NJIT's Student Newspaper

The Vector

NJIT's Student Newspaper

The Vector

NJIT's Student Newspaper

The Vector

What is the Difference Between Hate Speech and Free Speech?


[one_third] Liberal – Babatunde Ojo

The difference between free speech and hate speech is that hate speech falls under the umbrella of free speech. Free speech allows American citizens the right to express their thoughts verbally or artistically without worrying about the government censoring the original message.

In other countries, such as Russia and China, the people and the press are unable to speak truthfully if it has the chance of slandering a powerful public figure – at least without fearing for their own safety.

In America, hate speech may not necessarily be one hundred percent true, but that does not mean it should be censored. Ultimately, it is up to the individual receiving the message to decide to believe in the words being spoken by anyone else, President, new station and neighbor alike. The individual may ignore the hate speech or speak out against it using their own right to speak freely.

The one exception to the rule – when hate speech crosses the line unprotected by free speech – is when the speech leads to imminent violence.

[one_third]Independent – Beshoy Shokralla

The first amendment is the most known of the amendments in the Bill of Rights. Despite this, there has been an ever-growing debate between what constitutes unconstitutional hate speech and what truly is free speech. While there is no defined list of what is free speech, the United States Supreme Court has defined what speech is not protected under the first amendment. Types of speech that are not covered by the first amendment, according to the Supreme Court, are: speech that incites violence, speech that incites suicide, some types of false statements (such as libel, slander), obscenity and child pornography, fighting words, offensive speech, and speech owned by others (copyright).

A lot of the problems we run into today are people arguing whether certain viewpoints such as those of racist groups, meet the definition of offensive speech. The legal definition of hate speech is very strict in many of the cases, and there are very complex tests put in place to decide the difference. Regardless, unless words are directly inviting violence, I don’t believe it’s fair to limit speech because of political differences. Using the government to limit other’s political activity will only yield bad precedent.

[one_third]Conservative – Jean-Paul Rincon

Liberty and freedom of speech come hand in hand, this is the principle that our forefather built our beloved republic on. However, over censorship is a path towards oppression as seen in Syria. Like all good things, there has to be a limit where a good thing towards into a bad thing, this limit is hate speech.

The Supreme Court has upheld there is no hate speech exception in the first amendment through its ruling in Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, in which the Supreme Court ruled any words that incite violence, or hatred are not protected. Thus, arises the question why can various white nationalist groups conduct rallies and have not been suppressed by the authorities. Well, the answer is in the 1992 R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul Supreme Court case, the Supreme Court ruled “hate speech” is protected unless it incites violence.

As a Libertarian Conservative, I believe it is essential to protect the rights and liberties of every individual no matter whom they are or what they are. However, there comes a point where the law must prevail. If we do not safeguard ourselves from bigotry and hate we will follow the same path as Rome, towards self-destruction. As the great Benjamin Franklin once said “Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech”. We are a virtuous people, let us always believe in liberty, equality and fraternity for all.

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