Thursday, May 07, 2015

"Constitutional speech protections wouldn’t be very strong if they did not include hate speech, since one person’s statement of hate is another’s statement of truth."

CNN Anchor Says Constitution Doesn’t Protect Hate Speech, Try Reading It. Okay, Let’s Do That. - Hit & Run : "As it turns out, the Supreme Court has consistently interpreted the First Amendment to protect all kinds of odious speech, including speech perceived to be hateful. Constitutional speech protections wouldn’t be very strong if they did not include hate speech, since one person’s statement of hate is another’s statement of truth. “George Bush is a war criminal” might be construed as a hateful statement if you’re George Bush, after all. There are indeed limits on the First Amendment; the Supreme Court has held that “fighting words” and incitements to specific and imminent violence are not protected.  But as recently as 2011, the Court ruled 8-1 that the Westboro Baptist Church had a First Amendment right to picket a military funeral and wave signs that read “You’re going to hell” and “Thank God for dead soldiers.” In other words, it doesn’t look like the Court is ready to undertake some vast reinterpretation of the First Amendment that would possibly justify the claims of the “hate speech isn’t protected” brigade."
Unusually Stupid McClatchy Column Gets Free Speech Wrong | Popehat: "It was inevitable. I expected that in the wake of the attempted terrorist assault on a "draw Muhammad" event in Texas, people would write dumb things about speech. American journalists have not disappointed me. Well, they have disappointed me. But they've done it . . . . oh, you know what I meant. This is a target-rich environment, but let's take one example: this remarkably bad article at McClatchey by Lindsay Wise and Jonathan Landay. Wise and Landay, to steal a line from The Onion, ask the question other people are too smart to ask: "After Texas shooting: If free speech is provocative, should there be limits?" They begin by pointing out that the organizers of the Muhammad Art Exhibit arranged for extra security, suggesting that because they contemplated the risk of violence that they should not have spoken. But how is that a just or relevant standard? Would Wise and Landay approach Russian gay rights protestors and tell them to shut up because they could predict a bloody, brutal response from thugs? Would they rebuke the organizers of May Day marches, which seem reliably to produce violence by some bad actors?

...Much of the rest of the column is devoted to talking about how bad Pamela Geller is, and how the American Freedom Defense Initiative is a hate group. But this is irrelevant. You can talk to me all day about how Geller is a nasty, scary nutjob, and I'm unlikely to disagree much. But that has no bearing on whether her speech is, or should be, protected. We don't need a First Amendment to protect the soothing and the sensible. Wise and Landay don't answer their own question about "provocation" and don't provide their readers will tools to get closer to doing so. The answer is no. Speech should not be banned because it is "provocative," as they use that word. Accepting that premise gives every hothead in the world the right to control our speech by indulging their subjective reactions to it."

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