You get free speech! And you get free speech! And you get free speech! We all get free speech!
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 crux of the the First Amendment is that the government, or governmental entities, shall make no law that restricts the rights of the people to practice their religion, say what they want, peaceably assemble, and petition the government for redress of grievances. This amendment enshrines the concept of freedom of the press, meaning that the government cannot put restrictions on the press. You don’t have to have a license to be a journalist. Although there is absolutely nothing in there about CNN being granted the right to a front row seat at a White House Press Briefing.
What’s not covered under the First Amendment? Prohibitions against “hate speech”, prohibitions against being offended, prohibitions against the government taking down your cross or menorah on your property.
And this is a problem for lefties. They need “hate speech”. They need restrictions on how you can express your thoughts and opinions, because the left can no longer compete in the arena of ideas. Don’t believe me? Here’s a little history lesson.
I started college in 1981. As part of my freshman honors history course, I had to read Mein Kampf and the Communist Manifesto. Why? Well, the course I was taking was called Political Movements of the 20th Century, so we spent a lot of time diving into the ideas that inspired the dictatorships that killed nearly 100 million people. I did not want to read that crap. I grew up in a rock-ribbed-patriotic-by-gum American family! I didn’t need any Communist literature to confuse me.
And after studying those books, you know what I learned? Aside from the fact that Marx and Hitler sucked at writing. I learned that no population as a whole would engage in a democratic plebiscite (that means vote) to put those ideas into place. Not a one. Both the USSR and Nazi Germany, came about as the result of a coup. And the average citizen was powerless after that.
Oh, and the school I went to? It was about as conservative as you can get, and the professor was almost as liberal as you could imagine, but still he insisted that we learn something, and learn how to argue intelligently. Some people in class were enchanted by the “possibilities of peace, love, and harmony”; others were frightened; others had their free market principles hardened (me); and still others were bored out of their minds.
But I would not have learned how to argue against those ideas if I had not been forced to read them and discuss them.
Fast forward 35 years, and let’s look at what’s happening on American campuses today. First of all, the art of critical thinking is no longer taught. Students are told upfront what the outcome is supposed to be. Often, a professor will stand in front of the class and say something like “Today we are going to learn about how people are killing the planet.”, rather than say something like “We are going to explore an interesting hypothesis about how human activity may be affecting overall climate.”
Additionally, students themselves are not interested in broadening their own thinking. Take for example, Jennifer Martin, a student at The University of St. Francis, who tweeted last week that her professor gave her some assigned reading from the libertarian think tank, Cato Institute, discussing universal health care systems. For those of you that don’t know, Cato is widely respected on both sides for the quality of its research, and for holding some of the best events in DC.
Assigned reading from libertarians? The horror! This was enough for Martin to declare that her professor had committed an academic sin, and she would get this person in trouble for giving her “ideological garbage” from a “conservative propaganda machine” to read. She’s concerned that the evil Koch Brothers have contributed millions to Cato. The Kochs even sued for a board seat a few years ago; however, they lost.
She freaked out over the fact the Koch Brothers believe that we should celebrate the individual and discourage dependence upon the government. Absolutely hateful!
Ms. Martin is engaging in one of the pillars of leftist thinking--attack any idea that doesn’t support her worldview because the source may be “contaminated” by someone she disagrees with, not that the idea may be bad. It’s the collegiate equivalent of sitting in the corner with your hands over your ears saying “not listening not listening not listening” when somebody tells you that the Tooth Fairy doesn’t actually exist.
This kind of nonsense is encouraged on most college campuses today. College. The one place you’re supposed to go to explore alternative ideas. Even Berkeley, the home of the Free Speech movement, doesn’t allow free speech any more. And they’ll riot if you disagree.
The problem of speech limitations isn’t confined to the education system, either. Last week, the Supreme Court found that an indie rock band from Portland composed of Asian members may indeed trademark the name The Slants. In the Supreme Court ruling, they found that trademarks are private speech, and the government cannot regulate it, no matter how offensive it may be.
