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Member since: Thu Sep 25, 2008, 03:38 PM
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On the Visual Subtext of Bush's Self-Portraiture

On Hate Speech and Putting the Westboro Baptist Church To Flight...

Isn't it rather enjoyable to see the Westboro Baptist Church flee from one of their hateful "peaceful protests" as they are overwhelmed by the threat of the greater numbers of their opponents? Doesn't it feel good to see those vermin, those cowards, those morons be put to flight?

As good as it may seem to feel at first, it is fundamentally wrong to accept and to celebrate the tactics that were displayed in Moore, OK. These tactics rely on an implicit threat of violence to displace and, thus, to silence voices that speak a minority opinion. A loud, voluminous counter-protest is a thing to be commended. A frontal assault across a no-man's land that is under-manned by police is not consistent with the ideas behind the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

For those who may think that what has been written above is ludicrous, the ACLU offers an article in defense of the First Amendment on their website. Though their article refers to a campus setting, their argument is generally valid as is the First Amendment:

Hate Speech on Campus
December 31, 1994


Many universities, under pressure to respond to the concerns of those who are the objects of hate, have adopted codes or policies prohibiting speech that offends any group based on race, gender, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation.

That's the wrong response, well-meaning or not. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution protects speech no matter how offensive its content. Speech codes adopted by government-financed state colleges and universities amount to government censorship, in violation of the Constitution. And the ACLU believes that all campuses should adhere to First Amendment principles because academic freedom is a bedrock of education in a free society.

How much we value the right of free speech is put to its severest test when the speaker is someone we disagree with most. Speech that deeply offends our morality or is hostile to our way of life warrants the same constitutional protection as other speech because the right of free speech is indivisible: When one of us is denied this right, all of us are denied. Since its founding in 1920, the ACLU has fought for the free expression of all ideas, popular or unpopular. That's the constitutional mandate.

Where racist, sexist and homophobic speech is concerned, the ACLU believes that more speech -- not less -- is the best revenge. This is particularly true at universities, whose mission is to facilitate learning through open debate and study, and to enlighten. Speech codes are not the way to go on campuses, where all views are entitled to be heard, explored, supported or refuted. Besides, when hate is out in the open, people can see the problem. Then they can organize effectively to counter bad attitudes, possibly change them, and forge solidarity against the forces of intolerance.



For those who have not seen the event:

Lastly, and for the record, I do not support the Westboro Baptist Church or their ideas, but they do have a right to state them - however distasteful those ideas may be.
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