“Hate Speech” is Free Speech

 

Author: Nicole Commisso

Every year the third full week of October (this year – October 16-22, 2017) is National Free Speech Week (FSW), an annual non-partisan, non-ideological event that recognizes and raises public awareness of the importance of free speech in our great country. FSW is intended to unify all Americans and celebrate the importance of the freedom we should never take for granted. Personally, I do not believe we should even need a week out of the year dedicated to free speech in order to understand the importance of it – however, for some people nowadays it’s essential.

Being a college student who strongly values her right to free speech in today’s society can be challenging as there are students, faculty, and administrators who have their own interpretation of free speech. For those who are fuzzy on the First Amendment of the Constitution, it clearly states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Although instances such as defamation (libel and slander) and perjury are not protected by the First Amendment, things like “hate speech” or offensive speech, whether you like it or not, are in fact fully protected. Unfortunately, it is becoming more prevalent that some fragile individuals think that if someone says something they do not like, then the other person does not have the right to say it. This is false. In fact, back in June 2017 the Supreme Court unanimously reaffirmed (in a case that was argued before Justice Neil Gorsuch was appointed) that there is no “hate speech” exception to the First Amendment.

Even with all of the fallacies that “hate speech” is not protected by the First Amendment, most tend not to understand that there is a huge generalization in this false notion. What one might consider is “hate speech” could most likely be completely different from what someone else may think. Something as insignificant as making fun of someone’s shirt could be considered hate speech to some while others may believe that making racist, derogatory remarks is hate speech. Whether either situation is right or wrong or actually “hate speech”, it does not matter – both are very much protected under the First Amendment of the Constitution.

Just because you don’t like what someone has to say does not mean they do not have the right to say it. In addition, just because you don’t like what someone says does not mean others do not have the right to read it or hear it. Freedom of the press is a significant part of the First Amendment as it gives people the right to not only speak or write on a platform but for others to read or listen to what they want. Last time I checked this is America, where every American citizen has the right to freedom of speech, which includes speech that you may disagree with.

Spring semester of last academic year I wrote and publicly defended an op-ed piece for my college newspaper that many students, professors, and administrators did not agree with. Many claimed that I did not have the right to voice my opinion — while in fact, thanks to the First Amendment, I absolutely did. This right that I demonstrate consistently, for instance, through writing op-ed pieces or the most popular one for many today — social media outlets — should never be threatened — especially not by individuals who are worried about getting their feelings hurt with words. These social justice warriors trying to limit our free speech need to wake up and realize this is a dangerous game they’re playing. The rights we have as American citizens are incredible privileges that many others do not have. Especially as a woman, I am grateful to live in this country with equal rights and equal opportunity for all.

To have a different opinion from someone else falls under the protection of the First Amendment. If you break and crumble at the moment someone disagrees with you or says something you do not like, reality and the real world is clearly not your cup of tea. Take a moment and think of how fake and boring this world would be if everyone agreed on everything and tip-toed around each others’ feelings. For me, however, as a proud American, every week is free speech week.

 

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UC Berkeley and the Reality of Free Speech on College Campuses

 

Author: Alex Pearce

Last week the publicly funded University of California, Berkeley displayed yet another staunch display of their opposition against free speech. After cancelling another speaking engagement, this time by Ann Coulter, an experienced political commentator, concern continued to grow over the status of free speech on the campus. The event, hosted by Berkeley’s College Republicans Club and their Young America’s Foundation Chapter, was put on hold due to security concerns.

According to a statement by the University, the security concerns came from a group of masked, aggressive demonstrators called the “Antifa” which is short for Anti-Fascist. As a perpetually violent and oppressive group, the Antifa has caused multiple cancellations of demonstrations around the country, including a family parade in Portland, after promising to incite violence at the events.

What explains the actions of the Antifa? For one, they have shown growing disapproval of anything labeled ‘conservative’ after the election of President Trump. While it is okay to not approve of the President, promising violence in return for free speech is completely unacceptable. The two clubs at Berkeley who were putting on the Coulter event have sued the University for their lack of protection against free speech. From a legal standpoint, failure of UC Berkeley to maintain free speech could result in major issues for them.

As a taxpayer funded institution, it is imperative that UC Berkeley uphold the constitution. Failure to do so is simply unconstitutional and goes against the ideals of this great country. Free speech has continually come under attack at campuses across the United States. From the Berkeley incidents to students being arrested for handing out copies of the Constitution, things have definitely gone downhill. Why is it that free speech has become limited when it is not deemed to be “correct” by the left? If the Antifa is anti-fascist, then why are they attacking a right to individual freedom and expression? As Americans, we are all entitled to our own values and beliefs. Just because you do not agree with someone does not mean you incite violence. That is exactly what a fascist would do!

