Yes, hate speech, barring encouragement to physically harm others, is free speech. Otherwise, why have a First Amendment at all?
That’s the subject of today’s 10-minute podcast.
“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” -Voltaire French Historian and Philosopher, and ardent defender of freedom of speech, and religion, 1694-1778. That justifiably famous saying should be the gold standard.
Hate speech is speech you hate, or perhaps just disagree with. The solution is not to either shout it down or ban it should you have the power. The best response is to show the speaker up as a fool, to destroy the speaker’s argument. That will gain you converts. Shouting down or banning will gain the speech and the speaker you hate followers.
Does anybody remember the phrase, Banned in Boston? Once puritanical, in Boston the city officials took it upon themselves to ban anything that they found to be salacious, inappropriate, or offensive. Until well past the middle of the 20th Century, the “Banned in Boston” label was slapped on anything the “officials” did not want seen or heard. And the very people who were selling those “unsavory” books and movies used the tag Banned in Boston to boost sales. And it worked.
The difference is that today’s Puritans, those who also want to squelch speech they disagree with, are not only sending a warning, they are working to disallow certain speech in the first place. Today’s anti-free speech mobs are not content with merely warning about speech they dislike; they want to ban it altogether. No word, no picture they dislike should ever see the light of day. Let’s remember it was the early Puritans who brought us the Salem Witch trials. Outrageous and false accusations led to ruined–and ended–lives in those times. Today’s Puritans, once again trotting out false accusations and outrageous claims, use economic boycotts and mob violence to block invited speakers, intimidate politicians and rout dissenters on social media. Ending, by design, with ruined lives and careers whenever today’s Puritans can pull that off.
Let’s take a look at what is in the First Amendment:
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.”
As I count, there are five parts to this amendment. 1. Against establishing a state religion. 2. Freedom of speech. 3. Freedom of the press. 4. Right to peaceably assemble and 5. Right to petition government to redress grievances. We seem to take 1, 3, 4 and 5 quite seriously. Even to the point where a case where a cross on public property went to the Supreme Court as a potential violation of the establishment clause, no. 1. And some of the Justices actually thought it was. Crosses. Like in public cemeteries. Freedom of the press is much in the news, and is vigorously defended. And looking at the many and large protests, we see that 4 and 5 are broadly interpreted and defended as well.
- So, what’s up with the attack on freedom of speech? A. This attack is part of the dangerous “The ends justify the means” thinking. In this case, this would mean, “It is wrong to deny free speech to others, the same free speech that I value and defend for myself, but the wrong is justified if I can eliminate hateful utterances in others.” That eliminates rational, independent thinking about right and wrong, and makes whoever has the might automatically right. Many of the same people who defend the argument that all cultures are equal, including ones that promote practices like female genital mutilation, are saying that differences of opinion on subjects like the number of genders, abortion and same-sex marriage are not allowed. Toe the line with regard to what is politically correct today, or risk being silenced. At best.
What would happen if the politically correct (PC) power base in the US shifted, and what is now politically incorrect became correct–and required as is today’s PC thinking in much of our society? Would the people who are for limits on free speech all of a sudden be ardent defenders of that part of the First Amenement when it is their voices that are being threatened and silenced? Wouldn’t it be a better and far more fair world where we could all fully defend the principle of free speech, no matter how angry we got with the speaker or what was being said? Call that giving the devil (the speaker and speech you hate) the benefit of the law, in this case the First Amendment. Let’s listen in on a conversation between two of Robert Bolt’s characters in A Man of All Seasons. Will(iam) Roper, a young hothead, but overall a good man, and Sir Thomas More.
“William Roper: ‘So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!’
Sir Thomas More: ‘Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?’
William Roper: ‘Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!’
Sir Thomas More: ‘Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!’
Once the anti-free speech crowd has “cut down” the First Amendment, who is to protect them if and when concepts of what is hateful and what is good change?
Today’s Key Point: Barring access to opposing ideas is nothing new. For example, book burning goes back centuries before Christ; most recently the Nazis made liberal use of the tactic. Those who deny full free speech to others are the true totalitarians.
Segueing from the specifics of today’s topic to overall principles, the core, driving principles at Revolution 2.0, are:
- Personal Responsibility; take it, teach it and,
- Be Your Brother’s Keeper. The answer to the biblical question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” is a ringing, unequivocal “Yes.” There is no other answer.
And do it all in love; without love, these are empty gestures, destined to go nowhere and mean nothing.
If we apply those two core principles, personal responsibility and brother’s keepers, simultaneously, never only one or the other, we will always be on the right path. Depending upon what we face, one principle or the other may appropriately be given more emphasis, but they are always acted upon together.
The Founders, Revolution 1.0, were declared traitors by the British Crown, and their lives were forfeit if caught. We risk very little by stepping up and participating in Revolution 2.0™. In fact, we risk our futures if we don’t. I am inviting you, recruiting you, to join Revolution 2.0™ today. Join with me in using what we know how to do–what we know we must do–to everyone’s advantage. Let’s practice thinking well of others as we seek common goals, research the facts that apply to those goals, and use non agenda-based reasoning to achieve those goals together. Practice personal responsibility and be your brother’s keeper.
Let’s continue to build on the revolutionary vision that we inherited. Read the blog, listen to the podcast, subscribe, recruit, act. Here’s what I mean by “acting.”
- Read the blogs and/or listen to the podcasts.
- Comment in the blogs. Let others know what you are thinking.
- Subscribe and recommend that others subscribe as well.
- Attach links from blogs into your social media feeds. Share your thoughts about the link.
- From time-to-time, attach links to blogs in emails that mention related subjects. Or just send the links to family and friends.
Revolution 1.0 in 1776 was built by people talking to other people, agreeing and disagreeing, but always finding ways to stay united and go forward. Revolution 2.0 will be built the same way.
Join me. Join the others. Think about what we are talking about and share these thoughts and principles with others. Subscribe, encourage others to subscribe. Act. Let’s grow this together.
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Links and References
As we get ready to wrap up, please do respond in the blog with comments or questions about this podcast or anything that comes to mind, or connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. And you can subscribe to the podcast on your favorite device through Apple Podcasts, Google, or Stitcher.
Now it is time for our usual parting thought. It is not enough to be informed. It is not enough to be a well informed voter. We need to act. And if we, you and I, don’t do something, then the others who are doing something, will continue to run the show.
Know your stuff, then act on it. Knowing your stuff without acting is empty; acting without knowing is dangerous.
Will Luden, writing to you from my home office at 7,200’ in Colorado Springs.