Resolved: In the United States, reporters ought to have the right to protect the identity of confidential sources.

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Resolved: In the United States, reporters ought to have the right to protect the identity of confidential sources.

Resolved: In the United States, reporters ought to have the right to protect the identity of confidential sources.

Welcome to another debate season! I’m disappointed that we’re starting off with such a bad topic. It’s not that the area of discussion is bad, but the topic is worded terribly. The question that not telling someone a person’s name is or is not a “right” is not a good one. Everyone obviously has the right to say what they want, so to say that a journalist doesn’t have the right to reveal someone’s name is ridiculous and unenforceable. What’re you going to do? Prevent the article from running in the paper if there isn’t a named source? Obviously that can’t happen. But alas, we have to debate what we’re given, not what we want to debate. So let’s get to it.

Definitions

Reporters – Don’t think too much about this. A reporter is basically someone who reports the news. This includes journalists of all types.

Identity – Some people may try to define identity very precisely. Simply put, though, this is an identification of who a person is. It’s not just a name, but can also be a description that points to one particular person. For example, if I said “the attorney general of the U.S.” that would be akin to identifying the person.

Confidential Sources – In journalism, people often provide information to the reporter. The people are called sources. If that person’s identity isn’t revealed, it’s a confidential source.

Ought – This is the most important word of the resolution. Ought means should, and to develop a framework for your case, you’ll need to identify how we determine what the United States government ought to do.

Case Positions

Affirmative

1. Utilitarianism – Allowing confidential sources is the most utilitarian approach. It leads to the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people. Otherwise, you end up with a lack of people wanting to come forward with information, and you also end up with people’s lives inappropriately being affected just for telling the truth.

2. Freedom of Speech – It’s actually impossible for source confidentiality not to be a right. What is the option to enforce? Are you going to torture journalists? Are you going to limit what can and cannot be printed in the press? These would all be violations of the freedom of speech the United States is founded upon.

3. Correspondence Theory – Any truth proposition, like the resolution, must be weighed against already accepted truths to determine its truth. When we weigh the resolution against things we already accept to be true like freedom of speech, the value of a free speech, and democratic ideals, we find that the truth of the resolution is evident.

Negative

1. What is a right? – Source confidentiality can’t function as a right. Rights, like freedom to protest, function as claims against others – either claims to not interfere or claims to confer some benefit. Neither of these apply to source confidentiality in journalism. Because it can’t be a right, the resolution essentially doesn’t work. We can’t say something that’s impossible “ought to be.”

2. Moral Progress – There are schools of philosophy which propose that a society’s moral progress is only possible through the most direct moral conflict. Source confidentiality prevents that from happening. Without confidential sources, though, the moral conflict in a society would be exacerbated, thus contributing to more rapid moral progress.

Well, that’s it. I hope that helps get you started. Good luck, and don’t forget to check out the academy if you need help!

 

Why France’s Free Speech Defense of Charlie Hebdo is Untenable

freedomofspeechBecause people judge before reading, let me start by saying that I do not condone the terrible acts of violence perpetuated against Charlie Hebdo. The teachings of Islam do not support or justify such actions. There are numerous versus in the Quran in which Allah command Muhammad to withstand ridicule and what others say against him. Allah clearly states that he will punish them, and Islam prescribes no human punishment for expressions of opinions which mock the Prophet and Islam. The Hadith also contain many traditions expressing Islam’s protection of peoples’ rights to fully express themselves, and many traditions which command Muslims to be kind in their responses to hateful speech and to restrain from violence. When it comes to speech Islam prohibits only slanderous speech and blasphemy. The blasphemy prohibition is only applicable to Muslims under Shari’ah and nobody else. But, the purpose of this post is not to explain Islam’s view on freedom of speech. You can read the Quran and Hadith for yourself. As a Muslim, I have always condemned all Muslim violence and terrorism committed against anyone, and I invite other Muslims to do the same.

