Why the First Amendment is America in a nutshell | Monica Duffy Toft
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Why the First Amendment is America in a nutshell | Monica Duffy Toft

November 23, 2019

So I’ve been asked to choose an amendment
that I think is important and valuable, and so I think: the First Amendment. And it’s not only because it’s the First
Amendment, it’s what it says. And it says “Congress shall make no law
respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or
abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably
to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” And I think from the Constitution this sets
up the rest of the Constitution about what it means to be an American citizen and the
value of our individual liberties because it sets us apart. As individuals we have the right to speech,
we have the right to association, we have the right to religion, we can think, we can
act, we can associate freely. And as a scholar of international relations,
when you poll people around the world and they ask, “What is it that you think is
most important about the United States that you think sets the United States apart,”
more often than not people point to the First Amendment and to the freedom of speech, the
freedom of assembly, the freedom of religion as first and foremost what makes the United
States special—that we privilege individuals as citizens, and our Constitution protects
that. We need to keep that in mind as citizens,
and I have to tell you around the world people acknowledge that and respect that about the
United States. I really have a hard time with this this idea
of freedom of assembly and freedom of speech regardless of the nature of that speech. I mean there are exceptions to that, about
whether it promulgates violence or potentially promulgates violence, and I tend to come down
on the liberal side, that people should have freedom of speech—and that as defender of
the First Amendment of the Constitution that then you need to redouble your efforts to
make sure that, if you fear that this is going to lead to violence, conflict, that you redouble
your efforts and have police and you make arrests and you say “you’ve overstepped
your boundaries.” So I tend to be somebody who says, “Let
them assemble, let them have their freedom of speech, and redouble your efforts and take
measures to ensure that that can happen.”

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  1. I definitely agree. If you let people voice their opinions you either learn more about them or you let them dig their own grave

  2. The problem with the liberal freedom of speech position is that it leaves you open to propaganda. Propaganda is an obsession of far-right strategists because they need a smokescreen to hide their real intentions before they take power. Far-left groups don't need propaganda until after the revolution because their criticisms of capitalism are not entirely without merit, unlike far-right criticisms of immigrants, Jews, LGBTs, and (insert scapegoat of the month here).

  3. The majority of countries embrace this same principle, why do you think you are so great America? Almost the whole world think the same.

  4. thanks to that same amendment liberals can also say what ever crazy stuff they can think off. like everything theres pros and cons

  5. I wish more people were tolerant of other peoples religion. Just as I wish Religious people, would be more tolerant of those secular people, no matter what their belief system is.

  6. weird how we had freedom of speech in europe long before america was even its own country there is nothing american about freedom of speech

  7. This is kinda the thing I always bring up with the Nazi issue. I'm all for knocking a Nazi the fuck out. Push their wretched ilk back. BUT the government should never take a side. Like if my side punches a Nazi let us be arrested. Let the law keep order and let the society decide what's just. It's a complicated issue to say the least but these are the days we find ourselves in.

  8. Big think is typically very liberal, given their choice of speakers and the views they espouse. Meanwhile liberals are out protesting in violent riots AGAINST free speech, or otherwise lauding the actions of Antifa et al. Conservative voices are being demonetized and sometimes outright censored, all over the web, to great acclaim. So having this channel pay lip service to free speech I find horribly ironic.

  9. Was good until the end. Free speech is good but my free speech should not be limited to you feeling that you may have violence. Or you feeling threatened. I don't care about your feelings. Now this is different than if there is a statement to take violence a statement to harm. Your problem is you want to conflate the two. Which showes me you don't care about the first amendment. You just care about people who echo what you want them to.

  10. Urg I hate it when Americans make it sound like they are the only ones with freedom of speech and assembly and religion. Really triggers me.

    Especially since a lot of European countries have more freedom

  11. Muricans strike again with their pathological definition of freedom of speech. I guess You will never learn anything from your racists and bloody history.
    "We need to keep that in mind as citizens, and I have to tell you around the world people acknowledge that and respect that about the United States." No We fcking DON'T!!! Your whole narration of USA being the "LAND OF THE FREEDOM", "THE BEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD" doesn't exists outside your country. You need to fcking wake up and stop fooling yourself, beacause It is so pathetic and cringy.

