Neil Gaiman once said, “The current total of countries in the world with First Amendments is one. You have guaranteed the freedom of speech. Other countries don’t have that.” At the time of the amendments’ creation, a vast majority of operating countries had not yet granted their people such freedoms. Granting every citizen of the United States this right seemed to have been an important landmark in this nation’s history. Along with others, this right is declared to the people in the first amendment of the constitution. The first amendment is the most important because it grants people freedom of speech, prohibits prior restraint, and declares the right to peaceable assembly.
The first amendment is the most important because it grants the people their freedom of speech. This freedom is vital to expressing one’s own opinion of decisions that the government has made. An example of this right being denied is the current state of North Korea. Their citizens do not in any way have freedom of speech, and because of that they cannot criticize their government in order to improve it. Their government is very controlling and insufficient due to the people’s lack of rights. This example helps to enhance the importance of freedom of speech in the first amendment, because without it in a country the government cannot be criticized upon their behalf.
Secondly, the first amendment is the most important because it prohibits prior restraint. Prior restraint is a government censorship of information before it is published or broadcasted. This gives the government major control over what can be said in the media. For example, if information had been leaked about a political leader’s wrong doing, the government would censor it from news stories and other publications. In this country, the government is not allowed to do this simply because censoring the media is keeping information a secret, and is not sharing the truth with the people on matters of government. Prior restraint is very important to prohibit, because it allows the people to know the truth about what is going on throughout their government, making the first amendment of great importance.
Lastly, the first amendment is the most important because it grants the people their right to peaceable assembly. Peaceable assembly is the right to assemble in groups and hold demonstrations. For example, if people would like to start a protest in a peaceful manner, they have the right to do so. This protest may be holding up signs while marching and chanting, or simply sitting on the ground and refusing to move. This is a very important right granted in the first amendment, because it gives people a voice to stand up for what they feel strongly about and have a passion for. Giving the people a voice is a major factor in a successful government, and that’s exactly what this right provides. This further amplifies the importance of the first amendment.
In opposition to the first amendment’s importance, some may argue that the freedom of speech is limited by the government, losing it’s value as a freedom of the people. These limitations include slander, which is false speech and may be intended to damage a person’s reputation. Libel is the same, except in written form. There are many examples of these limitations being used, mainly in the public media. For example, if a news station states that a politician did a certain scandalous act and it is slander, they are abusing their freedom of speech. By limiting the freedom of speech in the first amendment, it is devaluing this certain freedom citizens of the United States have been granted. Many believe it cannot be considered a freedom if there are restrictions, which devalues the freedom of speech and makes the first amendment not nearly as important.
This opposing argument is very much invalid. Though they have limitations, the freedom of speech and the first amendment are still very important to this country. These limits help to keep only the truth in public broadcasting and publishing. An example is if a news station does a report that is slanderous, the authorities may act accordingly to declare their lies unconstitutional. The freedom of speech is a privilege to have, and cannot be taken advantage of by telling lies. The first amendment is still very important, and the limitations it has on the freedom of speech help to keep only the truth in the public.
Another opposing argument against the first amendment’s importance is the fact that by having no prior restraint in the public, there is a possibility of the people learning about something that they should not know. An example would be the possibility of a terrorist attack. If word leaks out of the possibility of an attack, the country may go into a state of havoc and chaos due to their worry. Some argue that in this situation it may be beneficial to have some sort of prior restraint on the news. Due to the possibility of worrying news leaked to the public, it degrades the importance of the first amendment because it shows that there is a need for some prior restraint in the government. This lowers the importance of prior restraint in the first amendment.
This opposing argument is also wrong in denying the importance of the first amendment having to do with prior restraint. Prohibiting prior restraint may cause worrying news to be revealed to the public, but it would be preferred to have the people know the truth of the matter. For example, if a terrorist attack were to occur and the government knew about it beforehand, if was not expressed to the people due to prior restraint then the event of an attack would come as a major surprise. This means that by having the population be familiar with a large majority of things going on in the government, it can prevent people from experiencing an attack or other events that are surprising in occurrence. These points show the importance of no prior restraint and the first amendment, because the people are familiar with the truth about what is going on in their own government.
In conclusion, the first amendment is the most important because it grants people the freedom of speech, prohibits prior restraint, and declares the right to peaceable assembly. These three things granted are very important to our nation today. Referring back to the quote by Neil Gaiman, the only country with a specific first amendment that grants the freedom of speech is the United States. The granting of this freedom is very much important, and has shaped our country to the free state that it is in today.
Bookrags Media Network. “Amendment Quotes.” BrainyQuote. BrainyQuote, 2001. Web. 15 Oct. 2012. <http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/amendments.html>.