Should Hate Speech Be Protected As Free Speech?


– Ah, free speech. It’s the thing everyone thinks they value until they hear something they don’t like and today we’re gonna
get into the nitty gritty of the free speech battles happening on college campuses. (lighthearted instrumental music) 2017 was a big year for free speech. White nationalist rallies
and the take a knee movement sparked tons of media
attention and controversy. College campuses across the country including where we are now
and where I went to school, UC-Berkeley, go Bears, are at the center of
this free speech debate. It’s the same story over
and over again in the news. Protests erupt over a
controversial speaker who comes to campus, sometimes shutting them down and sometimes resulting in violence and this draws a divisive line between people who want to
limit controversial speech at campuses and those who believe that
anyone should have a right to speak freely no matter how extreme their views. What exactly does free speech
mean on college campuses? First, some background. Freedom of speech is protected under the first amendment
of the U.S. Constitution. It basically means the government cannot arrest or punish
you for speaking your mind. You’re totally free to bash
whatever or whoever you want, the president, Congress, tech bros, decaf coffee, Florida. Anyway, the point is the government can’t come after you for it. The founding fathers this
was fundamental to democracy and they were right. Without free speech there couldn’t have been the civil rights or women’s rights to vote movements. And who knows, maybe our next
president will be a woman. But to be clear free speech just applies to government and government entities which are places that are funded by your tax dollars at work, folks. And yes, public universities
fall into this category. Private companies, on the other hand, can censor you all they want. That’s why ESPN, for example,
can fire a sports anchor for saying something that goes against their company policies but that anchor can’t get
arrested for what she said. Or the NFL could make a rule
banning players from kneeling but players couldn’t get
arrested if they chose to do it. But there are some limits to free speech like blackmail, making a threat, soliciting a crime, inciting
violence, lying under oath and violations of copyright are some of the things
that are not allowed. And here’s where a lot of the controversy on college campuses comes in: hate speech. Like this person who feels strongly that college campuses
should be no place for hate. – Racism isn’t welcome, bigotry
isn’t welcome on this campus and we can’t set a precedent for giving people who are spousing hatred to have a platform on this campus. – But the truth is, when it comes to giving speeches to crowds — for the most part hate speech is protected and just so we’re all
on the same page here, hate speech usually refers
to attacks on people based on their race,
religion, sexual orientation, gender, disability and the like. So a speaker can totally
say racist, homophobic or mean-spirited things
about groups of people. I mean, hey, that’s pretty messed up but it’s also not illegal. It’s super hard for someone to
get punished for hate speech when speaking to a crowd. Basically it can only happen if this speech immediately
and intentionally provokes a crowd to commit a crime. So for example, a KKK leader
is allowed to give a speech saying lots of terrible
things about different races but what would be illegal is if the speaker pointed
to someone in the crowd and yelled, attack that person, and then the crowd actually did. Now it’s super easy to hate hate speech. It’s mean, offensive and can really hurt the
people it’s directed at but there’s a good reason
why it’s protected. Think about it, do you really want to put
the power in the hands of the government to decide what they consider hateful? Say we’ve got a president that
finds hilarious parody videos like this SNL clips to be hateful and decides to make them illegal. [SNL Clip] – You know, I actually love football. I could have played. People say I remind them of an NFL player because I’m combative, I like to win and I might have a
degenerative brain disease. (grunts) – Oh my God, what happened? – What happened was you
made Barack Obama angry and when you make Barack Obama angry he turns into the rock Obama. (laughter) [End of SNL Clip] – I mean, it wouldn’t be America if we couldn’t make fun
of our own president. Okay, let’s go back to
college campuses for a second. Public universities like
where we are now UC-Berkeley are public entities because they’re funded
by U.S. tax dollars. So a public university
can’t deny any speakers based on their views no matter how crazy or extreme they are. In fact, last year Auburn University tried to get white
nationalist Richard Spencer to stop speaking on campus but a federal judge ruled that that was a violation of his constitutional
first amendment rights. But things get complicated when student or public safety is involved like when UC-Berkeley
had to dish out $600,000, yes, that’s over a half a million dollars, when conservative speaker Ben Shapiro wanted to come to campus. Could universities just
use the threat of violence to shut down speakers whose
views they don’t agree with? And who should bear the cost? The universities, the speakers
or a combination of both? Free speech advocates believe a university must do
everything in its power to allow and protect speakers. One of the most outspoken
advocates is Robert Reich, an economist and professor at Berkeley whose known for his liberal views. We see him all the time on the news advocating for free speech for some of the people he
disagrees with the most. [Robert Reich] – I tell my students all the time the best way to learn something is to talk to people who disagree with you because that forces, that forces you to sharpen your views and test your views and you might even, it might even come out at a different place. A university, of all places, is the locus where we want to have provocative views. – And do you really want administrators deciding who’s offensive? I mean, where do you draw
the line on hateful speech? If a liberal campus decides to ban Spencer, could a conservative campus
decide to ban Colin Kaepernick or Hillary Clinton? Censorship goes both ways. So, what do you think about all this? How should universities
handle controversial speakers? Let us know in the comments
below and thanks for watching. Oh, and if you like this video be sure to check out our other one on how the immigration
system really works. And don’t forget to subscribe. (lighthearted instrumental music)

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