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Free Speech vs. Hate Speech

Updated: Nov 29, 2023



By Gregory Mattison


Hate speech, a term that has gained significant attention and debate in recent years, is a contentious issue when it comes to defining it and distinguishing it from speech that may be disagreeable, vulgar, or despicable. This article will explore the key differences between what is been labeled “hate speech” and other forms of expression, the challenges in determining what constitutes hate speech, and the various approaches taken to address it.

 

The First Amendment in the U.S. Constitution was drafted in 1791, in response to the conditions found in England and Europe. As originally written, guarantees the fundamental right to free speech. It reads, "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."  The Founders aimed to create a society where citizens could freely express their opinions, assemble, and petition the government without fear of retaliation. This was the bedrock of our constitutional system and still should be today. The First Amendment, a cornerstone of American democracy, is a powerful testament to the nation's commitment to free expression.

 

However, the question of how it applies to so-called, “hate speech” has been a subject of intense debate in recent years. Often “hate speech” or speech that some may hate, offends a person, or offers a counter position in which they disagree. Speech and conduct are quite different things. This is the key reason for the intense debate.

 

The concept of hate speech is contentious, as it represents speech that could promote or incites hatred, discrimination, or violence against individuals or groups based on their race, religion, ethnicity, gender, or other protected characteristics in the view of few people. While the First Amendment's language protected individual’s free expression, it does not isolate nor protect them from the related responsibilities attached to said expression, especially if it leads directly to illegal conduct. If an individual or group express their collective thoughts and those expressions are proven an illegal act or conduct, then that individual or group ought to be subject to the penalties related to the law violated if found guilty.

 

Fast forward to the 21st century, where social media platforms and high-tech companies have become the primary means of communication for people. These platforms have given individuals the power to express their thoughts to a global audience instantly, leading to both positive and negative consequences (in other words, responsibility).

 

The debate over the First Amendment's protection of free speech with the responsibility to address, so called “hate speech” has intensified in recent years. On one hand, there are arguments in favor of a more permissive approach, emphasizing that free speech should encompass even the most offensive and abhorrent views as our Founding Fathers intended. If we had incorporated “hate speech” during the founding of our County, speech against the British rule should have been categorized “hate speech.”  We may never have formed the greatest country on earth.

 

The extremely difficult attempts to mediate the balance between these perspectives is a formidable task. If we separate speech into these categories, the natural inclination of man would be to abuse this process to limit political opposition. The Party in power could determine and limit the type of discord in society. Our First Amendment guarantees have separated us. The Founding Fathers intentionally limited the power of the Government.

 

1. Social media and High-tech sectors:

 

Social media and high-tech companies play a significant role in the modern free speech landscape. These platforms are often the primary venues for speech, and they have established community standards and content moderation policies. As private entities, the responsibility of these companies should be to develop and enforce these policies consistently, honestly, and transparently.

 

When private entities try to determine the complexities of “hate speech,” social media and high-tech often inject their political views. Censorship should never be the result, especially if private companies coordinate their community standards with governmental authorities – at any level. The purpose of social media should be to establish public content policies that reflect a diverse range of perspectives that do not violate laws. Furthermore, these platforms should consider the potential consequences of their actions. Banning individuals or groups can lead to accusations of censorship, shadow banning, and stifling free speech (IE. Diversity of Thought).

 

Hate Speech - May be disagreeable or vulgar!

 

While claims of hate speech can be harmful and unacceptable, there is a significant gray area when it comes to speech that may be disagreeable, vulgar, or even despicable. This category includes expressions of strong opinions, offensive humor, or contentious ideas. People often disagree on what is offensive, and what one person finds offensive, another may not. This diversity of perspectives makes it challenging to establish clear boundaries. This is why our Founders stated 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. The intent and meaning were clear. Abridging defined:  To shorten by omission of words without sacrificing sense. It condenses thoughts and could eliminate subtleties key to the point.

