The freedom of speech, and last weekend’s violence in Charlottesville, Virginia

Freedom for the speech we hate

Andrew P. Napolitano – August 19, 2017

Last weekend, serious violence broke out in Charlottesville, Virginia, when a group of white supremacist demonstrators was confronted by a group of folks who were there to condemn the message the demonstrators had come to advance. The message was critical of the government for removing a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee from a public place.

For some, Lee is associated with the military defense of slavery. For others, he is associated with the military defense of the right of states to leave the union — a union they voluntarily joined. For the organizers of the Charlottesville rally, the removal of the statue provided a platform to articulate crudely their view that the Caucasian race is somehow morally superior to every other.

Such a political and philosophical position is hardly rational to anyone who respects the dignity of all people and their moral equality before God and legal equality in America. Believing that one race is morally superior to others is largely a hate-filled theory, supportable only by bias, prejudice, fear and resentment — and perhaps a wish to turn back the clock to a time when the Supreme Court declared that non-whites were not full people under the Constitution, a declaration eradicated by war and history and constitutional amendments.

These hateful, hurtful ideas — articulated publicly through Nazi salutes and flags and incendiary rhetoric last weekend — aroused animosity on the part of those who came to Charlottesville to resist and challenge and condemn these views. After the police left the scene and rejected their duty to protect the speakers and those in the audience, a crazy person drove his car into the midst of the melee that ensued, and an innocent young woman was killed when she was hit by the car.

Is hate speech protected under the Constitution? In a word, yes.

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which protects “the freedom of speech” from infringement by the government, has a long and storied history. The drafters of the amendment referred to it as “the” freedom of speech in order to underscore its pre-political existence. Stated differently, the freedom of speech is a natural right, one that derives from our humanity, and hence it pre-existed the government that was prohibited from infringing upon it. The government doesn’t grant free speech, but it is supposed to protect it.

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Lee Friday

Great article by Judge Andrew P. Napolitano. I hope you read the whole article.

Remember the old saying, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” These are wise words. However, this does not mean we are obligated to provide anyone with the means to communicate their message. As Ayn Rand wrote:

Freedom of speech means freedom from interference, suppression or punitive action by the government—and nothing else. It does not mean the right to demand the financial support or the material means to express your views at the expense of other men who may not wish to support you. Freedom of speech includes the freedom not to agree, not to listen and not to support one’s own antagonists. A “right” does not include the material implementation of that right by other men; it includes only the freedom to earn that implementation by one’s own effort.

Many objectionable speeches occur on public property, which means the speaker has not earned the implementation of her/his right to speak by his/her own effort. Public property is supposedly ‘owned’ by the citizens, but citizens are unable to exercise their ownership rights about how public property is used. Thus, the actual owner of public property is the government, which arbitrarily decides how the property is used. This enormous power of government is supported by citizens’ tax dollars. So, when citizens complain about objectionable speeches on public property, they have only themselves to blame, as it is these very same citizens who support the government. Food for thought.

 

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