Free Speech, Terrorism, Incitement of Violence, and White Supremacy

Terrorism is defined as the use of violence to advance a political message. More specifically, “The FBI looks to the Code of Federal Regulations definition [of terrorism]: ‘The unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.'” White supremacists fit this definition.

Moreover, we have always had laws restricting speech in this country when the speech will likely cause a significant harm to others. We have laws against fraud, libel, and slander, that is, laws that restrict false statements.

But, more importantly, WE HAVE LAWS AGAINST INCITING VIOLENCE. The organization, participation, promotion, and encouragement of a riot is not protected speech. To be clear, a “riot” is legally defined as “a public disturbance involving (1) an act or acts of violence by one or more persons part of an assemblage of three or more persons, which act or acts shall constitute a clear and present danger of, or shall result in, damage or injury to the property of any other person or to the person of any other individual or (2) a threat or threats of the commission of an act or acts of violence by one or more persons part of an assemblage of three or more persons having, individually or collectively, the ability of immediate execution of such threat or threats, where the performance of the threatened act or acts of violence would constitute a clear and present danger of, or would result in, damage or injury to the property of any other person or to the person of any other individual.

Now to be sure, the “the mere oral or written (1) advocacy of ideas or (2) expression of belief” is protected speech, EXCEPT when it involves the “advocacy of any act or acts of violence or assertion of the rightness of, or the right to commit, any such act or acts.

It is not a free speech issue with white supremacist groups. These are organized, assembled, groups whose “speech” is by its very nature a promotion and encouragement of violence against anyone who is not them or does not adhere to their ideologies. Their “speech”, their verbal and symbolic acts, are direct threats of violence. The facts are clear: (1) hate crimes have spiked 20% since the 2016 presidential election of a white supremacist sympathizer , (2) the majority of hate crime offenders are white, and (3) these white offenders consistently have ties to white supremacist groups. What it comes down to is that white supremacist “speech” should not be protected because it is terrorism and it incites violence.

Currently, there is a petition to demand that white supremacist groups be legally identified as terrorist organizations.

EDIT: February 18, 2018 – In regard to the correlation between violence, white supremacy, misogyny, and nonhuman animal harm:

There is a remarkable cognitive dissonance in the U.S. when nonviolent activists, such as animal rights and environmental activists, are labeled and targeted as terrorists but hate groups continue to enjoy ongoing debate as to whether their speech ought to be protected. It reeks of privileging money-property over the respect for life.

For a contrary view regarding hate speech, see Hasan Minhaj:

Hasan Minhaj is correct that Germany allows hate groups to march. However, volksverhetzung law in Germany makes illegal many forms of hate speech that are protected in the U.S.

For another view in favor of a more robust freedom of speech, see How Germany Deals with Neo-Nazis, by Anna Sauerbrey.

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