Monday, March 7, 2011

Hate Speech, all, none or some?

Jonathan Rauch wrote a piece for Harpers Magazine about fifteen years ago. “The vocabulary of hate is potentially as rich as your dictionary, and all you do by banning language used by cretins is to let them decide what the rest of us may say.” The issue Mr. Rauch was an addressing was where evangelical Christian had “filed a $2.5 million sexual-harassment suit against a lesbian professor of psychology, claiming that anti-male bias in one of her lectures violated campus rules and left him feeling ‘raped and trapped.’ ”

An American philosopher, Charles Sanders Peirce, wrote in 1877: “when complete agreement could not otherwise be reached, a general massacre of all who have not thought in a certain way has proved a very effective means of settling opinion in a country.” … “This method has, from the earliest times, been one of the chief means of upholding correct (the italic is mine) theological and political doctrines.”

The Supreme Court recently dealt a blow to those would limit hate speech to hate speech specific individuals or groups can comfortably tolerate. The case involved the cretins from the Westboro church in Topeka, Kansas.

Can we, as a free and democratic society, limit hate speech—without curtailing our right to speak out on issues where others might consider our words “hate” speech? I read an interesting question posed in the NYT Letters to the Editor. If one believes free speech is for all, then does one not have to support the Supreme Court ruling in the Citizens United case? I would very much like to know what you think.

One underlying issue I am particularly interested in knowing your opinions on is; is a corporation in fact a citizen with all the rights and privileges of a private citizen? If you think a corporation meets these criteria, then should a corporation also face the same limitations and liabilities of a private citizen? For example, if a corporate policy leads to an action that causes the death of a human being, should the people responsible for the corporation’s policy and actions—Board of Directors, CEO, et al be liable for prosecution for negligent homicide? Private citizen can be, and regularly are.

Is there any support in the U.S. Constitution for the law the granted corporations citizenship?

Please present supporting data others may access with your thoughts and opinions. 

I believe this underlying issue, are corporations entitled to be partial citizens, is open to debate. In fact I believe it is an issue that should be brought before the Supreme Court for adjudication given the vast differences between the U.S. corporations of the late 1800’s and the reality of global businesses with no mandatory or professed allegiance of any kind to any particular nation/state.

I look forward to all of your comments.