The importance of freedom of speech and expression cannot be overemphasized in present-day society because they are part of the universal human rights chapter. However, it is equally important to acknowledge the limitations surrounding these freedoms, such as defamation, contempt of court, state security, and similar issues (because with every ounce of freedom comes responsibility). Nations may suffer in several respects if they do not safeguard the freedom of speech or expression.
The most severe form of retrogression that a limitation to these freedoms may pose to a nation is its ability to destroy the human mind. Nations thrive by exploiting the creativity and potential of their population through various avenues such as the invention of new products, provision of excellent service standards, and similar attributes. These attributes are complemented by freedom of speech and expression. However, if these freedoms are not respected, nations may become stagnant. People may also lose the ability to interact with other people (and the state).
For instance, through the documentary film, this divided state, the failure to respect the freedom of speech exposes the national division which captures the title of the documentary (this divided state). The failure of a section of the population in Utah to respect the freedom of speech isolates the state (Utah) from others because most states in the US respect this freedom. From this understanding, we see that the people of Utah may lose the social ground to interact with other people in the country because they do not share the same ideologies regarding freedom of speech and expression.
Also, since the government is mandated to uphold the freedom of speech and expression, at least by virtue of the first amendment, it becomes extremely difficult for the people of Utah to relate well with the government because they are not following the law. This puts them at a crossroads with the state. From this understanding, we see that a failure to respect the freedom of speech and expression threatens the social fabric of a nation. Nonetheless, from a holistic perspective, freedom of expression and speech is important because it enhances people’s decision-making ability. There is a no better decision to be made than a well-informed decision. A well-informed decision is, however, only realized if the freedom of expression and speech are respected because people will be better informed about issues.
This is the same issue that arose in Utah after Moore stirred a lot of controversy in the state regarding his willingness to speak to campus students. It becomes clear that the locals were determined to maintain the “status quo” by limiting the flow of information to its population. With Moore’s visit to Utah, the people of Utah (and more so, the student population) would be better-informed about various social and political issues surrounding the nation. For instance, since the country was in an election period, the students would be better-informed about the decision to elect the next president. The freedom of speech and expression should have been safeguarded so that whatever decision the state made in the impending election would not have been coerced. However, the conservatives were determined to let the people make an important decision from the point of lack of knowledge.
This is the same view held by Kay Anderson, who claimed, “Michael Moore doesn’t represent our community and our values. His presence exposes our children to evil”. However, this view is misguided because it is an attempt to arm-twist people into thinking in a certain way. This view is also held by a USVC professor interviewed in the movie who said that “the most important speech to allow is the one you disagree with. All perspectives are welcome…that’s what a college is!”