Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Should the U.S. regulate speech?

Some prominent...prominent... legal scholars believe so. Or at least one does in this article in the NY Times:

“In much of the developed world, one uses racial epithets at one’s legal peril, one displays Nazi regalia and the other trappings of ethnic hatred at significant legal risk, and one urges discrimination against religious minorities under threat of fine or imprisonment,” Frederick Schauer, a professor at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, wrote in a recent essay called “The Exceptional First Amendment.”

“But in the United States,” Professor Schauer continued, “all such speech remains constitutionally protected.”


“It is not clear to me that the Europeans are mistaken,” Jeremy Waldron, a legal philosopher, wrote in The New York Review of Books last month, “when they say that a liberal democracy must take affirmative responsibility for protecting the atmosphere of mutual respect against certain forms of vicious attack.”

Professor Waldron was reviewing “Freedom for the Thought That We Hate: A Biography of the First Amendment” by Anthony Lewis, the former New York Times columnist. Mr. Lewis has been critical of attempts to use the law to limit hate speech.

How much do you want to bet that Mr. Waldroon is one of those guys who regularly refers to President Bush as Chimpy McBushitler and rails against the crushing of dissent in America? Of course in that case suppression would be wrong because it is his speech being suppressed.

Overall the article doesn't really appear to take a for or against tack on the speech issue although they may have come close when one of the lawyers interviewed admitted Canadians are a bunch of wimps:

Jason Gratl, a lawyer for the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association and the Canadian Association of Journalists, which have intervened in the case in support of the magazine, was measured in his criticism of the law forbidding hate speech.

“Canadians do not have a cast-iron stomach for offensive speech,” Mr. Gratl said in a telephone interview. “We don’t subscribe to a marketplace of ideas. Americans as a whole are more tough-minded and more prepared for verbal combat.”

No comments: