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Hate Speech Essay

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Essay title: Hate Speech Essay

Hate Speech Essay

In the first amendment of the United States constitution, American citizens are guaranteed the right to free speech. This is a fundamental right of American law, and one of the foundations of the U.S. Constitution. It is also the breeding ground for one of the most widely debated issues in America: What, if any, measures should be put into place to regulate hateful language? Most people will agree under one definition or another that hate speech is a socially deviant activity and worthy of some form of punishment. However, each person's definition of hate speech is different from the next. Some might say that there is no such thing as hate speech, and that because of the first amendment any and all speech should be allowed. However, there are laws against slander and libel, which make it a criminal action to defame any person in speech or writing. Some might say that any and all speech that is negative in any way towards any group is hate speech. However, many religious groups are opposed to homosexuality because of their religion, and are allowed to speak out and protest against it in the United States. Hate speech is defined by the American Heritage Dictionary as "Bigoted speech attacking or disparaging a social or ethnic group or a member of such a group." Under this definition, any person with strong and unyielding views on a subject that is speaking against another group in a hateful way is actively committing hate

speech. At what point should speech of this nature be considered against the law? This question raises many philosophical, moral, and legal issues.

The French philosopher Voltaire once said "I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it." From a philosophical standpoint, the right to free speech is fundamental. Most philosophers' viewpoints and famous works were considered very far from the status quo of the times during which they were written and expressed, and because of this inherent quality of philosophy, its proponents are staunch supporters of the right to express ones views. Some philosophers have gone head-on against the lawmakers of the day over their views. Socrates, the father of western philosophy, was sentenced to death for spreading his views to the youth of Athens. Even those in the early field of science were held under much scrutiny for the things that they claimed, and undoubtedly would see the value in completely free speech. Ferdinand Magellan did not get a very warm reception from the church when he made said "The church says that the earth is flat, but I know that it is round, for I have seen the shadow on the moon, and I have more faith in a shadow than in the church", which at the time was viewed by those in power as an outrageous statement. It is because of statements like these that the right to free speech should be upheld. Statements that are not generally accepted, and to some are quite troublesome, but in the mere act of being said are powerful enough to check those who are in charge and inspire those who agree to work towards change. Without this safeguard on the right to say something that

those in power disagree with, someone like Martin Luther King would never have been able to speak out against the then segregationist policies of the United States.

The philosophical defense of free speech is undoubtedly important in regards to social change and progress, but would this system work to defend the likes of the Ku Klux Klan, or Hitler? If speech is free for those who support positive social change, what about those who support racism or sexism? Many of the people who are so vocal in their support of these unpopular views firmly believe that they are correct and doing the right thing, should they be excluded from the same protection of free speech that Martin Luther King had, when his views were unpopular? From a firmly philosophical standpoint, the answer is that both those who have something positive to say and those who have something negative to say are equally protected under the U.S. constitution to say it. However, there is a difference between these two types of viewpoints, as to the level and scale that their views can be expressed. For example, if a civil rights leader makes a speech at a rally about equality and human justice, he is contributing positively to the crowd at hand and spreading a larger statement of peace to the community. This

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