  12. People increasingly believe that they have a right not to be offended, and ban that which they find objectionable, at the same time the standards for what constitutes offensive or hateful material is more and more trivial and dogmatic in nature. This trend will erode liberal democracies from the inside, for the free people themselves are giving up on that which made them free

  13. The constitution is not flawless and American fear/belief undermine the power of the document.
    Citizens of other first world countries use their internal set of morals and ethics before injecting their thoughts into society. The people are free to push back when the line is crossed. They don’t have to suffer when an equivalent of the Westboro Baptist church decides to inflict its beliefs onto another group and the police aren’t powerless to prevent it.
    The laws of the land don’t even enter the psyche of most of the citizens.
    Unfortunately, in America, as in other countries, a percentage of the population ignore their internal morals and ethics. It is for these people that central guidelines are created. America has to tolerate this because their constitution allows it. How often do Americans defend an action, not on the basis of it being acceptable but by whether or not the constitution allows it. If I asked who on the planet is most likely to say ‘ it’s my right’ the answer would be, an American. And what generally precedes’ it’s my right’? That’s right, an obnoxious, or socially repulsive behaviour.

    As usual, fear and belief prevent change. They will use the slippery slope argument, a potential, based on a belief that other first world countries live in an oppressive environment. They haven’t worked out that belief statistically comes to the wrong conclusion. They only have to look at their domestic history for the evidence.

    If you want to take away citizens rights, take away their ability to resist repulsive behaviour. Let the topic spiral down into an unending argument about who decides what is acceptable. Most people know, the ones who don’t are the ones that require a central law to guide them.

  14. Cool. Most of todays so "liberals" seem to have given up on defending the core principle of free speech.

    Nice to know this lady hasn't. :3

  15. Is there a perception in the States, where people tend to think that the US is the only country in the world that supports freedom of speech?

  16. Yeah, we here in Europe don't have freedom of expression. We are a huge police state is what I'm saying. Dictatorships all around.

  17. We do not have freedom of speech. We have speech with limitations, as no speech comes without a cost. And, what is even more amusing as is it disturbing, is that I’ve lived to witness lunatics “free speech” silence the speech of others. It is unnatural to allow lunatics a platform forever. In time, when the American Empire does finally fall, as many before it, shall people truly understand what I mean. And if you’re still clueless, then you’re in for a ruthlessly rude awakening.

  18. The proponents of the religion of sjw/feminism hate freedom of speech, because it allows rational people to destroy their dogma. That's why they fight so hard to keep others from expressing themselves, even if people are merely stating biological facts.

  19. Knowledge and reason shields against hate speech. When free speech is suppressed, it also suppresses debate. This inevitably leads to violence.

  20. I cant speak for the rest of the world but here in parts of Europe we acknowledged the fact that America where very progressive for its time, and where the first to realize the ideals of what democracy entails. Both in practice and as a dream to strive for.
    But that's where it ends. Its not with the reverence that she suggests here. Democracy as an idea took a bit over two millennia to mature into something more practical, and it was largely here in Europe that the foundations where built. And today the EU has it as one of the cornerstones of its law system(regardless of what you think of the bureaucracy, this is a fact).

  21. What a bunch of bullshit, a million countries have freedom of speech. Land of the free right? Highest incarceration rate in the world.

  22. Lol, to protect speech put police everywhere?
    To increase freedom you don't increase regulation.
    Maybe in a perfect world where police are replaced with perfect AGIs from the future that never violate rights, however in the real world you can type "officer caught" or the likes into youtube and spend the rest of your life trying to see every video.
    The concept she is espousing is both logically and practically false. To increase freedom you place authority on all individuals and leave problems to the original cloud computing of an informed populace.

  23. Without the Second Amendment, you have no hope of defending the First, or any other Amendment. It will come to that at some point in the future, and until you find a way to legislate morality into the human heart and greed out of it, the Second Amendment will be the most important.

