The Real Reason the First Amendment is in Trouble

According to a Washington Post/Brookings Institution poll, when asked if the First Amendment protects “hate speech”, 44 percent say “no”, 39 percent say “yes” and 16 percent say they don’t know.

Democrats say hate speech is not protected by 41 percent to 39 percent, with 15 percent unsure.

Republicans say hate speech IS protected 44 percent to 39 percent, with 17 percent unsure.

Independents say it’s not protected, 44 pecent to 40 percent, with 17 percent unsure.

Men say hate speech is protected 51 percent to 38 percent (11 percent unsure), while women say hate speech is NOT protected by 49 percent to 31 percent (21 percent unsure)

Why is there even a question? Do people who say hate speech is not protected even know what they mean by hate speech? Do anti-Trump Democrats want Donald Trump’s administration to determine what constitutes hate speech while he’s in office? Or do they want him arrested, along with his supporters, since they consider everything he says hateful?

It’s shocking and unbelievable. Yet it’s not a surprise.

The reason it’s not a surprise? We live in an age of rising emotionalism. Reason has gone by the wayside.

There’s nothing wrong with feelings. But feelings have to be guided by reason. Reason tells us that everyone has a right to speak his or her mind, as long as it’s on his or her own property (or Internet space), and is not forcibly imposed on another, and so long as another is not forced to pay for it.

Arresting someone for shouting “fire” in a crowded theater is not a violation of free speech. It’s a violation of the theater owner’s property rights.

But when you live in a society dominated by feelings and devoid of rationality and reason, people tend to elevate their feelings above all else. “If you hurt my feelings with your hateful speech, then you should experience legal consequences.”

The Democratic Party is dominated by feelings over reason more than Republicans, which is why you see them support restrictions on hate speech more than others. Women –as a group — arguably place more emphasis on emotions than reason, which might explain the large gender gap. Women might be more likely than men, as a group, to feel empathy toward people whose feelings have been hurt by hateful speech. That’s laudable. But to take it to the point where you consider it illegal and not deserving protection by the First Amendment is frightening and profoundly unjust.

I am surprised the Republican gap in favor of the First Amendment is not wider. I’m likewise surprised the gap against the First Amendment among Democrats is not wider. Independents have the final say in most issues that divide our society, and independents support banning “hate speech” over freedom of speech. That’s mighty troubling.

The most positive thing about this poll, assuming it’s accurate? The large numbers of undecided in all groups. If most of the undecided Independents can be persuaded that “I will oppose what you’re saying with every breath, while fighting to the death for your right to say it”, then freedom of speech will be safe.

You didn’t need this poll to know that freedom of speech is in big trouble, even in America, the last and only place where you used to be able to count on it.

The fundamental reason is no society that places feelings above reason can remain a free society for long. If my feelings trump your right to freedom of expression on your property or in your own space, then all of our freedom of speech is doomed.

To become a great society again, and to remain a free one, we’ve got to rediscover reason and place aside the ridiculous, immature and fundamentally unjust emotionalism. Otherwise we’ll become a nation of children.

Follow Dr. Hurd on Facebook. Search under “Michael Hurd” (Rehoboth Beach DE). Get up-to-the-minute postings, recommended articles and links, and engage in back-and-forth discussion with Dr. Hurd on topics of interest. Also follow Dr. Hurd on Twitter at @MichaelJHurd1, and see “Michael Hurd” on MeWe.