As we are finishing up this group project, I would like to recommend a book on free speech for anyone who is interested in that topic. The book is called Freedom of Speech by Eric Barendt. Also, there is a paper by Susan Brison called the Autonomy defense of Free Speech that is worth the read.
We have previously mentioned that our team has decided to treat our question as a debate. Therefore, two of us are going to be arguing for free speech, while the other two are arguing for political correctness. We plan on meeting tomorrow and have a debate style session to see which arguments are the strongest.
As I was searching for arguments that support freedom of speech, I came across four free speech theories: 1 ) Arguments concerned with the importance of discovering truth; 2) Free speech as an aspect of self-fulfillment; 3) The argument from citizen participation in a democracy; 4) Suspicion of government. These four arguments seem compelling, however, the argument that I will be using in the presentation depends on how our debate goes tomorrow.
During reading week, our group assigned each person some tasks to do. Yuxin and I had a meeting and we tried to understand what encompasses offensive language. We have come to the conclusion that it is very easy to confuse offensive language with opposing opinions.
We have also addressed the difference between ‘hate speech’ that incites violence and an actual call to action. It can be argued that the speaker can only be held accountable if their speech is a call to action. Whereas, situations that involve hateful speech don’t go far enough to move people to act, arguably. To be more specific, the speaker cannot be held accountable.
Furthermore, is the fact that the language is offensive enough for it to be policed? This is a very important question that our group will try to discern.
Ishani and I will try to support arguments in favor of free speech, and Yuxin and Maha will argue in favor of Political Correctness.
In our last meeting, we were able to narrow down the essay questions to one : Is political correctness compatible with freedom of speech? We’ve found that this question is best understood through the use of case studies. It should be noted that our group will only address cases that have occurred within a liberal democracy. Therefore, our methodology will mainly focus on case studies. We want to look at two distinct cases; one case will be a political speech, while the other will be an advertisement. As such, in our next meeting, each person will bring their own cases and we will collectively choose the best two cases that fit our argument.
We will be looking at the legality of it. How do states and corporations address offensive language? What can be considered as ‘offensive’ and how can we measure it? Even if it were possible to measure it, how can it be enforced? And should this type of rhetoric be viewed as a criminal offense. Obviously, we can see how contested this topic is. However, the aforementioned questions just highlight how difficult it is to actually enforce political correctness.
Another way of looking at the case studies is through the morality lens. Is it morally acceptable to restrict people’s use of language? I personally think that this is the most important sub-question, because of the implications that come from policing language. It could be a dangerous tool and, to some extent, a totalitarian instrument.
‘Should political correctness be more valued than freedom of expression, or vice versa,’ is another normative question that may be considered in the research.
Finally, there seems to be a paradox. Liberal democracies claim to be free and tend promote freedom of expression/speech. However, enforcing political correctness and policing language appears to infringe on those rights. Our research ultimately falls on this; it does not seem possible to have both freedom of speech and political correctness, while also maintain the ‘liberal’ democracy status. There are many examples in Canada and the UK, which show that people can be prosecuted for the words that they say.
In our last meeting, we had discussed possible new topics as we still had not decided on a single topic yet. We had talked about adds like the Gillette add and how problematic some of us view it. There seems to be obvious virtue signaling in the video, whereby the majority of the consumers are being alienated from the narrative presented in the video. Personally, I saw it as blaming a majority for something that a small minority does. Is it an attack on an entire gender? There is a self-righteous “How could you? or I would never or you should NEVER act this way” undertone that is unfit for an add. Obviously, the producers and creators of the video may have had ulterior motives when they filmed this add. It created controversy, which is what a lot of companies like to do.
This add, specifically, isn’t that important to our presentation. However, it raises some crucial questions that we are currently discussing. For instance:
- Is virtue signaling in adds appropriate?
- Do these types of messages in adds alienate consumers?
- Should adds avoid political/social narratives and issues?
- To what extent do company owners have an obligation to address/tackle social issues in their adds or policies?
- Should virtue signaling be allowed, because it is part of freedom of expression/speech?
- Is virtue signaling connected to political correctness?
- Finally, is political correctness incompatible with freedom of expression/speech?
Here are some links on virtue signaling to help clarify what it is: (Warning: some have satire!)