There seems to be a palpable air of contempt among millennials that the First Amendment of the United States Constitution does not provide a “hate-speech” exemption, allowing for the criminalization of speech that is deemed too offensive for public digestion. Perhaps Ruth Bader-Ginsburg, the progressive Supreme Court Justice, most aptly summarizes the angst of millennials when she describes her laments over America, in an America-bashing tone reminiscent of President Barack Obama. “I would not look to the U.S. Constitution if I were drafting a [present-day] constitution,” Ginsburg noted in an address to Egyptians in 2012.
Instead, Ginsburg set her sights on South Africa, where the constitution therein satisfies Ginsburg’s hankering for a “fundamental instrument of government that [embraces] basic human rights.” Pew Research, a leading bipartisan research group, confirms the general sense of grief from the 18-34 demographic; 40 percent of those surveyed voted in favor of governmental regulation of speech that is offensive to minority groups. That, of course, requires abridging the First Amendment. Before we generationally eschew our nation’s first and most sacred decree, I propose that we examine how the term “hate speech” has become agitprop for “conservative opinion” and how we ought to maturely respond to actual hatred.
Progressives, in this case absolutely extricable from classical liberals, have stripped the words “hate” and “bigotry” of their meaning by using it as a blanket term to refer to those with whom they disagree. As Ross Douthat notes in a New York Times article, its effect is the outright alienation of conservative viewpoints with millennials. “Among millennials,” Douthat begins, “there’s a growing constituency for whom right-wing ideas are so alien or triggering, left-wing orthodoxy so pervasive and unquestioned, that supporting a candidate like Hillary Clinton looks like a needless form of compromise.”
Without fail, many pundits on the center-to far left insist that those who support anything other than a porous southern border be deemed “xenophobic”; discussing the propensity to radicalism in Islam and the ramifications therein on vetting policy is to be unequivocally “Islamophobic.” It creates a climate of escalation, where even the simplest of political dialogue ends without fail within the moral hemisphere of bigotry rather than a genteel discussion of policy. Aside from the threat of the impossibility of civil dialogue promulgated by this phenomenon, the growing popularity of this debate tactic among the young generation points to a group of people who don’t fundamentally understand the nature of hate.
We have experienced this phenomenon on our own campus. In regards to last year’s ghetto party, an event that prompted a myriad of student responses, the full gamut of the speech debate was revealed. Some desired that not only ought there be no ramifications from a disciplinary perspective for involved students, but that the individuals involved should face no condemnation by other students as the action was an expression of freedom of speech.
Others rebutted that this party was not free speech, but rather hate speech and they therein contended that the distinction was relevant and that action ought to be taken at the University level to ensure that justice was done. The truth, legally speaking, is that this action was an act of free speech, but that mere fact does not disqualify it from the condemnation of the student body. The University, as a private institution, can impose whatever restrictions on speech that it wishes, regardless of whether or not this author would deem them prudent. However, the truism that “two things can be true at the same time” is my contention; while the act was protected speech, it should be open for vehement criticism if felt necessary, the merits of which I will leave to the readership, and the University ought to let this dialogue occur without the imposition of speech-codes.
A discussion of this issue, of course, would be remiss without mentioning what society should do with actual hateful and bigoted rhetoric, whose prevalence is significantly lower than what BuzzFeed might induce one to think. How ought a society interested primarily in individual liberty rather than a sort of “feelings-police state” respond maturely to the abuses of speech that is inherently despicable?
One solution is the suggestion of many progressives, which recommends adding statutes and modifiers to prevent the utterance of offensive dialogue. Aside from the Orwellian overtones of the aforementioned notion, the state should not, in the value proposition of this author, have the right to censor even the most deplorable of non-violent speech for reasons that are twofold: one, deplorability is not objective and can often just be used as a club, as mentioned previously.
Secondly, the marketplace of ideas ought to be able to weed out bigoted speech by its inherent allowance for the repudiation of dissenters. If someone says something abhorrent, they ought to face all reasonable means of social stigma. There is no reason other than furthering bureaucracy in Washington to allow speech to be regulated at the gubernatorial level. I have more faith in “minority groups’” willingness to respond to injustice, their maturity and basic morality than the soft bigotry of low expectations embodied in criminalizing offensive speech.