The Daily Illini

Letter to the Editor: Free speech needs to be protected

By Madeleine Hubbard

I unabashedly support freedom of speech. Vitriolic statements like, “White women are worthless trash!” infuriate me, but I will fight to the death for your right to say that.

While we are guaranteed freedom of speech, there are still legal and personal consequences. Creating immediate threats and spreading lies are not protected by even the most liberal free speech policies. An irate protester may irreparably damage their personal and professional relationships.

A few days ago, students challenged my belief in free speech. One focused on the paradox of tolerance. Created by Karl Popper, it says “unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance.”

That student neglected the fact that Popper followed his argument with, “As long as we can counter (intolerant philosophies) by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be unwise.”

Another student claimed that restriction of speech is necessary to control the public. Their logic astonished me. A country that limits free speech and expression is in need of transformation, yet its citizens are drastically limited in their ability to produce change. While statements from hate groups go against the core of my being, I am thankful that I live in a country where they are allowed to express themselves.

We live in a society where all ideologies can be countered with civilized arguments and peaceful protests. The vast majority of Americans stand against hate speech. The fundamental goodness of American culture will keep hatred from becoming “normal.”

It is our duty to fight for freedom of speech. Nazi Germany’s curtail of speech began with average citizens making others uncomfortable for reading what they wanted. Later the government restricted media and speech by law. If one person’s speech is repressed, nothing can prevent infringement upon someone else’s speech.

Madeleine Hubbard is a sophomore in Media.

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Editor’s note: Madeleine Hubbard was temporarily a member of Illini Media in the past. 

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