Free speech? ”Will you book a group that night in the coliseum? Won’t cost you anything…”
Thanks to a conversation almost that short, I had agreed to bring a band to the Greensboro Coliseum. It wouldn’t cost me anything, I was told, even if no one attended. My reason for agreeing to the sham: if I hadn’t, the Nazi party would have been able to rent that space.
Interestingly enough, the reason I’d been contacted had to do with my Afro-American partner in a newspaper I’d created, The Danville News and Observer. Its intention, to promote civil rights by publishing stories about all citizens in our area rather than only about the white majority, also led to editorials that dealt with civil rights abuses.
As a result of the Skokie verdict [FindLaw | Cases and Codes u.s. supreme court national socialist party v. skokie, 432 u.s. 43 (1977) 432 u.s. 43 national socialist party of america et al. v. village of Skokie caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=us&vol=...], the Coliseum had to have a viable reason to refuse the Nazi bigots. By saying yes, I had given them that.
When asked by the Coliseum executive, I didn’t hesitate. Although I had fought for Civil Rights and Human Rights most of my adult life, I cooperated when asked to help deny the Nazis a forum. Hate speech, in my humble opinion, didn’t deserve to be protected. In addition, I believed groups such as the Nazis shouldn’t have such easy access to that very public stage in Greensboro.
What has become more and more apparent to me is that our nation has yet to clearly define the responsibilities that must be wed to the cherished freedom of free speech. All freedoms, of necessity, must be coupled with responsibility.
When interviewed by NPR, [One Man's Case For Regulating Hate Speech : NPR In his new book, Jeremy Waldron writes that the U.S. is the only liberal democracy in the world that doesn't restrict hate speech — and that needs to change. www.npr.org/.../one-mans-case-for-regulating-hate-speech] Jeremy Waldren stated:
“…it's really, really important when we think about these issues to maintain this distinction between dignity and offense and to maintain the distinction between insulting and defaming the believers, and deriding or ridiculing or abusing the religion itself. The first is what hate speech legislation is aimed at, not the second."
Universally, freedom of speech is limited when such speech becomes hate speech. When the United Nations tackled that divide, this was the result [please see: Is There a Right to Hate Speech? - American University ... The Human Rights Brief is a publication of The Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law at Washington College of Law, American University. www.wcl.american.edu/hrbrief/v3i2/lerner32.htm]:
…This interpretation of the provisions of the principal human rights treaties, which have similar counterparts in regional instruments, is the correct one. It is in this spirit that the Secretary- General of the United Nations, after analyzing legislation of 42 countries, drafted a Model Law Against Racial Discrimination which states that the freedoms of opinion, expression, and peaceful assembly should be subject to some restrictions, among them the following: (1) it shall be an offence to threaten, insult, ridicule or otherwise abuse a person or group of persons with words or behavior which may be interpreted as an attempt to cause racial discrimination or racial hatred; (2) it shall be an offence to defame an individual or group of individuals on racial grounds. Organizations which violate these restrictions should be declared illegal and prohibited.
What concerns me now is that there seems to be a challenge so difficult and so complex that free countries appear stymied to address or contain the harm being caused by an ideology that spreads its discrimination and hatred by disavowing those who use its tenets to cause harm. By claiming that those who commit such horrendous acts as the recent massacre in Boston have been radicalized appears to be an effective smokescreen. Attempts by the main stream media to get at the heart of their radicalization, at its source at the core of the ideology that, indeed, promotes radicalism among its truest believers, have been tantamount to chiseling at a vein of coal with a plastic spoon.
It is past time to examine those tenets of Islam that remain, to its erstwhile believers, as viable as they were when the Koran was first compiled. Without doing that, the freedom to express and manifest those dictates and ideas comes uncoupled from responsibility and from the consequences that should follow.