Free Speech, Government and the Military

By Ned Brose

For our first meeting of the year, Roosevelt discussed the extents of free speech in the context of the events in France, the distinction between offensive and hate speech, and the government’s role in protecting state secrets from journalists.

We had a very spirited debate about how we define free speech and ultimately if government has a role in the regulation of offensive cartoons. Ultimately the conversation revolved around the ideas that while speech can offend and marginalize communities, that the right to free speech is important for a liberal society. Instead, government should provide more concrete protections to minorities rather than just worrying about speech. For example, trying to integrate Muslim communities and adding police protections to Jewish and Muslim minorities would be a more helpful aid to society.

In regards to classification laws under President Obama’s administration, there was a broad consensus that the legal definitions of protected information were sufficient, but that the government could not necessarily be trusted to obey them. On the side of free speech and protecting government secrets, in view of leaks such as Edward Snowden, the debate focused more around how journalistic integrity works in the modern world. The group agreed to leaving journalists to have integrity with sensitive information, while acknowledging that with today’s incentive to break the story the first, crucial information shouldn’t be shared out of government circles.