A recent national poll revealed that a majority of Americans want to re-write the First Amendment to the Constitution, to make so-called “hate speech” an exception to free speech guarantees.
Not only would this require a definition of what constitutes “hate speech,” but it also begs the question: When did America become so offended?
The Campaign for Free Speech released the results of a survey this week indicating that 51 percent of respondents agreed that: “The First Amendment goes too far in allowing hate speech in modern America and should be updated to reflect the cultural norms of today.”
The percentage increased to 57 percent for millennials, those ages 21 to 38.
A plurality of respondents — 48 percent — believed hate speech should be against the law, as compared to 31 percent who disagreed and 21 percent who were unsure.
Of those who believed hate speech should be unlawful, a majority, 54 percent, believed it should be criminal in nature, resulting in the possibility of incarceration; 46 percent believed it should be a civil infraction, resulting in a ticket and a fine.
"The findings are frankly extraordinary," executive director Bob Lystad told the Washington Free Beacon. "Our free speech rights and our free press rights have evolved well over 200 years, and people now seem to be rethinking them."
There was a time in the not-so-distant past that if a classmate called you fat, stupid, or ugly, the response was, “Oh yeah? Well your mom wears combat boots!”
One could also hear shouted from every grade school playground, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me.” Despite the chant, words did occasionally hurt, but everyone got over it and moved on. If nothing else, it made them tougher, better prepared to take on the slings and arrows that life would throw at them later on.
More recently though, we’ve had to tip-toe through a minefield of vocabulary, lest we step on the wrong word and stir the hatred from some offended group or individual.
During the Barack Obama administration, MSNBC “Hard Ball” host Chris Matthews suggested that the word “Chicago” was now racist, because it was evocative of Chicago’s reputation for dirty politics — which Obama was weaned on.
Conservative demonstrators are routinely harassed, physically assaulted, and their displays often destroyed or stolen.
In one recent instance, a Pennsylvania state lawmaker recorded himself loudly harassing an elderly woman in an eight-minute rant. Her crime was praying and quietly demonstrating outside a Planned Parenthood abortion facility.
Democratic state Rep. Brian Sims accused the woman of a "racist act of judgment" and told his viewers “If you know who this woman is, if you can give me her address, we’ll protest out in front of her home. This is what they deserve.”
The New York City Commission on Human Rights made it illegal earlier this month to use the term “illegal” or “illegal alien” to describe someone who entered the United States illegally. Violators can be fined up to $250,000.
For at least three years, Antifa thugs have shut down speeches by such conservative voices as Ann Coulter, Ben Shapiro, Candace Owens, and Milo Yiannopoulos.
Most recently, House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters, D-Calif., harangued Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg for not fact-checking every political ad that’s posted to his platform. This would be the same Facebook that permanently purged hundreds political accounts — primarily from conservatives.
President Donald Trump discovered recently that you can’t use the word “lynching” without being called a racist. Within 24 hours, video footage and articles surfaced of some of his detractors, including former Vice President Joe Biden and New York Times columnists, using that very word.
And it’s not just speech that’s condemned. At least one prominent civil rights group now claims that the “okay” sign promotes white supremacy, and is therefore a symbol of hate and is racist.
Of all the guarantees listed in the Bill of Rights, those described in the First Amendment, including freedoms of speech, religion, and assembly, are perhaps the most important for a free and open society.
James Madison said of it, “For the people to rule wisely, they must be free to think and speak without fear of reprisal.”
In short, a free society must be informed — or at least have access to information. The fact that we may not like or agree with it isn’t a reason to shut it down — it’s an invitation for debate.
It’s time that we return to the “stocks and stones” rule. Life was both more civilized and interesting then. We were exposed to new thoughts and ideas that had never occurred to us before, which forced us to think. And as a result we weren’t wusses.
Michael Dorstewitz is a retired lawyer and has been a frequent contributor to BizPac Review and Liberty Unyielding. He is also a former U.S. Merchant Marine officer and an enthusiastic Second Amendment supporter, who can often be found honing his skills at the range. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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