Imagine living in a world where everything is regulated and manipulated. Your mouth is closed, your hands are clenched, and your legs are bound and caged by invisible claws. You blame the rest of the world for suffocating your freedom. This will be the new type of slavery in the 21st century. Imagine living in a world of justice and liberty. You will feel as free as the birds floating across the azure sky and the roaring waves splashing on the bright beach. In which world do you wish to live in? Which world do you want to leave to future generations? Let the questions sink in and take us to today's topic, freedom of speech.
The context of my speech is the documentary Shut Up and Sing: Dixie Chicks. Set in the period between 2003 and 2006, it tells us how the American music group the Dixie Chicks overcame the 'President George W. Bush controversy' on the eve of the Iraq War, which was sparked by a single line from lead singer Natalie Maines: 'We're ashamed that the President is from Texas.' Protests erupted across the country as the right-wing public condemned the statement as unpatriotic. Freedom of speech is a central topic in this documentary, and it is a human right that allows individuals to express all types of viewpoints in a reasonable way, based on common sense about what they should and should not say. Freedom of speech clearly shows why the group suffered significant losses as a result of the backlash from right-wing Americans and only reclaimed its reputation and justice after three years in 2006.
The first viewpoint holds that free speech should be restrained because unrestrained free speech might lead to the spread of false information. This is because freedom of speech is similar to water in that having an appropriate amount of it saves our lives and nourishes us, yet experiencing an overwhelming and endless quantity of it (e.g., floods) may be harmful. Unrestricted speech is like leaving a tap running, allowing the water to build up to a force powerful enough to engulf everything we hold dear. Unfortunately, the Dixie Chicks did not anticipate the seriousness of restricting free speech, nor that Natalie's single joke line would immediately result in the downfall of the whole team's career. Obviously, the members of the band are not politicians, which means Natalie's remark lacked reliability and accuracy, coming off as a prejudiced charge and verbal attack on President Bush. Hence, their perspective on the conflict may not be very trustworthy in the eyes of the American people. Despite the fact that their anti-war views were later proven true, their insult to President Bush was viewed as a tremendous humiliation by patriotic Americans in 2003. Therefore, Natalie's reply was most likely interpreted as disseminating misleading information at the time.
This gets us to another part of the first viewpoint, which is that free speech should be curtailed in order to avoid catastrophes from occurring. People in a democratic country like America may have a tremendous misperception that the First Amendment allows anyone to talk about anything in whatever way they choose. Under the guise of free speech, negative repercussions such as invasion of others' personal privacy, abuse, bigotry, and so on arise. I'm sure you've all heard the story of the Boy Who Cried Wolf. Who hasn't, after all? We are well aware that the story is about how a lad progressively lost his credit in the eyes of the people because he was always tricking them with fake wolf alarms. So the lesson of the story should be clear: to emphasize the need of limiting free speech and that if the boy is allowed to say whatever he wants, disasters would definitely occur, as the narrative finishes with all of the boy's sheep being devoured by the wolves. The need to limit freedom of speech can also be observed in the Dixie Chicks, who as public figures should at the least think before speaking. Despite the fact that the 'phrase' was a clear sign of personal harassment towards President Bush and 'bad manners,' as numerous American press outlets said, Natalie nevertheless said it without thinking about the consequence of her actions. Surprisingly, the members chose to act irresponsibly shortly after the ‘Bush controversy,' framing it as a joke to demean the irreverence caused to the president. As a result of their activities, Dixie Chicks' first single, 'Traveling Soldier,' had a 47 percent decline in sales in just one week. This emphasizes the importance of regulating free speech since it shows that people might become culpable for their actions simply because they have 'free speech.'
The second perspective suggests that freedom of speech should be unrestricted to avoid censorship. This is because freedom of speech is a basic human value that must be protected, particularly in a democratic democracy like the United States. It should not be limited and should hold the same significance as patriotism. The right to free speech is the cornerstone of American liberties. Without unrestricted freedom of speech, the country has become a house without a solid foundation, which will likely cause it to fall apart. The Dixie Chicks are a perfect example of this. The band did not deserve the right-wing conservatives' rage because they have the right to say anything they want. The enraged crowd, however, had forgotten about free speech and focused their rage on hate speech such as 'traitors,' 'Dixie Twits,' and 'the Chix Suck,' prompting many radio stations to join the boycott and restrict the band's songs in order to avoid 'financial suicide' on their profits. The most popular female singing group in US history even received a death threat alleging that 'Natalie Maines would be shot' during the band's Della concert. This extreme reaction from the audience as a result of a split-second remark reminds us of communist censorship. The way the audience reacted to the Dixie Chicks' opinions indicates that they are silencing the band's voices, which is in direct opposition to free speech and democracy. Ironically, audiences rallied behind the Iraq War in order to promote democratic principles and practices, despite the fact that censorship remained widespread in their own country.
Again, to facilitate the discovery of the truth, freedom of speech should be unrestricted. The fact that a single remark about the President can ignite a political firestorm with the Dixie Chicks suggests that the United States is not as democratic as it appears. 'Some people's idea of free speech is that they are allowed to say whatever they want, but if anyone says anything back, that is an outrage,' said Winston Churchill. In 2003, this sentence was the perfect credo for right-wing Americans. The public's pressure on the Dixie Chicks to apologize for being unpatriotic and their belief that 'being ashamed of the president means being ashamed of our country,' makes us wonder where freedom of speech is these days. The answer may be found in the massive public support for the Iraq War, which arose from widespread suspicions regarding Saddam Hussein's WMD program. Nonetheless, Natalie was able to express her discontent with the President thanks to her right to free speech, suggesting that the root of the conflict may simply be the Bush Administration's deception and propaganda aimed at reinforcing democratic hegemony in the Middle East as a punishment for the 911 terrorist attack. This exemplifies how free speech encourages the discovery of truth, which aided the Dixie Chicks in reclaiming their former fame.
Ultimately, we must all consider whether freedom of speech should be regulated. From my perspective, free speech should not be completely regulated but should be limited to the bare minimum when dealing with specific circumstances such as verbal abuse and harassment, obscenity, defamation, and so on. At the end of the day, whoever truly understands the application of freedom of speech will know that it should be controlled like prescribed medicine, that only the ideal quantity is sustainable, and that anything less or more than that would both result in disasters. We can't help but wonder in the documentary 'Shut Up and Sing' where the line between communism and democracy is drawn. Well, it's all about freedom of speech. Finally, after learning about the Dixie Chicks' odyssey in conquering the greatest challenge in their entire career, I want you to ask yourself: would you have the guts to never give up on doing what is right?