Freedom of speech under threat from gossip
Amidst heated debate about whether or not being politically correct is beneficial for society, a plague of people seem to be dreadfully misinformed on their First Amendment rights. Freedom of speech is freedom from government persecution – not the oft heard “This is America, so I can say what I want,” statement.
Hate speech in America is one of the most malevolent iterations of the rising xenophobia accompanying Trump’s election. According to the Washington Post, FBI data indicates that hate crime in 2016 is almost 19 times what it was in 2015 (6,100 incidents versus 300). While the First Amendment protects against government censorship, it does not protect against a) hate speech, and b) other people’s criticisms (of which our president would do well to heed).
Anti-semitic, anti-black, anti-muslim sentiments voiced in everyday hate speech is almost definitely a contributor to this phenomena. By normalizing this rhetoric, it is no longer seen as extreme to be a part of the alt-right, a watered-down misnomer describing the neo-nazi movement. Hate speech penetrates every aspect of our society, from casual slurs and racist jokes, to family meals cavalierly throwing around immigration reform as travel bans.
However, calling out hate speech is now apparently “indoctrinating a leftist agenda to sway people from critical thinking and the truth,” stated Alex Grubish in Communities Daily News.
“College campuses in today’s society are breeding grounds for fascism while shrouding themselves under the veil known as the safe space,” wrote Grubish in an article decrying the safe spaces in today’s universities.
Thanks for that sir, I had no idea that treating people with respect and expecting those around me to do the same was now political. Nice of you to clue me in.
The idea of the safe space is not meant to push the liberal agenda, so to speak. It is meant to protect those who have experienced violence, racism and other forms of hatred; it is meant to be a place where people can share their experiences with others to try to better communicate across diverse backgrounds., without fear of retribution or hatred for being brave enough to tell their story. In fact, it is the strongest breeding ground for the First Amendment that we have outside a vibrant free press.
Speaking of, let’s address the fact that one has to have a permit to protest. If that isn’t an infringement upon freedom of speech, nothing is. Permits, as explained by the ACLU, are required when the planned protest will somehow impede traffic or pedestrian movement. Considering that all protests are going to do some such distraction to draw attention to their cause, this means, barring an extraordinary news break in which the government waives permit requirements, all protests have to go through government channels. This is censorship.
While the right is completely misinformed as to the true protections given by the freedom of speech, so is the “fascist” left. Simply saying something racist or offensive, barring slurs and terroristic threats, is not hate speech. It is hateful rhetoric, and not acceptable, but it is protected under the First Amendment, in the same way that one could say that they hate men.
More should be done to educate all on the freedom of speech. Schools need to stop shying away from topics that are too “political” and address the issues facing our society today. By actually teaching students their rights, the voting population becomes less able to be tricked by fake news and smarmy politicians. The Constitution, the economy, the social injustices in America need to be talked about so people actually understand. Public schools especially need to be forums for discussion and for people to share their opinions. American democracy was borne of open debate and community input; allowing tensions to fester and be ignored does not make them go away.