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The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

First Amendment rights should be universal

A new weapon has emerged from the past, one that is dangerous enough to threaten an entire country’s rights and safety. The weapon? Violation of free speech.

Recently, movies such as “The Interview” and satirical  magazines like Charlie Hebdo have been targeted for their exercise of free speech rights. In response to the contention over its controversial move, Sony Picture’s computer security was breached and threatened by North Korean hackers, and 12 of the French magazine’s staff were murdered by Islamic extremists last month.

No one should lose his life over the words he writes, yet in today’s world, stories of dire sacrifices in defense of free speech are everywhere.

It is astonishing how often people say they support free speech, but when it comes down to it, they only want free speech they agree with.

This generally occurs when something you deeply believe in is being criticized. In a civilized society, the best response is to use the power of words to combat the words you disagree with. In a barbaric society, the response to speech with which people disagree is violence.

All civilized societies depend on freedom of speech. Through this right, individuals are able to voice their true opinions and stand up for their beliefs, ultimately making society better. Without this guaranteed freedom, unpopular opinions would be hidden out of fear of retribution, chilling people from contributing to the free marketplace of ideas. As a result, change and progress come to a screeching halt.

Today, the biggest problem is not the actual existence of free speech, but the failure to respect it. If offended viewers and readers were to physically attack a publication or a movie every time they disagree, the right to freely voice one’s thoughts would not just be threatened, but destroyed.

Any country or person can take offense to a movie’s content; however, responding with violence accomplishes nothing in the long run.

When hackers demanded that “The Interview” be withdrawn, it seemed to many that North Korea was attempting to conceal negative portrayals of the country. This sparked curiosity among thousands in the U.S., including those who were not originally planning to watch the movie. According to the International Business Times, the movie was “purchased or rented online more than 2 million times during the holiday weekend, making it the highest-selling online movie in the studio’s history.”
These statistics prove that citizens do indeed value the advantages of free speech.

In the Charlie Hebdo attack on Jan. 7, the gunmen were  radical Islamic terrorists who only added to the perception of the religion as extreme. They made life harder for every Muslim with their extreme act.

The purpose of satirical publications is to poke fun and shed light on different perspectives on global events and issues. While it may have seemed like Charlie Hebdo targeted the prophet Muhammad, the magazine also included criticism of many other religious figures and beliefs as well — and it is completely entitled to do so.

Following the massacre, millions of people in France and around the world responded with grief and anger, spurning the phrase “Je Suis Charlie,” or “We Are Charlie,” which appeared on hashtags, hand-made signs, newscasts, the sides of buildings, and even Saratoga High School French classrooms’ windows.

Though the First Amendment is far from universal, it should at least be respected and upheld in the realm of literature and journalism, the  purpose of which is to convey a variety of attitudes and judgment.

While we acknowledge that people should be responsible with their speech by not misusing it to make Islamophobic jabs or racist comments, people who disagree should respond with more free speech: protests, blog posts, opinion articles. Fight speech with speech, not with machine guns and hacking attacks.

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