We should never forget the great importance of free speech. In most parts of the Western world, free speech is practised as it should be – humans expressing opposing opinions (hopefully with strong, supporting arguments) in the hopes of getting closer to an idea of the truth.
Having two seemingly fundamentally different forces in society – the Christian/Church ideals and the Greek ideals – it’s difficult to ascertain what path to take in the unearthing of the truth. These two forces are described in Matthew Arnolds’ essay on Hellenism and Hebraism.
As such, free speech holds an immovable place on the path of this truth-seeking. Ideas have to be challenged and turned over for critical analysis. Here are some reasons why this is important.
Free speech supports critical thinking
Critical thinking is a very important skill that any adult should possess. This is the ability to see things as objectively as you can (as a human, subjective creature), critiquing anything and seeing the weak spots of ideas. This is the best way of seeking the truth in anything.
A person that can think critically is a person that is a lot less likely to be manipulated by any force and that may be a free thinker. Free speech supports critical thinking, naturally so, as you get a multitude of different ideas that can be interpreted and critiqued rationally in society. The ones that make the cut remain, while others fade into obscurity.
Free speech helps with keeping tyrannical regimes from forming
When the freedom of speech begins to fade in society, slowly but surely you see the freedom of thought being infringed upon. This is incredibly dangerous and we have seen times and times again how manipulating and controlling people’s thoughts, speech and actions is a great way of ensuring a tyrannical regime remains in power.
On top of supporting already existing tyrannical regimes, the lack of free speech paves an easy path for them to form. If people have no autonomous thoughts and even their speech is restricted, they will accept any sort of leadership with little to no resistance.
Free speech helps unearth lesser-known issues in society
In some cases, issues are purposefully hidden by certain forces in society. Whether there be financial or political interests, some issues are more likely to not be discussed. With free speech, such ‘hidden’ issues are bound to be talked about at one point or another.
Other times, issues that have to do with minorities or ‘overlooked’ people in society (like orphans or the homeless, for example), which wouldn’t have had the opportunity to be talked about otherwise, come up to the surface of the general discussion through the help of free speech. In a rational, free-speech-dominated society, there is no reason why someone shouldn’t express a viewpoint, as long as it is supported well.