Due April 25th

Hate speech takes the form of anonymous, threatening, or obscene messages or telephone calls, conduct that is an invasion of privacy. Hate speech can also constitute the tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress. When hate speech is directed towards a person it constitutes a direct attack on the self and thus violates the rights to emotional tranquility. Hate speech infringes the dignitary rights of target-group members as citizens. It also violates the community’s right to the integrity.Hate speech also violates the integrity of the deliberative process by undermining the possibility of reasoned discourse. Hate speech violates a fundamental principle of legal order based on individual rights by denying recognition to the personhood and rights of others. Hate speech in many instances violates the concrete rights of individuals’ rights to security, privacy, dignity, and emotional tranquility.

The controversy over hate speech appears to involve a clash between the right to free expression and other essential values such as civility, dignity, and equality. The apparent conflict between free speech and protection of the fundamental values results from the tendency of the First Amendment theory to conceive of issues in terms of an opposition between free speech and state interests – a term that embraces not only social welfare but also the rights of others who may be affected by the speech.

Those who support restrictions on hate speech often argue that it should be regarded as an exception to the general rule of free speech. The Supreme Court has recognized other exceptions. Hate speech causes harms that are at least as serious as those that have previously been held to justify regulation. The restriction’s opponents, on the other hand, are often skeptical of the validity of previous exceptions. From the restriction’s opponent’s perspective, the proposed restriction to free speech appears to be an attempt to carve out an unprincipled exception to the First Amendment. The restriction’s opponents fear that there would be no principled basis for resisting other efforts to regulate speech if hate speech is regulated.

To articulate the basis and scope of freedom of speech and expression, Americans draw on a variety of sources, including the traditional common law and the civic republican tradition. The most comprehensive framework that Americans look to, however, was the theory of natural rights and the social contract. As developed in the works of John Locke and many other writers, natural rights theory sought to determine the origin, purpose, and limits of government by tracing its rise from a state of nature. Human beings are inherently free and equal and vested with fundamental rights to life, liberty, and property.

The law of nature requires individuals to respect the freedom, equality, and fundamental rights of others. The community and the government it establishes, have a duty to protect the rights of their citizens, who in turn have an obligation to obey the laws made to secure the rights of others. According to the natural rights background of the First Amendment, freedom of speech is a right that exists within a larger framework of rights, and that is limited by the rights of others.

There is little prospect of resolving controversies over hate speech in the absence of a general theory that integrates both the jurisdictions and the limitations on freedom of speech into a coherent whole. The difficulty of developing a coherent view of limits of free speech may be traced in part to the language of the First Amendment itself, which appears to speak in unqualified terms: “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or of press….” Justice Hugo Black throughout his long judicial career maintained that the First Amendment was an absolute “put there on purpose by men who knew what the words meant, and meant their prohibitions to be ‘absolutes.’” There is more ambiguity to the first Amendment’s language than at first meets the eye. The word in the First Amendment raises the question of what is meant by “the freedom of speech” and whether the word “freedom” is merely a descriptive term, referring to an absence of external restrictions on the ability of individuals to speak, or whether the word ‘freedom” has a normative dimension , referring to some conception of the rightful exercise of that capacity.

Published in: on April 27, 2011 at 12:32 am  Leave a Comment  

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