Freedom of Speech, Hate Speech, & Talk Radio

Topics: Hate speech, First Amendment to the United States Constitution, Human rights Pages: 7 (2461 words) Published: January 4, 2011
Freedom of Speech, Hate Speech, & Talk Radio
Brice Hinchman

Freedom of Speech, Hate Speech, & Talk Radio

What is Freedom of speech? Well, the definition for freedom of speech is the ability to speak freely without being subject to censorship or without fear of retaliation from a governing body. There are at least two documents, the US Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that acknowledge that free speech is an unalienable right and protect it for all. There is another form of speech that may or may not be protected, depending on the circumstances, under the same documents and that is hate speech. Some of the limitations that are put in place by Government, employers, and educational facilities are a violation of what freedom of speech is really about, being able to freely speak your mind, but are necessary to protect the rights and liberties of other individuals.

The freedom of speech is a very powerful right that is protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Our Founding Fathers set the stage when they wrote the Declaration of Independence by stating that “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” (Choices, 81). One of these liberties and unalienable rights was the Freedom of speech. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which was ratified in December 15, 1791, states that: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Yet since that time there have been laws, rules, and regulations to exactly what, where, and when we can speak freely, which can be consider abridging the freedom of speech. But these changes were to protect the individual rights and the safety of others. To be specific in my claim, the speech that causes undo harm or potential panic that may cause harm is where the freedom of speech is no longer acceptable. Yelling such phrases as “Fire” in a crowded theater, where there is no fire, will cause panic. When the panic erupts, it is very likely that someone will get hurt as they stampede to the door. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes was reading the decision for the unanimous Supreme Court ruling for the Schenck v. United States in 1919 stated the following: “The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent. It is a question of proximity and degree” (Moyers, UNC TV)

So we have to ask ourselves, is talk radio Hate speech? Well Patricia Williams, a columnist for “The Nation” seems to think so. “The Nation” is a self proclaimed political left wing champion publication. So it does not surprise me to hear that Williams thinks that the right wing conservative talk radio shows like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, or the countless others are “putting nothing less than hate onto the airwaves, into the marketplace, electing it to office, teaching it in schools, and exalting it as freedom” (Choices, 236). The plain and simple truth is Williams has an agenda of her own that she has to push. Under the freedom of speech, she is allowed to voice those opinions. Well this raises some interesting ideas. Are the political view talk shows, both left and right wing, going too far in their free speech, is it really considered hate speech, and is it creating an injustice or inequality for one side or the other?

Well hate speech is defined by as “speech that attacks a person or group on the basis of race, religion, gender, or sexual...

References: Congress (1776) The Declaration of Independence, Choices: About Freedom and Justice Concepts, (pp 81 -85), Pearson Custom Publishing (2008) Boston, MA.
Hate speech. (n.d.) Unabridged (v 1.1), Retrieved July 12, 2009, from website: speech
Limburg, V., (n.d.) US Broadcasting Policy, Fairness Doctrine, Retrieved July 14, 2009 from
Nation, The., (2009) Patricia J. Williams Columnist, Author Bios, Retrieved July 12, 2009 from
Spiceland, D., (1992) The Fairness Doctrine, The Chilling Effect, and Television Editorials, Appalachian State University, Retrieved July 13, 2009 from
Uelmen, G., (unknown) The Price of Free Speech: Campus Hate Speech Codes, Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, Retrieved July 13, 2009 from
United Nations (1948) The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, United Nations, retrieved July 11, 2009 from
Williams, P., (1994) Hate Radio, Choices: About Freedom and Justice Concepts, (pp 232 - 239), Pearson Custom Publishing (2008) Boston, MA.
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