We have freedom of speech in this country, guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution.
We’re free to say anything we like, with notable exceptions carved out after 220 years of jurisprudence — direct incitement to violence and shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater.
And we are about to add another exception: “hate speech”. A generation of college students has come to maturity under a regime in which free speech most emphatically does not include the right to say anything that might be construed as hateful towards minorities, women, gays, disabled people, animals, trees, etc.
These students are in the revolutionary vanguard of the softened-up, so that by the time Congress slips through a law that actually criminalizes “hate speech”, the constant repetition of the mantra “hate speech is not free speech” will have taken its toll. Everybody will already be used to the idea, will accept it as a given, and, after the required Supreme Court decision, the new, leaner version of the First Amendment will become the law of the land.
If you think I’m being paranoid or overreacting, then you haven’t seen Rep. John Conyers’ proposed kid-gloves-for-the-Koran resolution, H. Res. 288 (the full text is here):
Resolved, That the House of Representatives —
1. condemns bigotry, acts of violence, and intolerance against any religious group, including our friends, neighbors, and citizens of the Islamic faith; 2. declares that the civil rights and civil liberties of all individuals, including those of the Islamic faith, should be protected; 3. recognizes that the Quran, the holy book of Islam, as any other holy book of any religion, should be treated with dignity and respect; and 4. calls upon local, State, and Federal authorities to work to prevent bias-motivated crimes and acts against all individuals, including those of the Islamic faith.
This is pernicious on so many levels that it’s hard to know where to start. It asserts that one person’s right to be respected overrides another person’s right to speak freely. It singles out a single religion, Islam, for special treatment. It accords the holy book of the Muslims more respect than is owed the flag of the United States.
This is a CAIR-sponsored Trojan horse, ready to be rolled through the gates into the First Amendment. And its sponsor is about to become chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
When I defend the right to free speech, what am I defending?
The Founders weren’t thinking about the right to print gay porn. When they crafted the First Amendment, they most emphatically intended to protect political speech. A lot of what passed for political speech in those days was insulting, libelous, vicious, and mendacious, but the framers of the Constitution were determined to leave it unrestrained.
But what about today? What words are so dangerous, so foul, so beyond the pale, that the force of law is required to protect them?
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The example I am about to give is so offensive that I will be in hot water for posting it here, even though I don’t subscribe to it myself, even though I find its appalling and repugnant, even though I would not willingly share the room with someone who uttered it. The amount of trouble I bring down upon myself will illustrate my point.
I’m displaying it here as an image, so as not to be indexed for the obnoxious phrase by the search engines:
This is what the First Amendment protects.
In what follows I will refer to this sentiment and the people who hold it as “IHN”.
The cry of “Racism!” is what the modern politician or public figure will go to any length to avoid. Just ask George Allen — the well-timed appearance in the media of an Al Sharpton-related moment will kill a political career.
There are many young people — the future Baron tells me stories about them from his college — who consider complete license to be their natural right. They will entertain arguments for and against infanticide without blinking. They presumably consider sex with animals to be just another lifestyle choice, as long as no animal was harmed in the making of one’s pleasure.
But racism — that’s another matter. There oughta be a law!
From their point of view, IHN has no right to his opinion.
How did we get to this point? It was a slippery slope downhill from liberty to where we are now, with some notable landmarks on the way:
The civil rights movement.
By statute, one could no longer discriminate on the basis of race. This was a good idea that has since been extended to ludicrous levels in order to serve illiberal purposes.
The definition of discrimination.
To the definition of “discrimination” was added, “speech or actions that tend to exclude a person on the basis of his or her race.”
The evidence for exclusion.
That a person of a protected group feels excluded became prima facie evidence that he or she has been excluded, and is therefore a victim of discrimination.
The feelings of protected minorities.
Feeling unwelcome or offended became the same as feeling excluded, so that feeling offended is equivalent to being discriminated against.
Thus has the “hate speech” camel crept under the tent and taken up residence. You don’t have to subscribe to IHN to violate the hate speech codes; all you have to do is offend some member of a protected group. At that point the grievance mill starts gearing up to grind exceedingly fine, and you’ll be lucky if your only consequence is to undergo twenty or thirty hours of “diversity training”.
But where do CAIR and Conyers come in? How did they manage to piggyback on the hate speech craze?
The trick was to add a #5 to the above list:
Muslims are the equivalent of a racial minority.
Even though Muslims come in as many races as other human beings, even though Christians, Jews, and Hindus have no such protections, Islam has claimed for itself the same status as blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans, etc. It’s a shrewd move, one that has been patiently and painstakingly crafted over the last ten or fifteen years by CAIR and similar organizations.
It’s probably too late to stop this process. Soon it will become effectively illegal to say what is said in this blog and others like it. National Review and City Journal will be in the line of fire for what they print. Books by Robert Spencer will have to be published offshore and smuggled into the country.
Perhaps I’m exaggerating. But John Conyers is about to become a very powerful man in the Democrat-controlled Congress, and he’s made it very clear for whom he is working.
Then there are “hate crimes” and “bias crimes”. If you rob a bank because the branch manager is Lithuanian, and you hate Lithuanians, then that’s a hate crime, and you’ll get a couple of extra years tacked onto your sentence.
Does that make sense? Which is worse, to blow away the Senegalese convenience store clerk because he’s black, or because you want the $100 in the cash register, or just for kicks? Of those three, which is murder most foul?
If you do it for kicks, just to watch him die, you get twenty-five-to-life. If you do it because you’re IHN, you get thirty-to-life.
Don’t make no sense.
Why do we need to restrain IHN? What could he do that requires speech laws to guard against?
He could get a gun and shoot every black person in sight. No, wait; that’s already illegal.
He could torch the car of his next-door neighbor from Somalia. No, we’ve got laws that cover that.
He could scream racial epithets at every swarthy person he passes on the street. But even that is already covered by existing laws against disorderly conduct, public nuisances, stalking, and so on.
The ugly truth is that “hate speech” rules are a cynical way to cow political opponents and intimidate those who don’t fall in with the party line. However, you’ll notice that these rules are very selectively enforced — no particular consequence ever seems to fall on those who scream, “Death to the Jews!”
There are trends at work in the West today that are far worse than racism. Racism — if I may utter such a dangerous heresy — doesn’t necessarily do any damage to a particular society.
Take Japan, for example, which is the most ethnically homogeneous country on the planet. I don’t know if the Japanese are racists, but even if they are, it won’t do their country any measurable harm. They can make fun of the big-eyed people all they want, print mocking cartoons of them in their newspapers, and their civil society can still flourish and their democratic institutions can still function effectively.
Racism is more pernicious in a multi-ethnic country like our own, and it is well to be mindful of that fact.
But other much more dangerous trends rage unchecked through our society. Some of them are even actively promoted by the élite guardians of culture. Nihilism, ethical relativism, sexual promiscuity, flagrant hedonism, and the enforced removal of religion from the public square — all of these are far more harmful than racism, and their damage is far more lasting.
But, just as I defend the right of IHN to utter his egregious words, I defend those who espouse, promote, and publicize all the other dangerous idiocies that float around in our culture.
Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech.
What part of Congress shall make no law is unclear?
The First Amendment guards all of us. It brooks no exceptions.