Freedom of Speech and Press


In framing our nation’s Constitution, it is apparent where our founders believed the core of our rights as citizens to express ourselves should stand.  The first amendment in the Bill of Rights provides for freedom of speech and freedom of the press.  Congress is prohibited for making any law abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, meaning we are free to say or write whatever we please; false, factual, real, or imagined, and suffer no legal redress for doing so.

This is a marvelous liberty until someone yells “Fire!” in a crowded theater, or incites people to riot and destroy the property or lives of others.  In other words, it is wise to remember that actions always have consequences and sometimes the consequences are less than ideal or of a nature never intended.

In today’s world, we no longer have the freedom to act or speak in confidence of privacy.  Cell phones capture actions and words of moments we would prefer remain anonymous and instantly broadcast them for the world to view on U-tube, Facebook, Twitter, and a vast array of other social media.  Misspeak, misbehave, stumble, trip, fall, have a momentary lapse of judgement, cough, sneeze, split your pants, embarrass yourself in some manner and prepare to have your faux pas published for the world to share.

Yes, our Constitution gives us the right to abuse our fellow man in this manner, much like the paparazzi in pursuit of celebrities, but there remains a question of common courtesy.  A matter of respect for those who share our society.  We all do things that are humorous or embarrassing from time to time, suffering the snickers and laughter of friends or acquaintances at the time.  Having such incidents broadcast to the world has proven to have some serious results.  Young people have committed suicide as a result of this sort of cyber bullying, people have lost their jobs, businesses have lost patronage.  Meanwhile, the anonymous author of the damaging broadcast scampers away free of responsibility for the consequences of their actions.

Regardless the Constitutional right to speak or print whatever we choose, it is important to recognize the human right to be treated with civility and courtesy.  A simply measurement of proper behavior is found in every major religion.  Simply treat others as you wish to be treated.