I have been reading the Q&As on here regarding Freedom of Speech and in Do human rights exist?, @alanf said in his answer

[P]eople should have freedom of speech so that the government can't stop people from proposing and criticising ideas.

@DavidTitarenco in his answer to What is the intrinsic difference between freedom of speech and freedom of deeds? spoke of the harm principle

The thing is that freedom of speech and the right to freedom of speech has been challenged and fought for over the centuries, yet as far as I see it at the moment, freedom of speech is still not completely free when there are laws governing it, and some people in society including some government members twist what is said and use the laws to block the speech by using the harm principle regarding racism, xenophobia or any other prejudice.

The difference has been debated a lot, see Gomberg (1990) as an example.

I am not talking about libel and slander, plus I am not talking about freedom to commit physical violence against someone through organisations such as white supremacist groups. I am talking about the freedom to say what you think in order to challenge any particular status quo without physical violence.

So does freedom of speech really exist?


Gomberg, P., 1990. Patriotism Is like Racism. Ethics, 101(1), p. 144—150
DOI: 10.1086/293264

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    This is an odd phrasing for things whose existence transparently depends on us practicing them. It exists to the extent that we let it, so perhaps what you mean is "should freedom of speech exist?" That depends on one's core values and complex cost/benefit analyses that come out differently even in the West. The US has probably the most permissive speech regime with the harm principle severely undercut compared to Europe, and libel laws placing almost insurmountable burdens on the complainer. But there is no "completely free", freedoms collide and limit each other, say speech vs privacy. – Conifold Jan 24 '18 at 3:03
  • The question is “Does freedom of speech exist” because as I see it, if you cannot say what you want because of laws prohibiting certain talks, does freedom of speech actually exist? – Chris Rogers Jan 24 '18 at 10:48
  • @Chris If freedom of speech exists in country A but not in country B, does it for your purposes exist or not exist? What if it exists in time A but not in time B? – StarWeaver Jan 24 '18 at 11:10
  • @StarWeaver "Does freedom of speech exist in country A" makes more sense but that is just a paraphrase of a comparison to an implied standard. This is not how OP is framed about "freedom of speech" as such. – Conifold Jan 25 '18 at 0:03
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    I don't see this as a philosophy question. What it seems like to me is a political science question, ("Do people actually possess a specific right?" which is ambiguous, who are you asking about?) which seems to be answerable empirically. A philosophical reading would be something like "does the abstract object 'freedom of speech' exist" which isn't really what you want to be asking in the first place. I agree with Conifold that it makes more sense to ask "should", or if you really want an empirical answer to whether people in the world do have real freedom of speech, that's not philosophy. – Not_Here Feb 26 '18 at 23:38

I am talking about the freedom to say what you think in order to challenge any particular status quo without physical violence.

As a long-time political activist, I'd say it's a lot more complicated than that.

Imagine a society where you're allowed to say whatever you want - but no one hears you because the corrupt media won't acknowledge your existence, private citizens are brainwashed and distracted, etc.

You and the media both have "free speech," because you're allowed to say whatever you want. But the media have a far bigger soapbox, along with an army of advisers, assistants and stooges willing to repeat whatever the media say. On top of that, the media can lie 24/7. Does the ability and willingness to lie and brainwash people constitute "free speech"?

I've been playing with the term fair speech. I haven't really decided on a definition yet, but I'd broadly define it as a combination of 1) the right to say what you want, 2) making an effort to communicate intelligently and honestly, and 3) the ability to with compete with or sideline corrupt media and politicians.

To further put it in perspective, imagine if the government prosecuted media that are caught lying or grossly distorting or obfuscating the truth. Would this be a violation of the media's right to "free speech"?


I would say that it depends upon whether or not you attach the concept of a "right" to the concept of freedom of speech. If you do, then I would say that freedom of speech is more or less a product of "Princes" (see Machiavelli's The Prince) through various social-cultural environments whom through their actions and the social consequences that follow, we the common people more often than not are so moved by the soft calming words of the "Prince" that we see the concept as a story of liberation of pain and suffering. Therefore, it relieves us of psychophysical and psychoanalytical tensions; making us content and more willing to accept the actions and influence of that person.

However, if you separate freedom of speech from the concept of "rights", then I would say yes. Freedom of speech exists/ is real. This is because then we do not become emotionally obssessive and manipulated, and thus are acting authentically. Freedom of speech is just the human need to be honest to yourself and express your true feeling, thoughts, and psychoarchetypes of your unconscious. Thereby, enabling you to carve out your psychoidentidy or true Self.

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