rights and consequences

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Some musings on 1st amendment rights, hate speech, and consequences:

The 1st amendment guarantees us (US Citizens) the right of “free speech” but many in today’s USA do not seem to grasp what it means and how/when it applies. Freedom of speech is written into our constitution to protect citizens from action by the government simply for speaking in a way that disparages the government. The government can not arrest you for speaking out against any government official (unless you cross the line into calling for someone to be assassinated).

What the first amendment does not protect you from is the consequences of your speech from non-governmental sources.

So, if, for example, you stand in the town square, surrounded by people in clown costumes and say “Clowns are stupid and all you clowns deserve to die,”…well, you have the right to say it and no one is going to arrest you, but you very well might be set upon with seltzer water and balloon swords. That is not a violation of your free speech, but it is consequences of what you said.

Likewise, if you tell someone that Joe over there deserves to be stabbed in the face because he’s an asshole, and that someone stabs Joe in the face, your free speech is not being violated if you get arrested for incitement.

If you work for a company and your contract includes language that states that you, as a representative of that company, must behave a certain way, and you don’t, say you say things publicly that contradict the company image, while you still have a right to say those things, the company also has the right to fire you.

When you build your identity on what is ostensibly hate speech, be you a politician or an actor, don’t be surprised when those who find your hate unpalatable turn away from you. When that hate speech incites someone, or a crowd of someones, to take violent action, don’t be surprised when you find yourself on trial. That doesn’t violate your freedom of speech, it holds you accountable.

And as a side note, if you find yourself among that crowd of someones incited by a person’s hate speech and goading to commit a crime, you are culpable for your actions, regardless of who “told you to” do them.

Have a great day, Readers, and as always, be kind.

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