‘Freedom of Speech Means the Freedom to Offend.' Essay examples

1375 Words Mar 25th, 2008 6 Pages
George Orwell once famously said ‘If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.' This sentence sums up the very essence of free speech; it is, as Orwell believed, the mother of all civil rights. Without the unconditional freedom to offend it cannot exist. Ideas are, more often than not, dangerous things. There is little point in having freedom of speech if it only defends the most popular and innocuous of opinions. The freedom to offend can perpetrate racial, social or religious intolerance; however, conversely, it is also the only means available to fight against such bigotry. Free speech is not something to work towards when the world is ‘better'; it is, rather, the vital tool through …show more content…
To treat freedom of speech as a job selection, where only suitably ‘qualified' candidates are selected and processed, is to render it utterly meaningless. Stalin was also in favour of free speech for those he liked. So was Hitler. And yet, neither of their brutal regimes placed great value (or indeed, any at all) on civil liberties. In some countries, Holocaust denial, or the glorification of Hitler's regime in any way shape or form, is enough for a three year long prison sentence. Some believe that this is more than justified-after all; the systematic slaughter of six million Jewish people was an atrocity that should today hardly be denied. Holocaust denial is, indisputably enough, an act of immeasurable barbarity and offence- however, to quote Noam Chomsky ‘it is a poor service to the memory of the victims of the Holocaust to adopt a central doctrine of their murderers.' Imprisoning someone for expressing their opinion, no matter how despicable or vile that opinion may be contradicts one of the base values of liberty. In a free society people are free to hate whoever they like. When they act upon their hatred, or try and incite others to do so, there are laws and suitable penalties to deal with them. However, if people are free to think whatever they like, they must also be able to express the same. Far more effective than censorship is successful rebuttal with truth and history. If one does not believe in free expression of the offensive, the repulsive and the

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