In light of recent events, the question of free speech in public spaces that are not tolerated by the greater public-speech indicating intolerance of certain groups of people- is in question for review. Already the ACLU has considered to change its policies regarding protecting the rights of those rallying, protesting, or marching with the active presences of firearm weapons. There are those within the greater public asking whether hate speech should be given a platform. Again, already there are companies censoring known hate groups and their various media sources. However, there are concerns about what groups will be censored and why. As the civil rights groups and companies are taking action to ban the platforms of documented white supremacist and nationalist, are they to censor just those well known hate groups or all others as well? The concerns of the public include the presence of Black Lives Matter movement participants and supporters, as well as Antifa gaining traction in the media as of lately. The association and concern being that black supremacist and the militant nature of the latter group are cause for censorship and public condemning as well. There is even a petition going to consider Antifa a terrorist organization. In light of this President Donald Trump has condemned both sides as racist and as thugs, though in only naming the white supremacist and nationalist groups. He labeled the non-white racists and thugs as ‘other hate groups’.
Here the questions are begged: Is hate speech free speech, or should it be considered for equal protection under the U.S. Constitutional law? Then what about the ‘other hate groups’ not traditionally known or condemned as regularly alongside white hate groups. Should they be censored as well?
In Regards to the Free Speech Clause
As it has been interpreted and determined, free speech is protected speech regardless if the speech is accepted by the public-minor or by the majority. Free speech is a protected right, so long as violence is not incited. This has already been decided by key court cases as follows:
Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444. A KKK clansman during a public rally in Ohio made a speech to determine a goal or action toward groups of people not specified. The court ruled that it is protected free speech so long as a call for violence is not mentioned, though not prohibited if such speech is likely to incite violence.
Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397. Gregory Johnson protest against former President Reagan by desecrating the U.S. American flag. The court ruled that it is protected free speech to express opinions that are in disagreement with the public-minor or by the majority. And that the public taking offense is not a ground to either limit or to prohibit such speech.
White Supremacist and nationalist organizations/groups are well known U.S. American hate groups. However, there exist ‘other hate groups’ not at all named specifically as they are unknown majorly. Here are some of the following white and black supremacist and nationalist groups that are considered hate groups:
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center there are nearly 1,000 active hate groups within the United States. The hate map provided in this link will reveal their location and, as well, providing the option to filter through all of those mentioned.
- Alternative Right (Alt-Right)
- Nation of Islam
- New Black Panther Party for Self Defense
- War on The Horizon
New Questions on Hatred
Hate speech will remain as protected speech, so long as violence is not cited or spoken by the representatives of the group. This right to speak is given to all, including those aforementioned ‘other’ hate groups listed. This means, so long as direct violence is not spoken or incited there exist no violation against U.S. Constitution and state laws.
However, the public is concerned about whether the presence of firearms, or other materials that may cause to incite violence- should be considered as protected speech still. Or as seen in Charlottesville, white supremacist and nationalist carrying firearms in their protest rally, while the Antifa groups carried bats and other materials in their counter-protest.
The debate among the public becomes petty as one differentiates the presences of a firearm being more so threatening than a person carrying a bat. The greater point being on either side of the debate is that violence was still incited with the mere presence of something militant, something hateful.
The question asked, then, should the mere presence that causes offense, which then may cause to incite violence should be permitted and protected by law?
As some others may state in the interpretation of Second Amendment rights- that the mere presence of a firearm (may include bats) is not a cause to incite violence. However, as the various laws may state about the presence of a firearm-that the person with the right to open carry, or to conceal and carry must be aware of the perception that they pose.
In addition, the public is concerned about corporate censorship in light of recent events. For instance, Facebook taking down some white nationalist pages. Or Pandora censoring hate music, usually white power music is cited and labeled as hate music. Or Google, taking down hate websites and blog sites. The reason supported by some of the public, being that it is not right to give such people a platform whereby they are to influence and to gather followers of the impressionable.
The question begs why are corporations, in this case tech industries in the business of online media, allowed to censor one form of content, yet not another similar? Then why are corporations allowed to censor at all?
As this article seems to suggest that censorship is relative to the political concerns of the state or individuals that filter and petition for the ban. As it seems that business as well have their own terms and conditions regarding freedom of expression, and so determines what is or is not allowed. Another example, Facebook censoring breast feeding mothers-classification of nudity.
Public or state petition to censor some content can be justified according to the respective state and federal laws. However, in light of recent events, as the petition in this case, to censor one form of known hatred over another is not just. A censorship of all hate group’s media sources should be the course of action. Though not to include the freedom of information to know of and to learn about them.