  24. Free speech is an double edge sword, since It prohibits the Government from outright suppress narratives that could harm them in the long run. This is both good and bad since they can't suppress information from the public, but propaganda design to overthrow both the States and the Constitution will lead to its downfall.

  25. "the right to freely swing your arm near me …
    ends at my nose".

    Limits should be determined and enforced
    entirely by that ethic.

    If I agree to a fight, and punching each other in the face is allowed per the mutually and freely agreed-upon terms, then fine.

    Otherwise, no.

    So then, if someone wants to SAY anything at all, SURE. GO AHEAD;
    as long as:
    neither the evident intent,
    the easily possible results
    would cause anyone any actual (and potentially significant) harm;
    -except risks that they have been fully informed about, proven able to consent to, and then freely agreed to;
    -and only on an individual basis,
    and only so long as they remain ABLE to withdraw consent … but have not yet done so.

    There is a reason why are NOT freel yell "Fire" in a crowded theater,
    nor threaten to kill someone,
    nor "incite to riot",
    nor commit perjury or slander,

    If the words carry significant risk of doing significant harm
    (so any "harm" that humans should be protected ~from~),
    then it can't be justified as free speech.

    does not abide by that ethic.
    Judicially, it only sometimes tries to.
    Socially, most people base their words on a cost/benefit analysis; their own prediction of gain ~vs~ their own prediction of risk.

    Some few related issues are very complicated. The right place to draw the line is not always objectively provable.
    The best we can do there is yield to current scientific findings, and our best effort at logic.

    But surely most of us know that there are countries where citizens have more freedom, more of a collective sanity, and more benefit of freedoms
    than we have here in the USA.

    In the meantime, we can't even reach a sustainable majority consensus
    about what the 1st and 2nd amendments actually even mean; nor how to apply those to our current laws and practice.

    As an example:
    FAR too many people
    fail to grasp that:
    Freedom OF religion
    freedom FROM religion.

    Their right to thump their bible at people's noses
    MUST end
    at unwilling noses.

    It's never ok to have theocratic-based laws endorsed or enforced by government.

    It's never ok to gain access to attempt indoctrinating other people's kids without those parent's specific prior consent.
    I'd even argue that EVEN THEN it's not ok; but I'd rather keep that other discussion separate.

  26. The biggest hypocrite I’ve heard in a while.
    Let “them” have their freedom of speech. What’s that about?
    EVERYONE should have freedom of speech.
    The way she supports the First Amendment with caveats for “them” is insidious.
    Plus she throws her support behind a tyrannical police state at the end.
    I’ll go out on a limb and speculate that she only wants the police to have guns?

  27. And who considers where is the line and what is a hate speech and what isn't?
    I believe in a freedom of speech in which hatespeech is allowed.

  28. "Why the first amendment was used for corporate greed and lobbying", should have been your video, "professor"……….

  29. How is this special? Like, more than 50 countries have this… I guess people in the us must only speak to the poor countries with oil ahah

    School shootings. Now, that's something special. Also diabetes as a mass epidemic.

  30. A classic question about free speech: Does the right to free-speech protect a person from falsely yelling "Fire!" in a crowded building? If not, what are the rules for exceptions that fairly are equivalent?

  31. Y'know, these last few vids on the US Const. have been pissing me off, suggesting that 'Americans are privileged and the rest of the world shoud follow us.' Know what? Fuck that; no, 'Muricans are no better than any other Joe (or José, or Jakob, or whatever) on this planet, nor are you more open-minded or 'enlightened'. Tell you what, you guys are simply lucky: you won the lottery twice – first politically, as you had smart people of the level of Ben Franklin and Tom Jefferson to write your Law in the 1770's, and then economically after WWI, when you took advantage of Europe's bankruptancy, went bankrupt yourselves because you were stricken dumb with riches, then exploited bankrupt Europe again, and voilà! Superpower. Fuck you guys, and fuck your hubris; the world is riddled with disease, but don't tell me you're the cure (that said, Russia, the EU, the UN, ISIS and all alternatives suck as well; seems too complicated to draw the line to the fundamental human rights which is in the core of your precious paper , so I won't bother)

  32. I disagree. We cannot assume that humans are not flawed in every enterprise. The guidelines in the Constitution only work with an ethical and moral citizenry, (you should already know this). When the social contract is broken the methods deployed to correct the system become radically different, otherwise we quickly dissolve into tyranny. Practical wisdom and a moral compass or tyranny. When we can no longer oppose government by whatever means are necessary, as Thomas Jefferson stated, then we will very quickly dissolve into tyranny. The police will do what the boss says, not what is morally expedient.

