Micah Betten | @micahbetten
1:00 PM EST | August 3, 2018
Freedom is the pillar at the core of American society past and present. It is what makes America unique in that we have something that no other country in the world has. No other country has a Bill of Rights which protects freedoms such as speech, press, and religion. Since freedom is what makes America unique, it is interesting that this American freedom is coming under attack under the unassuming guise of safety.
Free speech is by far one of the most important elements of American society. Heroes in the Revolutionary War fought and died to protect the hope that a country could be founded where citizens would be free to do and say as they wish. The sacrifices that the founders made show that they believed in the cause that they fought for. With this in mind, the words of the First Amendment become very significant in that the founders knew exactly what they wanted. The First Amendment says that “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)” This statement is so incredibly clear to the point where it becomes absurd for anyone to think hate speech shouldn’t be protected under the First Amendment. Hate speech laws are being proposed in order to stop citizens from expressing views that offend other people. This not only infringes on First Amendment rights, but is offensive to those who have died to protect American freedom.
Hate speech laws are especially apparent in the history of totalitarian governments which used these laws to curb the power of the citizens. Both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union used hate speech laws in various forms in order to censor their people into submission. In Germany, rights were systematically taken away until genocides occurred and the people couldn’t do anything to stop them. This is why modern acceptance of hate speech laws in European countries is so concerning since they “severely [limit] the ability of liberal democracies to counter attempts to broaden the scope of hate-speech laws… with potentially devastating consequences for the preservation of free speech.(Mchangama, 2011)”
On the surface, hate speech laws seem docile and unassuming. It is implied that if someone is opposed to hate speech laws, they must be complicit with hate. This, however, is not the case. What hate speech law advocates fail to realize is that since hate speech does not have a rock-solid definition, any speech that offends another person could be defined as hate speech, and the perpetrator could be criminalized. This is exactly what the founders sought to fight against when creating the First Amendment. In this way, hate speech laws could eventually lead to the censorship of opinions that powerful people disapprove of. Although hate speech laws may seem to be necessary precautions in order to have a civilized society, the restrictions that go along with these laws have much darker implications.
Some argue that “the right of free speech is not absolute at all times and under all circumstances. (“Laws Against Hate Speech,” 2001)” While this is true, it is not correct to assume hate speech is similar to the exceptions made by Supreme Court decisions. These exceptions are words that have calls to action such as shouting “fire” in a crowded theater or making death threats. They are clearly not comparable to calling someone a mean name.
In conclusion, hate speech laws are not only detrimental to American society, but they are symbols of totalitarian governments with little to no freedom. Taking all of this into account, hate speech should be protected under the First Amendment in which the founders took great care in writing.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of Drained Media
“Laws Against Hate Speech Are Justified.” In Hate Groups, edited by Tamara L. Roleff. Opposing Viewpoints Digests. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2001. Opposing Viewpoints in Context (accessed August 2, 2018). http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/EJ3010097217/OVIC?u=lom_accessmich&sid=OVIC&xid=8bc7cb2c.
U.S. Constitution, Amendment 1
Mchangama, Jacob. “The sordid origin of hate-speech laws.” Policy Review, no. 170 (2011): 45+. Opposing Viewpoints in Context (accessed August 2, 2018). http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A275988192/OVIC?u=lom_accessmich&sid=OVIC&xid=2f702472.