That all being said, this post is intended to comment on the hypocrisy in the discourse around this tragedy. The media, and Western governments, paint a picture of Europe as a bastion of freedom of speech and expression which is being opposed by the restrictive religion of Islam. While terrorist acts committed by Muslims reinforce this narrative, it is actually far from the truth. France is one of the most restrictive societies in the world when it comes to freedom of religious expression. Religious symbols, included the Hijab, are forbidden to be displayed in public. There are restrictions around practice of religion in public and expressions of one’s personal beliefs. Denying the holocaust is forbidden in many countries in Europe, and the EU is the first body in the world to adopt a right to be forgotten which restricts digital freedom of speech. The justification for all these restrictions is that such speech is harmful to people. Religious expression in public incites dissent and tension among people. It has no place in the public sphere. Yet, somehow, completely obscene cartoons intended only to insult particular religions have a protected place in the public discourse. Expression protections in Europe are incredibly hypocritical. They are informed by each country’s history, and often at the arbitrary preferences of the government. Either freedom of speech is absolute or not. A country cannot restrict people’s freedoms with one justification and allow others to express their opinions when the same justification applies.

I don’t necessarily know what types of speech should be protected and what shouldn’t. I don’t know that any country in the world has come up with a system that works for everyone, nor do I know if such a system could exist. But the point is that any policy has to be fair and consistent. Condemning religious expression as hateful while protecting obviously hateful media expression is not consistent. It is a hypocritical policy. The narrative sounds great, and it sells news. It light a fire in people because they cling to the mantra of freedom of speech. I invite you to distance yourself from the narrative you find in the media and examine the truth before making judgments.

I Will Defend to the Death Your Right to Say It…Unless You’re Wrong – Apathy About Freedom of Speech in America

First Amendment Flag

Most Americans, particularly the zealously patriotic ones, herald freedom of speech as one of the crowning achievements of American democracy. Countries like Iran and China are lambasted in the American media for their censorship and ruthless tactics used to weed out political opposition. The American government, on the other hand, is promoted as being a champion of speech rights across the world. The reality of the situation, however, is dramatically different. Those who claim that the United States of America protects and individual’s freedom of speech are deluded. They have never spoken out against the government and do not belong to a group of people targeted by said government. In this post, I want to make you aware of the dangerous path that the US government is on in terms of restricting free speech. In the past decade, we have had a string of rulings which have systematically limited behaviors and speech rights of US citizens under the banner of security and anti-terrorism measures. Most people are unaware of these decisions and their content because, well, most people are unaware of Supreme Court decisions altogether. Not only that, most people are also not members of the groups of which have been targeted by these decisions. Are you a Palestinian solidarity activist? Do you support the Kurds in Turkey? Do you spread awareness of the rebel fighters in Libya and Darfur? Do you voice your support for the humanitarian arms of Hezbollah? Well, it is currently against US law to do any of these activities.

I will spend my time here talking about the most recent Supreme Court case that I am aware of, Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project. Please click the link and read the background information to the get facts first. The problem with this case isn’t necessarily the ruling itself, but rather the implications of it, implications I suspect, after reading the transcripts and opinions, the wise justices on our bench did not consider when handing down their ruling. In earlier cases, the court had ruled that it was unlawful to provide material support to terrorist organizations. This makes sense. We obviously don’t want people living within our borders funneling money and arms to Al-Qaeda. Although, we protect political candidate donations under freedom of speech, and yet we don’t allow people to donate to campaigns of leaders we associate with terrorist actions and organizations, even if these leaders are running for legitimate political office. Not surprisingly, Netanyahu and the IDF are not on the black list. The problem with Holder is that it vastly expands the definition of “material support” to include organized free speech and advice. So, I can no longer post online a list of options for oppressed populations in Turkey to seek international NGO assistance. I cannot attend a peace conference where members of “terrorist organizations” are present. These terrorists include Kurdish activists, Tamils in Sri Lanka, and nearly all Libyans. Hell, Nelson Mandela was only recently removed from the State Department’s terror watch list. Yes, that’s right, Nelson Mandela, the guy who fought his entire life to end Apartheid in South Africa and led a remarkable post-Apartheid government. Then again, the United States government did provide material support to the Apartheid government, and not in the form of organized demonstrations.

The issue is that the innocent peace-seeking individuals who are actively involved with these political issues are now being persecuted for demonstrations, organized events, and travel. Freedom of speech is becoming more and more limited under the banner of security. More people need to be aware and speak out against these limitations on the freedoms of their fellow citizens.

A link to the story which inspired me to write this post:

http://aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2011/06/2011626121757256629.html