Hate Speech, Public Discourse, and the First Amendment

Steven J. Heyman

in Extreme Speech and Democracy

Published in print February 2009 | ISBN: 9780199548781
Published online May 2009 | e-ISBN: 9780191720673 | DOI:
 Hate Speech, Public Discourse, and the First Amendment

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This chapter contends that public hate speech, such as the Nazi march in Skokie, should not be protected under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Part I of the chapter outlines a general theory of free expression which holds that speech may be regulated to protect the fundamental rights of others — rights that (like speech itself) are rooted in respect for human dignity and autonomy. Part II applies this theory to political hate speech. This speech invades its targets' rights to personal security, personality, citizenship, and equality. Moreover, the speech is not entitled to protection because of its political character, for political speech is best understood as discourse among individuals who recognize one another as free and equal persons and citizens — a view that derives support from Locke, Hegel, Meiklejohn, and Habermas. Hate speech denies recognition to others and thereby violates the basic rules of public discourse and debate.

Keywords: free speech; hate speech; First Amendment; rights; dignity; equality; citizenship; recognition; public discourse; Habermas

Chapter.  13959 words. 

Subjects: Human Rights and Immigration

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