For many years hate groups, such as the KKK, have been suppressed and hidden from the public eye, but as of recently, they have created a greater buzz in the media as they’ve been playing roles in politics and actively protesting. This resurgence of hate groups has put the first amendment to the test and brought the freedom of speech debate to owners of public areas. It is argued that, regardless of the subject being an organization based on hatred for select individuals, hate groups should be allowed to freely protest in public areas. This argument usually follows the idea that attempts to suppress the ideas of hate groups would be unconstitutional. Supporting this argument, more exposure to different ideas, even if extreme, has the ability to enlighten people and help guide them to have better opinions. However, this can easily backfire as more exposure to extreme opinions has the capability of attracting others into subscribing to those ideas. This leads into the opposing argument, stating that continuously allowing hateful ideology to demonstrate and spread will provide nothing beneficial for our communities and society as a whole. It instead will only put others in fear while expanding their organization. This issue is not bound by a country’s level of development, meaning this debate exists in all countries, however it is not all experienced the same way. Opinions coming from countries where there are restrictions on speech will differ from an American viewpoint, where the freedom of speech exists. This research paper will explore the different ideas on hate groups and their ability to publicly demonstrate.
When observing a country’s general stance on the existence of hate speech, there is usually a leaning towards the side that promotes the freedom of speech. For example, a 2004 decision of the Hungarian Constitutional Court, followed its earlier 1992 decision in repeatedly invoking the American ‘clear and present danger’ test in finding unconstitutional a law that punished speech provoking racial hate. Although it seems odd to defend the spread of racist ideology under the freedom of speech, it is seen as necessary to protect other ideologies from being suppressed. This is an important feature in modern society that policies, created in relation to freedom of speech, try to encourage. This is mainly because the suppression of new ideals meant for changing parts of the world is a legitimate fear held by world leaders.
This fear became a reality after the creation of the 2017 Network Enforcement Law (NetzDG), designed to get rid of online ‘hate speech’ (Germany responding to hate speech). This law, although with good intentions, became a problem after having numerous accounts of targeting and censoring online political discussions. This perfectly demonstrates the main concerns that come out of trying to attack hate speech; the free expression of different opinions being censored under the name of hate. This threat is the main example used to justify the existence of hate groups and their ability to freely demonstrate. The argument lies under the idea that no matter how bigoted or offensive the idea is, as long as it is not orchestrating violence among others, it has the right to be expressed. Challenging this argument with the use of law has been very difficult as Germany has made multiple attempts at controlling online media with the reasoning being “to reduce ‘hate speech’.” These attempts, however, result in backlash from ordinary users affected by this. This is due to the term hate speech being broad and, at times, subjective in regards to its meaning. Because of this, when attempts are made to reduce hate speech, there is typically a greater effect that pulls in others who shouldn’t be affected by it. This is why the freedom of speech is so heavily advocated for, as it would also protect those who do not share hateful ideologies, but have differing opinions. Greater censorship has the ability to silence more opinions than desired.
However, it is argued that this defense of hate speech is unnecessary as most logical, non-segregatory opinions made in the modern era, would be at little threat of being suppressed.
The freedom of speech is an argument many right wing activists have been putting up, against the claim they are spreading hate speech and forms of hateful expression for a long time now. While it is true that they have the right to speak freely, there are limitations brought for the general comfortability of society. In many places such as college campuses, the staff’s main concern is of the people staying there. If public speakers come and antagonize the residents there with their freedom of speech, the staff can choose to prevent them from speaking. One argument made for support of hate groups demonstrating is that it falls under the first amendment, protecting the freedom of speech. This allows hate groups to exist, as long as no hate crimes are committed alongside the form of demonstration. This is argued against with the idea that although they have the right to freely express themselves, it provides nothing beneficial to our society and ,therefore, means it doesn’t need to be attended to.
Both arguments bring compelling evidence to the table as each of them have very strong claims. What holds true on both ends of the argument is that neither are offering sympathy for groups that share hateful ideals. What is brought about in the claims on both ends is an argument based on strictly the legality and morality of hateful expression. While it may seem that the side arguing for hate groups to freely express themselves is with these groups, they truthfully want no more than the protection of our right to freedom of speech.
With that being said, the side advocating for hate groups to freely demonstrate aligns more so with my beliefs, which are that we should not be censored to the hate that surrounds our communities, but instead be aware of its presence, as knowledge and improved education, rather than suppression of different ideas, will bring the end to the existence of hateful ideologies. Placing a ban on opinions that fall under the broad term of ‘hate speech’ provides an unrealistic and simple answer to a complex issue.
Therefore, what is needed to oppose the expression of hate is the spread of knowledge and that can only be done when there is less censorship to the public.