Should the First-Amendment free-speech rights of groups like the Klu Klux Klan and other groups that are seen as hate groups be protected? Why or why not? What effects if any could limit the rights of some groups have on all groups? What differentiates hate groups from other groups that promote the interest of a particular race, religion, ethnicity, culture or gender?
The first amendment of the American Constitution gives people certain rights to free speech. They were adopted to the Bill of Rights to help protect the freedom of expression of the Americans. However, there is a lot of question in the current on how the freedom of expression is affecting the equality of the society at large (Kendrick 3). The aim of free-speech rights as composed by the framers of the constitution was to protect the American citizens from political intimidation and retaliation. They allowed persons to express themselves without fear. With time, the laws have evolved to help handle the new issues coming up in the society (Kendrick 15). The government has found its ways to meddle into the freedom of speech. There are debates that the first amendment offers protection to hate groups. There is no clear understanding from the amendment on where the rights begin and stop. The hate groups have used these to their advantage to propagate propaganda and notions of white supremacy in the U.S.
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The hate groups have found their protection in making an offensive speech in the first amendment. No one should be blocked in saying what they think is appropriate to them. This protection of even what seems to be offensive to others brings a question of when the government should intervene and stop the hate speech group. There is a thin line of differentiation between hate speech and having an offensive behavior. As witnessed in August 2017, the white supremacists and the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville to have the supreme court be on their side. For a long time, the hate groups have been winning court cases with judges citing that the law cannot block a little speech that does not lead to hostility or amount to threatening behavior.
There are no clear guidelines on when speech should be protected. However, by looking at the first amendment, it gives a context to understand the extent of right and freedom of speech. The amendment holds that the ?Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or the press.’ This wording appears to give absolute protection to speech and free expression. However, with a deeper look into the background of the amendment, something different is seen. In the eighteenth century, the Americans were deeply influenced by the ideologies of liberalism and natural rights. The freedom of speech was held as a natural and inherent human right. However, the freedom of speech ended where the fundamental rights of others begun, like the right to having a good reputation.
After the world wars, towards the end of the 19th century and into the early 20th century, the Americans had developed a belief in natural rights. People viewed these rights as causing a different understanding of the constitution. To this, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes remarked that the law is not meant to protect the inherent rights of people but to promote the people’s social welfare in the community and state (Weinstein 731-732). The focus was supposed to be on whether the speech in the question presented the activities of the Congress could avert a real danger to that. Based on this, the first amendment was meant to solve the conflict between the social interest of people in free speech and those in other aspects of life. Trying to balance all the social interests together could not give a guarantee to freedom of speech as during the national crisis, the freedoms could be curtailed.
The first amendment gave absolute freedom to speech, with little control over the content that people say. It did not take into consideration the value that is exposed due to the absolute protection of speech. In this view, the hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan have found protection, and they can say anything they want in public. The hate groups have won many cases in courts based on this first amendment. This has led to the clash between the freedom of speech and other rights. Concerns are being voiced over protecting hate speech over other rights. In defense of the freedom of speech, the high court states that people must be tolerant of insults and negative remarks from others so that the rights of the first amendment can have a breathing space. A speech turns out to be a hate crime if it is accompanied by an action that harms a person or group.
Despite the freedom of speech being a fundamental right, it does not go without limits when interpreted correctly. In the context of protecting rights, the freedom of free expression ought to be limited by other rights help by others. Any speech that infringes into another person’s rights should be controlled by different narrowly identified rules. The limits apply unless the speech had a more worth value that can be used to justify the injuries caused by it (Sultana 230-231).
Also, the government has the prerogative of restricting speech. It can impose control on the time, location or the kind of speech made. This can be done when the speech has alternative ways in which it can be made and allow people to express their views without limitation (Stone 690). For instance, the government can restrict a person from using a public address system at night in a residential area or limit the protests and demonstrations that are blocking traffic.
Some other narrow categories are also not protected from the restrictions of the government. These categories include incitement, fraud, lies, defamation, obscenity, child pornography, threats, and other fighting words. The government has a responsibility to ensure that the people are not incited to act against a given group or the constitution. However, a speech that calls for a future, unspecified time can be protected by the rights of expression.
To differentiate hate groups from other groups, one needs to look at the activities and formation of these groups. Hate groups focus on spreading negative propaganda against another group. They aim at painting a given group, government or person in a negative way. However, for other groups that are promoting other interest of a group, they focus on the interests of that group. They demonstrate the value that a group gain from the said activities for which they are advocating for.
Also, groups that promote that are not meant for hate, often fight against oppressive policies, laws, and governance that seem to be against their interest. Unlike the hate groups that have no specific gender they are pursuing, other groups; gender groups, ethnic groups, religious groups, have an agenda that direct their actions. However, if such group is not contained or fail to achieve their goals, they easily turn to become hate groups.
In conclusion, the first amendment is not meant to protect hate groups but the rights of people to express themselves. Hate speech finds protection in this amendment due to a lack of clarity in differentiating it from other speeches in the political discourse. The speech becomes limited if it leads to an action that amounts to inciting, threat or defamation.
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