 

Determining What Constitutes Hate Speech

 

The determination of whether a particular expression is “hate speech” or merely offensive is not always straightforward. This complexity arises from the subjective nature of interpretation and cultural, legal, and social norms. Confusing factors have mistakenly used to considered when determining whether a statement qualifies as hate speech:

 

1. Intent:  It is difficult, sometimes impossible, to establish the intent of someone’s speech. Often the intent is determined by the beliefs of an individual or a group that has a different view, opposition, or experience. Because of this, understanding intent causes undo difficulties and can lead to censorship or diminished exchange of ideas.

 

2. Effect: The impact of speech on the targeted individuals or groups is another consideration. Hate speech usually contributes to the marginalization, fear, or discrimination of the affected parties in the view of people. Measuring the harm caused by a speech is difficult and depends on one’s viewpoint. Unless the exercise of free speech leads to an illegal conflict, or act, the effect is not a good measure.

 

3. Context: The context in which speech is delivered can significantly influence its interpretation. For example, a controversial statement made in an academic setting may be viewed differently from the same statement made in a political rally. Context matters in understanding the speaker's purpose, but the speaker absolutely has the right to voice his or her opinion.

 

4. Extent: The scale and reach of the expression should not affect the determination of the speech or its related value. If the speech incites violence or discrimination, it should not be censored. If the speech did violate existing laws, then penalties apply.

 

Who Should Determine What Is Hate Speech?

 

The question of who should determine whether an expression constitutes hate speech is a critical one. There are different perspectives on this matter:

 

1. Government: Governments can establish laws and regulations that define and address hate speech. Most of these countries do not have the protection of our First Amendment in their governing laws. However, relying on the government to make these determinations can raise concerns about freedom of expression and the potential for censorship. Man is corrupted, all too often, as can government officials.

 

2. Legal System: Courts and legal systems play a crucial role in interpreting and applying laws related to classifying speech as “hate speech”. Legal authorities often weigh factors, including the principles of free speech, in their decisions.

 

3. Social Media Platforms and High-Tech Companies: Tech companies like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube have faced challenges in moderating content on their platforms. They develop community standards and employ content moderators to enforce them, which can result in content removal or account suspension for users who violate these standards. Political views of the content managers often lead to claims of censorship or throttling the reach of the message. (IE. See the Twitter Files) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twitter_Files[1]

 

4. Civil Society and Activist Groups: Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and advocacy groups often play a role in monitoring and challenging hate speech. They raise awareness, conduct research, and push for policy changes. Their views are typically one-sided, politically motivated and may not be accurate.

 

5. Community Standards: Online communities and platforms develop their own guidelines and standards to address hate speech within their ecosystems. Users are expected to abide by these standards, and content may be removed, or users banned if they violate them. This can be addressed with Parallel Economy options. https://www.paralleleconomy.com/[2]

 

Addressing Hate Speech

 

Addressing hate speech is a multifaceted challenge. This is one of the primary reasons why all speech should be free and unabridged. This does not relieve those voicing their ideas or responses from societal reaction or potential legal issues should they arise from any violations of law. There are confusing approaches taken to mitigate the impact of hate speech while balancing the right to free expression:

 

1. Legal Action: Laws against hate speech vary from country to country. Legal systems may pursue charges or penalties against those engaging in hate speech when it meets specific criteria, such as incitement to violence. Europe and Canada pursue “hate speech” aggressively under very confusing and often mis-used laws from the European Union. First Amendment-type freedoms are not recognized in these countries.

 

2. Counter-Speech: Encouraging counter-speech involves promoting positive, informed, and inclusive messages to counteract hate speech. This can be an effective way to challenge harmful narratives. The marketplace of ideas should rule.

 

3. Education: Promoting education and awareness about the consequences of so-called hate speech tries to combat its prevalence. Theories like CRT (Critical Race Theory) and DEI (Diversity Equity and Inclusion) as well as “White Privilege” have been implemented, but some studies show far more negative effects of these programs  https://www.heritage.org/civil-rights/report/critical-race-theory-the-new-intolerance-and-its-grip-america.  Violence, such as the attack and [3]murders of innocent Christian students in Nashville by a trans-gendered person cause one to pause on further implementing these strategies. The trans-gender attack was one day before the “Trans Day of Vengeance” proposed by trans-gendered activists  https://www.cbsnews.com/news/trans-day-of-vengeance-twitter-marjorie-taylor-greene/[4] School curricula, workshops, and awareness campaigns contribute to a more inclusive society – which tends to choke public discord.

