Anti-Semitism and the First Amendment

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Thesis statement: Any form of anti-Semitic hate speech in the United States should not be given First Amendment protection as it has proven to cause violence.


The American Library Association defines free speech in the United States and mentions that it is founded in a belief that freedom of speech requires the government to strictly protect robust debate on matters of public concern even when such debate devolves into distasteful, offensive, or hateful speech that causes others to feel grief, anger, or fear. (Kpekoll, 2018). Hate speech is a topic that seems to always come up and be challenged when it comes to what is too hateful. There are numerous cases around free speech and the First Amendment. Hate speech is one of those topics that has a lot of gray area and can run into misinterpretations and concern for individuals, and groups of people. Group libel laws, defamation, and other speech laws are in place to set a tone for what speech is welcomed and what is unacceptable. Hate speech is an area that has grown of the past few years and is projected to continue to grow if something is not changed.

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Nazis in Skokie by Donald Downs:

Donald Downs is the author of a book titled Nazis in Skokie in which he challenges the doctrine of content neutrality and presents an argument for free speech when it is intentionally harmful. Downs mentions that judges in fundamental hate speech court cases have ignores the difference between targeted hate messages and non-targeted forms he goes on to say that this ignoring this difference fails to account for the difference between speech which is inherently or directly assaultive and speech which engenders tension but is not inherently assaultive (Downs, 1986, 122). This is a critical point in my argument. In some instances, speech crosses a line that is in nature, dangerous and is likely to lead to harm. This speech should not have basic constitutional rights as it can be harmful expression. This leads to the question: when is hate speech tolerated and protected?

Downs explains that in the case, the court ignored that fact that the NSPA hoped that the proposed demonstration would inflict trauma and engender a hostile crowd reaction and that the display of the swastika is ?symbolic political speech intended to convey to the public the beliefs of those who convey it’ (Downs, 1986, 71). This seems similar to the case of Feiner v. New York and how they parallel the ideas of when speech incites violence in a crowd. Something when as much hate filled power as the swastika should not be protected speech. The swastika is a symbol of the German Nazi party, even if it has innocent roots. This symbol reminds the Jewish community of the most horrible time in history.

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