Sunday, March 15, 2015


"The university is a public institution, they say, and punishing the students for what they said—no matter how vile—violates the First Amendment’s commitment to “uninhibited, robust, and wide-open” discourse.

We are told the First Amendment protects the odious because we cannot trust the government to make choices about content on our behalf. That protections of speech will inevitably be over inclusive. But that this is a cost we must bear. If we start punishing speech, advocates argue, then we will slide down the slippery slope to tyranny.

If that is what the First Amendment means, then we have a problem greater than bigoted frat boys. The problem would be the First Amendment.

No one with a frontal lobe would mistake this drunken anthem for part of an uninhibited and robust debate about race relations. The chant was a spew of hatred, a promise to discriminate, a celebration of privilege, and an assertion of the right to violence–all wrapped up in a catchy ditty. If the First Amendment has become so bloated, so ham-fisted, that it cannot distinguish between such filth and earnest public debate about race, then it is time we rethink what it means.

The way we interpret the First Amendment need not be simplistic and empty of nuance, and was not always so. The Supreme Court unanimously held over eighty years ago that “those words which by their very utterance inflict injury … are no essential part of any exposition of ideas.” And in 1952 the Court upheld an Illinois statute punishing “false or malicious defamation of racial and religious groups.” These rulings, while never officially reversed, have shrunk to historical trinkets. But they mark a range of the possible, where one can be a staunch defender of full-throated discourse but still recognize the difference between dialogue and vomitus."

Full article here, at The Atlantic.


SL said...

Nice article Bullets. It made me think of the beginning of the speech in The American President (love that movie)...."America isn't easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, 'cause it's gonna put up a fight." Restrictions on free speech and the proverbial slippery slope scare me but the fact that there is still such hateful speech that we must restrict, and it is being espoused by yet another generation, is truly terrifying.

bulletholes said...

People keep pointing to the Founding Fathers, and The Constitution, like they couldn't be open for improvement and fine tuning. Like they cant be anything but literally correct, and vouchsafed by God hisself.
But it was those same founding fathers and the Constitution that left slavery (among other things) on the table.