'Hate speech' protected after all
(My Eastern New Mexico News column from June 28, 2017- posted in its entirety now that the paper's exclusivity has expired)
Mark your calendars-- the Supreme Court got something right! Amazing, I know. What occurred on this notable occasion? They admitted the First Amendment protects "hate speech".
Of course it does! It's absurd to think there was ever any question.
They didn't go far enough and still managed to miss the important point, though. It's not because the Bill of Rights creates any rights-- it's because it recognizes that no government has the authority to violate rights, including limiting speech. It is a barrier which binds government, not a permit which applies to the people. As cogs of government, the Supreme Court Jesters don't like to face this painful reality, preferring to frame the issue in a way which preserves their feelings of grandeur. But truth is truth.
You have a right to say whatever you want, even to falsely shout "Fire!" in a crowded theater, regardless of legal opinion. No law can ever change this reality. However, you have no right to avoid the consequences of exercising your rights in an irresponsible way-- especially if people are harmed. Even if you are a president or a congresscritter.
Yes, I have the right to call members of congress "critters", and they have a right to call me whatever they want.
Freedom of speech is meaningless if it doesn't include the right to say offensive, potentially hurtful things. But, if you lie about someone, or try to talk someone into attacking an individual, or advocate for a law which would violate anyone's rights, you open yourself up to restitution or even rightful self defense. Don't speak unless you are prepared to face the music.
The other side of this right to free speech is your right to shun anyone who says hateful things. In turn, you also have the right to say what you think of them, even if it offends. Even if you have no real argument, but focus on their skin color, their religious beliefs, or their lack of intelligence. You have the right to express your opinions, and no one has the right to force you to stop.
While you have a right to say whatever you want, even beyond the right recognized by the Supreme Court, no one is obligated to let you use their soapbox to be heard, and no one is required to listen to a word you say. Rights don't work that way.
So be careful of your words; they can end up hurting you more than those you were aiming at.