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Alondra Flores

Ms. O’Keefe
English IV
19 January 2018

What would Orwell want?


The topic of free speech has been controversial since before our country’s constitution
was made. It’s still a controversial topic now even though our country granted us rights in the
First Amendment​, “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” (U.S Constitution, Amendment 1). The first amendment says that the government
can’t make any laws to curtail the freedom of speech. But now the question is, what falls under
free speech? Does saying racist, sexist, or homophobic things count as free speech? Where is the
line that crosses saying an unpopular opinion to being racist or homophobic? As of now, there
isn’t a definitive answer. Some argue that free speech extends to everything, including speech
that is hateful and violent; arguing that speech is speech no matter what it entails. In the novel
1984 by George Orwell, Orwell creates a world where it’s illegal for the citizens to have their
own thoughts. The people who are in charge of this law are called the “Thought Police” and they
make sure none of the citizens even begin to form their own opinions outside of what the
government tells them is correct. Many say that this novel is a warning to us in the future of what
our life can turn into if we let the government or anyone in power limit what we say or think.
Because of this, Orwell would be against those who argue about placing limitations on free
speech.
Today, the debate over whether there should be limitations on free speech stems from
there being very distinct opinions on controversial things like abortion and gay rights. It seems
that in today’s society you’re either very pro-this or very anti-that, not really anywhere in
between. But being anti-human rights is very different than not liking the new Star Wars movie
yet some argue that an opinion is an opinion, no matter how much it might offend you. On the
other side, there are some that argue that there should be limitations on free speech because it can
actually harm someone. The article “​When is Speech Violent​” states, “...that discussions of
certain topics will trigger, or reproduce, past trauma…”(Barrett). Barrett in this section of the
article is talking about Trigger Warnings and how certain topics will cause real harm to people
instead of just making them uncomfortable or starting up a debate. Adding trigger warnings to
TV shows, articles, and other forms of public media isn’t a limitation on free speech because it
isn’t stopping the topic from being spoken about, instead it’s simply warning the people what it
going to be spoken about. It would be wrong to simply avoid the topics completely because then
there would be no progress in our society about what is wrong. For example, not letting people
speak up about their experiences with sexual violence in the​ ​Me Too​ ​movement would simply let
sexual violence keep getting swept under the rug with no progress at all. George Orwell wouldn’t
be against this, Orwell would be against not letting people part of the Me Too movement speak
up because it’s limiting our knowledge on what’s happening in the real world. Orwell would be
against limiting free speech because in 1984, the government made sure everyone was ignorant
to reality so that they would have power. On page 249, the text says, “Whatever the Party hold to
Alondra Flores
Ms. O’Keefe
English IV
19 January 2018

be truth is the truth”(Orwell). Orwell doesn’t want us to be oblivious to reality, he wants the
world to be aware of reality and not let anyone take that away from us. Orwell’s stance is shown
by making the government in 1984 who wants to control everything the citizens do the bad guys
in the novel. The government in 1984 aim for everyone to just accept what the government tells
them is the truth without hesitation. If Orwell was for the limitations on free speech, he would
have painted the government as the heroes of the novel instead of the villains that torture their
citizens until they surrender all their power to the government like they do to Winston.
Orwell wouldn’t be in favor of limiting free speech due to the ignorance of the people
that would come with censoring or limiting what we can speak about. Free speech is keeping us
aware of reality instead of just assuming that everything is the way the people in power claim it
is. By limiting free speech, we are giving up our power to be aware of reality and make a
difference. Limiting free speech may cause some to be upset and even offend some but in the
end, it’ll help us bring attention to topics that would’ve never been brought to light if there was
limitations on what we can talk about. For example, actors wouldn’t have spoken up about
Woody Allen being a child molestor and there wouldn’t have been any movements to take him
and other child molestors out of Hollywood if there was a limit on what we should and shouldn’t
talk about. Orwell would’ve wanted us to remain like Winston was at first and be fully aware of
the things going on that the people in power are trying to hide.
Alondra Flores
Ms. O’Keefe
English IV
19 January 2018

Works Cited

Alone, You Are Not. “Me too.” ​You Are Not Alone​, metoomvmt.org/.

Barrett, Lisa Feldman. “When Is Speech Violence?” ​The New York Times​, The New York Times,
14 July 2017, ​www.nytimes.com/2017/07/14/opinion/sunday/when-is-speech-violence.html​.

Orwell, George. ​1984​. Ishi Press International, 1949.

“The Bill of Rights: A Transcription.” ​National Archives and Records Administration​, National
Archives and Records Administration, ​www.archives.gov/founding-docs/bill-of-rights-transcript​.