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Hate Speech

2274 words - 10 pages

“If the goal is to promote peaceful coexistence among human beings enjoying equal dignity and respect, isn’t allowing everyone his or her say a reflection of that respect?” (David Cole). Freedom of speech, as it is protected under the first amendment, is perhaps the most important component of a democratic society. Without it people cannot speak their minds, cannot point out injustices being done by the government. Without it people are silenced. The right to speak up stretches across many topics, but not all of them are the kindest. Hate speech is a protected form of free speech, which is controversial amongst many because of its inherently hateful nature. In fact, some people argue it ...view middle of the document...

As David Cole puts it in his “More Speech Is Better” article for the New York Times, “defining ‘hate speech’ in a way that draws a clear and enforceable line between that which deserves protection and that which can be prohibited is an elusive, and probably impossible, task.” In a sense, there is a roadblock in the way before the drive has even begun.
Arguably the most potent defense in favor of the protection of hate speech is that of censorship. The power of determining what constitutes hate speech and what does not would be put into the hands of the government, which is a controversial concept. Who is to say this ability would not be twisted to fit the government’s own frame? This is where censorship begins to emerge from between the cracks, because as the power to dictate hate speech dives into the pitfalls of the government, so too does their agenda. An agenda which may not be in the best interest of society as a whole. One freedom that America holds onto steadfastly is the freedom to criticize those in positions of power. People are allowed to say whatever they please about Obama, be it good or bad or indifferent. What if the government decided that anyone who speaks out against the president is to be jailed on account of hate speech? This prospect is not as outlandish as it may seem, as it has been observed countless times in the dictatorial pasts of Hitler and Stalin. Even the more contemporary leaders such as Kim Jong Un have enforced laws akin to the one mentioned. Professor Nahmod Sheldon puts it plainly when he says, “Even hate speech contains political ideas, however horrible these ideas may be. When you regulate such speech, you are also regulating ideas”.
On a smaller, perhaps more relatable scale to those of a younger generation, is the question of internet speech. Scroll along a message board on any social media platform, and before long there will be an onslaught of hateful words spewing from the keys of computers across the world. This forces society to question whether hate-filled online rhetoric is an exercise of free speech, or if it is a preventable catalyst of illegal conduct (Censoring Hate Speech in Cyberspace: A New Debate in a New America). Everything falls back to what was stated earlier: no one can properly define hate speech, because everyone comes from different backgrounds and is offended by different things. When an attempt is made to cram the idea into a box, it falls flat; the box crumbles. Even when it is taped back up it is not the same, it is wrinkled. In addition to this, the box cannot be filled back up again. If the world was subject to mindless censorship, people would be too afraid to speak out against anything, for fear that they would face punishment if their words were ruled as hate speech. No more debates, no more societal growth. Criminalizing views that are objectionable and offensive is the slippery slope to censorship and to the closing down of open debate (Arthur).
In addition to censorship,...

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