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Hate speech, or free speech?

January 23, 2008

The 1st Amendment to the Constitution of the United States guarantees freedom of speech. It doesn’t specify you’re free to speak your mind only if your thoughts are in harmony with everyone else on the planet. There are no hidden phrases in the 1st Amendment that stipulate that a person speaking or writing must not offend me.

Take the case of Dana Jacobson, an ESPN anchor, and her drunken profane rant at a celebrity roast in Atlantic City. Reportedly, she disparaged not only Notre Dame, but Jesus Christ as well. After receiving complaints about her drunken antics, she issued a statement in which she called her choice of words “foolish and insensitive.”

Bill Donohue of the Catholic League found her statement unsatisfactory and said her drunken tirade amounted to hate speech and lamented ESPN’s lack of action. He then went on to compare her language to that of Mel Gibson’s tirade on Jews.

Ok, let me just say that I agree with Dana’s statement. Her choice of words was indeed foolish and insensitive. But her words did not threaten anyone… they did not convey the intent to commit violence. Still, she’s proven that she’s an idiot, and every time I see her on TV from now on, I’ll think “there’s that stupid lush” and probably mute the volume.

People say stupid things. People under the influence of substances say outrageously stupid things. Describing Ms. Jacobson’s words as “hate speech” and attempting to have her fired will not change her mind. It may make her think a second or two before saying similar words in public, but it will not change the way she truly feels. That change must come from within her.

In this country, the 1st Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech does not also convey a right to be taken seriously. This is not Pakistan. We don’t stone people to death for insulting a religious figure

Hey Dana Jacobson… you’re an idiot!

Life goes on…


4 Comments leave one →
  1. January 23, 2008 10:45 am

    Way too many people are becoming way too thin-skinned.

    Pretty soon you can expect hate-thought crime allegations and prosecutions.

    And when we can’t speak out loud is when we tend to become explosively violent.

    I say, “stock up on ammo. If this continues the excrement will soon hit the air recirculation device.”

  2. January 23, 2008 11:26 am

    Hmm… I think it’s time I put together a post on some seriously irresponsible legislation (HR.1955, S.1959) that was almost unanymously passed by the House and has been introduced to the Senate. Thanks for reminding me… before it’s too late.

  3. January 23, 2008 8:09 pm


    The First Amendment does not apply here. The First Amendment only means that the government cannot fine or imprison you for making political and religious speech. (Whether the First Amendment protects other types of speech is a neverending legal debate). It does not and more importantly should not apply to individuals and other non – state entities. If it did, you would not have the right to moderate comments on this very weblog. It would also be impossible to file a slander or defamation lawsuit.

    A lot of people are confusing the First Amendment rights that the government cannot punish you for your religious and political speech (at minimum) with civil rights and labor laws and similar that give people limited freedoms concerning speech in the workplace. When those civil rights laws are violated, one can then sue that workplace for violating your civil and worker rights , not for violating the first amendment.

    That, incidentally, is why certain groups are always trying to expand civil rights, hate crimes, and labor laws. Their goal is to create a legal environment that expands the freedom for them to engage in the speech that they like while restricts the freedom of speech that they oppose. That is what you find at most of our colleges and universities. The professors and administration – and by extension the politically active students – have a conviction that the First Amendment and similar does not protect “offensive hurtful intimidating speech” and that they alone reserve the right to define what is “offensive hurtful intimidating speech” and what is not.

    I generally am for more speech and not less. However, I am also for more freedom and not less. Making people think that they have to obey the same rules that the government does means less freedom for the individual. The Second Amendment means that the government has to tolerate private possession of firearms (yes I do acknowledge that it is an issue subject to debate), but I do not have to allow anyone to bring a firearm into my home or business, and it is the responsibility of the state to enforce my refusing to tolerate private citizens possessing firearms even while the state itself is compelled to respect it.

    Ultimately, pressure groups forcing companies and individuals to make business decisions (ESPN can ill afford a boycott by misguided Christians) is not to be concerned with in terms of restricting speech. Consider this: the unemployed, self – employed, or independently wealthy person can say whatever he wants! Expanding civil rights and labor laws that restrict speech, however, should be, especially if it gets to the point where the government actually begins to sanction people as they already do in Canada, Great Britain, Germany, etc. to the outrage of absolutely no one that is behind pressing civil rights and labor laws or who writes university speech codes in this country.

  4. January 24, 2008 1:54 am

    I understand what you’re saying. However, defining her words, which were not uttered in her place of employment, and carried no threat, as “hate speach” is ridiculous. Had she used those words on-air, she would understandably have been fired on the spot. I’m not advocating expanding any laws – indeed, I’d like to remove a few hundred. People are way too thin-skinned and complain far too much. If people don’t like her, they should ignore her. If her company’s ratings drop, they’ll get the hint. One person writing a letter does not a “burn the witch” campaign make. The woman sent a reply that sufficiently expressed her regret over those comments. That priest should take more interest in saving souls than condemning them.

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