 

4. Community-Based Initiatives: Grassroots efforts within communities, such as dialogues and restorative justice programs, often have mis-aligned priorities that are designed to divide society rather than unite. “One Nation Under God.”  A great motto we should aspire to again.

 

5. High-Tech Solutions: Social media platforms and High-tech companies have employed algorithms and content moderation tools to identify and remove hate speech. These efforts, however, must balance the need for a free exchange of ideas with the responsibility to prevent harm. The release of the Twitter Files has proven that most if not all the Social Media companies have utilized their own agenda and political view to build algorithms that exclude counterviews, often conservative viewpoints.

 

The Ongoing Debate

 

The issue of hate speech versus offensive or disagreeable speech is unlikely to be resolved due to the subjective and evolving nature of language, culture, and societal values. The tension between freedom of expression and the need to protect marginalized communities will continue to be a central concern. Striking a balance requires one to believe ideas are not violent in-of themselves. In a free society, censorship of any type would be unacceptable.

Most Recent Examples:

 

On October 7, 2023, Israel suffered a massacre by the terrorist organization, Hamas. Israel’s military outposts were not attacked, but civilian villages and kubutzes. Innocent men, women, children and even babies were brutally attack, raped, tortured and/or murdered. Israeli’s citizens were kidnapped and held hostage back in Gaza. This savage act was like our 9/11 and Peal Harbor times five! There is no excuse for this, yet the occupants of Gaza celebrated the deaths and participated in the tortures.

American campuses from prestigious schools protested in support of Hamas. Large city protects in support of Hamas occurred across the world. Members of our own Congress openly and vehemently supported Ham.” chanting, “From the River to the Sea.”  This phrase represents Hamas’s and most Palestinians belief that Israel has no place in the Middle East. They do not deserve the land they “occupy” (in the words of Hamas), nor should they be allowed to breath the air. Hamas’s covenant (https://embassies.gov.il/hague-en/aboutisrael/themiddleeast/Pages/Hamas-Covenant.aspx5) clearly illustrates their position in the Israeli / Palestinian conflict: 


Calls for the Destruction of Israel: (a portion of the Hamas covenant)                           Introduction: "Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it" (The Martyr, Imam Hassan al-Banna, of blessed memory)." [Page 1]


Article 6: "The Islamic Resistance Movement is a distinguished Palestinian movement, whose allegiance is to Allah, and whose way of life is Islam. It strives to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine…" [Page 3]


The phrase, “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free.” is the absolute definition of so called, “hate speech” and could be censored under the new rules the Left has espoused. Yet I would disagree, under Free Speech, individuals, even Congress Women, can voice their opinion. But this does not mean we have to support this view. We can also voice our opposing position. Clearly in Hamas’s own words, there cannot be a two-state solution…ever!


In conclusion, the First Amendment, as originally written, protects the freedom of speech, which should not be abridged. Free Speech does not provide absolute immunity, it does not absolve related responsibility, which can include legal action. Speech that one disagrees with is not hate, it is simply speech in which you disagree. A well thought out counter point can address the issues and win the argument.

 

_______________________________________                                                                                                                                                                                                                           5 Israel Embassy / Government / The Hague


[1] Wikipedia – Twitter Files

[2] Parallel Economy

[3] The Heritage Foundation

[4] CBS News





Gregory Mattison has been politically active for over 30 years. His political passion can be traced to his 8th Grade Civics teacher, Mr. Martin, he had to memorize the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. His love for this Country and its unique creation under God has continued to grow. Gregory is married to High School Sweetheart, Jewel, for 39 years. He has two grown children and two beautiful Granddaughters. Greg has been active in the Convention of States, writes for The Federalist 2.0, and participates in the Patriot Academy’s Biblical Citizen course. He has mentored adults in sales / marketing as well as school kids in reading. He is a past Toastmaster president and still speaks publicly. Currently, he is launching another business, Efficiency Partners. (www.efficiencypartnersllc.com)

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