Microphone in black space.

The gift of “Gab”. Free Speech v Hate Speech?

Liberty of speech is a hallmark of the American democracy and the discussion over free speech and hate speech and an individual’s right to each is presumably going to be exasperated over the coming weeks after the hate crimes in Jeffersontown, Kentucky; the 13 pipe bombs discovered in the mail and the killings in Pittsburg, PA.


Amendment I

The protection of civil liberties, including freedom of speech, was not drafted into the original 1788 Constitution of the United States but was appended two years later with the Bill of Rights, implemented as several amendments to the Constitution. The first amendment of the United States Constitution declares:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

However, the United States Supreme Court reaffirms there is effectively no “hate speech” exemption to the free speech rights protected by the First Amendment. Therefore hate speech is not and cannot be regulated.  As such, there a several platforms that pander to the extremes in our nation on the left and the right of centre.


Open Speech Platforms

One such platform used by White Nationalist is Gab, a now-defunct platform that is scanning for a place for its half a million users to set up shop.  Interestingly enough according to Webster dictionary, gab is described as “idle talk”. The conversations on platforms such as Gab are anything but pointless talk.

Gab.com


Hate Crimes Statistics Act

Since 1990, the Hate Crime Statistics Act (HCSA) has required the Justice Department to collect statistics and report annually on hate crimes directed against individuals because of race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, gender or gender identity. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, dozens of large cities either do not report hate crime data at all – or underreport the data to the FBI.

As of 2016, per FBI hate crime statistics Blacks and Jews have been targeted disproportionally.

FBI Crime Stats Race

FBI Hate Crimes Religion 2016

Source: https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2016-hate-crime-statistics

 

Since 2004 Religious and Race hate crimes have been increasing steadily year over year.  I believe hate crimes statistics are going to continue to grow especially with the current vitriol embedded in our politics.  Words matter! This does not mean we need to be dotish about our disagreements. Instead, we need to have polite, productive conversations about our differences.

FBI Hate Crimes Stats
Source: https://www.adl.org/adl-hate-crime-map

 

In closing, I believe hate speech should not be classified as free speech because repugnant words can be virulent, dehumanising and are counterproductive to any civil society.


References

  1. Hate Speech In The United States – Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hate_speech_in_the_United_States (accessed November 02, 2018).
  2. Adl Hate Crime Map | Anti-defamation League, https://www.adl.org/adl-hate-crime-map (accessed November 02, 2018).
  3. Featured Image by Daniel Sandvik on Unsplash
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