"Freedom of Speech: Defining Hate Speech in the US."

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  6
Wordcount:  1549 Words
Date:  2023-03-04

Freedom of speech as a law in the United States ensures that hostile discourse is not tolerable and accessible to the public (Powers, 4). The hostile conversation is best explainable as outrageous and or theatrical artistic works, publishing of content that is not regulated, and use of provocative language. Hate speech, therefore, gains its definition as the use of discriminatory or hateful statements and views. These are conveyed to particular people or groups more so if such a group or person historically suffered prejudicial treatment (Strossen, 1).

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In articulating the above assertion would then be wrong as this essay will show how freedom of speech does include hate speech and provide examples to that effect. The piece will further explain how freedom of speech should not include hate speech, but yet it does. Equally, it is right to ponder and ask oneself how hate speech finds its way into free speech and how it achieves propagation and protection.

An Example of Free Hate Speech

Take an example of a man, a Muslim walking out with his two children, a girl who is seven years old, and a boy who is ten years old. As the trio turns a corner in New Jersey USA, they see a sign that reads "Muslims and 9/11". The daughter innocently asks the father what it means. The father is dumb-founded and does not know how to respond. He quickly hurries his children on, hoping fervently in his heart not to encounter any other suggestive signposts. In such a scenario, one may question the validity of having such signs. In an attempt to provide an answer, a loose definition of "hate speech may be usable.On a broader scope, the signpost is sending two types of messages. The first message here is to the minority group, which is denounced in the poster. The post reads that they ought not to be fooled that they are welcomed to stay in that region. The society may present a hospitable environment, but the reality is that they are not wanted. They would be shunned, driven out, beaten, and excluded whenever the society found a way of carrying out such practices (Waldron, 2). The message is of fear and is assumably reminding the group of what happened in the past; hence, they should be petrified.

At the same time, the message is interpretable by a second group, a community that does not include members of the minority group who are under attack. To them, the letter reads that there is awareness that some members of the community agree with the signpost. The minority group in question is unwanted in that area. Some members also feel that the minority group represents terrorists, danger, or criminals (2). The message assures them that they are not alone and that they are capable as a community to force the government's hand in eradicating the minority group from their midst.

Inclusivity of Hate Speech into Free Speech

Such a scenario above exemplifies the inclusivity of hate speech into free speech. It is clear that that the first message is full of hate speech while yet being considered as free speech. How is it that the people of New Jersey can make such bold statements? In fact, in a continual fashion against the Muslim faithful, yet no records of issuing of arrest warrants exist? Even more appalling is the blatant admission to taking matters into their own hands. They plan to do so once the community conceives that the government is attempting to foster good relations between the city and the Muslim people living and working within the locale.

Besides, the statement and many more like it found lined up in a majority of the streets in America, Europe, and some parts of the World constitute freedom of speech? As Sustein argues, some words in the First Amendment law inclusive of freedom of expression and abridge do not tell the public on what to do. Notably, once the speech becomes disputed or is deemed as hateful (2), are the reason for the ambiguity and confusion that is found in the freedom of speech versus hate speech debacle. He further says that the American laws are of recent been protecting laws that should not enjoy any form of protection (12). Freedom of speech law is one of them. He argues that it contains hate speech, which quickly causes social harm and has little to do with the democratic aspirations of a people.


According to Strossen, however, there exists a false balance between physical violence and controversial ideologies (2). These, adversely call for the punishing of and out-lawing good ideas that would have otherwise proved to be beneficial for the society. In the case above, Strossen argues about the importance of welcoming even the supposedly "hate-filled" statements. In so doing, he stresses that it would enable a majority of the marginalized and the excluded groups to feel welcomed. Such an argument is both shocking and riveting. How does one feel welcomed into a community that seeks first to isolate them then threaten to wipe out their very existence?

Strossen further explains that a clear distinction to be drawn between disfavored feared or disturbing statements and actions that are discriminatory, therefore worthy of punishment (2). Strossen's argument insists on the need for protecting all utterances inclusive of hate speech. He quotes that the First Amendment does not punish the use of hate speech as the subject of hate speech is quite heavy to unravel. While this is true, how then does one begin to differentiate statements are disturbing from the ones which are not. Such is the confusion making the debate of hate speech versus free speech difficult. It is, therefore, safe to say that carrying out such a disparity is almost impossible. It is an unachievable feat. Free speech does include hate speech, and society has allowed it to thrive.

Ethos in Free and Hate-Filled Speech

Such an argument then raises the question as to what is freedom of speech and how it should not be inclusive of hate speech. The issue of ethos is paramount here. Ethos is applicable in the above case to distinguish whether the message of the signpost is right or wrong. Ethically speaking, such a message is construed as the expression of a few angry Americans; it is indeed in a distasteful manner. According to Waldron, a person's dignity in society constitutes their social standing, lives, and interactions and how they go about their businesses (5).

It is through their dignity that they are then able to enjoy a personal sense of security and belonging. Ethically speaking, that is what is acceptable and accurate to a societal viewpoint. The moment, however, such an opportunity is destroyed; the ethical virtue of dignity and respect is destructed. Such as is the case above. As much as one may argue that the Muslim and 9/11 signpost is a form of free speech, what about the Muslim families that are innocently living and working in America? What about the young children who are pre-disposed to such atrocious messages. Is it ethically correct for such speech to be seen not as hate speech?

Pathos in Free and Hate-Filled Speech

In terms of pathos, the incident cited above is wrong, and it also feels emotionally unjust. Is it not misunderstood when a group that is in the minority is facing such ill-treatment in an unforgiving society? What kind of freedom is that which gives a group of people the right to carry out demeaning statements without being held responsible for their actions? It is, therefore, almost impossible to reiterate the topic sentence that freedom of speech does not include hate speech.

Logos in Free and Hate-Filled Speech

When it comes down to the speech controversy, Strossen quotes Professor Zechariah Chafee of the Harvard Law School as saying that the real issue is with the analyzing of every speech given (19). The Professor asks whether the State is to punish every word uttered. The word here, no matter how small, can have the likelihood to bring about acts of violence. Also is the State to punish only those utterances which directly tend to bring about hate speech. In such a situation, the debate about whether freedom of speech is not inclusive of hate speech is entirely wrong.

In conclusion, therefore, a new systematic rule governing freedom of speech should be adopted. One such act is ensuring that the public domain is opened up to real-time communication. These types of conversations are pointedly towards airing out the differences between the marginalized and despised communities in the State. Once it is seen to be achievable, then proper conditions are put in place as concerning speech, the type of message, or broad-casted pieces of information. Besides, informed regulatory rules are used to bring together cohesion between the warring factions in the community. The society is a fabric and free speech that is devoid of hate-filled insinuations, the glue that will work to hold it into place.

Works Cited

Powers, Elizabeth. Freedom of speech: the history of an idea. Bucknell University Press, 2011.Strossen, Nadine. Hate: Why we should resist it with free speech, not censorship. Oxford University Press, 2018.Sunstein, Cass R. Democracy and the Problem of Free Speech: With a New Afterword. New York: The Free Press, 1995. Print.

Waldron, Jeremy. The harm in hate speech. Harvard University Press, 2012.

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"Freedom of Speech: Defining Hate Speech in the US.". (2023, Mar 04). Retrieved from https://proessays.net/essays/freedom-of-speech-defining-hate-speech-in-the-us

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