July 18, 2024

Freedom Allows Hate, Too

Why do advocates think that people who speak out against illegal immigration are guilty of using hate speech?

When you stop and think about it, the United States is a pretty safe and civil place to live. Even so, many of us, whether black, white, or brown, have been harassed about the color of our skin or the language we speak.

In a case like this, Is the speaker a criminal if one is not physically assaulted?

Janet Murguia, president of the National Council of La Raza ("the people") thinks so.

Speaking at the National Press Club in Washington on Thursday, Janet Murguia, the N.C.L.R. president, said that anti-Latino remarks on the big three cable news networks are insulting not only to minorities but also to the greater American population.

“It’s personal, it’s intolerable, and it has to end,” she said.

“Very often they’re taking their issues straight from some of the hate groups that we just described here, so that actually these words that go out from the hate groups get turned into campaign strategies and political strategies,” said Cecilia Munoz, an N.C.L.R. vice president.

Glenn Beck, CNN’s Lou Dobbs, and Fox’s Sean Hannity and Alan Colmes were specifically cited by Murguia as being "vigilantes" who promote hatred of Hispanics by providing a forum for speakers opposed to illegal immigration. While this view is perhaps understandable in the case of Mr. Beck, I believe that the U.S. media has been more than fair in their treatment of Latinos in general and illegals in particular.

NCLR says that public discussions of the immigration issue promote intolerance and should not be allowed because of their effect on race relations in this country.

That is incorrect.

NCLR and Murguia are putting the cart before the horse. Legal Hispanic immigrants are very much accepted in Texas and other states with large Latino populations, particularly when compared to the prejudice they faced only a few decades ago.

However, the presence of a vast illegal, undocumented Hispanic subculture has significantly undermined Latinos’ progress toward integration by creating negative stereotypes about Latinos and social friction with citizens of all backgrounds.

Despite what the NCLR says, it’s the illegals themselves, not the resulting discussions about them, that strain relations between Hispanics and the rest of the population.

I don’t think that Lou Dobbs hates Latino people. Nor do I (obviously – I married into a Hispanic family). Writing and speaking about the fact that illegal immigration is a huge social problem that must be ended is not hate speech. Moreover, our right to express our considered opinions must be protected, Ms. Murguia’s deliberately crafted outrage to the contrary.

As a free American, Ms. Murguia has every right to boycott CNN, write letters to Dobbs’ sponsors, etc., but that is the extent of her privileges. She does not have the right to dictate what Lou Dobbs, I, or any other journalist/blogger say or write.

Similarly, Ms. Murguia has the right to express a contrary view. But this is exactly where she goes too far:

Ms. Murguia argued that hate speech should not be tolerated, even if such censorship were a violation of First Amendment rights:

Everyone knows there is a line sometimes that can be crossed when it comes to free speech. And when free speech transforms into hate speech, we’ve got to draw that line. And that’s what we’re doing here today. And we need to make sure that network executives will hold their people accountable and not cross that line.

It seems to me that there is a line across which a speaker cannot go without committing a crime. The law obviously agrees – incitement has been a crime in English law for over 200 years.

Yet speech, however unpleasant it may be to the listener/reader, must not be defined as a crime unless there is a demonstrable intent to incite listeners to violence. The one sure way to prove that, perhaps the only one not involving a defendant’s self-incrimination, is for a listener to act on the speakers words in a criminal fashion.

Until the day on which Thought Crime can be and is prosecuted in this country, I must retain the right to hate, say Keith Olbermann, for example, and should be allowed to say so, no matter who it might offend, so long as I stop short of calling for KO to be the target of criminal behavior.

It’s not the hate that’s the crime, in other words – it’s the actions, just as it has always been.

The attempt to criminalize thought and speech is perhaps the most cynical form of fascism we face in this country. Should those who propose it should be censored, as they would do to the rest of us?

No. Instead they should be shouted down and then peacefully ignored until the next incident, whereupon we must face them down again, as often as necessary.


Marc is a software developer, writer, and part-time political know-it-all who currently resides in Texas in the good ol' U.S.A.

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