The definition of free speech is “the right to express any opinions without censorship or restraint”. This means that, if we live in a world where we are allowed complete freedom of speech, everyone will say exactly what they think. Most people have experienced a moment where someone has said something they dislike, and absolute free speech means that there would be a constant stream of situations like that. This would mean people would be continuously aware of and worried about everything they do, which would negatively impact our mental health.
1. Our children
From an early age, children learn how to censor their words. They say something that would be considered disrespectful and consequently, they are called out on it. As children pick up on things very quickly, they soon learn what and what is not appropriate, which benefits them for their teenage and adult life. However, if we stopped policing them, if they could say whatever they liked, how likeable would their future selves be? Free speech has the power to shape people's whole lives. Teaching our children to speak as kindly as possible from an early age means that they will not use free speech but it means they will have the best future possible.
Even today, racism is rife in our society. An example of this was in 2015, where a black man was forced off a tube in Paris by Chelsea football fans. The horrendous video taken of the event captured the chant made by the fans, where they said: “we’re racist and that’s the way we like it”. This chant and the actions of these men were condemned by the media and the majority of people across the globe. In addition, statistics show employers are less likely to hire job applicants with black names, and police are more likely to use force against African Americans. We see countless examples of this, like the recent shooting of Stephon Clark by the police in the USA, where he was killed in his own back garden, unarmed and not resisting arrest. Un-restricted free speech means that racially-fuelled words could be deemed permissible. However, racism is never acceptable, and free speech would mean allowing people to say that a huge part of the human race is worth less than others. This is not acceptable, and therefore, free speech is flawed.
As with racism, free speech would mean that sexism would be on the rise. Sexism within schools today is already widespread. Nearly three-quarters of all 16- to 18-year-old boys and girls said they had heard terms such as "slut" or "slag" used towards girls at schools on a regular basis. As well as this, 30% of female students in mixed-sex schools have personally been described using language they felt was sexist. This is without complete free speech. With it as well, it could mean that these statistics would get significantly worse, meaning the amount of sexism would spike, which, like racism or homophobia, is unacceptable.
Free speech is obviously full of problems. It is a complex topic, and it does have its positives, but our world is broken already. With complete free speech, issues like racism or our disjointed democratic system will not get better: they will only get worse.