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Why We Must Defend Free Speech


Why We Must Defend Free Speech

David Cole

Does the First Amendment need a rewrite in the era of Donald Trump? Should the rise of white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups lead us to cut back the protection afforded to speech that expresses hatred and advocates violence, or otherwise undermines equality? If free speech exacerbates inequality, why doesn’t equality, also protected by the Constitution, take precedence?


HATE speech is not “free speech.” How is the calling for the violent elimination of races, religious followers, and “unacceptable ethnicities” not unlike yelling “fire” in a crowded theater (outlawed by SCOTUS, by the way)? A line must be drawn when peoples’ lives are threatened with HATE speech. Provocatuers such as Milos Yanapoulous, Spencer, and Roger Stone must NOT be given public forums in which to spew their violent invective targeting fellow human beings nor should be they be paid to do so. IMO.


Hate speech most assuredly is free speech. As long as there is not a clear and present danger, speech is protected. Also, remember, the limitation on free speech that you support came from a case where a draft resistor was deemed not to have free speech rights.

Be very careful about limiting freedom - you may not be the one who gets to define the limits.


I am not convinced nor will I ever be. Hate speech is very harmful lasting lifetimes and that harm/injury is “a clear and present danger.”


Hurt feelings are not a “clear and present danger”


But inciting a crowd to go out and DO something violent – beat or hang someone, or destroy or damage some­one’s home or property – IS “a clear and present danger”.  You cannot police anyone’s feelings, or even what they say, unless they are actually threatening someone with immediate harm, or inciting others to do immediate harm, or conspiring with others to do someone harm.   When HRH Tweetle-Dumb suggested that a heckler “be roughed up” – or something to that effect – during a campaign rally last year, and offered to pay the legal bills of those doing the “roughing up”, that was IMHO inciting violence, and Tweetle should have been held to account.

Ah-Yup!!   See Germany’s Shuttering of Left-Wing Website Denounced as ‘Illegitimate Act of Censorship’ posted here on CD just moments ago.


Tell that to parents of a deceased son or daughter shamed by homophobic and racial slurs since childhood. Tell that to Ms. Heyer who gave her life protesting HATE. How cavalier of you to devalue someone’s feelings as just “hurt feelings.”


Sorry but they are just hurt feelings. As Fester noted, inciting a riot is a clear and present danger, calling someone names is not.

Everyone gets called names. Its up to you as to whether you give any credence to the name callers.


This isn’t just hate speech, this is speech that calls for violence and the deaths of many people. When you are chanting blood and soil, the chant the nazis used, you are saying that genocide must happen. This is a call to violence against others. And that is what distinguishes it from hate speech. It is merely saying we hate jews, it is saying we must KILL jews.
No one should be able to march in the streets saying people must die.


So tell me, does that make Common Dreams hate speech? There are regularly posts on here about killing the rich, some in rather gruesome ways. Or is it only the other side that uses hate speech?


Free speech can be weaponized when it is used in absolutes just like any other freedom. I would personally prefer if “civil speech” was absolute over free speech since the latter would require that all voices could be heard.


The problem, Cocobo, is that someone has to decide what constitutes “civil speech” Any time you give someone the power to make that decision, you give them power of you as well.

I prefer free speech


There is a difference between hate speech and calling for violence. And there is no 1st amendment right to post on common dreams. That is a misunderstanding for many people, that free speech applies everywhere. It doesn’t. Only if the government interferes and stops someone form speaking is that against the 1st amendment. That is the as far as it goes, it doesn’t stop anyone from speaking out against someone else’s remarks, it doesn’t mean that stopping someone from speaking at an engagement.
If common dreams said that advocating for violence is against their policy, then they can stop it. No infringement of the 1st amendment at all. They can even disallow any hate speech if they wish. It’s their site and rules.
As for hate or violent speech, I would be against any side doing it. 1st it is non-productive and doesn’t allow civil discussion. However I admit that when it is used against me, I tend to respond in kind, once it is used by someone, there is no chance for meaningful discussion.
2nd It’s a waste of time and energy to hate and promote violence. But I suppose some would enjoy doing it. I gave it up decades ago.
3rd Calls for violence should never be tolerated nor should hate be just ignored. It only leads to more hate and violence. Which means opposition against it.


Free speech as you define it isn’t free. Someone pays for it in the end with great harm. That is always how it works out.