(Note: This is part three of an eleven-part series that starts here.)
When I researched the arguments for the pros and cons of this coveted right, I learned that many interesting arguments exist on both sides of the issue, arguments that could not be ignored if a philosophical and honest approach to exercising the right was desired. Okay, in other words, to understand the gift that the right to Freedom of Speech truly is, one really has to see both sides of the issue. Only then will one be able to understand the impact of altering the way it is used in any fashion. Only then will one have the tolerance to compromise with compassion (the best kind of compromise).
My research of the arguments led me to John Courtney Murray, an American Jesuit priest and theologian. Though I do not agree with every opinion this ordained scholar held to, I do recognize him as having been a true and devout American who rigorously clung to our founding documents as guiding lights sparked to life by Mankind’s closeness to the Creator. He clearly understood the delicate interplay between our rights and our religions—note the plural of both words. The Vatican had very little patience for his writings on being tolerant of other religions and ordered him to cease the distribution of these thoughts. At the same time, the Catholic Church depended heavily on his clarity when it came to human rights. To me, he was the true catalyst for the growth of religious tolerance in our country. Why is this important? Well, how can any nation be truly free without religious tolerance?
The exercise of any right must be tempered by a deep compassion for religious tolerance.
To my concern:
The exercise of the right to Freedom of Speech should be clarified by Amendment to eradicate any freedom of false speech (lying).
Of the religions I know about, not one of them endorses lying in any form (or “misspeak” as many news outlets prefer to call it). I suppose it is possible there is a religion I don’t know about that does, but again, I’m not aware of it. In my opinion, if a religion exists that does endorse this behavior, I feel sure Society would not recognize it as a religion insomuch as a cult.
If you want to be a citizen of this great nation that, through your very thought and speech, makes us exponentially greater as time passes, be informed and constantly involved to ensure the proper maturing of issues like the right to Freedom of Speech. If you do not, and prefer to change the Great Experiment that is The United States of America by sitting in the shadows and doing nothing, please consider immigrating to a country more suited to your apathetic (or even destructive) convictions. Don’t taint our experiment; start your own—elsewhere, if you please. In the context of our experiment, running yours within ours pretty much ensures both fail—clearly not a noble goal for either party.
As generations of Americans before us have debated the pros and cons of the right to Freedom of Speech, they have constantly run up against the hedgerow of abusing the right to that freedom. Here are some of the statements and queries that arise when the issue of lying is addressed:
- What can be done about freedom of falsehoods while remaining true to fair justice?
- Would trying to ensure that free speech is always truthful speech jeopardize the very existence of free speech, itself? How could we avoid that?
- Who is to say what is truthful or not? Misunderstanding, in itself, could appear as mistruth when the intention for mistruth did not exist. Is intent even a factor to be considered?
- One man’s truth is another man’s superstition. In a society that tolerates atheism, religion is superstition to some. How does that play into the debate to determine fair justice?
- What about shifting truths—truths that change back and forth between truth and falsehood depending on the point of view, perspective, religious view or countless other factors?
- How would we determine the extent of damage caused by a mixture of truths and falsehoods that are expertly mixed to send a predefined and specifically false message?
- And the biggest argument of all: what about truths and falsehoods that cannot be proven?
You see why I wrote, at the beginning of this post, if we are being intellectually honest and we compassionately care about the right to Freedom of Speech, we have to debate from a philosophical and honest approach—incorporating religious tolerance at the core of the debate. Look at the monumental repercussions we face when addressing these and other questions in our zeal to maintain the sanctity of the right to Freedom of Speech. It seems quite daunting to even consider having this debate. It would be easier to simply adopt the black-and-white, cut-and-dried, no-gray-area-allowed approach of just allowing all speech to be free.
Well, that is what I submit to you, my fellow Americans, has happened. Instead of committing ourselves to solving the complexities this Great Experiment presents, we took the easy way out. And we continue to.
Through our Forefathers, this nation’s Founding Documents have laid the groundwork for this Great Experiment. We, as a nation, took the next step and began the careful inclusion of the Amendments to the Constitution on an “as needed” basis. I tell you now, dealing with the taint that falsehood is placing on the right to Freedom of Speech is needed—this instant.
This is how the experiment has to play out. As time passes and new technologies, new ideas, new situations—hell, new everything since day one—crop up, we have to be poised to deal with the issues. We must recognize issues. We must debate with compassionate compromise. We must carefully tweak the system. We must caress the maturing of our founding documents. We must get it right through use of the Amendments to the Constitution exactly for what they were intended—adapting and overcoming the new.
In this case, the “new” is really not so new. It is an old issue that was decided upon before the debate had matured.
Answer these questions (if you can):
- How can four different department stores advertise on the radio that they are “Number One in Customer Satisfaction”? At least three of them must be lying. Who can hold them responsible for false advertising without being tied-up in court for a decade and going broke against a massive marketing and advertising budget? Why must it be a burden on The Public to separate fact from fiction (if that’s even possible)?
- When a politician lies, knowingly or not, shouldn’t the retracted or corrected statement be issued at the same level it was delivered? Shouldn’t a prime-time national liar have to apologize nationally, at prime-time, instead of through a seldom-watched TV station in a backwater area of the nation at four o’clock in the morning—between infomercials?
- Our oaths, before giving any testimony, require us to tell “the whole truth and nothing but the truth”, right? When a Cable-TV news commentator or a politician picks and chooses parts of a someone’s dialogue to paint an entirely different picture that matches his or her own nefarious agenda, how can we hold that liar responsible without letting the cretin hide behind something as obscure as “parody” or “making a joke” when it clearly isn’t?
You know these scenarios could go on forever. We don’t even have a way to hold a politician responsible when she says:
"But we have to pass the Bill so that you can, uh, find out what is in it." -= Nancy Pelosi =-
How embarrassing does that look on the world stage? Are we so (a)pathetic that we can’t find a way to ensure even the obvious blatant liars are punished for their evil deeds?
No more arguing for an all-encompassing quick solution and lying to ourselves that every avenue has been explored. We need immediate compromises through compassionate debates. Attack all the above questions with zeal—the zeal to maintain the sanctity of the right to Freedom of Speech while eradicating these despicable displays of degraded human character.
To my fellow Americans, I say this: The Exercise of the right to Freedom of Speech must be clarified by Amendment to eradicate any freedom of false speech. Let’s get it right this time. Don’t stop until we do. Use the Amendments to the Constitution of the United States of America for their intended purpose…
…to successfully complete the Greatest Experiment our planet has ever known.