free speech absolutism

Is Free Speech Absolutism the SECRET WEAPON for a Healthy Democracy?

As per the United Nations, freedom of speech is the cornerstone of human rights and the foundation of a democratic nation. Many consider free speech as an indispensable element of a political system. However, the concept of 'free speech absolutism' states that for a nation's democracy to prevail, everyone deserves the right to voice opinions on politics free of restrictions. While many regard it as the lifeblood of democracy, questions have been raised about its ethicality, considering its potential boons and drawbacks.

Free Speech Absolutism as the Key to Democracy

In the 19th century, John Mill discussed free speech absolutism as a 'marketplace' of ideas. He presented it as a means to reach truth through discussion and sharing various perspectives. 

One of the most prominent reasons for people to favour the notion of free speech absolutism is the power it dispenses them with in terms of the way a nation is governed. Unburdened by restrictions, free speech absolutism can be the key to a healthy democracy. Open and honest conversations can facilitate the in-depth analysis of current and upcoming government policies, unravelling any flaws in the system. Through freely conducted collective initiatives, governments can be easily influenced to function the way the people of the nation would like it to. 

Free speech absolutism is a potent concept to adopt in order to minimise political corruption. At the slightest onset of unfair practices, whistle-blowers can take action and expose any possible misconduct. Moreover, this can be identified effortlessly through the amount of transparency free speech brings with it. With the people's right to question, critique, and request, the country's governance system becomes clear to all. Additionally, through open access to a plethora of political information and unrestricted right to express themselves, citizens can play an essential role in shaping the entire government system, which is the core of the concept of democracy

History has demonstrated innumerable instances where rights of speech opened doors to freedom and led to a healthy democracy all around the world. One of the biggest examples of such lies in the rich history of India's colonial era, from non-violent protests to revolutionary publications. Similarly, Africa's fight against apartheid would not have been possible without the use of speech. The Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia in 1989 is another strong example of the use of speech in paving the way for a healthy democracy

Free speech absolutism allows discussion of all radical, liberal, and conservative notions. In this so-called marketplace of ideas, government policies, societal norms, and the overall functioning of the nation can be openly evaluated with numerous stances. This subsequently results in the country's constant development and progress.

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Free Speech Absolutism: Chaos or Key?

While the concept of free speech absolutism has its boons, there is a thin line between free speech and hate speech. 

The idea of free speech absolutism often overlooks the misuse of speech, allowing acts such as racism and discrimination, among others, using the concept of open-mindedness and the 'beauty' of perspectives. While people get comfortable with sharing fresh ideas with the right to free speech absolutism, it could potentially lead to using the liberty to demonise various matters. This could eventually lead to hostility among the people of the country, deteriorating social unity and giving rise to discrimination and social inequality. 

This is especially hazardous to marginalised communities, further isolating them from society and hampering their participation in the country's development. This is accurately illustrated by the Rwandan genocide in 1994 that stemmed from radio broadcasting dehumanising and shaming the Tutsi minority of the region. 

The presence of hate speech is further facilitated by the advent of the digital age. In particular, the various social media platforms allow users to engage in hate speech while maintaining anonymity. One of the most significant forms of free speech absolutism in the 21st century is the transformation of Twitter to X by free speech absolutist Elon Musk. While his policies may have brought about some positive changes to the platform, the cons outweigh the pros, with usage dropping more than a fifth in the United States. 

Moreover, free speech absolutism comes with the risk of the spread of misinformation. Without the imposition of restrictions and limits, misinformation quickly travels, confusing people and making them unable to distinguish between right and wrong. The risk of misinformation is especially threatening during times such as political elections. With such dangers accompanying it, free speech absolutism may pose more as the onset of chaos than the key to the system of democracy. 

Maintaining the Balance

While free speech is undoubtedly essential to a healthy democracy, free speech absolutism is likely not. The primary way to preserve free speech while simultaneously keeping it from escalating to hate speech is to strike a balance using limited yet necessary restrictions. 

For instance, while individuals must be permitted to freely and comfortably express all radical, conservative, and liberal political viewpoints, clear lines must be drawn between progressive and hurtful ideas. Legal frameworks should encourage freedom of speech while protecting all people from its potential harm and ensuring legitimate arguments and insights are not curbed. 

These laws should be more strictly implemented on social media due to the excessive hate speech that users engage in while maintaining their anonymity. Any form of hate speech should be immediately taken down with complete transparency and communication with the user. Moreover, education is a powerful tool to preserve the balance between free speech and hate speech. Literacy programs in educational institutions and on social media can be encouraged to pursue.

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The notion of free speech absolutism may seem like the ideal approach to reaching a purely democratic system. Since democracy is rooted in the principle of the government system being in the power of the general population, it is natural to assume that complete, unrestricted speech, i.e. free speech absolutism, must be a crucial element of a democratic nation. However, free speech absolutism can speedily escalate to hate speech, giving birth to social inequality and discrimination among the groups of the country, necessitating limitations.

While there will always be a debate on where to strike the line between free speech and hate, the aim should always be to search for a nuanced approach that encourages valuable insights that come without harm to maintain a healthy democracy. 


What is absolutist free speech?

Absolutist free speech refers to the notion of the unrestricted rights of all people to discuss and propagate their political viewpoints on all matters, be it religious or social issues. Moreover, the official bodies cannot bring about any laws that would curb expression. 

Can freedom of speech be absolute?

Free speech can be absolute; however, it should be noted that free speech absolutism comes with numerous dangers, potentially dividing society and disrupting the system. 

What is free speech theory?

Free speech theories stand for limited regulation of political speech as opposed to free speech absolutism, which resists all kinds of restrictions on political speech.

Huda Fatima

A passionate bookworm, Huda has always dreamt of sculpting a reader's imagination. Driven by an everlasting passion for language, she strives to craft captivating narratives, twisting, and combining the words she holds much love for, taking her readers on cultural journeys around the globe.

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