Hate Speech Discussion

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Hate Speech Discussion

Megan Conroy, Centurion Staff

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Over two centuries ago, our country was founded on strong principles that established a society that enjoyed many liberties. Embedded in the first amendment is the opportunity for an individual to express themselves about their opinions or their belief in religion, among other things.
However, the balancing price is that the constitutional amendment was designed to also allow for political and governmental protest.
On April 12, Laura E. Little came to campus and gave a lecture about the fork in the road that occurs as a result of this constitutional protection.
Little is the Charles Klein professor of law and government at Temple University’s Beasley School of Law. She has many awards, including Temple’s highest award for teaching. She specializes in constitutional law. She served as a law clerk to a Supreme Court Justice. Her overall goal of the lecture that day, though, was to inform students on how hate speech was protected by the first amendment, and why.
Little covered topics from freedom of speech to how Germany adopted our way of handling hate speech online. She explained all the concepts to the audience, most of whom were not lawyers.
The first topic she touched on was hate speech as a definition. Not every harsh word is hate speech, hate speech is defined as words directed at a specific group or person, and showing hostility towards them. She also explained that what gets most people into issues with it, is the last part about hostility. “The first amendment is in place for tolerance”, she said.
When she wanted to show the audience a video of how the Supreme Court handled a certain case about violent video games, she revealed that there are no cameras allowed in the Supreme Court. So, instead, she showed a video of dogs posing as each justice, with the real justice’s voice over. On a more serious note, she touched on the fact that, “hate speech doesn’t deserve to be protected” is not the law.
What was probably the most shocking thing she brought up was about true threat. A true threat is defined as “a threatening communication that can be prosecuted under the law”. The example she brought up was that on one hand, the KKK has a very public meeting where they burned crosses. On the other hand, a white man set a cross on fire on a new neighbor’s lawn in a predominantly African American neighborhood, evidently trying to send a message. The man in the second instance got in trouble for his actions, whereas the KKK did not.
In regards to hate speech close to home, she told the audience that even at Bucks, we have to give people an outlet for whatever they may have to say. However, we don’t have to respond to it.
Little finished her speech with, “Think about your response. Your silence is complicit, but people are setting traps for you to respond to.”

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