The Poly Spotlight

September 25th, 2017
Why Hate Speech is Free Speech

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HATE: The Supreme Court legally recognizes “Hate Speech” as Free Speech. 

By Ben Diguglielmo, Staff Writer

On June 19, 2017, the supreme court unanimously ruled that hate speech is protected under the first amendment. In a separate statement, Justice Anthony Kennedy said, “[The idea that the government may restrict] speech expressing ideas that offend … strikes at the heart of the First Amendment. Speech that demeans on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, disability, or any other similar ground is hateful; but the proudest boast of our free speech jurisprudence is that we protect the freedom to express the thought that we hate.” Many people, including 47% of those who voted in a twitter poll launched by @PolySpotlight disagree with this Supreme Court ruling. “For the most part you should be able to speak your mind, as disgusting and heinous as it is, you still have that right to do so,” Poly AP Government teacher Mr. Booth said. “It’s pretty obvious how corruptible that power [to restrict speech] would be… I think the big fear would be how political it would be, because maybe you’re not criticizing the government, per se, but maybe it’s an administration that doesn’t want to be harmed politically that will say ‘oh, this is obviously hate speech.’”

Some feel that no one should have the right to spread hate about another person or group. What they do not understand is that taking away the people’s right to say almost anything they want would be a huge step towards an already increasingly authoritarian society. In 2012, our society approved a fine of $1,000 to anyone that tosses a frisbee or football at a Los Angeles beach.

Those who defend the court’s ruling do not do it because they are racist, sexist, homophobic, or Neo-Nazis, but rather, because they understand that some rights are important even if they bring negativity.

Imagine if the court had ruled that hate speech was banned and punishable by law in the United States. Sounds good right? Now, Neo-Nazis are not allowed to spread their hateful supremacist views without being persecuted by the government. This may sound like a reasonable rule at first, but when digging deeper one will realize just how much power this gives the government. China, for example, does not allow free speech. This allows the Chinese government to censor certain conversations, books, movies, and even websites, that don’t agree with the Chinese political situation or could “cause public unrest.”

By giving the government the power to arrest people over “hate speech,” the government is given the power to control what is said within the country. Think about it, who would define what legally counts as “hate speech”? Theoretically, the government could classify any speech as “hate speech.” While the supreme court would likely be deciding what legally qualifies as “hate speech,” politicians, even those within the judiciary branch, can be bought and pressured from within their political party. What if they classified criticism of the government as “hate speech” and made it an arrestable offense? What’s to stop the government from turning corrupt if the media and the people aren’t allowed to call it out? Who would make sure that the government is following the will of the people? As Thomas Jefferson once said, “No government can continue good, but under the control of the people”  part of the U.S governmental philosophy is that it is meant to serve the people. Who is to to ensure that the government is truly serving the people if they have no right to criticize it?

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