Free Speech?

The United States has always been proud of its citizen’s ability to have the freedom of speech. In recent events, there have been many examples (both provocative and conservative) of individuals exercising this right. What are we talking about when we say free speech? It is one of the main things that make a democracy effective. Some people think that this is the keystone of every democracy. However there does seem to be an issue of certain types of speech. I think the big two right now are hate speech and protesting (both of which have been seen recently in the U.S.)

First let’s start with hate speech. Even though this falls into the “freedom of speech category” many believe that it should be regulated and taken seriously.  There has to be some harm done when people experience, see and even participate in spreading hate speech. There are many different ways you experience hate speech such as: propaganda, hate symbols (the swastika and a burning cross), and traditional verbal racism. I do not think that we should allow this kind of speech. This is not the kind of speech that we stand for. However, it is hard to say we can’t allow that kind of speech because free is so ambiguous. If we regulate that kind of speech then who is to say that we will not and regulate more. Regulating one type of speech leaves others open for criticism. Regulating, or not allowing this type of speech goes against the “free speech” aspect of a democracy. It is not free if it outlawed. I have heard some arguments that free speech has to be totally free, but as society evolves, we are learning what is “socially acceptable” and experience the need to get rid of words in our vocabulary that way it doesn’t come up.

I have also heard that free speech is tool for a democracy and hate speech is not using that tool properly. The reason behind this is that we as a society have a moral standard of what is right and what is wrong. In the eyes of a society, by its standards, hate speech is clearly a morally wrong way of spreading one’s opinion. I think a secondary argument against hate speech is the fact that it does not help people. It is putting one type of lifestyle, skin color, religion superior over the others. The Constitution of the United States, clearly says that all men are created equal. If this is the case then hate speech infringes on people’s equality under the Constitution. Now I have to address the fact that the Constitution says that all “men” are created equal. People would say that it doesn’t extend to women or people other races. That is a hollow argument in my opinion. As society has evolved we know that everyone should be equal. Whether that is true or not at the moment is a part of the problem. If we actually treated each other as equals then hate speech should not be allowed. Hate speech is doing nothing but inhibiting people’s freedoms.

At the beginning of this article I stated that recently, protests have been on the rise in the U.S. With protests becoming more popular, it has been under fire in recent years. To me, this seems to be wrong. We as a people have the right to protest. Although protests can be violent, it still does not matter. It is a right. Everything that led up to and including the American Revolution was just a huge violent protest against British Rule.  Common Sense by Thomas Paine was offensive to some people, the Declaration of Independence was offensive to others. If the revolutionaries lost the American Revolution all of the founding fathers would have been hung on the spot, but because they won they realized that they had the right to gather against a government that was treating them poorly. This should not be looked down upon. If used correctly, protesting can be a very valuable tool for the American people. Unlike hate speech, protesting does not his does not hinder anybody’s freedom, it portrays freedom. I don’t know when or why protesting became unpatriotic but I would surely love to know. The fact of the matter is that protesting is a right that the American people have and we should not allow anyone to tell us that protests are unpatriotic. They are the backbone of a democracy because they are exercising a patriotic right and ideal that has been around since before the United States was even a country.

One cannot address hate speech vs. protesting without the elephant in the room being addressed. Charlottesville, Individuals were protesting others using hate speech. This goes back to what are they protesting about. If it is inhibiting the rights and freedoms of certain people then it is not right. When people are protesting the fact that African Americans are being treated unfairly and women are not being paid the same, then that seems like we are using protesting in the right way. When you are advocating for inequality it does not justify the cause. Inequality is not what the United States stands for. So those people protesting with Confederate flags and Nazi Symbols are not using freedom of speech the right way, advocating for inequality, hate, and bigotry do not stand for the American citizen of their ideals.160226_YAFProtest_Johnson2

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