Free speech or hate speech?









As American’s we value our First Amendment right to freedom of speech.  But recent events in Libya, Yemen, Egypt and elsewhere raise serious concerns about the issue of when “free speech” becomes “hate speech.”

CNN published this report:

Reaction to anti-Islam film fuels debate on free speech vs. hate speech

“As staffing levels at the Embassy are restricted, our ability to assist U.S. citizens in an emergency remains limited and may be further constrained by the fluid security situation.”

David Hartwell of security analysis group IHS Jane’s told CNN the current protests were reminiscent in some ways of the outpouring of anger in 2005 after the publication in Denmark of cartoons seen as disrespectful to Mohammed.

The violence also reflects the changed dynamic in the region following the Arab Spring, Hartwell said.

“You’ve got populations in all of these countries who are now much more willing to take to the streets and are much more wiling to vocalize their anger in a much more violent way,” he said.

“My guess is that this outpouring of anger will be intense but brief, but I think there is a danger that this anger will spread to perhaps more unpredictable places like Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

In law school, one of the first things we learned was that the right to free speech is a limited one.  The most common example of this is that a person cannot claim his free speech is protected if he stands up in a crowded movie theater and yells “fire” when there is no fire.  The reason for this is obvious.  Such speech is nothing but a way of inciting a riot that may result in the loss of life.

Political speech is more problematic.  The primary reason the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees citizens the right of freedom of speech is so that they can express their political views without the fear of governmental reprisals.

It is this sort of argument that the makers and sponsors of the incendiary film that sparked much of the violence against Americans abroad hide behind.

Let’s be real about this.

A person who spreads hate without regard to the potential backlash this may cause to his fellow Americans overseas is no patriot.  He is a coward.

The courageous Americans who died in the last few days protecting the American flag and all the best things it represents deserve better.

It’s high time we brought responsibility back to free speech.  Time when we set aside bickering and focused on workable solutions to the issues that divide the world.

Why don’t we learn the lessons written in our true patriots’ blood?



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  • Yes, freedom entails responsibility. I am allowed to say anything I want but must take responsibility for the consequences of what I say. However, this story runs deeper, much deeper. Evidence is beginning to surface that the “speech” that purported incited this outbreak was not “uttered” at the time the outbreak began. The film appeared on the Internet and became known well before. Rather, it appears that the violence has been incited by terrorist sponsors, many working from outside the nations where the initial outbreaks occurred and that their motivation was to rekindle terrorist attacks by making these riots a celebration of their greatest victory, the attack on the U.S. on 9/11. How can this be? Our President promised to defuse the conflict between Islam and America. He was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for the promise alone. He traveled the world bowing and apologizing for America’s arrogance. He welcomed members of radical Muslim groups into the secret councils of our government so they could see for themselves that we weren’t plotting against them. Obviously, none of this is true. It is far easier to believe that Muslims everywhere are so unstable as they will murder and destroy property at the slightest provocations.Is this what I’m supposed to believe?

    • Jack, you are right that this story runs very deep. Since I wrote this blog a few days ago all sorts of information has surfaced about the back story. According to an AP story, an Egytian Coptic Christian who is a real estate mogul in California is the main person behind the film A Mr. Klein assisted him. Klein is a Christian militant who champions the First Amendment. The Egyptian sponsor of the movie contacted Klein who counseled himm on the extent of American free speech before he wrote the final script. I agree that enemies of the United States overseas seized on this opportunity to trash America and murder our emissaries. There is plenty of blame to go around. But the fact remains that if we exercise our Constitutional rights, we need not do so in such a manner as to jeopardize the safety of our people in forein lands.

      • MikeWhitacre

        Sorry for being crass, Stephen, but I have to greatly disagree with this: There isn’t plenty of blame to go around, those murderers should take all the blame. Atheists say and do many things that offend me, but if they made a terrible film to offend my beliefs, that does not give me the right to get together with a fundamentalist mob and start murdering them, and I would hope the law convicts a group like this and not the atheists making the statement. There is a big, big difference between inciting chaos in the middle of the crowd by screaming “fire” and offending people. “Hate Speech” isn’t a relevant, and it should not, by any self-respecting free person, be used as a reason to regulate and convict Free Speech. The problem I have with “Hate Speech” is the same reason I have a problem with “Hate Crime”: It does no good to anyone. What we’re responsible for is either responding to, ignoring, or protesting/ boycotting peacefully the offensive speech in question, but it is not the responsibility of any authority to convict, control, or hinder anyone’s speech, especially if it’s offensive. As for causing panic, the news and politicians often incite panic without being convicted: In my state, for example, the news was trying to get people to panic and buy iodide pill after Japan’s tsunami hit because of the nuclear power plants, and not a single source was explaining how a power plant or how radiation works. Where’s the warrants out for the arrest for misinformation like this? Again, I am sorry if I am being crass, but it is utterly disgraceful to use “hate speech” as need for free person to be responsible for their speech. No writer, filmmaker, artist, etc. should ever bow down to this politically correct bullshit. This has gone too far, and I for one am sick of how artists, people who should be the shining example of Free Speech, prefer to cow-tow to the political correctness than to defend a persons God-given right to offend using said speech. Liberty is non-negotiable.

      • Stephen: To be realistic, I cannot know how all people might respond to anything I might say (in speech, writing, film, etc). Otherwise, those persons who choose to live, work, or travel in dangerous places, among dangerous people, might suffer because I trigger a riot. Is that your response to me?
        If so, then I should simply shut up. I’m sorry. I didn’t know that a whole class of people (Muslims) were so psychotic that they could be incited to violence by mere utterances. Personally, I never thought of them that way. I thought of them as ordinary people, living ordinary lives. Monotheistic. Granted they have a subclass of radicals, but then, so do all religions. And, now I’m responsible for inciting criminal acts for those who travel peacefully among them? Wow. I don’t know if I can handle all that responsibility.

  • Are there any hate speech laws in the U.S., Stephen?

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