Essay On Freedom Of Speech

Four years ago, I left my home country, a former communist state in eastern Europe and travelled to “the land of the free” to attend a private university, whose founding motto is “The Wind of Freedom Blows”.I was leaving a country where my grandparents used to be afraid to read the Bible or tell political jokes (even in their own home), as such actions used to be punishable by imprisonment or, worse, being sent to a labour camp.

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Always, it was the goal of protecting community values that motivated oppression.

Perhaps the toxic consequences of censorship—a history, where abridging the freedom of expression has been related to the political suppression of important ideological perspectives, especially those of political minorities—are not as salient to our generation, to which free speech is a rather abstract ideal.

Yet, as history demonstrates, restriction of speech might be most deleterious to the very same people that such restrictions want to defend.

Hindering informed discussion, which considers the views of all sides, shows the validity of some over others, is likely to be ineffective and even counterproductive in resisting prejudice and offensive ideologies.

As much as I agree with the motives, I disagree with the method.

Of course, speech that constitutes targeted harassment or threat, or instigates violence, has no place on university campuses.

First, censoring speech that is seen as discriminatory risks perpetuating existing biases by failing to tackle the core of the issues.

Second, by giving control over speech to faceless authorities, those who fight for social change forsake their own ability to challenge the status quo, to participate in the destruction of dysfunctional and unjust systems.

To be prepared to oppose bigotry and ignorance one must understand the psychology, logic and needs of the individuals who hold the disagreeable views.

This is particularly important given the current political climate of unprecedented polarisation, where precisely those views deemed unacceptable are central to the discourse led by the political elite.

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