By Olivia Pan, Opinions Editor
Free Speech: The right guaranteed by the First Amendment to the US Constitution, to express beliefs and ideas without unwarranted government restriction.
First and foremost, can we agree that absolute free speech is a myth? If we can do that, we can move on to the more substantial debate at hand in this country: defining free speech vs. hate speech, or any type of speech for that matter, that is not protected under the First Amendment.
If you still believe that absolute free speech is your entitlement under the First Amendment, try one of these fun experiments:
Hop on a plane and say something rude to the flight attendant. You don’t even have to say that the bomb in your shoe hurts like hell. You just have to be verbally unruly and off you go to the special search area and the long interview.
Go up to your boss and tell him what you really think of him. Now, after you get fired you could file suit on the premise that you were only invoking your First Amendment right of freedom of expression, but I bet you won’t get too far with that argument.
Go off on an offensive and hostile Twitter rant that targets a group or individual for abuse and get banned. Twitter gets to make their own rules and violating them gets you banned.
The Supreme Court has grappled for years with what defines free speech, hate speech and exactly what is and what is not protected under the First Amendment. They will continue to do so for years to come as the First Amendment is a living, breathing thing.
Ah, and that brings us to Milo. In case you have been living under a rock, violent protests erupted at UC Berkley because of his scheduled speaking engagement there. Yiannopoulos is a tech editor for the controversial right wing media site, Breitbart News. His appearance was ultimately cancelled due to the administration citing safety reasons amidst the violent protests and vandalism carried out by some of the student demonstrators.
The biggest downside of social media is that it has given a platform to some pretty heinous trolls such as Milo Yiannopoulos. Much of what he says is racist, misogynistic, Islamaphobic, and anti-Semitic. He is infamous for his Twitter attack on African American actress, Leslie Jones, and for inciting his racist followers to abuse her. This incident, among others, got him banned from Twitter. Now Milo wants to whine about getting banned from Twitter and pull the free speech card. Sorry, Milo, one of the other freedoms we have in America is to run our businesses as we see fit, save for discrimination or illegal practices. Twitter did just that.
Yiannopoulos has made comments about reporter Joe Bernstein, calling him a “thick-as-pig s—t media Jew.” That is some of his more mild rhetoric. If this is not hate speech meant to incite or provoke similar abuse or action, then what is? Currently, this free speech advocate is on his “Dangerous Faggot” tour, with UC Berkeley being a cancelled appearance.
UC Berkeley’s cancellation of Yiannopoulos’s appearance has sparked a tremendous debate about whether this is yet another attack on free speech or the prevention of giving a forum to hate speech.
While there is no law that prohibits racist and sexist statements, we can surely conclude that Yiannopoulos’s rhetoric falls under hate speech, which is clearly defined as “speech that offends, threatens, or insults groups, based on race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, or other traits.”
For those who want to argue that even hate speech should not be censored by others, consider that all oppression begins with an idea articulated by the spoken word. When a man such as Yiannopoulos is given a platform to speechify about hate, make no mistake. He has the power to incite and provoke offensive and abusive rhetoric and even action by others. If we do not protest the spreading of dangerous ideology such as this, we have learned nothing from history.