Crofts: Free Speech Does Not Exclude Hate Speech


By Porter Crofts, Opinion Writer


There is a growing misconception on college campuses, in the media and among the left that hate speech is not free speech. The belief that there should be restrictions on free speech is a dangerous one but not particularly unexpected. If you are ever wondering what agenda is shared by both those in positions of power or the left, you don’t have to search very hard — they know that if you can control which words people can use, you can control the thoughts they have.

Many students on college campuses believe that hate speech laws already exist — they do not. Fundamental questions need to be answered if these restrictions were to ever become law. Who gets to determine what hate speech is? What counts as hateful speech? How would restrictions be enforced? And how could we possibly create legislation on something so subjective? These are all valid questions, most of which no one has really answered.

For instance, is it considered racist hate speech to say that we should build a wall? Or that immigrants should come to this country legally? Is it hate speech to say “all lives matter?” Should I be jailed or fined for using the “okay” hand signal because it is sometimes used by white supremacists? Almost everyone has a different definition of what they perceive as “hateful.” What I view as hateful, you may not.

The argument that people who support hate speech restriction laws often make is that speech leads to action. I agree that this is possible in some instances, but outside of a direct call for violence — which is already illegal — you cannot place the blame of one person’s actions on someone else’s words just because they were “inspired” by their speech.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune/pool) Controversial conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, editor-in-chief of the Daily Wire and former editor-at-large of Breitbart News, addresses the student group Young Americans for Freedom at the University of Utah’s Social and Behavioral Sciences Lecture Hall, Wednesday, September 27, 2017. Shapiro was invited by the student organization sponsored by Young America’s Foundation, the parent organization over campus Young Americans for Freedom chapters, not the university itself.

The most dangerous aspect of attempts to restrict hate speech is that they advocate for giving the government the power to determine what people can and can’t say. The person and party in power will always change, but once we give a right to the government, we will never get it back. For those who think that is no big deal, I would ask whether they would want Obama or Trump having power over what they are allowed to say.

Sadly, the left uses tragedy and extreme fringe groups to justify taking away your rights. You will never see a tragedy that is not immediately jumped upon by the media as an opportunity to explain why you need your rights stripped away. There has never been a society or people that have benefited from less discourse and more regulation. The left should accept that the answer is not to prevent others from speaking but to challenge those thoughts and show why theirs are better.

The principles that make the United States the greatest place to live in the history of the world is not uniformity and groupthink. It is freedom of speech, freedom of thought and freedom of expression that makes us great. We may all agree that prejudice and hateful speech may be morally wrong, but it should not and cannot be illegal.

There is no legal definition of hate speech under United States law and every Supreme Court ruling has deemed it unconstitutional. There is no place in the constitution where it states that you have the right to not be offended. When someone doesn’t use the pronouns you prefer, they are not attacking you or stripping away your rights. When someone says something racist or sexist, it may be awful, but they haven’t done anything to take away your rights. Yet, your feelings are not more important than the freedom of others and just because you do not like something that was said doesn’t mean that society has to change its laws.

This is the exact opposite of what they teach in most universities. We are doing a real disservice to students and children everywhere by teaching them that people can be told to not speak. It will be a rude awakening when the children who are taught this way enter the real world. There will not be safe spaces to shield them from the reality that hate speech is, in fact, free speech.

Just because some people say things we may not like does not mean that we are entitled to tell them they can’t say it. With speech, there should be no lines or boundaries. All speech should be permissible and hate speech can only truly be combated with more speech. Hate speech is the freest form of speech and expression because no matter how unpopular, offensive or awful it is, nobody can punish or stop you from saying it.


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