Hate Speech

For decades, activists have proposed that hate speech — speech that disparages a particular group of people — be restricted in certain arenas. In some universities, for instance, student activists have sought to ban speakers who express openly racist or anti-LGBTQ views. While advocates of civil rights and social justice argue that Free Speech is often used to perpetuate stereotypes and hatred against long-marginalized communities, strict interpreters of the First Amendment tend to agree with a famous line from former Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, who wrote in a 1929 opinion that the principle of Free Speech is not “free thought for those who agree with us, but freedom for the thought that we hate.”

Reflection Questions

  1. Is there any hope of coming to a national consensus on what constitutes “hate speech” and how to handle it?
  2. Do social media exacerbate the issue of hateful expression? Should companies, or even governments, step in to curb excesses?
  3. Does the First Amendment exist to protect the most hateful and heinous forms of expression? Should it?

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