The Case Against Censorship (General Paper)

Adapted for website  – GP tuition articles-  copyright Knowledge Skills LLP
Portions  adapted from The Right to Ridicule by Ronald Dworkin

General Paper: freedom of speech

As a contrast to the previous set of abridged notes “The case for Censorship“, the following points are just a fraction of the various reasons why freedom of speech should be upheld despite the controversial or even harmful effects it might have on society.

(the rest of the points can be found the summarised tuition notes on Media: Censorship, Propaganda, Freedom of Speech)

Examples plus evaluation:
Danish Cartoons mocking Islam
(rather outdated example: for more modern equivalent, see example on Wikileaks)

One example was the censorship of the Danish cartoons that millions of furious Muslims protested against in violent and terrible destruction around the world in the early 2000s.

Issues extrapolated from this example  would involve discussion how the press’ self-censorship means:

a) the loss of significant information, argument, literature, or art. – (Consider why such information is especially important in today’s context)

b) How caving in to pressure and censoring controversial or unpopular news might seem to give a victory to the fanatics or as our government would say, “the vocal minority”. In this case, it encourages those who instigated the violent protests herefore incite them to similar tactics in the future.

c) Yet, as in all cases of censorship, the withdrawal of certain materials must be weighed against the greater good.   In other words, the deliberate publication of sensitive or emotionally charged issues might seem irresponsible especially when it serves the interests of those responsible and reward their strategies of encouraging violence.

Furthermore  . . .  (truncated)

Yet as expressed by Dworkin, Freedom of speech is not just a special and distinctive emblem of Western culture that might be generously abridged or qualified as a measure of respect for other cultures that reject it.

Free speech is a condition of legitimate government. Laws and policies are not legitimate unless they have been adopted through a democratic process, and a process is not democratic if government has prevented anyone from expressing his convictions about what those laws and policies should be. (please refer to notes on Democracy)

Ridicule is a distinct category of free speech; its substance cannot be repackaged in a less offensive rhetorical form without expressing something very different from what was intended. Hence political cartoons and other forms of ridicule have for centuries been among the most important weapons of both noble and wicked political movements. Therefore in a democracy no one can have a right not to be insulted or offended.

This principle is of particular importance in a nation that strives for racial and ethnic fairness. If weak or unpopular minorities wish to be protected from economic or legal discrimination by law, then they must be willing to tolerate whatever insults or ridicule people who oppose such legislation wish to offer to their fellow voters. Only a community that permits such insult as part of public debate may legitimately adopt such laws. Whatever multiculturalism means – whatever it means to call for increased “respect” for all citizens and groups – these virtues would be self-defeating if they were thought to justify official censorship.

It is often said that religion is special because people’s religious convictions are so central to their personalities that they should not be asked to tolerate ridicule of their beliefs, and because they might feel a religious duty to strike back at what they take to be sacrilege.  . . . (truncated)

But we cannot make an exception for religious insult if we want to use law to protect the free exercise of religion in other ways. Religion must observe the principles of democracy, not the other way around. No one’s religious convictions can be thought to trump the freedom that makes democracy possible.

However, this only addresses censorship from a political angle –

Other areas that need to be elaborated would include

A) issues of public safety

B) social stability

. . .

End of excerpt – For GP tuition

Knowledge Skills – Subject Specialists for General Paper Tuition and  O-Level English Tuition

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