  33. The looney left thinks that they have the right to freedom of speech and everyone that doesn't agree with them needs to shut up. When freedom of speech is gone, it will be gone for everyone. People in power will decide and power doesn't negotiate.

  34. “1st Amendment is sooo America (but the 2nd Amendment is totally for the military and their muskets)” ~Big Think~

  35. The only alternative to freedom of speech is violence. If you don't allow someone to speak because you personally believe they're a "nazi", "communist", "antisemite", "supporting apartheid", etc, etc, then you are advocating for violence. And that will simply beget more violence. Talking is hard, killing is easy. You choose the hard path because it's worthwhile and prosperous. Hard choices, easy life. Easy choices, hard life.

  36. Once the first amendment goes, then the US is no different from any 3rd world shithole (as referred to by *Drumpf.*)

  37. Jean Jacques Rousseau; The Social Contract
    agreement: The item that Rousseau calls a convention is
    an event, whereas what we call ‘conventions’ (setting aside
    the irrelevant ‘convention’ = ‘professional get-together’) are
    not events but enduring states of affairs like the conventions
    governing the meanings of words, the standards of politeness,
    etc. So ‘convention’ is a wrong translation; and ‘agreement’
    is right.
    alienate: To alienate something that you own is to bring it
    about that you no longer own it; in brief, to give it away or
    sell it,
    arbitrary: It means ‘brought into existence by the decision
    of some person(s)’. It’s no part of the meaning here (as it is
    today) that the decision was frivolous or groundless.
    censorship: This translates Rousseau’s censure. It doesn’t
    refer to censorship as we know it today; censure didn’t have
    that meaning until the 19th century. Rousseau’s topic is a
    role that certain officials had in some periods of the Roman
    republic, namely as guardians of, and spokesmen for, the
    people’s moeurs (see below). They could be thought of as an
    institutionalising of the ‘court of public opinion’. On page 67
    we see him stretching the original sense.
    compact, contract: These translate Rousseau’s pacte and
    contrat respectively. He seems to mean them as synonyms.
    constitution: In this work a thing’s ‘constitution’ is the
    sum of facts about how something is constituted, how its
    parts hang together and work together (so the constitution
    of a state is nothing like a document). Items credited
    with ‘constitutions’ are organisms and political entities; the
    mention on page 66 of the constitution of a people seems
    magistrate: In this work, as in general in early modern
    times, a ‘magistrate’ is anyone with an official role in government.
    The magistracy is the set of all such officials, thought
    of as a single body.
    moeurs: The moeurs of a people include their morality, their
    basic customs, their attitudes and expectations about how
    people will behave, their ideas about what is decent. . . and so
    on. This word—rhyming approximately with ‘worse’—is left
    untranslated because there’s no good English equivalent to
    it. English speakers sometimes use it, for the sort of reason
    they have for sometimes using Schadenfreude.
    moral person: Something that isn’t literally person but is
    being regarded as one for some theoretical purpose. See for
    example pages 9 and 36.
    populace: Rousseau repeatedly speaks of a ‘people’ in the
    singular, and we can do that in English (‘The English—what a
    strange people!’); but it many cases this way of using ‘people’
    sounds strained and peculiar, and this version takes refuge
    in ‘populace’. On page 4, for instance, that saves us from ‘In
    every generation the people was the master. . . ’.
    prince: As was common in his day, Rousseau uses ‘prince’
    to stand for the chief of the government. This needn’t be a
    person with the rank of Prince; it needn’t be a person at all,
    because it could be a committee.
    sovereign: This translates souverain. As Rousseau makes
    clear on page 7, he uses this term as a label for the person
    or group of persons holding supreme power in a state. In
    a democracy, the whole people constitute a sovereign, and
    individual citizens are members of the sovereign. In Books 3
    and 4 ‘sovereign’ is used for the legislator (or legislature) as
    distinct from the government = the executive.
    subsistence: What is needed for survival—a minimum of
    food, drink, shelter etc.
    wise: An inevitable translation of sage, but the meaning in
    French carries ideas of ‘learned’, ‘scholarly’, ‘intellectually
    able’, rather more strongly than whatever it is that you and I
    mean by ‘wise’.
    you, we: When this version has Rousseau speaking of what
    ‘you’ or ‘we’ may do, he has spoken of what ‘one’ may do. It
    is normal idiomatic French to use on = ‘one’ much oftener
    than we can use ‘one’ in English without sounding stilted
    (Fats Waller: ‘One never knows, do one?’).

