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A history of hate speech

A history of hate speech

Limiting the 1st Amendment

Despite its prominent plating in the lore Americana, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’s clear and present standard, exemplified by shouting fire in a crowded theater, has been recognized as inconstant, prone to bias, and unsatisfactory at explaining the threshold of America’s First Amendment.

The case in which this standard was established, Schenck v. United States, was a landmark decision in defining the limits of the First Amendment. Schenck distributed draft opposition flyers, calling the state act “a form of involuntary servitude that violated the Thirteenth Amendment.” For that affront, Schenck was found guilty of violating the Espionage Act of 1917.

When, just a few months later, self-proclaimed “revolutionists” threw anti-war pamphlets from the window of a building in New York City, they too would fall prey to this standard. Of note, OWH, perhaps seeing a self-administered crack in Pandora’s box, dissented in that decision. In the judge’s eyes, Schenck’s material coaxed readers into committing a crime (dodging the draft), while the defendants involved in Abrams disseminated material focused on America not involving itself in Russian affairs. To the majority of the court, the distinction was of no consequence.

Justice Holmes would once again be thwarted by his clear and present standard when Gitlow v. New York resulted in another socialist’s conviction being upheld by the highest court.

Literal Nazis

20,000 American Nazis rally at Madison Square Garden (1939)

While free speech cases before World War 2 were typically related to individuals with socialist connections critiquing the American state, the use and impact of German propaganda turned the world’s attention towards “hate speech.” Germany led the way, aiming to prevent any resurgence of the Nazi ideology, but western Europe would follow suit with their own Race Relations Laws. Because these laws never work as intended, the first man who violated such a law in England was a black man insulting a police officer. The fruit of Germany’s efforts are women like 89-year-old Ursula Haverbeck being imprisoned for two years as a result of denying the holocaust.

Despite its inconsistent and sometimes illogical attempts to limit socialist criticism of the state, the United States would continue its tradition of protecting “hate speech” under the First Amendment – diverging from all industrialized countries. In the 1970s, literal Neo-Nazi Frank Collin and his National Socialist Party of America (NSPA) requested a permit to hold a white-power demonstration in the North Shore suburbs of Chicago. The Village of Skokie would go on to pass three ordinances rendering it impossible for the NPSA to hold their events: A) A ban on military-style uniforms during demonstrations; B) a prohibition of the distribution of material containing hate speech; C) a requirement of a $350,000 insurance bond to hold a demonstration.

Represented by the ACLU, Collin’s attempts to appeal these injunctions were unsuccessful in lower courts. After further rejections by the Illinois Appellate Court and the Illinois Supreme Court, the case was brought to the Supreme Court. Ultimately, the court rejected Skokie’s injunctions, ruling that displays of the swastika are a symbolic form of free speech entitled to First Amendment protections.

Nadine Strossen, an American civil liberties activist and former president of the ACLU, called the case part of the gradual process in the 20th century to strengthen the First Amendment protections narrowed by earlier decisions. As the activist put it, “Illinois restrictions on Nazi ‘hate speech’ were so broad they could have been equally used to prohibit Martin Luther King Jr. demonstrations in Skokie.”

As indicated in this case, there are times when the state fights to maintain power under the guise of fighting white supremacy – the same as it once used race or international socialism.

Current day slippage

Expanding in the 1980s, feminist theory, critical race theory, and other alternative discourse attacked mainstream and official speech as inherently oppressive (white male-dominated discourse). Consequently, a conversation began revolving around the protection of oppressed and marginalized groups. With the number of degrees awarded in the humanities rising almost every year from 1987 to 2015, these theories, primarily pioneered by Marxist thinkers of the Frankfurt School, have become mainstream thought.

Not surprisingly, a Pew report in 2015 indicated the theories are starting to increase in popularity – with 40 percent of millennials supporting the notion of a state restricting speech that is offensive to minorities.

If current demographic changes and behavior remain constant, the majority will soon believe the stances we see below – which should be “deplorable” to any libertarian.

The State of Free Speech and Tolerance in America

For those who support state suppression of speech most vocally, there is so rarely any discussion of the mechanisms of censorship. For instance, who would be the arbiter of whether or not YOU should hear something? Would it be Alicia Garza? Mitt Romney? Liz Cheney? The loudest voices in the room are typically the ones you should least trust.

As we’ve seen from the last century, there is always a specter to fear, something the majority wishes to silence, but you’ll be wise to remember the standards you support creating today are likely to be used against you tomorrow.

About The Author


  1. Mary Lou Truelove

    That sh*t goes both ways, or hasn’t anyone noticed?

    • Dan Tyree

      Such stupidity from Ben. A fake firefighter lying about serving in Mary the left likes to lecture about hate speech but their actions cancel out their words

      • Joseph S. Bruder

        As usual, you have no evidence to back up your statement. If you think Ben is a fake firefighter, state your reason rather than just pulling it out of your ass as your go-to insult.

        What have you done to contribute to society? Been a firefighter? Police? in the military? local or state government? Volunteered at your school board? Member of the Lion’s Club, Kiwanis, or some charitable organization?

