In the aftermath of the shocking ‘Tea Party’ and ‘Occupy Wall Street’ protests, many people are starting to question the value of ‘free speech’ and the right to protest. Although radical activists will insist that free speech is an essential component of a free society, the increasing prevalence of conspiracy theories and anti-government propaganda is leading many scholars and politicians to question its value as a principle. Baseless conspiracy theories undermine trust in our government and spread paranoia and distrust of politicians and the pentagon. Conspiracy theories are particularly harmful to society because they attract young people. When young disenfranchised youths start following conspiracy theories, they start to neglect their societal responsibilities and dedicate their lives to spreading hateful lies about government officials. Conspiracy theories turn productive responsible citizens into cynical nerds and predatory liars.
So where do we draw the line?
I think free speech should be allowed so long as it passes a few simple tests:
1. Is it a conspiracy theory?
2. Does it incite hatred toward government officials?
3. Does it incite protests with a hateful or nonconstructive message?
If the answer to these three questions is “no”, then you should be free to speak your mind. All other speech should be prohibited as a form of hate speech or incitement of violence and paranoia. Free speech laws aren’t supposed to stay constant. The founding fathers would have expected us to update our laws to suit our changing standards, and this is exactly what we should do.