For our final discussion, let us retreat back to the original topic: “The Risks and Responsibilities of Free Speech.” Sure, there are many responsibilities associated with providing accurate, wholesome news that has a wide range of constant readership. But what about the first part of the topic? What are the risks of free speech? One could define a risk as “a situation involving exposure to danger,” but how does that apply to the press and free speech? As a journalism major, I have a few guesses. This “risk” could be the unfortunate case of falsely reporting a news piece, resulting in a loss of credibility and, ultimately, readership. But that doesn’t seem as much of a “risk” as it does a consequence. In my own words, I would define a “risk” in terms of free speech as printing a statement or topic that is somewhat unconventional for its time, yet somehow undoubtedly interesting in nature. It may be slightly risqué, or even prohibited in some senses of the word, but often times, the “risk” is what makes the publication a success. Without this fear of failure, there is no transcendence to the next level occurring. The “risk” must be present so that the responsibility is there, to protect the “fear of failure” and turn the fear into a great accomplishment. It is ultimately the “fear” part of the aspect of free speech that continues the push for innovation and, ultimately, betterment.
Thankfully, there are privileges and responsibilities associated with free speech, a topic discussed thoroughly by Zach Dawes, Jr. With freedom comes responsibility, and anyone, regardless of their standing in society, should be held responsible for the consequences of their free speech. That being said, Dawes’ main argument is that “free speech comes with responsibility, and those who use their free speech in ways that lead to violence and/or threats of violence should be held accountable for their actions” (Dawes 2). By ‘those,’ he means any public authority figure, official, or member of society who creates a negative, demeaning, or threatening behavior by their diction should be held accountable for the consequences of that particular choice of words. However, a question was raised in Dawes’ argument that is worth contemplating: “Does condemning violence that was created, at least in part, by your own misinformation, half-truths, and caustic rhetoric really solve anything?” (Dawes 2). For the answer to this inquiry, we must look deeper than the typical question requires. As of now, there seems to be no current reason for belief in the idea that consequences of the misuse of free speech actually deter further negative forms of free speech from being used in everyday conversation.
Back to the topic of freedom of speech: defined as a “package deal of social goods” that must be correctly expressed to the public. This package may be closely monitored, checked and probed for any and all possible errors, mistakes that could greatly affect the credibility of the publication. In the words of David van Mill, “speech, in short, is never a value in and of itself but it is always produced within the precincts of some assumed conception of the good” (Mill 2). There is a strong need for the defense of the issue of free speech, where any belief should be granted the opportunity to be adequately voiced to the public. According to Mill, “If all mankind minus one were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind” (Mill 3). Freedom of speech, therefore, allows for scholars and ordinary citizens to engage in conversation and debate about worthy topics, fostering the development and growth, on an entirely new level, of those who take the time to listen to their arguments. Additionally, we can enhance the content, and appearance, of this topic by taking a look at the reversal of this scenario. Imagine a world where free speech is prohibited—citizens must abide by the set rules, never questioning the validity of a source. As you can picture, this type of world would not be conducive for learning, or even growing as an individual who is a reader of the news. Big Brother would control us, and we would be helpless.
The role of social media in the press today, an ever-changing role, is proving to be even more important than was originally thought, especially in regards to free speech. Since various forms of social media open the discussion to more types of people with a wider range of strengths, weaknesses, opinions, and abilities, more in-depth discussions can be had on the topic. Specifically, social media often serves as the ‘bridge’ to another world, whether that realm be a world entirely different from your own or connecting with your Facebook friends through a shared common interest over a political view. Social media is able to give a new perspective on an issue or problem for people to interpret in their own way, empowering them to passively share their views on an issue they care greatly about. Often times, the internet’s social media outlets are able to carry news faster than the typical next-day press, or even word-of-mouth communication. It has quickly become a source of information on which we rely for our daily updates on everything from the latest shoe trend to the location of Obama’s next press conference. With information so readily accessible, it is imperative that the press, and even we, as bloggers, provides the correct information when making a new post. After all, social media has the ability to reach us all in one format or another, and it is important for the knowledge conveyed to be accurate.
As an aspiring journalism major looking for a future in the legal field, I fully support the transparency of our government and its legal proceedings, especially concerning the topic of free speech. With our 1st Amendment, however, also comes a certain level of responsibility, both to the intended audience and to the writer (yourself). As a journalist, you possess the power to potentially influence and control the way the story is presented, making it imperative to carry the responsibility of reporting the facts and covering the entirety of the story. While ‘free speech’ is often interpreted in terms of the 1st Amendment, it must also be seen as a term that implies full coverage of a story or topic, as withholding information is a form of false reporting. Therefore, I strongly agree with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour and the other journalists featured in the video that this type of world, where journalism is heavily restricted, is morally wrong. Furthermore, the kidnappings of journalists around the world prove to be further testament as to the severity of this issue, a topic that affects someone’s, perhaps an entire country’s daily reporting of the news. Various examples of the failure to disclose all information can be seen on many levels, including the national news. With the example of the families of those on Malaysia’s Flight 370, those of the United States seemed to be better informed, thus appearing much calmer, than those of Malaysian descent who had little-to-no information on what exactly happened to their families. The issue of reporting transparency and the rights and responsibilities of free speech permeate a variety of levels.