freelancing) and using social media as a platform to further ones brand. "Thoughts of a Fractured Soul" is available in print and e-book format at www.kerncarter.com. Specialties: writing, public speaking, social media, creating content, curating content

1 Comment

  1. Tim Yearneau

    January 8, 2016 at 7:42 am

    Freedom of expression is always a tricky one. We do have a large amount of freedom in our country to express ourselves, even if it rubs someone else the wrong way. That’s part of who we are and what our constitutional rights allow. But can we incite violence. I don’t believe so. Freedom of Expression have clauses that restrict that which incites or causes harm, but it’s up to a judge to decide much of that.

    While I agree that someone shooting his or her mouth off and spreading negative messages, I don’t agree that it should be restricted or removed, as it fits within the context of Freedom of Expression. I don’t think it would be a good move to restrict the media in what they currently do. Yes, they push the envelope. But to start adding restrictions also means a trip down censorship, and all we have to do is look at those countries that exhibit censorship. From that we’ll know it’s a bad road to go down. Well, thanks for listening.

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