What Is Hate Speech and Its Consequences

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Free speech is important for various reasons. One of the main reasons we have freedom of speech is so that individuals can freely criticize the government if they choose to do so. In, countries with weak speech protections individuals can be imprisoned for speaking harshly about the government. Additionally, free speech is a form of self-expression in which individuals can freely express their ideas, beliefs, or opinions. This is important because allowing various ideas and opinions to be heard freely and openly, may create a more tolerant and open-minded community of individuals.

Nonetheless, different kinds of speech have different levels of protection under the First Amendment. The speech that gets the strongest protection is political speech — criticism but also praise for political officials. Besides, political speech, symbolic speech can also be protected by the First Amendment especially if the symbolic speech entails political implications (Yong, 2011). Even, hate speech is protected. Hate speech can be defined as: attacks on people based on their race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, disability, and the like (Yong, 2011, p.2). So a speaker can say racist, homophobic, or outright awful things about groups of people, and the First Amendment protects that speech.

An important case on political speech was Brandenburg v Ohio (1968). In, this case a Ku Klux Klan leader made a speech that was offensive to a lot of people and could have been considered threatening too (Parker, 2003, p. 145). However, because the speech was considered to be political the Court ruled that it was protected by the First Amendment, no matter how offensive it was (Parker, 2003, p. 150). According to, the Court the solution for “hate speech” is not to silence or censor the speaker but to challenge him with more speech. I agree with this proclamation in its entirety because silencing or censoring any speaker is unconstitutional and nothing can be learned when silencing individuals.

However, free speech just applies to government and government entities which are places funded by U.S. tax dollars, places such as: city hall, schools, libraries, courthouses, museums, post offices, and universities to list a few. Private companies, however, can censor individuals or fire their employees for saying racist comments, and they cannot claim any First Amendment violations (Yale Law Journal, 1982).

Furthermore, the First Amendment does not give individuals the absolute right to do, or say whatever they want, whenever they want. In the case, U.S. v Schenck (1917) Schenck distributed pamphlets urging people to avoid the draft for World War I (Smith, 2003, p. 20-21). The Espionage Act, made it a crime to obstruct the draft of the war, therefore, the distribution of those pamphlets was a violation of the Espionage Act. In his decision Justice Holmes wrote that “when the speech presents a clear and present danger, the state can then abridge that person’s speech” (Smith, 2003, p. 28-31). He explained that the First Amendment does not protect a person who shouts “fire” in a crowded theater (Smith, 2003). Additionally, blackmailing, making a threat, soliciting a crime, inciting violence, lying under oath, violations of copyright, and fighting words, those are words that are so insulting that they are likely to result in a fight, are some things that are not allowed.

Moreover, there is strong controversy of “hate speech” on college campuses, some individuals think college campuses should ban hate speech. Although, I personally find hate speech awfully distasteful, and even hurtful to the individuals it’s directed at. If, we allow the government and government entities to dictate what constitutes as hate speech. The government would then have the authority to essentially claim anything as hate speech and prohibit it. Individuals would then lose their rights to free speech and self-expression, which would be atrocious.

Public universities like Cal State LA, are public entities because they are funded by U.S. tax dollars. So, a public university cannot deny any speakers from speaking on campus no matter how outrageous or racist their views are. Therefore, when President Covino attempted to cancel Ben Shapiro from speaking on campus in 2016 if successful, it would have been a violation of Mr. Shapiro’s free speech rights. Censorship goes both ways. Liberal students wouldn’t want liberal speakers to get cancelled and vice versa.

I strongly disagree with, Ben Shapiro’s viewpoints. Yet, I didn’t necessarily agree with the reaction of some my peers in regard to Ben Shapiro’s appearance on campus. Threatening or wanting to cancel a speaker is not beneficial to anyone. Instead, hosting a separate event and providing a platform to voice differing views would have been more beneficial and appropriate. A university, should be a welcoming atmosphere for any and all individuals. No matter whether they hold liberal or conservative views. Students attend universities to learn material based information, and hopefully to learn from other students as well. This is possible the more we engage in discussion rather than censorioring or silencing speakers. Being tolerant of hate speech or speech we disagree with will be more beneficial to us because we have the possibility of learning new things and improving our communication skills.

The right to the pursuit of Happiness as stated in the United States Declaration of Independence is an example of an ‘unalienable right’ which the Declaration says has been given to all human beings by their creator, and which governments are supposed to protect (Beeman, 2010, p. 20-21). As citizens part of pursuing our happiness is our right to free speech and self-expression. Therefore, even though I find hate speech offensive and distasteful I think, it’s important that it continues to be protected, so that we don’t lose one of our fundamental rights established by our founding fathers and so that our nation does not become oppressive of individual thought. Plus, the continuing protection of free speech including hate speech allows us, to improve our ability to structure, and organize ideas, and to effectively deliver counter-arguments.

The more we leave free speech, including, hate speech alone, the better. I’m aware of the turmoil that some speech can bring, but, silencing individuals we disagree with is counterproductive for intellectual development. Also, human beings hold different opinions, and with such a diverse nation like the United States, it’s merely impossible to have everyone agree with each other. Most societies across the world do a poor job of allowing or promoting free speech. Although, we hold certain limitations to free speech, the limitations are stringent and few. Individuals can generally express themselves in any way either through, verbal, written, or symbolic actions as long as it’s done peacefully and lawfully. That’s the beauty of this nation, its that whether people agree with us, or they don’t, we have the right, and liberty to voice our opinions.

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What Is Hate Speech and Its Consequences. (2022, Jan 31). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/what-is-hate-speech-and-its-consequences/

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