What Speech is Allowed?

An in depth opinion on Free Speech, and figuring out what is really protected underneath the first amendment.


Elijah Schmidt

Let us figure out what speech is really permitted.

“It’s my right to Free Speech!” Too often has every American heard those words spoken. Personally I have heard these words come from my own tongue many times over. So I decided to research what our rights are, and more specifically our right to Free Speech. 

First off, what is free speech? It is defined by Merriam Webster Dictionary as “the legal right to express one’s opinions freely.” As for myself, this does not help me define this term any further. Not only that but due to this loose definition has caused contentious debate for years. 

More specifically in the debate on Trans Rights. The argument over whether or not a person’s preferred pronouns should be compulsory for others to use, the Canadian Government went as far as to make such speech compulsory. For example Jordan Peterson, a clinical psychologist from Canada believes that such laws infringe upon free speech. In an interview with Sunrise Peterson said, “It’s the first time in English common law in Canada that the government has introduced compelled speech.” He has been a loud proponent of these laws for years and remains a leading voice among conservatives. 

On the flip side there are many who believe these laws are for the betterment of society. That society would be better off if we respected others, and used the speech others preferred. For example, left leaning journalist Kathy Newman has debated Jordan Peterson in an interview on this issue. Newman said, “Why should your right to free speech trump a trans-person’s right not to be offended?” The main idea that this journalist is laying before is that respect for others is paramount. And that perhaps certain speech should not be allowed and some should be compelled. Simply for the sake of respecting others in the context of this issue. Overall the Trans debate is one of the most complex conversations of our time, and one will need to meditate on this issue in depth to figure out their own opinion.  

Whether or not you agree with Newman or Peterson one can observe the predicament. How do we know when free speech crosses a line? And is there even a line to be crossed? After the January 6 Capitol Riots many thought that President Donald J. Trump had crossed a line with a provocative speech. In which he said, “March patriotically on the capitol…” Many of his supporters seemed to have misunderstood the assignment and instead forced their way inside the hallowed halls of the legislature. Whether or not you believe the President’s motives were pure or malicious the consequences of his actions certainly stirred the debate on free speech. When his Twitter account was banned. The social media giant put out a statement saying, “After close review of recent Tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account and the context around them — specifically how they are being received and interpreted on and off Twitter — we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence.” said Twitter Inc. This provoked outrage from conservative voices, who were irked at how blatantly Twitter censored a sitting President. Although this certainly seemed like a win for liberal warriors. 

So whatever you choose to believe about this issue, one can see that we need to define our terms. I will leave you with this, what is free speech and are you really able to say whatever you want?