  38. Our Universities routinely train common sense and critical thinking out of the students as demonstrated by this woman. Violence is not the problem it is a symptom. Violence is the result of manipulation from people of influence and we cannot say without great scrutiny whether it is justified violence or unjust violence. To initiate violence without "just cause" (being self preservation, protection of property, etc…), should result in a justified response. All creatures have the right to self defense.
    A U.S. Citizen is 58 Times More Likely to be Killed by a Police Officer than a Terrorist; http://thefreethoughtproject.com/u-s-citizens-58-times-killed-police-terrorists/

  39. It seems these days a lot of people mistake the right to freedom of speech with the right to be consequence-free for the things you say. The government can't impose laws to restrict your free speech but if you make comments in your office disparaging a group of people, don't be surprised if your boss shows you the door.

  40. America isn't perfect. However, from an immigration perspective, it seems like thousands of people from all over this world is trying to get to the U.S. and join us in our imperfection. Some even apply for citizenship. Others get here, remain illegally and do whatever it takes to remain. What drives them all…the first amendment, our imperfect economy, or the opportunities that exists here which obviously/probably can't be found anywhere else. I'm just asking and exercising my First Amendment Right.

  41. So is religious shunning a violation of the first amendment? So far it's not acted against and so cults like Jehovah's witnesses have a ball in the USA.

  42. It’s interesting that the 1st amendment “sets the scene “ for the constitution when it’s an amendment and wasn’t considered as part of the original. Peeps need to understand the history of the constitution

  43. Do other free countries not have an equivalent to our fist amendment? Is it not written into law? I don't understand why this is uniquely american in 2018.

  44. Freedom of peach is truly the fundamental right. It is incumbent on the listener to both understand the speaker and to determine the value and weight of the words being spoken. It is not the speakers responsibility for the actions of the listener, we all have to take responsibility for our own actions!

  45. 1st Amendment is an absolute, not a relative right. There is zero limitation on it.
    What actions people take as a result of the 1st Amendment are totally independent of the 1st Amendment. Grow the hell up. Don't act like a f'ing idiot if someone screams fire in a theater.

  46. The Bill of Rights, reinterpreted for the modern age:
    1. No established religion, except for the vague "God" in which we trust, apparently. No prohibition of religion, unless it offends someone. Freedom of speech, unless, again, it offends someone. Freedom of the press, unless you try to broadcast, in which case you're super heavily regulated. Freedom of assembly, but you need a permit. Right to petition with grievances, but no one in power will listen.
    2. Right to arms, and by arms, we mean only enough firepower to kill civilians, but not enough to take on the government.
    3. No quartering of troops in time of peace, at least, not in the U.S. We can stick troops in all the other countries even without a declaration of war.
    4. No unwarranted searches or seizures, unless the police have cause for reasonable suspicion, like if they see a black guy.
    5. Right to a trial, but we'll pressure you into plea bargaining. Right to remain silent, but we'll grill the hell out of you until you crack.
    6. Right to a speedy trial by an impartial jury, except that neither of those things exist.
    7. Right to sue people. Good luck affording a lawyer.
    8. No cruel or unusual punishments, unless you're middle-eastern. No excessive fines or bails, unless we spread them out over the rest of your life.
    9. We can't take away rights that are guaranteed to you, unless we call it "national security," in which case, Uncle Sam can do whatever he wants.
    10. Anything not explicitly a federal power is a state issue, with the exception of pretty much anything the federal government decides it really really wants to be in control of.
    13. No slavery unless we make up a crime that we say you committed, and then it's off to privately-run prison. Also, for some reason, the "no forced labor" rule doesn't apply to military drafts.

