Okay, I hate headlines like this. Maybe you specifically do know what free speech means, but for some reason I love writing attractive, controversial headlines, so that’s why I’m saying this to you, whoever you are, reading my article:
You are wrong about what Free Speech means.
I was just reading an excellent article on Inside Higher Ed about treating college students like human beings instead of lumping them all into the category of hypersensitive politically-correct numbskulls, which happens to be the reputation of the modern day college student. The reality is that students, while they are not geniuses (yet… that’s the point. They are in college to learn, they haven’t learned anything yet), are actually pretty decent people in general, and the reputation they have is an exaggeration of the worst college students we see (like those frat guys who sang a racist chant).
That’s all I’m going to write about the article itself: that it’s a good article and I agree with it.
For some reason, though, after I’ve read an article on the web, I continue scrolling down after I have finished… to the comments section. I always do this, and it always makes myself for looking because on every article of every website, people write the most uneducated, ignorant, hurtful, and wrong things that you could ever see.
So in the very first comment of the article, I saw that someone typed these words, and I freaked out and felt like I had to write an entire blog post about it:
“Racist rants on the radio are protected speech.”
I think the commenter was referring to someone like Rush Limbaugh. And in response to this sentence that some anonymous person wrote, I have to say, NO THEY ARE NOT.
I hear people use “free speech” as a shield ALL THE TIME. These people will say, online and in real life, things like, “Black people are so stupid!” and then they’ll say, “I have free speech so I’m allowed to say that.”
I just made up that dumb example off the top of my head. Here’s a real-life example: Donald Trump, someone who is running for the highest office of government in the country, is making his entire campaign about labeling Mexican-Americans as rapists and drug addicts. Trump and friends of his like Ted Cruz say, in defense of such insensitive and awful words, “It’s free speech! I’m allowed to say it because it’s what I think!”
It doesn’t just apply to racism and bigotry. You know how you’re not allowed to shout “FIRE!” in a movie theater? There are some things you just aren’t allowed to say.
Free speech IS NOT and DOES NOT PROTECT hate speech.
There are so many racists and sexists and bigots that say the absolute worst, most degrading, harmful, inconsiderate and awful things, and then they try to use “free speech” as their defense.
But free speech is not hate speech. You aren’t allowed to say abject things about other people. Free speech not being hate speech is law, and even if it wasn’t, it should just be common sense, our own sense of morality and decency, that keeps us from saying such discriminatory things.
There are so many awful people out there expressing such degrading and wicked opinions, who try to justify their insolence by calling it their right to free speech. It is, and I say this with absolute certainty, wrong, to say hateful and terrible things about anyone else.
Please, when you hear someone say, “I think racist chants are okay because that’s free speech,” tell them they are wrong and that no one should be singing racist chants, or doing any other racist or bigoted things. This is a really serious issue that I come across all the time, and it’s only the decent folks in the world who can educate those around them what the difference is between free speech and hate speech.