Friday, February 27, 2009

Why isn't free speech free, for everybody?

"We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof...We will not walk in fear of another...we will remember we are not descended from fearful men...We can't escape being responsible for our results...we can't fight for democracy abroad without doing it at home," Ed Murrow said. (Here is the speech on free speech

This quotes highlights two less obvious themes of the film, "Good Night, and Good Luck." They are freedom of speech is not free for some, and that women were and in many ways, continue to be ignored in news.

The 'dissenters' who were for communism in the 50's were confused for unloyal Americans. It seems that in a time of fear, people throw the Constitution out to the dogs. It doesn't say speech is free sometimes, or it costs money, or that white people only get it. It says freedom of speech shall not be abridged. Period.

The reaction that citizens gave to McCarthy, one of fear and support, shows that people do not understand this concept. They don't understand that truth will emerge with more speech and a free press. We wouldn't need to protect free speech if people only ever talked about 'safe, sappy, happy' things. Really, this is a double standard. It tells me that my free speech isn't free. Milo, the air force kid, had to pay for his relative's free speech.

How does this kind of garbage seep into our system? Well, my theory is that not everyone had or has equal access to free speech, and the participation process. Point in case for the film, women. Women were a minority in the newsroom. They did secretarial work, and took orders. They did not report, give opinions or confer with important people. Heck, one couldn't even wear her wedding ring. While the women in the film were not out rightly verbally abused or the like, they were ignored, bossed around, and unrepresented in the news process.

By including everyone in the news process, less garbage will seep in. It gives more eyes, ears, viewpoints and skills to uncovering the truth. It allows for news to be less biased. I believe this is what Murrow was referring to when he said we can't fight for democracy abroad without having it at home. America, by history and constitutional definition, is a place of opportunity and equality and justice. Not allowing certain people to participate in the speech process is not democracy. That means we can't possible be living in one, and we do no know what it means. Therefore, we don't know what we're fighting for. All I know is that it ain't free.

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