Should hate speech be protected by the First Amendment?

McCalee Cain and Corinne Capodagli

NO – McCalee Cain

The way that our government protects free speech is deeply flawed: Indeed, with the right to free speech comes an inherent right to hate speech, but by no means should it be fostered in a system that allows it to fester.

Do I think that the government should prohibit hate speech? Simply put, no, because that would create an unsightly opportunity for an overreach of federal control, given the wrong government.

However, I think that the government should do more to discourage the negative inevitable implications of the allowance of free speech.

History has demonstrated time after time that the proliferation of hate speech is often shortly followed by outbursts of violence (i.e. the Ku Klux Klan, today’s Neo-Nazis, etc) and that violence eliminates government protection.

I think that better anticipating the escalation of situations rooted in hate speech, like white supremacist rallies, and accordingly arresting violent offenders as soon as crimes are committed could discourage the spread of hate speech and curtail its bloody aftermath.

Unfortunately this has been enforced disproportionately as of late as well as through the entirety of American history: Today, activists at Black Lives Matter marches and at the Dakota Access Pipeline are met with tear gas and rubber bullets, while Neo-Nazis in Charlottesville are defended by police, in the name of their First Amendment rights.

With inconsistencies in composure on behalf of the law enforcement officials protecting free speech rights in relation to respective advocacy groups, this approach seems like a pipe dream. But if Americans’ rights aren’t enforced consistently, and some people’s inherent right to hate speech is protected more than others’ right to productive free speech, then our country has a serious problem that goes much deeper than Nazi chants echoing in Georgia streets.

YES – Corinne Capodagli

Every American citizen is endowed with certain inalienable rights. When we as Americans try to limit other people’s rights, we contradict the ideas of freethinking and principle that the United States was built upon. Though we may not agree with it, every opinion has the right to be voiced and protected.

I’d like to first start off by saying that in no way am I condoning hate speech, nor any type of speech that pointedly attacks people of certain ethnic or racial groups, sexual orientation, gender, or disability.

However, behind every hateful slogan or protest is an opinion, and I as a writer recognize the value of being able to voice even the most unpopular of opinions. I’m sure some people will disagree with me in my claim, but because of my first amendment right, I can freely express my ideas.

If any form of  free speech becomes limited, no matter how repugnant it may seem, it then becomes acceptable to censor all arguments depending upon the judgement of the party in control. When the criteria for what distinguishes hate speech is determined by one group then that provides for an incredible overreach of power.

If hate speech leads to action, however, such as the events that unfolded in Charlottesville, Virginia, a few weeks ago, then of course punitive action needs to be taken. Until that line is crossed though, then it is absolutely every American citizen’s right to let their opinions be heard.

Overall, everyone has their own convictions and beliefs and it would be extremely hypocritical of me to say that even the most outrageous of ideas should be silenced.

Even though hate speech is a definite blemish in American society, if we let others tell us what ideas can and cannot be voiced, we relent part of our autonomy and risk emerging into subservience.