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Freedom of Speech and Society: A Social Approach to Freedom of Expression By Harry Me ...

Chapter 1:  The Nature of Speech and Freedom of Speech
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Freedom of Speech and Society:

Chapter 1

The Nature of Speech and Freedom of Speech

Before considering appropriate parameters for freedom of expression, it is necessary to define the activity that is to be protected. While many forms of human activity that constitute speech are very clear, there are areas where the definition is by no means self-evident.1 Activities such as conversations, print in all forms, broadcasts, film, video, dramatic performances, recordings, and all electronic communications are clearly speech in the conventional sense; sometimes physical activity or conduct that communicates a message also amounts to speech. Artistic works frequently have a strong speech component and may in fact be very powerful when subjects include sculpture such as the Statue of Liberty in New York harbour.2 Since most conduct contains some element of communication, distinctions must be drawn or the legal concept of speech loses all meaning. For example, a punch in the nose clearly communicates displeasure and a bank robbery communicates a desire for money; yet neither of these activities falls within the legal concept of speech. It is still a matter of unresolved debate in the United States whether the so-called “middle-finger salute” constitutes protected speech or prosecutable