And this brings us to what happened in Merry Old England. Our cousins across the pond do not have a written constitution. Their government is cobbled together from court decisions and acts of Parliament. They do not have a Constitution as we understand it -- a document of fundamental importance setting out the structure of government and its relationship with its citizens. All modern states, except the UK, New Zealand and Israel, have adopted some form of a constitution. Even Venezuela.That being said, the citizens of Old Blighty do not have an enshrined right to free speech.And this is what happened to a man from the County of Sussex. Nigel Pelham was charged with eight counts of publishing threatening written material intending to stir up religious hatred against Muslims on dates between February 24 and November 16, 2015 on his own Facebook account. Dude ranted against Muslims on his Facebook account. Think about that for a minute. Of course the Sussex police don't seem to have paid too much attention to the documentary, the Jihadi Next Door, but I digress.Pelham, 50, of Freehold Street, Shoreham appeared on March 7 at Lewes Crown Court and pleaded guilty to the offences.On June 16 he was sentenced at Blackfriars Crown Court in London to 20 months for each of the eight counts to run concurrently. He also has to pay £100 victim surcharge and has had two hard drives and his tower computer confiscated.
To recap, Mr. Pelham said nasty things about Muslims on his Facebook account (which doesn’t seem to have removed those posts for violating community standards). Then the Sussex police got involved, called it hate speech, prosecuted him, and he’s now serving nearly 2 years in the slammer. All because he expressed an opinion.
Mr. Pelham makes anti-Muslim comments and gets thrown in jail. The jihadis in The Jihadi Next Door get a pass, and Johnny Depp is applauded when he asks “when was the last time an actor killed a president?”. No, in Britain, there is no free speech, and it depends on whatever flavor of government is in power as to whose speech is going to be suppressed. This time it’s Mr. Pelham. Next time it could be Mohammed Rage Boy because the local Chinese takeaway won’t give him an extra egg roll.
You see, Great Britain has some vague definition of hate speech. South Africa is debating the same thing today. The Hate Speech Bill of 2016 says the your first conviction for hate speech can land your butt in jail for 3 year. A second conviction can put you away for 10 years. Wow. Those are pretty severe penalties, I wonder how the South Africans have actually defined hate speech.
According to fee.org:
Hate speech is defined as any communication which is insulting toward any person or group, and which demonstrates a clear intention to bring contempt or ridicule based on 17 protected grounds. Such grounds include race, gender, sex, belief, culture, language, gender identity, and occupation or trade. But insult is an extremely low threshold of offense, especially if it is considered with protected characteristics like belief and occupation.
Theoretically, I could say that “Radio talk show hosts are really stupid” and get thrown in jail.
South Africa, which actually does have a Constitution, one which the notorious Ruth Bader Ginsburg admires, already defines hate speech, the new bill is just extra special. It’s defined as expression which advocates hatred “and that constitutes incitement to cause harm,” based on only four protected grounds: race, ethnicity, gender or religion. But the fact that the definition is in the Constitution limits how South Africans can express themselves, may lead them down the road to where people go to jail for saying unpopular things--kind of like what happened to Nelson Mandela.
Imagine that. The government controlling your liberty.
One of the biggest fights in post Revolutionary War America was over the Bill of Rights. Alexander Hamilton didn’t think one was necessary--after all, the government we were setting up would NEVER try to infringe on the liberties of individuals! James Otis wouldn’t sign the Constitution until a Bill of Rights was added to it. George Mason took his toys and went home because the original Constitution didn’t protect individual rights. It was a near-run thing that the US got organized at all.
And here’s the beautiful thing--The Slants get to trademark their name. Jennifer Martin gets to look as much like an ass as she possibly can. I may not like what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it,as long as you don’t riot and destroy my property.
Because as Americans we HAVE to. It’s enshrined in our Constitution. No matter how much that offends you.