Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Much ado about nothing

The Supreme Court this week unanimously upheld the First Amendment declaring that there is, for constitutional purposes, no such thing as hate speech. From Supreme Court unanimously reaffirms: There is no ‘hate speech’ exception to the First Amendment by Eugene Volokh. Good. I am reasonably close to being a free speech absolutist so I am delighted to see the Court so strongly push back against ideologies which wish to constrain citizens' rights to free speech. From the decision and then Volokh's comment:
A law found to discriminate based on viewpoint is an “egregious form of content discrimination,” which is “presumptively unconstitutional.” … A law that can be directed against speech found offensive to some portion of the public can be turned against minority and dissenting views to the detriment of all. The First Amendment does not entrust that power to the government’s benevolence. Instead, our reliance must be on the substantial safeguards of free and open discussion in a democratic society.
And the justices made clear that speech that some view as racially offensive is protected not just against outright prohibition but also against lesser restrictions. In Matal, the government refused to register “The Slants” as a band’s trademark, on the ground that the name might be seen as demeaning to Asian Americans. The government wasn’t trying to forbid the band from using the mark; it was just denying it certain protections that trademarks get against unauthorized use by third parties. But even in this sort of program, the court held, viewpoint discrimination — including against allegedly racially offensive viewpoints — is unconstitutional. And this no-viewpoint-discrimination principle has long been seen as applying to exclusion of speakers from universities, denial of tax exemptions to nonprofits, and much more.
Postmodernists are eager to control others and restrict speech that might run counter to their totalitarian tendencies. The campaign against "Hate Speech" is part of their broader effort to control speech via politically correct policing of speech.

In reading this decision, some commenters have linked it to the ongoing postmodernist campaign to punish the Washington football team, the Redskins, and to get them to change their name. I am a near free speech absolutist. I am strongly against advocates trying to use a heckler's veto to coerce citizens (and companies) to bend to the advocates will. On the other hand, I also strongly believe in the values of respect, courtesy, and kindness. Times and norms change. The Redskins should not be coerced to change by some vocal ideological special interest group but we collectively ought to be seeking to avoid gratuitous offense.

Whether Native Americans take offense at the Redskins name is irrelevant as to whether the Redskins football team might wish to use that name. On the other hand, and in the spirit of voluntarily avoiding unintentional offense, it is an interesting civility question as to whether anyone does take offense. I came across a survey conducted by the Washington Post a year ago which I had not seen. It answers that question. The background in terms of the validity of the survey is in How The Washington Post conducted the survey on the Redskins’ name and the results are here, Native Americans' attitudes toward the Washington Redskins team name.

Are we accidentally insulting Native Americans (~2% of the population) when we use the name Redskins or when we use any Native American imagery in sports? No.

Only 9% of Native Americans take offense at the term Redskins as it pertains to the sport team. Redskins as a general term is considered disrespectful by only 30% of Native Americans.

73% of Native Americans take no offense at all when Native American imagery is used in association with sports. 92% if you include those who are not too much bothered.

Apparently this is a manufactured concern on the part of ideologues seeking to constrain free speech.

Interesting to have the data. In a time of intense grievance mongering, ideological postmodernist attacks on free speech, and multiple platforms to broadcast one's argument, it is easy to come adrift from reality. In this case, there has never been a valid constitutional argument against the team name, a right just unanimously reaffirmed. What the survey data reveals is that not only was there never a legal argument to be made. This data reveals that there never was a material population aggrieved by the terminology.

No comments:

Post a Comment