Hate speech is not protected by the first amendment. https://t.co/DOct3xcLoY
— Howard Dean (@GovHowardDean) April 21, 2017
“Yes, it is!” responded Bill Maher on his April 21 show, before correcting Howard Dean’s comment. “Threats are not protected. This is why the Supreme Court said Nazis could march in Skokie — they’re a hateful bunch. But that’s what the First Amendment means. It doesn’t mean ‘shut up and agree with me.'”
Now let’s read this from Karl Popper:
Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.
The never-ending argument in American politics with regards to free speech and tolerating the otherwise intolerable falls to the idea that if we shut down “hate” speech, we will ultimately become no better than those advocating hate in the first place.
The argument goes that shutting down “hate” speech is anathema to the idea of freedom, and so the only way to be truly free is to allow offensive speech alongside inoffensive speech.
But does refusing to tolerate hate speech really lead to tyranny? After all, isn’t that what people like Bill Maher are ultimately arguing? If we, as “liberals” deny right-wingers their liberty to speak their minds that they will turn those tables on us when they find themselves with the power to do so (as in, now)?
To me, the questions that are pertinent to this discussion are
- Why must we, as a society, tolerate hate speech?
- Countries like Germany, Mexico, Canada, and France have laws prohibiting hate speech. Are the people there any less free than they are in the United States?
- Can tolerance be protected when the intolerant is tolerated?
The above tweet and response by Bill Maher referenced the postponement of a speech at U.C. Berkeley by right-wing commentator Ann Coulter, who has made a name for herself making provocative comments about various groups of people she is unhappy with. For example, she said this of the widows of the 9/11 victims: “I’ve never seen people enjoying their husbands’ deaths so much.” Her comments came because those women had the audacity to upset Ann Coulter by advocating for a commission to look into how government failures failed to foresee and/or prevent the attacks.
U.C. Berkeley has come under heavy criticism in recent years as they have sought to prevent speakers deemed too politically volatile from speaking, and while such an idea may seem counterproductive to the idea of college in the first place, there is no obligation for any university to give a platform for any speaker for any reason.
The irony here is that reactionary groups seem intent on forcing Berkeley to allow any and all speech—well, that’s not necessarily true. We’ve silo’ed ourselves to the point where we only demand our speech be allowed.
And finally, what about domestic tranquility? The constitution lists as one purpose of the constitution to insure domestic tranquility? Does my “right” to shout for the genocide of whatever group I decide is responsible for all the bad I experience in my life trump the public’s “right” to enjoy tranquility?
Are we willing to destroy our nation in the name of “freedom?”
Here’s your trump picture: