Should there be hate speech laws in the US?
Debate Rounds (4)
There have been several cases brought to the supreme court on the topic of hate speech. One example is, R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul, in this case a white 14-year-old burned a cross on the front lawn of the only black family in a St. Paul, Minn. neighborhood. The burning cross demonstrated to the family that this child did not welcome them in the neighborhood. The family brought charges, and the boy was prosecuted under a Minnesota law that made it illegal to place, on public or private property, a burning cross, swastika, or other symbol likely to arouse "anger, alarm, or resentment in others on the basis of race, color, creed, religion, or gender." The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled that the Minnesota law was unconstitutional because it violated the boy"s First Amendment free speech rights. Notice that the court did not rule the the act of burning a cross on someone elses land as legal just that the intentions of the burning were legal. The boy could have been held criminally responsible for damaging property but not for hate speech.
Canada has recently started enforcing hate speech laws. This has lead to unforeseen consequences such as the classic The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain to be banned in schools because its use of the racially offensive word "nigger". In addition, the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council has banned "Money for Nothing" by Dire Straits for using the word faggot from radio play. A poll of Canadians found that 81% disagreed with the decision to ban the Dire Straits song.
In conclusion, laws against hate speech will not work in the United States for several reasons. First it has been proven to have unwanted consequences in other countries and not supported by the majority of the citizens. Second, and most importantly, laws against hate speech would go against the first amendment right to free speech and would therefore be unconstitutional. Any laws that take away the right of free speech are an infringement of a fundamental human right.
Let me address first the primary question my opponent has posed for this debate. "Should there be hate speech laws in the US?" This makes it unnecessary to address the fact whether or not there are currently laws, federal or state, or the the likely hood of whether a bill to change the constitution in favor of my position would pass through Congress or not. It specifically asks the question whether there SHOULD be laws concerning the at times severely emotionally damaging act of hate speech on our fellow citizens.
This debate gives us the chance to look at the affliction, the damage, and the fallout, and decide together as a group what we think about hate speech. Is it a good thing, does it have its special place in society that is ok, allowing people to treat others with disrespect, anger, rage, inflict fear, cause undue duress , and then simply hide behind a statute that was written before today's level hate speech was even imaginable.
In fact, since the constitution was written, there have been several revocations of statues, which I will not go into at length, but just mentioning the fact that we were bright enough to figure out slavery wasn't right, that segregating people wasn't write, and that not allowing women to vote wasn't right. So we rewrote the actual constitution to correct these mistakes. Mistakes similar to categorizing "speech" as anything anybody can say to anyone anywhere. We at one point down the line took the term crime, and split it into to categories. Crime, and hate crime. With the added connotation hate crime, the suspect faces a different set of sentencing options, because the crime was done with the utmost hate in his or her heart, and for no other reason. The victim in this scenario is guilty of nothing other than being his or her self, and has some sort of element to his make-up that the suspect deems UNWORTHY.
If the constitution can be rewritten to redefine the word crime, surely there is an argument there that we can more accurately define speech, one being hate speech. But I digress, as I am not attempting to convince Congress to rewrite the Constitution. I am talking to all of us. As far as the laws in Canada, I don't see how that applies to the question at hand, we are specifically asking about if it is a good thing to have hate speech laws in the US, or not? But for the sake of the debate I will briefly counterpoint. First, it is very inconsequential and almost insulting to quote hate speech laws affecting a few pieces of literature and a Dire Straits song as having "unforeseen consequences". I will give more potent and applicable example of "unforeseen consequences" inditing hate speech in this argument shortly. I say that for one, the measures that the Canadians have taken against hate speech are commendable. Just like the examples I marked of how our constitution has been changed; slavery, civil rights; women's rights, the effects and issues concerning hate speech are no light matter, and out of the HUGE amount of people affected by this in a positive way in Canada, (gays, religious groups, minorities, disabled, mentally unstable) to bring up such a trivial point to attempt to try to show a negative slant is superficial. On a brighter note, in several cases the new law has been challenged, and each time it has been upheld.
Lets review some examples of how hate speech is bad, which means a law that prevented it would be good.
I'll begin with the example used in my opponents opening. She used the example of a boy who burned a cross on a black families lawn, and while he did not escape legal charges, the Supreme court found it unconstitutional to bar the boy from expressing his hate. I'm not quite sure which charge he was acquitted of, I would request my opponent would clarify and quote with citations and court docket numbers so I can be familiar with and respond. As it stands it reads as if he was still charged with other crimes. But for now, I'll modify. Lets say that the black family is family X, and they white family is family Y. Family X has a 4 year old girl, family y has a 12 year old boy. Each time that Mr. X and Mr. Y cross paths, Mr. Y has very derogatory hate speech for Mr. X. ex." Hey you dirty sh*tty nigger. what'd you do today, steal some watermelons and chicken, you big lipped ugly nigger"...and with each of these, Mr. X holds his tounge. He has complained to the local authorities, which told him about our freedom of speech. He heard at least 3 "you stupid f*ckin ugly nigger". Keep in mind that with no other form of resources to use, a man with a family has only so much he can take, every man has his breaking point...(which will end up being one of my main points in favor of the US having hate speech laws). One day while Mr. X and Mr. Y were taking out their trash, they happen to cross paths. "Hey dumb nigger..how's your little nigger life today? Y'now, my boy in there (12) told me he saw your little nigger baby(4) out in the yard the other day, and he told me the d*mnedest thing. He said as soon as you aint lookin, he gonna snatch that little nigger baby...take her out there in them woods, and f*ck her wide open like the useless nigger she is. And then hes gonna snatch a rope, and hang her like they used to..and there'd be one less nigger." At this point, Mr. X, full of adrenaline, pulls Mr. Y over his trashcan, head butts him breaking his nose and teeth. Mr Y collapses to the ground, shaking in shock, and Mr. X mounts him and starts pounding his face with lefts and rights. By the time Mrs. X came and pulled him off, Mr Y y had 9 teeth knocked out, a broken skull in several places, a ruptured eyeball which was outside of the socket, a broken neck, and 6 broken ribs. Mr X. was charged with assault with intent to cause serious bodily energy, and sentenced to prison for 5 years. Question to the audience, is this fair? I'm a white man with a biracial daughter, and I can tell you most assuredly, if that is fair, then me and Mr. X will be playing alot of chess for the next five.