  47. Can someone tell me why it's so great that America doesn't have hate speech laws? Some people are arguing in the comments about how other countries don't truly have free speech because they don't allow hate speech. All that seems to benefit are people who are racist or prejudiced.

  48. This is not special at all… this is normal for a well developed country…. if this is not given the country is not sufficiently developed…
    And in most modern countries this is not a problem

  49. Freedom of speech is not the same as freedom FROM speech. You are free to tell your boss of your opinions of him, and he's free to do whatever he wants with that information. I think Americans in general have a hard time grasping this concept.

  50. I'm an american who has been living in Beijing for the past 4 years. I personally get to experience the great internet firewall, active censorship of the press and internet (which is so effective it is mind boggling), and the quick destruction of wonderful working democracy in Hong Kong.

    What if Trump declared himself as Emperor of the US and if you criticize him, you will go to jail–that what the leader of China did this month.
    This amendment is not for snowflake college liberals or racist extremists, it is for the restraint of government to be bound by the criticism of it citizens.

  51. America isn’t the only country with freedom of speech. And I don’t know if anyone noticed, but there are some things you can get arrested for saying. Christianity is pushed on most Americans and Muslims are looked down upon. I can’t remember the last time the first amendment mattered in this country. And those of you typing “liberals” in the comments, I hope you know the men who wrote the constitution didn’t believe in taking sides and belittling your own countryman.

  52. Wish conservatives would learn we're not a Christian nation, we're a secular nation… they fail to understand our own damn constitution…

    And i wish the left would learn to also appreciate free speech and stop trying to punish people that do speak out anything, even hate speech (looking at how Antifa gets violent against right wingers are invited to give speeches)

    I'm pissed that most people aren't outraged at the fact we have "Free speech zones" and "protest free zones" around various buildings that are public land (looking at you Supreme Court)…. this nation has let our rights be abused for far too long.

  53. Being for freedom of speech is not coming down on the political Liberal side. Have you not been paying any attention to what Liberals are doing. Assaulting and burning down businesses and rioting just because they don't want the Conservative speaker to have a voice. Berkley anyone.

  54. In every countryapart from what it's constitution inscripted in practical there is the laws of people's wisdom/behaviours which is minus in each place…US aint so much religious in nature.

  55. Church, the state has all means of killing anybody from the country and only the threat of being revealed stops them from doing this. Take the Putin`s Russia – they do with people whatever they want because any scream of many victims won`t reach the ears of other people

  56. I currently live and work in a Muslim country. After a while, the true meaning of the 1st amendment starts to sink in. I shall never take that for granted again. I can't wait to go back..GOD BLESS AMERICA.
    And every country that honors that.

  57. Freedom of speech until you say something that they don’t like and then they send death threats and troll you.
    America is renown for their hypocrisy not freedoms!

  58. In my opinion
    To speak or not to speak
    That is the question.
    are all equal.
    If a person speaks their mind
    And how they think is a right we hold in the USA
    That is what we need to hold deep to our hearts.
    For this is not only a tool that is needed but a tool that is shared from one person to another.
    Todays veiws scutnized by the people.
    Without voice where would we be today.
    Look at history right or wrong who's right who's wrong.
    We need a place where veiws can be read thoughts given and comments reflected on.
    And NOT acted on.
    Right or wrong.
    Really what year is this.

  59. hate speech is made up by a bunch of sensitive asswipes that want to cry over everything instead of voicing their opinions

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