Rethinking (read abandoning) Free Speech

If The A.C.L.U. Needs to Rethink Free Speech by K-Sue Parkaug were an exercise in legal logic, Parkaug would get an F.

These paragraphs capture Pakkaug’s argument:


After the A.C.L.U. was excoriated for its stance, it responded that “preventing the government from controlling speech is absolutely necessary to the promotion of equality.” Of course that’s true. The hope is that by successfully defending hate groups, its legal victories will fortify free-speech rights across the board: A rising tide lifts all boats, as it goes.

While admirable in theory, this approach implies that the country is on a level playing field, that at some point it overcame its history of racial discrimination to achieve a real democracy, the cornerstone of which is freedom of expression.

I volunteered with the A.C.L.U. as a law student in 2011, and I respect much of its work. But it should rethink how it understands free speech. By insisting on a narrow reading of the First Amendment, the organization provides free legal support to hate-based causes. More troubling, the legal gains on which the A.C.L.U. rests its colorblind logic have never secured real freedom or even safety for all.

For marginalized communities, the power of expression is impoverished for reasons that have little to do with the First Amendment. Numerous other factors in the public sphere chill their voices but amplify others.

Without doubt, the government, American society in general and the legal system in particular is not race, gender, class or in any other meaningful sense, blind. Marginalized communities bear the brunt of that lack of blindness.

If the legal system deprives those with privilege and power of free speech, what does logic and experience dictate will be the impact on marginalized communities?

Are you expecting a different free speech result for the marginalized from courts that discriminate against them?

If yes, call your mother to say your failure at legal logic is putting the marginalized in harm’s way. (post her reaction)

Comments are closed.