Free vs. hate speech
After the neo-Nazi rally April 18 at the Toledo One Government Center, it seems like a good time to discuss the fine line between free speech and hate speech.
People tend to confuse the right to speak your mind with the “right” to preach offensive rhetoric. But where does the line fall? When does your freedom of expression end? Does it cover hate speech, or are there really things you can’t say?
“We will not print things that are racist, sexist, defamatory or show religious hatred,” said Kurt Franck, executive editor of The (Toledo) Blade. “We make this determination based on what a ‘reasonable person’ would find offensive, and try to paint a picture without using the actual offensive words.”
Mr. Franck also expressed his feelings on the value of free speech, explaining that free speech extends to all speech, and that to put restrictions on this constitutional right would be far too difficult and subjective. Not everyone finds the same things offensive, and no matter what you say, someone will be there waiting to deem it inappropriate.
Joy Wagener, a senior English teacher at PHS, describes hate speech as “when speech starts to attack someone for taboo topics like race, gender, religion, sexual orientation. That’s when it’s inappropriate.”
Essentially, Mrs. Wagener said any time rhetoric is aimed at inciting hatred or violence towards a specific group, it becomes inappropriate.
Mr. Franck echoed this opinion, “The U.S. Constitution guarantees us freedom of speech. But common sense tells us we need to be careful about what we say and where we say it, as our words can bring unwanted consequences.”
Mr. Franck brings up a good point. In the civil unrest of the past year concerning race, people around the country have lost their jobs for posting racist and offensive comments on social media.
While people may have the right to say anything, they also have to face the consequences of your words. Even though the Constitution protects your right to say something, your employer also has the right to fire you if they decide your statements do not reflect well on their company.
It can be incredibly difficult to protect the right to free speech when you disagree with what someone is saying. Whether it concerns race, gender, sexuality, or politics Americans have the right to say whatever they want.
“Many universities, under pressure to respond to the concerns of those who are the objects of hate, have adopted codes or policies prohibiting speech that offends any group based on race, gender, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation,” according to the American Civil Liberties Union. “That’s the wrong response, well-meaning or not.”
Last Saturday, about 200 counter protesters gathered in front of One Government Center in opposition to the hour long neo-Nazi rally taking place. Unlike in 2005 when the National Socialist Movement (neo-Nazis) came to town, this year there was no violence from either side.
There were even several rallies around town to encourage equality in the Toledo area, including a Take Back the Night event to combat domestic and sexual violence, racism, and sexism in the community as well as a Black Lives Matter rally, encouraging positive communication and discouraging bigotry. There was also a Fair Housing March, celebrating 40 years of equal opportunities in regards to housing through the Toledo Fair Housing Center.
The people of Toledo had several options in how they could have reacted to the presence of the neo -Nazis in their backyard, and they chose to preach positive values instead of battling with those who do not.
Instead of putting time, energy, and passion into a shouting match, Toledoans put them into something positive and productive for the community. Arguing gives attention to those who preach hate, it gives them an outlet to preach more hate.
Last weekend, Toledo denied the National Socialists this outlet. They instead took this as an opportunity to positively impact and educate their community.