Free Speech on Campus: Much has been written in the past several months about dramatic conflicts at universities, especially those between protesters and high-profile far right figures like Ann CoulterMilo Yiannopoulosand Richard Spencerbringing the issue of student activism and free speech to the forefront.
A Brief Analysis of the Free Speech vs. At the same time, though, a quick glance at the tabloids at your local supermarket will make it very obvious that not all forms of public communication are exactly at the level of enlightened discourse that Jefferson hoped for.
Maybe you have wondered, as I have, when does free speech become hate speech? Are there legal restrictions on hate speech? Is it so destructive that it should be restricted or is it something that is part of day-to-day life and that people should learn to let wash over them?
A search of various dictionaries, both hard-copy and online gives a set of definitions that are pretty consistent. An obvious common denominator is the intention to destroy the person or group that is the subject of the hate speech. For example, ina white supremacist named Dylan Roof murdered nine African Americans at a Charleston, South Carolina church after they had welcomed him to their Bible study group.
In the United States, hate speech is usually treated as protected free speech unless it is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to produce or incite such action.
The Supreme Court has protected the rights of Nazis, anti-Semites, cross-burning Klansmen and an anti-gay Baptist sect to openly denigrate others. The question of whether or not to regulate hate speech has generated a lot of controversy. Some claim regulating it would prevent violence and the degradation of certain individuals and groups.
Others assert that, in the name of reining in hate speech, legitimate dissent has been suppressed and the door is thus opened for a government to suppress all opposition. Words only have power when they are believed and acted upon. If enough people can see hate speech and writing for what it is—in both its blatant and covert manifestations—and reject it, it will lose its power.
There are a number of reasons why I think that the American approach is closer to being right than the more restrictive approach taken by other countries. For one thing, I can easily think of many more examples of societal havoc arising from suppression of free expression than from open expression of bigotry in a free society.
There are still many countries that place considerable restrictions on free expression. It would be all too easy for a government to suppress dissent or exposure of government corruption in the name of preventing hate speech.
Even when applied by a non-authoritarian government, it seems dubious to me that restricting expression will actually reduce prejudice and intolerance, because these do not die with legislation but education.
Photo by Jan S. Particularly sensitive to its Nazi past, Germany forbids displaying all Nazi paraphernalia, symbols or uniforms. When neo-Nazis demonstrate, they are prohibited from singing Nazi songs or using slogans. Some Europeans were appalled to see Nazis openly appearing on American streets.
When Nazis appear on the streets, despite lacking banners, symbols or any open communication of their views, people know why they are there and what they stand for.
And anyone with the least knowledge of history knows where such attempts at control lead. There is another reason why hate speech laws are of limited value: To give one of many examples, in the mids a psychologist and political scientist published a book called The Bell Curve.
Written in very conservative academic language, the book forwarded the ideas that heredity plays a major role in determining intelligence and that Blacks and Latinos are, on the average, intellectually inferior to Whites and Asians.
What did happen is that many critiques appeared challenging the conclusions, data and methodology of the authors with the result that the book never achieved anything beyond controversy.
Had someone attempted to ban the book as an expression of hate, it could have very dangerously limited the ability to publish unpopular ideas.
If its purveyors are isolated and discredited they will do little except blow hot air. Much more easily said than done. Yet it is a skill that people who wish to be part of a free and open society have to master just like anyone who wishes to take advantage of the right to move around freely needs to learn to drive and use the transportation system.
That seems like a much better approach then leaving it up to a government official to make a call as to what constitutes hate speech. Allowing individuals to regulate their own communications puts a lot of responsibility on those doing the speaking and those spoken about—as well as printed, electronic and social media which acts as a relay point—to see that correct information makes it into the communication channels of society.
But in the long-run it has the potential to create a much freer and saner marketplace of ideas. Whether or not he turns out to be right depends on all of us who have inherited his legacy.THE FORMAL STATE ACTION DOCTRINE AND FREE SPEECH ANALYSIS JOHN FEE* The state action doctrine is fundamental to constitutional law.
Its primary value, however, is not as a threshold requirement, as it is. But in the case of the standard narrative of the “campus free speech crisis,” there’s a good deal less than meets the eye. What Does Free Speech Mean? The U.S.
Supreme Court often has struggled to determine what exactly constitutes protected speech. The following are examples of speech, both direct (words) and symbolic (actions), that the Court has decided are either entitled to First Amendment protections, or not.
Citing the First Amendment, especially over the course of this century, 2 the Court has crafted a free speech jurisprudence that is robust and, for the most part, correct.
And in doing so, the. Free speech is an exceptionally complicated field of law. A full exposition of all details and refinements would fill several volumes and is beyond the scope.
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