For Those on the Left Who Want to Remove First Amendment Protections for Hate Speech, Consider President Lindsey Graham

So you think that "hate speech" or speech that makes someone uncomfortable or mocks someone or criticizes some particular group should not be protected under the First Amendment.  For those on the Left (who seem to disproportionately hold this opinion), I ask you to define anti-hate-speech laws in a way that you will be entirely comfortable if, say, President Lindsey Graham (God forbid) were to inherit the power to enforce them.

A President Graham might consider speech mocking Christianity or Jesus to be hate speech.  And if mocking Christianity is hate speech, wouldn't support for gay marriage or abortion be as well?  What about mocking the military, or police -- isn't that hate speech?

If you ban some speech but not other speech, someone has to be in charge of what is in the "ban" category.  When most people advocate for such a ban, they presume that "their guys" are going to be in charge of enforcing it, but outside of places like Detroit and Baltimore, sustained one-party rule in this country just does not happen.  That is why most calls for speech restriction are so short-sited -- they assume that people of a like mind will always be in charge of wielding these restrictions, and that is a terribly historical assumption.


  1. Tanuki Man:

    "short sighted," rather

  2. HenryBowman419:

    Graham is sort of a clown — my cousin lives in SC and marvels how Mr. Graham gets re-elected. Graham is a doofus on many, many topics. Not quite as bad as The Pet Rock (aka Sen. John McCain), who is, as some might say, intellectually-challenged.

    BTW, note on spelling: "short-sited" should be "short-sighted".

  3. Snoturky:

    1) This is the same argument for all government power. Maybe you're OK with "your guy" having the power. But what about in 4 years when the other team gets it? Are you comfortable with that thought?

    2) As soon as we decide that there is speech that is not covered by the first amendment, what does the first amendment even do anymore?

  4. ano333:

    "When most people advocate for such a ban, they presume that "their guys" are going to be in charge of enforcing it"

    People need to make more use of John Rawls-"veil of ignorance"-type thought experiments: what laws would you endorse when you don't know which "guys" will be in charge?

    It's very easy for me, on most issues I tend to have no "guys" in the major parties to support. Thus, I never have to worry about whether I am being optimistic about who will be enforcing my preferred laws.

  5. MB:

    There already *is* speech not covered by the 1st amendment...seems like the country still gets along quite fine. As usual, this isn't about a black/white decision (that was already made years ago in a number of US Supreme Court cases) but shades of gray.

    As to the original question - shouldn't we be more concerned with Congress (passing new legislation, criminalizing currently protected speech) and/or the Supreme Court (upholding future legislation and/or finding new exceptions)?

    Short of possibly better enforcement of already existing exceptions, not sure what damage a future-President Graham could do since I don't see an arrest based on "speech that makes someone uncomfortable" getting past the current Supreme Court (not that I've ever heard anyone seriously argue that "[criminal] hate speech" = "speech that makes someone uncomfortable", but figured I'd go with the strawman already set up).

  6. Snoturky:

    I think that even today having speech that is considered not protected by the first amendment is a mistake. It establishes a principle that makes the first amendment totally useless. "You can say anything you want except for the stuff you can't say." Then what's the point?

  7. Craig L:

    Graham is McCain's mini-me.

  8. John Moore:

    Your point is valid but the example is nonsense. No viable Republican candidate would be so dumb as to enact anti-First Amendment laws. Once again your blindness about the right is showing.t

  9. brotio:

    His example supposed that President Graham inherited this power after a Leftist government enacted it.

  10. Adam Wolak:

    Graham is McCain's mini-me

  11. joe:

    Read Stevens dissent in CU - his essential point is that congress can ban speech if it serves a "valid government interest" ie the greater good.

    The good news is that it was in dissent - the bad news is that 3 other justices ( and most of the left) agreed with him.

    Also see Stevens dissent in McDonald - we can pick and choose which of the bill of rights to incorporate under the 14th and apply to the states
    Stevens dissent in Heller - prime example of cherrypicking historical data, (just like the agw fanatics), and demonstrating a lack of any ability to read sentence structure.
    Stevens opinion in Heller - private property may be taken for private use by private individuals if there may be some potential public benefit ( higher property tax values).

  12. obloodyhell:

    "The only social order in which freedom of speech is secure is the one in
    which it is secure for everyone... and, as those who call for censorship
    in the name of the oppressed ought to recognize, it is never the oppressed
    who determine the bounds of the censorship. Their power is limited to
    legitimizing the idea of censorship."

    - Aryeh Neier -

  13. obloodyhell:

    I stopped reading Popehat when he/they censored my (quite polite, NOT abusive) comments.

    Rather ironic, that.

  14. obloodyhell:

    You're kinda "special", aren't you?

    He's not suggesting Republicans pass such a law. He's suggesting that LIBERALS pass such a law, presuming "THEIR GUYS" will always remain in charge... Which they won't. So how happy would they be, THEN, with someone like Graham having that power.

    It's not really a complex idea, and it's pretty blatantly what he's talking about.

    So, I ask again: You've been told you're "special", right?

  15. ColoComment:

    I find enough of interest at Popehat to check it periodically (much as I do with coyoteblog.) Obviously, anyone who finds any blog lacking in relevant content, or who takes offense at some bloggish action/nonaction, has the choice to read or not to read it.

    However, your comment brought to mind one of a pocketful of sayings that my mother would trot out as she deemed warranted by my child behavior, which was "Don't cut off your nose to spite your face."

  16. John Moore:

    Perhaps you need to study reading comprehension. Lindsay Graham is not a liberal ,he is a Republican.

  17. TeleprompterOTUS:

    How could anyone doubt that our government angels/geniuses would be able to read the tea leaves and divine what is truly the speech that should be silenced.

  18. NotKennedy:

    R.I.N.O. lifer. Graham is about as much a Republican as Bill Clinton is a negro.