Debate in review: “This house believes that free speech should not be restricted by hate speech laws”

In order to prepare our debaters for this week’s debate, we have dedicated the first half of the evening to improving their debating and confidence skills by playing a game known as “balloon debate”, in which the speakers take on the roles of famous people/fictional characters/objects arguing their case on why not to be thrown out of the metaphorical air balloon for 30 seconds. Speakers are then given 30 more seconds to attack each other’s arguments, as the judge decides after each round who is to stay and who is to be eliminated. The eliminated speakers then have the chance to vote for a winner in the final round and thus to decide on who gets to stay inside the air balloon.

This time, the balloon debate was on a rather absurd topic, that of “household appliances”, where speakers would take up roles such as that of a fridge, a radio and a dishwasher. Notwithstanding the absurdity of this topic, strong points were made, such as the radio allowing a connection to the outside world inside of the air balloon, and a fridge having no use due to a lack of electricity.

Participating in the balloon debate allowed the speakers to get practice on how to deliver points concisely and powerfully, and how to argue against the points of others under time pressure, which are essential skills when it comes to debating. Furthermore, this served as a fun icebreaker between the members and made them feel more confident for this evening’s debate. Speaking of confidence, we host confidence workshops every Friday, so if you feel like improving your public speaking skills then find us from 17:00 to 19:00 in the Deptford Town Hall Council Chamber (please note that the confidence workshop on the 18th of October 2019 will be held in the Richard Hoggart Building/RHB, room 342).

This week, the house proposed the motion that free speech should not be restricted at all, including by hate speech laws. As granted as we take free speech nowadays, especially in an age when we can all express each other freely thanks to technological advancements such as the internet, we tend to forget that there are certain countries out there where the government actively polices the words (and thus implicitly the thoughts) of their citizens.

Fun fact: Did you know that there is a “Free Speech Flag”? This flag encodes a hexadecimal key to decrypt HD-DVD and BluRay discs, and was passed around on the internet when AACS wanted to make the key illegal to even be mentioned verbally. By encoding the key into an image, the flag circumvents restrictions on free speech, showing that even if free speech is restricted, other forms of information transfer will still surface, a great example to use in debates!

The proposition pointed out the possibility of politicians exploiting speech restriction for their own gain, and how maintaining freedom of speech could prevent the occurrence of a dystopian police state through means such as whistleblowers. The opposition argued against this by stating that control to a certain degree is necessary to ensure the integrity of a state.

Just like the proposition, the opposition also made some strong points, for instance that restricting certain forms of speech such as verbal abuse and racial slurs could actually be beneficial to society. This argument was rebutted with the point that speech is subjective (for instance, one person might see the phrase “we need to limit immigration” as a manifestation of racism, whereas another person might see it as a potential solution to an economic problem), so therefore it would be unjustifiable to restrict the things people say.

Once again, we see that debating isn’t all about whether something is right or wrong – it is more about challenging not only your own thoughts and opinions but also those of others… and on the topic of free speech, we are free to say that we hope to see you soon during our next debate! 🙂

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