Now tell Ms. X and the 4 year old who have to survive on there own for 5 years how in Canada, hate speech laws, which theoretically would have prevented this out come, had "unforeseen consequences" which was about a book.
Let's address the hate speech at just one particular focus group. Not all gays...specifically gay teens. I do this because although all homosexuals get their share of some of the sharpest hate speech, gay teens are far more impressionable and affected by it. How many would you guess a year? "you fu*ckin f*ggot" How many would you guess a month "you d*ck riding butt f*ckin queer" How many would you guess a week? "you ugly little queen..you will always be a f*ckin f*g and you will always be hated. Kill your self f*g boy, then nobody has to deal with you" The number is 21. 21 a week. (seldo.com, founder of awe.sm) This number could be slightly more, as not all deaths could be 100% certain that the teen was gay. Nor can it be certain that all 21 a week were a direct result of hate speech. But it can be certain that a hell of a alot of them can be, and while i will quote the source for the numbers, I refuse to quote the cases by name of those who were known to be a direct result of hate speech. Now I ask my audience, is this fair? Should these teens, or gays in general, just be forced to live under this oppressive cloud of others opinions and hate speech, while there violators hide behind a paragraph in the Constitution that is so obviously not been amended properly to fit modern day issues.
What I do wish, is that my opponent go out each week to the mothers of gay teens who committed suicide, and tell them not only does she think a law protecting there dead child, which is currently working in other country with a like government, will not work....but also that 81% of Canadians disagreed with the decision to ban a Dire Straights song.
First, does making hate speech laws change the fact that someone such as a gay teen was called a "f*ckin f*g"? Even if the person who said this was convicted, which is very unlikely, the words were still said and would affect the gay teen in the same way, therefore, not solving any problem at all.
I strongly disagree. Let's take the same logic, and take it up a couple of degrees. If someone is charged with battery and assault with intent to kill. If the assailant were convicted, the victim still suffers the mental and physical pain of being beaten. So with your reasoning, even though the perpetrator was tried and sentenced, because the victim still felt the pain of the attack, that law is useless and ought to be disbanded. In response to the the likely hood of a guilty party accused of hate speech getting a conviction, I'm curious to know what makes you think that. In some instances it would be the exact opposite of your assessment. Think face book, twitter, instogram. All of these have servers that save content that is accessible by legal authorities. Cellphones, text messaging, voicmail, email. All of this can be accessed if required in a legal scenario. This makes crimes like threatening and domestic order violations some of the easiest cases for prosecutors to succeed in.
If a child yells to their parents I HATE YOU is that hate speech? Is it wrong to me to say I hate blonde hair? Or is it only if the words are attacking someone that society feels they must protect.
In response to the question about the child saying he hates his mother, obviously a sentence having the word hate in it would not categorize it as hate speech, much like if I use the word Spanish in a sentence, I'm not speaking Spanish. Your getting closer with the blonde hair hater, but its unlikely that you will to make someone feel as if you were delivering hate speech to them by telling them that you hate blonde hair. You are nearly dead on the money with it being someone that society feels that they must protect. The Constitution, federal laws, state laws, common law, has all evolved, and will continue to evolve, to accomplish what it was intended to do, protect ALL of society. The landscape of America is ever changing, which is why laws are ever changing. There wasn't even a term hate speech 20 years ago, today we have situations where peoples rights are infringed upon solely because of things they cant change, or in the case of religion, don't want to change. This type of harassment gravely reduces there quality of life, and most defiantly stands in there way of the pursuit of happiness.
To sum it all up. I want hate speech to be a thing of the past I just do not believe that laws are the ways to go.
For this debate to be successful for my position, I feel like what must be shown is that hate speech is a bad thing that inflict duress on groups of people that for no fault of there own have a specific attribute that is different from the majority. Whether it is race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation, its time to give these groups some sort of venue to cease that torment that affect there lives in ways the majority does not have to deal with. In response to my opponents statement about laws not being the way to go, I sharply disagree. That like saying I'm totally for gay marriage, but I don't think law is the way to go. Things of this nature do not absolve themselves, there must be a negative resistance. We have evolved into a society that is governed by law. So if we were to address this issue properly, and give these groups that suffer from hate speech a means of relief, and GOVERN society to cease and dissist, the ONLY way to accomplish that, like every single other civil and human rights issue has ever been dealt with since our country was founded, would be through law.
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