The Democrats have now spent two generations explaining that the true threat to free speech resides on the religious right, those fascistic John-Lithgow-from-Footloose types who just can’t wait to smash their Bibles in the faces of those who only want to read their lesbian pornography magazines.
In reality, there’s only one side of the American political debate fully committed to destroying the First Amendment: the Left.
On Thursday, former head of the Democratic National Committee and former Vermont Governor Howard Dean tweeted this:
Hate speech is not protected by the first amendment. https://t.co/DOct3xcLoY— Howard Dean (@GovHowardDean) April 21, 2017
This is ignorance of the highest order.
Of course “hate speech” is protected by the First Amendment. There are only a few categories of speech that aren’t protected by the First Amendment: so-called fighting words, specific and deliberate calls to violence, child pornography, defamation. But there is no category of “hate speech” here, for a simple reason: what you deem hate speech may be political speech you just don’t like. In Canada, for example, the law has forced commentators like Mark Steyn into court for criticizing Islam. This is a violation of freedom, and the First Amendment doesn’t contemplate it.
Using “hate speech” as a rubric for political speech you don’t like is tyranny of thought. Dean’s tweet came in response to a tweet from Steven Greenhouse of The New York Times regarding Berkeley cancelling a speech from right-wing commentator Ann Coulter:
Free Speech Defenders Don't Forget: Ann Coulter once said: My only regret w/ Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times building— Steven Greenhouse (@greenhousenyt) April 20, 2017
This may be dumb speech. It may be a bad joke. It may be offensive and nasty. It’s also protected speech, as anyone with a modicum of First Amendment understanding knows.
But the Democrats have long wanted to gut the First Amendment: they want to prohibit political spending from their opponents, they want to prohibit people from using biologically correct pronouns to describe transgender people, they want to ban “hate speech.” They hate the First Amendment because they see its protections as incompatible with the collective good – the collective good protecting “non-offensive” speech only.
This is why we have a Constitution and a First Amendment. And it’s why Democrats can’t be trusted with protecting them.