Home Pop Culture Freedom of Speech is Only Lip Service

Freedom of Speech is Only Lip Service

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If you consult any reference book, it will tell you “Freedom of speech is the freedom to speak without censorship and\or limitation. The synonymous phrase, freedom of expression,” is sometimes used to indicate not only freedom of verbal speech but any act of seeking, receiving and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used.” This is a definition that is printed in our own constitution, and that we all have become very familiar with. It is a verbal liberty that allows us the right to have an opinion and variety of beliefs. Yet, in the present context, it seems as though freedom of speech is lacking the most vital part of the phrase— the actual freedom. There are many repercussions when it comes to being truly free with our voices; we cannot freely speak our minds in fear of being labeled. Our power of speech and what we have faith in is what makes us who we are and differentiates us from others, yet it seems that, more and more, we are living in a culture where there seems to be a right and wrong answer to any subject, and we can be immediately deemed stupid or ignorant if our views stray from the norm. How can we call it the freedom of speech and how can we be honest about who we really are when there are restrictions and boundaries placed upon our own constitutional rights?

The most recent controversy involving our “freedom of speech” was the incident where Carrie Prejean took the stage at the Miss USA pageant and spoke her opinion on same sex marriage. She voiced her own personal opinion (a stance against same sex marriage) and the chaos began. Taking a look at her answer, she doesn’t bash gay rights nor does she say anything against it. She simply answers with what she was raised to believe.

“I think it’s great that Americans are able to choose one or the other. We live in a land that you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite marriage and […] I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anyone out there, but that’s how I was raised and that’s how I think it should be[…]”

Perez Hilton later stated, “She gave the worst answer in pageant history. She got booed. I think that was the first time in Miss USA, EVER, that a contestant has been booed … She lost not because she doesn’t believe in gay marriage. Miss California lost because she’s a dumb bitch. But what made her a dumb bitch? It was an obvious fact from the displeasing expression on Hilton’s face that her answer had upset and changed his entire opinion of her. When dealing with a sensitive subject such as gay rights, whether we agree or not, we have to tiptoe around it. But why should we have to? Why should we be afraid of voicing our own opinions? How long has there been a correct and incorrect view? People are allowed their own opinions, their freedom of speech, and no one should be chastised for it. As of now, it seems the stance is this: if you believe in gay marriage, you are lauded, if you don’t believe in it, you become an ignorant bigot.

Even Keith Lewis, who runs the Miss California competition stated, “As co-director of the Miss California USA, I am personally saddened and hurt that Miss California believes marriage rights belong only to a man and a woman. I believe all religions should be able to ordain what unions they see fit. I do not believe our government should be able to discriminate against anyone and religious beliefs have no politics in the Miss California family.” It almost seemed like he was backtracking and covering his own ass in fear of being trashed for his choice in having Prejean be a representative for the competition. But after all, he was exercising his freedom of speech.

It all boils down to the fact that freedom of speech does not exist. We can voice our opinions whether they be about gay rights or which political party you are voting for, but the fact of the matter is, whichever belief is more “popular” or deemed “the right one” is the factor that brings down the wise words of the constitution. There is nothing we can do or say that doesn’t have some kind of consequence. We are constantly punished if we say something that isn’t the popular stance in mainstream media. Do we have to discount our own honesty and personal rights in fear of being penalized? It is human nature’s desire to be accepted and to fit in. We see it throughout public schools and the real world. Now, it seems to have carried on into our daily lives, as you skew or alter your own beliefs and opinions to fit in and be accepted. As the times change and gay rights becoming a more prominent and popular issue that people believe in, it has become a vehicle of sorting out the “good ones” from the “bad ones.” Yet, what gives anyone the right to deem someone wrong or right, politically incorrect or politically correct?

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  • Kelly Moorhouse

    Steven,

    I wish I could take credit for this piece, but it’s not mine. It belongs to Jennifer Song.

    I come from a place where freedom of speech is not part of the constitution – in fact we don’t actually have a constitution at all – so I find it all rather interesting. I haven’t decided yet whether I think it’s a good idea or not.

  • ianvens

    Jenifer,

    After reading your article, one thing kept coming to mind. People need to be reminded of what freedom of speech actually entitles them to. People are not entitled to saying what they want, where they want, whenever. That is not how it works. You talk about inappropriate stuff at work, that is your right. It doesn’t mean you won’t be fired the next day. You exercise your freedom to talk about bombs at an airport? I guarantee you the next few hours of your life will be unpleasant.

    Freedom of speech really entitles you to only one thing (and even then it is iffy). It guarantees that you, after voicing whatever might be ping-ponging around in your brain, will not be jailed or murdered (by the government (supposedly)). This is all. This is the equivalent of saying that you have a right to eat three meals a day. It isn’t telling you that they will be delicious, or even life-sustaining. It only guarantees that the three meals (in whatever ways the freedom fighters interpret the word) will be present. Same with the First Amendment. You are not guaranteed pleasant treatment by society. If that was the case, whoa. Eavesdropping on the subway would be an even more disturbing experience.

    This freedom of speech everyone touts, if trampled upon, really (if we shed all illusions) only entitles you to spending an extremely long time in court, with a fifty-fifty chance of anything actually changing. This is our beloved First Amendment: be careful with her. She’s a fragile old bird.

  • Stephen

    Kelly,

    You are so right [on some things] that we have the freedom of speech. I watched the example you used to great lengths. Carrie took her right and spoke from the heart. But so did Perez. Much of what you are talking about is the media frenzy around it. Either way, all had the freedome of speech. BUT – with that freedome comes criticism. Whether we are talking about verbally or perception…I think it is safe to assume there will always be criticism. All of us must take accountability for our actions; whether they are physical or verbal. Carrie appears to be a very smart person…I don’t think for minute that she did not think of her answer and the possible reaction it may bring. I support her for speaking her mind…but that doesn’t mean I agree with her heart. She was in the lime-light…she knew every step, word or action would be scrutinized…she will now need to raise her chin high and answer only to herself for her choices. I like that she has stood by her heart and her words…but again…if she can have the freedom of speech…then so should everyone else.

    Similar comments for Parez…no, i don’t think the word bitch was appropriate or some of his comments made on his site…BUT…he has the same freedom as Carrie. I am sure he lost some followers too by his actions…but he stands by them. As with Carrie..I stand by his conviction…but not all of his words.

    I am sorry…I just don’t see where Carrie’s freedom of speach was ever violated…she has had more face time out of this situation than anyone I know. NO ONE has silenced her. If she believes her continuous talks about this are good for her or her cause…then I applaud her…BUT she [as well as Perez] must accept every comment that is in disagreement too.

  • Kelly Moorhouse

    Really interesting train of thought, and well put.