Limited free speech would cost minorities


Letter


The column titled “The real cost of free speech,” published on Monday, contains recommendations that would be disastrous for the minorities it purports to help.

The author repeatedly attacked “racists,” “racist ideas,” and “right wing extremists,” declared that the US is too free, and said that the Supreme Court should ignore the “pesky little thing called the First Amendment.” Judging by his belief that the justices should do whatever they want “regardless of what’s written in the Constitution,” there goes the Bill of Rights.

With it goes minorities’ best protection. Fear of “the tyranny of the majority” prompted the framers of the bill to create a document littered with limits. As a minority, I firmly believe these dead white men were onto something.

Free speech protects unpopular views, including those deemed dangerous and extremely offensive. This has not always meant racism. McCarthyism is now viewed with disgust as a fearful society worked to clamp down on freedom of expression. Eventually, free speech won, but we remember this period of suppressing “dangerous and offensive” speech with shame. Another disgrace was the Scopes Monkey Trial, where a ban on teaching evolution was justified by an offended public and the supposed moral dangers of the subject. Many considered civil rights activists offensive and dangerous. Third Reich Germans would have found anti-Nazi speech offensive and dangerous. Banning offensive speech by majority rule would harm many good causes.

The author mentioned conservatives trying to “put all the Jews in camps,” but such a thing would be massively unconstitutional under any reading not clouded by Korematsu v. United States-style “emergency powers.” In Korematsu, the government detained all of the “dangerous” Japanese people during World War II, and the Supreme Court blindly deferred to the executive.

Another example of the “Living Constitution” harming minorities and the politically disenfranchised is Kelo v. City of New London, the court expanded the words “public use” in the 5th Amendment to allow cities to transfer the private ownership of poor neighborhoods to rich, politically connected developers to increase revenue.

Racists are worthless, but the fact that they have a right to speak is a blessing, because this is part of the system of rights that protect the minorities and the unpopular from the majorities and the influential. Powerful people can easily get what they want, but those who lack influence must have their rights protected through strict rules.

George Alukal is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore.


By George Alukal

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