        • Barry

          Joe he probably took twerking lessons from your wife.

  2. Ben

    The Great news is that there is very little State sponsored suppression of speech.

    The better news is that we, as a society, seem to be doing a pretty good job of holding each other accountable. When there is a line crossed, when hateful speech is directed at a historically marginalized person or group, we have figured out ways to let” the offender know they are out of line without involving the government.

    Speech may be free, but the consequences of that speech are not.
    I guess we could avoid this all by just following the golden rule we were taught in kindergarten , “Treat others the way you would like to be treated “.

  3. John J

    No one has the right to censor what we say—-Like it, hate it, but do NOT interfere with my right to say it

    • Anonymous

      You couldn’t be more wrong. Everyone has the right to censor ( Business and individuals have the right to censor you. The GOVERNMENT does not.

    • Ben

      Everyone has the right censor what others say. The Government on the other hand, can’t. A business ( brick and mortar or the internet) can expel you for saying things that don’t align within their values. An individual can elect to censor what you say by talking over your message or rallying a group of like minded individuals to express their displeasure with what you say. It’s like the gay wedding cake, businesses have a right to censor others as they please.
      Remember, the right to free speech is protected from governmental interference, it is not protected from the repercussions of that speech from private citizens and businesses.

    • Ben

      Are you censoring my right to censor you? That’s not how this all works.
      I don’t understand how “patriots” can get the first amendment sooo wrong.

      It protects you from the government censoring your speech, it doesn’t protect you from the repercussions of your speech from the public.

      Speak up, but don’t be shocked when someone else uses their freedom of speech to tell you that your speech is hateful, misguided, or ignorant.

  4. Joseph S. Bruder, huh? It bills itself as “The Tea Party’s front page”… and the article is copied verbatim. This is PBP being lazy, and almost self-referential at the same time. Aren’t you worried about being perceived as Tea Party right-winged lunatics? Ah, look who I’m talking about…

    The party of conservativism has completely given up on leading or doing anything of importance, and is now completely consumed with destroying the US government. Take it away from the People, and give it over to lunatics like Donald Trump to run. That is the very definition of treason. No more free and fair elections, they have to be managed (under the guise of security) so that the Republican Party has an advantage and poor and minorities don’t get to vote. Contest the elections, and create doubt about the results with no evidence of wrongdoing (but very good evidence of the real results). Create militias of disaffected people who are willing to believe every conspiracy theory, and stir them up to take actions into their own hands. Block any and all attempts at legislation and confirmation of appointments.

    It’s a dangerous game, and if successful, the Republicans would end up with a third-world Hitler-style country. Trump had every intention of moving in that direction, but fortunately, he’s pretty inept at everything he does except swindling the rubes. He is the ultimate confidence man, still pulling in millions of dollars to “fight the steal”, which goes right into his own pockets. Do you think Trump’s America would have lived up to the ideals of our founders? He attacked reporters who dared criticize him. He siphoned off money from the government every chance he got. He openly attacked his perceived enemies, and his unstable supporters would go after them. He divided people by every conceivable characteristic – rich versus poor, black versus white, immigrants and “us”, gay or straight, by political party – just to gain political advantage. He really was a student of Hitler’s techniques. He readily sent disaster relief to states that supported him, and spurned those who didn’t. When there was a pandemic, he mishandled it and tried to blame his predecessor for his own failings. If he had really won, we would not have continued to be a democracy – he would have abolished the 2-term limit and set himself up for life (just like Putin did). He had cult power, and Republicans were afraid to challenge him. He was already calling his political rivals to be jailed, and using the DOJ to do his bidding. He isolated the US from all of our allies, and praised our adversaries and despot dictators. One more term of Trump, and we would have been reduced to the level third-world African nation run by Idi (Trump) Amin.

    And you’re worried about free speech… The only right to free speech in the Constitution is that the government can’t censor you. You have that – you’re publishing articles (to a fringe minority), and your members of Congress go on Sunday morning talk shows, and give speeches to crowds of like-minded people, even stand up in front of Congress (and news organizations) to complain that they don’t have free speech. That doesn’t mean all the people have to listen, or give you a platform, or have to support what you say – that is THEIR right to free speech.

    • Richard

      Dude, ease off on the drugs…a mind is a terrible thing to waste, but I’m afraid that you’re too late to save it.

      • Joseph S. Bruder

        ha ha, really funny… got anything intelligent to say?

        Instead of trying to insult me, how about commenting on the points I’ve made?

        • Mary

          Your comments are nothing but commie propaganda

  5. Lee

    Joseph Bruner, what planet do you live on at the moment?!? Geez, just insert democrat wherever you use conservative or!republican & use Pelosi, Biden, Obama, etc where you say Trump..,then you’ll have your reality check!!!!

    • Anonymous

      Like I just said to Richard, take a point or two and let’s argue that… otherwise, you’re just another lazy idiot who calls people calls people names because he can’t think of an argument.

      And it’s Bruder, not Bruner.