UC Berkeley, please uphold the rights of those that attend and fund your university. And while you are at it, please remember that you were once the home of free speech protection. It is a sad day when our educational institutions, which are supposed to be home to thought and expression, become a place where violence is allowed to intimidate constitutional rights. It is vital that we remember the values that our country was founded upon and uphold the dignity of all who call America home. To the Berkeley College Republicans and the members of the Young America’s Foundation, we salute your commitment to liberty!

 

Sources:

http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/civil-rights/330530-see-you-in-court-uc-berkeley-birthplace-of-the-anti-free

https://heatst.com/culture-wars/free-speech-under-attack-in-colleges-as-publications-call-for-censorship/

Freedom of Speech Includes the Freedom to “Offend” People

Author: Nicole Commisso

This post refers to my most recent piece, “White Privilege: Injustice Does Not Fix Injustice“. This op-ed piece created such unexpected controversy on my college campus, in the towns surrounding my college, and on social media. With this controversy, one might say I have turned into “Public Enemy #1”. I have consistently said that I do not mind being disliked by my peers, and ones who have a differing opinion, as long as I spark a conversation and I get to stand up for what I believe is right, or not right. However, I want to make something very clear about my argument – I never claimed that racism does not exist. Furthermore, if you disagree with my views, I have every right to freedom of speech and freedom of the press (as you have every right to disagree with me) according to the First Amendment of the Constitution:

U.S. Constitution – First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

First, I never said in my article that racism does not exist. I believe and I know that there are racist people in our society and that we should combat this racism together not by allowing ourselves to be divided by color. I do not however, believe that the way to fix racism is to try to make up for slavery, a terrible period that the left loves to use as a reason to push their white privilege propaganda. This is a false notion to punish white people of our generation for just that – being white. I would also like to add that, and by no means am I lessening the hardships they went through as a people, blacks were not the only ones that were slaves. All races and civilizations have practiced this wrongful act of slavery including the Chinese, Indians, Arabs, Africans, Irish, Americans, etc. The history of slavery spans nearly every culture, nationality, and religion, it is not just limited to African-Americans, and slavery is still prominent today across the globe. Why don’t we ever speak about this? Why aren’t we outraged about human beings currently being bought and sold as slaves. Instead of trying to battle the real issues going on now, we sit here worrying about blaming young students that are categorized as white to try to make up for horrific instances we have no control over now.

Secondly, how can these individuals sit there and say that the term “white privilege” does not diminish a white person’s accomplishments if it states that what they have achieved was prominently easier for them because of their skin color? I need to know how that does not deplete their hard work? What I did say was that white privilege is reverse-racism, which yes, it is an actual term for those who think I made it up. By expressing that someone is privileged or judging that their life is simpler just due to their skin color is racist by definition. Those who say that reverse-racism “isn’t a thing” argue that it is impossible for individuals to be racist towards white people. News flash – they can be. I have been told I cannot and will never understand white privilege because of my “whiteness”. Isn’t it racist that I can’t understand something solely based on my skin color (even though it is a term targeted towards my race)? Oh wait, no it isn’t racist according to the left – since I am categorized as white and “superior”, I can’t possibly be stereotyped or prejudiced against. This is complete hypocrisy that I refuse to accept or even entertain. What I have been told is that the way to tackle white privilege is to accept that I have it. I don’t quite understand what this does for this so-called issue. I believe by accepting white privilege, I would be apologizing for the color of my skin which is something I have no control over and would never apologize for. I quote Martin Luther King Jr. who once said:

“I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

I strongly believe that implementing the term white privilege delays this day that Martin Luther King Jr. hoped and persevered for.

My op-ed piece on white privilege created not only controversy, but a freedom of speech issue. Many people said I shouldn’t have been able to publish my article in the student newspaper due to my opinion. Last time I checked this is America, where every American has the right to freedom of speech, the right that I demonstrated through my most recent piece on white privilege. I refuse to let society, and most importantly the administration, staff, and students at Siena College, force-feed me something that I don’t think is right. By writing my op-ed piece, which no one anticipated would receive the attention it did around campus, I expressed my view on a controversial topic. Even though I did get backlash from my piece, I also received an immense amount of support and appreciation for speaking on behalf of the silent majority whose views coincide with mine.  I do not feel as though I did anything wrong by sharing my opinion and if you disagree with my views, that sparks an important discussion. Having a different opinion than someone else is also another incredible right we have as Americans. If you break and crumble due to someone else’s opinion, how are you ever going to handle the real world? Take a moment and think of how boring this world would be if everyone agreed on everything. I am an American. I am a full believer and exerciser of the Constitution. I support freedom of speech. I support freedom of the press. I have a strong voice and I intend to use it.