OPINION: Banning hate speech could end American liberties

Grace Maneein

More stories from Grace Maneein

Real Talk
November 13, 2018
Want+to+preserve+liberty%3F+Don%E2%80%99t+ban+hate+speech.+Instead%2C+protect+the+first+amendment.

Want to preserve liberty? Don’t ban hate speech. Instead, protect the first amendment.

On Oct. 1, I woke to find that the news group chat I was involved in had completely exploded. Suddenly, multitudes of people were calling to ban Kanye West from making music, saying that all his supporters should be ashamed of supporting such a horrid person, and his career ought to be in shreds. They were completely enraged over his tweet about the 13th amendment.

Freedom of speech and freedom of the press, two hard-fought American liberties, were seen as completely void simply because they did not like what Kanye had said.”

— Staff Writer Grace Maneein

Without even seeing what West had tweeted, I was enraged — on behalf of him.

Apparently, the First Amendment did not exist to my friends. Freedom of speech and freedom of the press, two hard-fought American liberties, were seen as completely void simply because they did not like what Kanye had said. They called it hate speech.

But, was it actually hate speech?

Curious, I had to see the tweet that started it all. On Sept. 30, Kanye tweeted a picture of his red “Make America Great Again” hat and the following caption: “this represents good and America becoming whole again. We will no longer outsource to other countries. We build factories here in America and create jobs. We will provide jobs for all who are free from prisons as we abolish the 13th amendment. Message sent with love.”

My first reaction was confusion. The 13th Amendment states, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” Kanye called to abolish the 13th Amendment. Why in the world would a black man want to abolish the amendment that abolished slavery? But confusion aside, I recognized immediately what his tweet is not — hate speech.

My friends complained that the advocacy of abolishment of the 13th Amendment was hate speech. But though no set definition can be made for what constitutes hate speech, as different groups of people will consider different phrases and remarks as hate speech. Kanye’s remark was not hate speech. His remark was not derogatory. His remark called for reform.

His remark did not identify any particular group of people as less than another group of people. He simply asked to ban the 13th amendment, and reform the prison labor system, which is what he ended up clarifying soon after.

If real life tyrannies have taught us anything, it’s that the suppression of freedom of speech is the surest way to suppress a population.”

— Staff Writer Grace Maneein

But let’s pretend that he had written hate speech. Let’s pretend he hated on the government, or a minority, or a particular sexual orientation. I’d say, “Let him speak.”

The first amendment states, “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.” This has been commonly translated to mean that freedom of speech, press, religion, petition, and assembly would remain completely free and uncorrupted by legislation of any type (other than some notable exceptions, like yelling “fire” in a crowded theater).

Right now, there is a movement to pass legislation to ban hate speech in public areas. I think that not only would it be in violation of the First Amendment, this banishment could be the link to governmental censorship, which is the reason why our founding fathers forbid the passing of laws to restrict the freedom of speech in the first place.

If literature has taught us anything, it’s that governmental censorship inevitably leads to tyranny. If real life tyrannies have taught us anything, it’s that the suppression of freedom of speech is the surest way to suppress a population. How else could North Korea boast the highest satisfaction rating of any county in existence at a shocking 98%?

Banning hate speech in America could very possibly spark our doomsday. Since there is no real definition to hate speech, anyone could starting labeling opinions they disagree with as hate speech. This has already started, as seen all over the media, and it has already managed to infiltrate my own social circle.

For the sake of preserving our freedoms within this nation, all speech should remain forever free.

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