Speak Freely: Hate Speech May Be the Death of Free Speech

Updated on October 4, 2017
Jokerjensen profile image

My one and only goal in writing is to increase the likelihood of intellectual thought coupled with critical examinations of societal trends.


Say What You Want, You're Free

Controversy and tragedy are in the air in lieu of the many social issues that have been brought to the forefront within the United States. As the members of football teams take a knee during the National anthem and disenfranchised protestors run rough shot on college campuses we see that at the center of the recent events is a question that must be answered: how free are we to speak. It is a complex question that brings us to the timeless discussion regarding the freedom of expression and the freedom of speech. Before discussing the relation between freedom of speech and recent events, we need to examine what a freedom actually is in regard to our society and whether or not a freedom is immortal or subject to social context.

The freedom of speech has been a proudly sported aspect of American culture since the countries inception. Philosophically, a freedom can be seen as an allowance of action. A freedom can also be seen as a right that protects individuals who wish to commit a specific action. A freedom (or right) cannot be regulated because that then prevents it from truly being free. This rule is dependent upon the complexity of the freedom as it is defined. To say “I have the right to keep and carry firearms” is much more complex than “I have the freedom to express my opinion”. The key difference is actually in the right as it is written.

The freedom to keep and own firearms is a right. However, due to changes in technology and weapon systems we find ourselves in place in which we must regulate specific weapons for the safety of society. Speech is a single action. It is far less tangible and is required for the expression of thought. The difference lies between the rights to a physical object and the right to commit an action. Though I do want the right to have a pistol, I see reason as to why I myself or anyone outside of a military capacity would need a 249 squad automatic weapon. The regulation of firearms without removing the right to own firearms is much easier to accept than the regulation of speech or expression. This illustration does not preclude the fact that societal trends play a very large role in how we adhere to these rights.

As seen with any society, there are always moral codes or laws. These moral codes or laws are subject to change throughout societal shifts in opinion. This is why formal laws and rights, though subject to continuous review, exist in an effort to keep a level of permanence with regard to the specific rights individuals have. There are cases in which formal laws have been changed due to advancements in societal morality. An example can be seen in the tearing down of the infamous Jim Crow laws. Such laws were changed due to the societal realization regarding the inequality that these laws created. A right or freedom is much different than a local, state or even federal law. A right or freedom does not give allowance to crime but instead protects an individual from being punished for exercising a freedom. No form of speech can be considered punishable if all speech is to truly be free. If this is all true then how do we asses our current society's views on freedom of speech?

With the recent events taking place on college campuses and the classification of hate speech there is a serious threat to the freedom of speech as a right. The threat does not lie within the speech itself or the fact that it is considered to be hate speech. Separating one’s self from negative influences is always a valid option and everyone has the right to choose what information they want to be influenced by or experience. It is in the attempts to stifle such speech that creates the conflict between true freedom of speech and regulated speech.

If we look at the Freedom of Speech Event at U.C. Berkley that was no more than a few weeks ago, we are able to get a glimpse of what the classification of hate speech has meant for the right to the freedom of speech. The campus was forced to spend a great deal on security in order to prevent protestors from stopping the event. Now, the key word here is "stopping" because that word illustrates that the goal of the protest was not argue or express their opinion, but to actually prevent an opposing view point from speaking. Such protests have been seen across the country in which cries of stopping hate speech have been heard while violence between opposing sides breaks out into the streets and on to our televisions. These attempts to regulate speech on college campuses (which are supposed to be the safest place to share free thoughts) can be seen as the first steps toward regulating speech which would then lead to the death of a well pronounced freedom and replace it with a regulation.

I understand that there are many individuals that do not spend their time on college campuses and do not follow events that occur in academia. With that in mind, I am going to offer another example that is a bit closer to home for everyone. Just after the horrific shooting of Dallas police officers in 2016, the Dallas Cowboys decided to pay tribute by creating a decal that read "Arm in Arm" and wore it on their helmets for one practice in solidarity of the lives lost. While the intention was to wear the decals for the full season, the NFL denied their request due to the league’s rules regarding team uniformity. While this may be seen as harsh, in some ways in does actually support the idea that NFL must be uniform in order to maintain their standard. Moving forward into the recent events with team members kneeling during the National Anthem with no corrective actions being taken to adhere to league uniformity creates a conflict between these two events involving the freedom of expression.

If expressing solidarity for fallen officers on the field is considered to fall short of NFL uniform guidelines, then why is the physical action of kneeling during the National Anthem not also considered a lack of uniformity? To make it clear, we are examining the freedom of expression in both situations and comparing their outcomes. We see that in one case, the "Arm in Arm" decal, the freedom of expression was understandably regulated due to rules that had been in place for quite a few years before the event. In the case of whole teams kneeling before a ceremony, there were no calls for uniformity or regulation. Both events were forms of speech, but both were not allowed to be displayed.

This creates a serious problem for the freedom of speech as a right because we are now faced to face with questions that must be answered. Why was one form of speech allowed when another was prevented? Is a speech on specific topics valued less and deemed not allowed while others valued more as well as deemed permissible for public exposure? Can speech be considered free if we classify and discriminate against specific topics of speech? These are monumentally important questions that must be answered before we continue to passively regulate speech across the nation or we may find ourselves in a society that actively approves and disapproves of specific ideas or topics which would then be in direct opposition to the freedom of speech.

I have written about intellectual honesty in the past and its importance in society. Examining the recent events that have occurred and checking for intellectual consistence with our right to the freedom of speech is imperative in order for us to properly evaluate what steps need to be taken in effort to ensure that our freedom of speech is never regulated. We must remove ourselves from our own opinions regarding the NFL and politics and remember that if the right to speak freely is to truly exist, then we equal enforcement of protecting the freedom of speech must occur.

“The highest activity a human being can attain is learning for understanding, because to understand is to be free.” ― Baruch Spinoza 1632 - 1677


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, soapboxie.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)