Free speech or hate speech?
As American’s we value our First Amendment right to freedom of speech. But recent events in Libya, Yemen, Egypt and elsewhere raise serious concerns about the issue of when “free speech” becomes “hate speech.”
“As staffing levels at the Embassy are restricted, our ability to assist U.S. citizens in an emergency remains limited and may be further constrained by the fluid security situation.”
David Hartwell of security analysis group IHS Jane’s told CNN the current protests were reminiscent in some ways of the outpouring of anger in 2005 after the publication in Denmark of cartoons seen as disrespectful to Mohammed.
The violence also reflects the changed dynamic in the region following the Arab Spring, Hartwell said.
“You’ve got populations in all of these countries who are now much more willing to take to the streets and are much more wiling to vocalize their anger in a much more violent way,” he said.
“My guess is that this outpouring of anger will be intense but brief, but I think there is a danger that this anger will spread to perhaps more unpredictable places like Afghanistan and Pakistan.”
In law school, one of the first things we learned was that the right to free speech is a limited one. The most common example of this is that a person cannot claim his free speech is protected if he stands up in a crowded movie theater and yells “fire” when there is no fire. The reason for this is obvious. Such speech is nothing but a way of inciting a riot that may result in the loss of life.
Political speech is more problematic. The primary reason the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees citizens the right of freedom of speech is so that they can express their political views without the fear of governmental reprisals.
It is this sort of argument that the makers and sponsors of the incendiary film that sparked much of the violence against Americans abroad hide behind.
Let’s be real about this.
A person who spreads hate without regard to the potential backlash this may cause to his fellow Americans overseas is no patriot. He is a coward.
The courageous Americans who died in the last few days protecting the American flag and all the best things it represents deserve better.
It’s high time we brought responsibility back to free speech. Time when we set aside bickering and focused on workable solutions to the issues that divide the world.
Why don’t we learn the lessons written in our true patriots’ blood?