Monday, March 30, 2009

It's Called Freedom

In response to Paul K. McMasters' article, "Fear Spoils Freedom's Promise:"

I agree with most of McMaster's article, yet he makes some claims that are difficult to accept right away, without having looked and thought further into the complexities of the situation. He includes a specific quotation near the end of the article: "We must not be afraid to be free." This I agree with completley, and I find his argument that concerns freedom of speech in the constitution--as demonstrated and manifested in Supreme Court cases--adds up to a "debilitating fear that the right combination of words, images or ideas will cause calamity." Being too careful with what we do or say, constantly checking and rechecking our words and actions, is akin to tiptoeing around a delicate situations, liable to explode at any moment. 

I appreciate his questioning of the delicacy of speech. Though I do think people must be conscious of their words and act as much as possible, sinking into a constrained mold of being in response to a fear of harming others in unhealthy. Part of the hope in having the freedom to speak as we will, where we will lies in the ability to have open dialouges with others whose opinions may be opposed to our own. How would the conversation advance without confrontation? Without the sort of explanation and questioning that may seem on the surface dangerous to the others' well being? Without the uncomfortable situation born of challange, how would we move anywhere new or different?

All of this spoken under the "contract" that is the First Amendment and the Constitution gives the dialouge a context and infuses it with purpose. It seems the document provides some sort of promise or comfort for people to say what they like, exploring and perhaps even entering into questionable positions in the process of reaching some different level of understanding. McMasters notes the rapid advancment of communication and proliferation of avenues on which to communicate. "The more ways we find to communicate with one another, the more reasons we find to silence one another," he says. "We crave serenity yet reject the balm of tolarence." Oftentimes tolarence in painful. Letting something new into one's worldview that may shock the perceived perfection into something flawed and filled with holes might be a terrifying thought for some comfortable with thier "normal" way of life and thought and being.

All of this said, I feel the most pertinant issue stemming from McMasters' article is freedom of speech in mass media. Granted, alternative media sources are popping up all around, but the dominating presence continues to be major airwaves. As this standardization of media's sensationalized and pre-planned story telling reaches a crescendo, can we choose to ignore it and is this ethically responsible? To what degree should these crafters of reality on a large scale be able to function on the business of ratings? Of profit?

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