Free Speech vs. Responsibility



By Alberto Pupo


“With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility”

The motto of the Amazing Spiderman, yet an amazingly insightful piece of advice which is something Americans should take into consideration. Nations founded on democratic principles, rightly and justly advocate and preserve free speech. Our first amendment is one that is highly treasured and respected. But with free speech is there a sense of responsibility? More importantly is this sense of responsibility something that we need to ensure that individuals in leadership or positions of influence take. It seems that politicians or members of government are not held accountable when they speak or say things which are flatly untrue. One thing is to have the ability to speak about an ideological position or policy ideal and another altogether different is to offer information that is completely false with no factual supporting evidence. It is in this realm were we the people need to start holding these individuals accountable.

The latest buzz coming out of the mouths of individuals who holds positions of power is amazing. Let’s take for example Todd Akin who recently created a great stir by stating that a woman who is “legitimately raped” cannot get pregnant. One thing is to be against abortion out of some misplaced sense of morality and ethics. However another is to trumpet biological falsehoods regarding the way a woman’s body behaves when she is raped. The ideas being trumpeted by Akin are flat out biological falsehoods, there is not a shred of credible evidence supporting his wild allegations. Todd Akin is not merely some insane wild eyed individual, rambling to himself. This man is a Congressman and even more embarrassing he is on the House Committee for Space, Science and Technology! This man creates law and policies which can affect an entire nation. Yes there is a right to free speech, however considering his status shouldn’t we be holding such an individual accountable for trumpeting falsehoods? Why should an individual who can affect so many lives be allowed to speak about things which are clearly false.

The debate on free speech and responsibility has taken an even more bizarre turn. A judge in Texas is now stating that if Obama is elected there will be a Civil War . Judge Tom Head started rambling about United Nation troops, the end of state sovereignty and standing personally against the troops that will be sent in. Once again if this were a whacked out crank spewing this nonsense in a street corner, while irresponsible, does not have the effect that a judge making such claims has. Understand that a Judge presides over cases and makes decisions based on law. He has the power to affect parties who are locked in legal controversy. However this judge is making baseless claims completely unsupported by any factual information and trumpeting them as truth. This is a Judge for crying out loud! Is there no way that we the people of this nation can have such an individual held accountable? This is why there needs to be a sharper distinction drawn between the responsibility of individuals with influence and ensuring that they do not start peddling falsehoods especially when they are in a position to create policy, or influence the nation itself.

Are the two cases simply men exercising their First Amendment Rights? Are we the people simply to ignore the wantonly false statements and chalk it up to their right to speak such statements? Or should something be done? The truth is when one holds an official position, with an ability to shape policy and legislation of a Nation, it should be incumbent upon that individual to speak to facts and reason. There is a vast difference between trying to craft policy based on ideological opinions which may effectively be argued in different perspectives, and flatly crafting policies or ideas with conclusions that are factually erroneous and unproven. These individuals are certainly entitled to their conservative opinions, however let it be said they are not entitled to pass of lies as facts. Again “ With great power comes great responsibility” and those who hold such power and influence need to accept responsibility for the actions and policies they try to enact.


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