Monday, March 9, 2015

The Right to be Wrong

Apparently some people feel that, by protecting hate speech, the United States is somehow violating the rights of those who are targeted by saidspeech. Now, I don't agree with US policy on a lot of things, but this is one area where I completely agree with our current interpretation of the First Amendment. So long as you aren't making a threat or actually causing someone damage by what you say, you can say whatever you please without government sanction.
Yes, neo-Nazis can demonstrate peacefully in neighborhoods where Holocaust survivors live. Yes, they are total douchebags for doing so. No, they shouldn't be fined or imprisoned just for holding and voicing opinions that are offensive to the majority of people. Even obviously wrong people should have their voices heard. If the government were to restrict their right to say whatever crazy idea they have, there would be no way to guarantee YOUR right to say whatever crazy idea you might have. What if you were to suddenly find yourself holding the minority opinion? Most other people feel your opinion is morally wrong. Maybe science indicates your opinion is factually wrong. But you believe whatever it is wholeheartedly. Do you really think it should be illegal for you to voice your opinion?
The targets of hate speech may feel that the speech itself is violence. Obviously, that's completely ridiculous. Violence, by definition, requires physical force. “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” You may be emotionally hurt by what someone says to you, but if we made that illegal, half the customers of any retail establishment would be arrested every single day (be nice to your cashiers, please: they're people too). It's already illegal to make threats toward someone, regardless of if the person making the threats carries them out or even intends to do so. Inciting others to violence is already illegal. If a person is saying hateful things about a specific group, but is not making threats and is not inciting violence, what harm are they really doing? At worst, they are lowering public opinion of that group. But we already have a whole slew of laws protecting the rights of whatever that group may be, with more constantly being advocated for, so any real effect of the hateful speech is diluted. The words of any single bigot, homophobe, whatever, end up meaning so little that that individual cannot really be said to be violating anyone's rights.
The amendments to the Constitution provide Americans with a unique set of rights, limiting the sort of restrictions the government can place on us. In order for those rights to be guaranteed to all, we cannot weaken our hold on them. Even morally reprehensible people MUST be provided freedom of speech, due process, etc. Allowing the rights of a single person to be undermined erodes your own rights.
You are not guaranteed the right to live in a bubble of sunshine and rainbows where everyone agrees with you and is nice to you. There are idiots out there who will think and even say bad things about you for no good reason. It's called humanity. You're a part of it.
We're adults, supposedly mature and educated. We're not elementary school students, keeping some kids from playing with us because they're wearing the wrong clothes or don't watch the right TV shows or whatever. America is a diverse community consisting of people who hold all kinds of beliefs. The minority hold opinions that the majority find offensive. The majority hold opinions that the minority find offensive. Grow up. Pull on your big-girl panties and learn how to live with people who don't constantly reassure you that you're right. Do the mature thing and protect EVERYONE'S rights, not just the rights of the people you personally like.

Here are some links to people who can organize their thoughts on this matter better than I can:
"Law and Freedom"
"2015.47: HB101, HB 496, HB603 Unconstitutional"
"Dinah Won't You Blow?"
"Because It's Not OK"
"Death to Hate Speech" 

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