First Amendment Should Protect Hate Speech

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The current dynamics involving issues of racism and hate speech is playing a central role in the manner in which societies view the concept of freedom of speech. The fact that most democratic states have ratified constitutions that ensure specific basic rights such as freedom of the press and freedom of speech effectively complicates this current situation, as many wish to utilize these concepts to silence others. To state that the guarantees of the First Amendment should protect hate speech in America, effectively amounts to an assertion that guarantees the sustainability of a democratic society.

To argue that that the right to free speech is dependent on certain limitations is a self-defeating contention. When investigating the concept of hate speech, or rather the restriction thereof, numerous opposing factions state that by its very nature, hate speech should not enjoy the protection of the First Amendment. However, these individuals fail to comprehend that the term ‘hate speech’ is a complex concept and that this complexity allows for numerous interpretations of this phenomenon. Alexander Brown substantiates this point when he states that ‘society as a whole co-opts the term ‘hate speech’ and puts it into a myriad purpose, the term itself will be emptied of its original, legal technocratic meaning to such an extent that it becomes merely an empty vessel” (Brown, 9).

It becomes clear, with reference to the myriad of incidents that have recently been labeled as hate speech that this form of reasoning is inherently threatening to the concept of free speech in that this indiscriminate form of application could affect any number of opinions. To comprehend the importance of hate speech and the necessity for its protection, it is important to consider the principle of free speech. Essentially, the inclusion of the right to freedom of speech in the First Amendment was not the consequence of some happenstance.

The intention of Hamilton, who proposed and drafted this Amendment, was to ensure that all individuals had the right to voice their opinions. The mere fact that this founding father, and subsequently all the other members of the Continental Congress, ratified this Amendment clearly illustrates that a need existed to guarantee that even the most controversial opinions should be respected and expressed. Essentially, the First Amendment was not created to protect acceptable opinions; it was created to protect the alternatives.

To assume that hate speech is an entirely negative concept does consider that fact that hate speech acts as a countermeasure to the often-erroneous hysteria of public opinion. Michael Herz asserts, “It is that hate speech laws necessarily vest a great deal of discretion in the hands of the authorities and that discretion is frequently abused” (Herz). In substantiation of Herz, the events that often occur in dictatorships or in countries that adhere to a strict form of religious government serve as a case in point. In these political environments, the concept of hate speech is deliberately distorted to include any opinions that oppose the state or any religious tenets. In these states, freedom of speech is suppressed and illegitimate regimes triumph at the expense of morality and individual fulfillment.

As Bakircioglu correctly points out, “There is no doubt that government interference in the exercise of free speech would inevitably affect individual autonomy and liberty, which might constitute a grave hindrance to individual development” (Bakircioglu, 10). Effectively, this statement implies that to deny an individual’s right to express opinions that could be regarded as hate speech, amounts to a denial of the individual’s humanity. The restrictions that are applicable to the rights in the constitution exist to advance the humanity of all members of society; they do not exist to dehumanize those who maintain controversial opinions. The opposition to hate speech further lacks an appreciation of the constructive role that this form of expression plays in creating a non-violent society.

By preventing the expression of hate speech, a situation arises, that facilitates violence. A hypothetical situation can effectively illustrate this point. Suppose a situation exists where an individual holds a substantial degree of resentment towards a certain group or an institution. Additionally, in light of the fact that this resentment is considered as hate speech, this individual is denied the right to verbally express his opinion. Firstly, the argument by Bakircioglu becomes relevant and this individual will express anti-social behavioural traits. Secondly, the danger posed by these suppressed emotions will amplify themselves internally. Thirdly, if this individual were afforded the outlet mechanism of freedom of speech, then society would have obtained a forewarning of the possible danger that this individual posed to the specific group or institution.

However, the suppression of this person’s right to express hate speech now facilitates two disastrous results. In the first instance, the probability of pre-emptive action preventing a life-threatening situation becomes impossible and in the second instance, unsuspecting groups and institutions become vulnerable to unexpected attacks. These arguments conclusively prove that hate speech is not an entirely negative concept and that the First Amendment should protect it because it is integral to the holistic development of individuals.

Cite this paper

First Amendment Should Protect Hate Speech. (2021, Oct 25). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/first-amendment-should-protect-hate-speech/

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