Why it is important to let everyone talk

The importance of owning up to what you say and sharing opinions

More stories from Hayley Jacobson


Photo by Hayley Jacobson

Peoples’ opinions can be seen around campus on things like bulletin boards and even right here in the op/ed section.

Free speech is a given right here in the United States, but not many seem to realize what that means.

Free speech, the right given to everyone in the bill of rights, only protects what you say from the government. It does not protect from how others take those words. But that right still exists.

The right to say what you want without getting into legal trouble is astonishing. The only things you can get in trouble for saying — according to the first amendment — is defamation of character, inciting violence or any other inflammatory speech.

To break this down; as long as you don’t make claims without facts or try to insight violence against a person or group of people, you’re good.

There are a few other things you can get in trouble for, according to the legal case Brandenburg v. Ohio, that aren’t covered by freedom of speech, including talking someone into hurting themselves or others. This falls under the incitement to violence.

What also is not covered under free speech is plagiarism. This, simply put, makes sense. To take someone else’s words and use them without sourcing is ethically wrong.

However, the first amendment does not protect you from other people if they disagree with your opinions — and it shouldn’t.

As a student, I love seeing the discourse that is able to happen on campus. Seeing students argue with each other over everything and anything. I see it in person in Davies, but also in writing in places like NOTA and The Flipside. Both can get very opinionated and political pretty quick, and I love it.

It’s one of the things I like to see in the world. Every person I have ever met, whether we agree or not, has a completely different perspective from me. They have experienced things I might never experience, and done things I haven’t even dreamed of. Their stories and opinions on the things they know are just as important to hear as my own.

That’s why when I see people trying to silence others, it makes my blood boil. Everyone has a right to say whatever they want. Whether or not I agree with them is a completely separate issue.

To silence someone’s speech will slowly erode opinions and create an echo chamber where no new ideas will appear. It will stagnate society, and force people to fear their own thoughts in case they are met with physical violence for not following the status quo.

I have seen a lot of violence online due to how people treat others stating their opinions. Of course I don’t agree with some of the things said, but speech should not be met with violence.

Most people won’t change their opinions based on what other people say right away, but to lash out in violence will only solidify what they think.

If we stop and listen, opening our minds to the ideas and perspectives of the people argue with, maybe we can make this country better. But it can’t happen without work and compassion.

Jacobson can be reached at [email protected]