13 Feb 2013

Hate Speech Vs Free Speech – Why I Hate Hate Speech

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Hate Speech Vs Free Speech is an age old dilemma. For me hate speech does not forward the discourse of humanity; it devalues it. Hate speech does not encourage open communication; it silences it. Hate speech does not enhance racial or sexual equality; it discriminates against it.

Hate Speech Vs Free Speech Definitions

Let me make the distinction that I am taking a position of limiting hate speech, and not free speech. The two are very different. The freedom of speech is obviously protected by the First Amendment, but that does not imply speech is wholly protected.

You may choose not to speak (Fifth Amendment.) You may choose to use certain offensive words in a political context (Cohen v. California.) You may even advertise commercial products and professional services (VA Brd. of Pharmacy v. VA Consumer Council).

For those wishing to partake in the greatest display of disrespect to this nation, protected speech even allows actions such as flag burning (though not recommended in many parts of the USA) (Texas v. Johnson.)

justice is a late train

Censoring Hate Speech

Hate speech should be censored as it legally, ethically and morally falls beyond the scope of what is socially appropriate and acceptable. Hate speech exist outside the law and causes threat or intimidation to persons or groups characterized with one or more identifiers such as race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, etc.

Hate speech is not and should not be protected, as there is no legitimate purpose other than to aggrieve and harass the victimized person or party. You should not be free to spout off at anything and everyone without repercussion.

Schenck v. United States, 249 US, 47 (1919) prohibits someone from inciting actions that may cause harm. The proverbial, “shouting fire in a theater” is the litmus test. Finally, the making and distribution of obscene materials is not protected speech (Roth v. US, 354 US 476 (1957), nor are employing “fighting words.”

Now that we are clear that I in no way wish to impede upon your Constitutionally protected speech, allow me to get to the point. There is an adage, “You never have to apologize for what you did not say.”

Obviously, there are others who care little for the words they say, or the effects of what comes from their mouth. The legal definitions and provisions provide guidance for a spirit of the law with the purpose of compliance and adjudication.  The law cannot cover every single scenario fitting the label as hate speech.

Hate speech is also used to maintain the remnants of segregation. Segregation ended you say? Then why does there continue to be a demand for engaging in communications delineating the races. The traditional color boundaries of black and white are blurred with races representing Hispanics, Asians, Indians, and Middle-Easterners.

I realize this is an argument for censoring hate speech and not race, but the often intended targets are selected because of race. Most minorities, including women end up as suitable targets. As the lines of racial color and sexual identities become less defined; the intensity and clarity of hate speech becomes more overarching and globally offensive.

Hate speech limits the potential for minorities and females to fully, and freely pursue opportunities for education and occupations due to the environmental hostilities perpetuated by hate speech.

Impact on the communities served

As a public servant, we are expected to tolerate verbally abusive speech to the point of threatening communications. I have also been told that my peace cannot be disturbed. I find that disturbing, but this is not about me. This is about the effect of hate speech on the communities and law enforcement.

Regardless of your location; speech motivated by hate, directed by biased selection and delivered by ignorance, does not invite enlightenment. Hurting others or creating an environment of fear and intimidation benefits no one.

Unfortunately, law enforcement is limited on criminal actions available at their disposal for disposing of victimizers. Most hate speech violations are addressed through civil courts in the way of liable or slander suits.

While monetary compensation rarely amounts to healing the wounds of the numerous affected. The remedying of hate speech violations seldom serve as a deterrent from continued patterns of behaviors, actions and words.

Another concern is that my officers never engage in communicating hate speech towards each other or the community. The greatest travesty is for those invested with the public’s trust to violate that accord by using threatening language and stifling the public trust building process.

Whether it is an officer or citizen engaging in hate directed speech, it undermines the congruity of a community and rips at the civil fabric of a society. Elected officials entertaining patterns of hate speech for promoting political agendas, disrupt not only the governmental body of work, but diminish the credibility of the office and individual.

Weighing freedom of speech against impact on community tensions

I was asked how does one weigh our rights to freedom of speech against the impact it may have in stirring up community tensions? The answer is easy. The good of the society takes precedence over the convenience of the individual.

This may be interpreted as restricting the individual liberties guaranteed by our Constitution. I assure you it is not an assault on our hard fought for and well-earned rights as Americans.

As in any business, education, or adventure there is a tipping point at which diminishing returns offset the progress of the initiative. Hate speech has tipped the scales in the legal, social, and cultural arenas. It is wisely being limited through the court case examples listed in the beginning.

When does the good of society outweigh the convenience of the offending individual? When you make any member of that society to feel unable to exercise a free will for the purpose of pursuing a full measure of opportunity and optimism.

It is not the discontinuation of the individual’s right to espouse hate speech that I support. It is the privilege of every individual to live unencumbered by ignorance, intolerance, and intimidation. So in the argument of hate speech vs free speech I know which side I support.

But how about you? Please leave your comments below or join us on Twitter for live debate using the hashtag #hatespeech. I welcome your views.

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