Pelle Lowe: Challenges ‘free speech’ protection of hate speech

Sunday, September 03, 2017
Challenges ‘free speech’ protection of hate speech

On Aug. 13, about 1,000 residents of Northampton and the Pioneer Valley gathered in support of the protesters against the white supremacist rally and murder of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Someone in the crowd began to chant “free speech, not hate speech.” It had been awhile since I’d heard anyone say that aloud.

Among many free-speech advocates, the idea that hate speech might not be covered under the First Amendment, was literally unspeakable, too dangerous for public discussion. And in light of the current assault on news media and vulnerable minorities, caution and nuance must enter any re-examination of the entrenched position that all speech is constitutionally protected.

A week later, this view of the First Amendment was challenged by an estimated 40,000 people who marched in Boston, a city known for its own problems with racism. They heard the despicable undercurrent in President Donald Trump’s moral equivocations in defense of the KKK, the Nazi Party and other white supremacist organizations under the banner of the alt-right, and made up their own minds about the protection of hate speech under the First Amendment.

On Aug. 19, thousands of Americans in Boston alone challenged the protection of incendiary racism in the guise of so-called “free speech” that led to the injury of 19 protesters and murder of Heather Heyer. They opened a conversation that has been long overdue.

Pelle Lowe