Hate Speech in Anaheim City Council Meetings

 

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Hate speech may be defined as words that offend, threaten and/or insult groups based on race, gender, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, disability and more.

So let’s say you’re the mayor presiding over a City Council meeting. A citizen comes to the microphone and, during his discourse, defiles various councilmembers with slurs like “kike” and “fag” and “slut.”

As mayor, what do you do about it?

If you believe in the U.S. Constitution and the First Amendment, you sit there and do nothing because hate speech is protected speech.

According to the First Amendment, Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech. That’s it. Nowhere is hate speech mentioned.

Therefore it shouldn’t be too surprising the Supreme Court has ruled hate speech must be allowed because it often contains political ideas that must be allowed to compete in the marketplace of ideas.

Think of the First Amendment as a test on how serious you are about freedom.

It’s easy to listen to someone who agrees with you. The real test comes when some demagogue shrilly screams ideas that make your blood curdle and denigrates everything you hold dear.

The real test is allowing some firebrand to aver segregation is good, to declare God meant for women to remain second-class citizens, to state the only good Indian is a dead Indian.

The real test is tolerating neo-Nazis marching through the Jewish community of Skokie, Illinois. Or permitting the Westboro Baptist Church to picket funerals for fallen gay soldiers with signs stating “God hates fags.”

So again I ask you: as mayor, what do you do when a citizen spews hate speech?

You can turn your back.

You can leave the chamber.

But you can’t shut him up.

Just sayin’.

5 comments

  1. Why is it that purportedly principled defenders of one provision in the Bill of Rights refuse to oppose actions that violate other provisions, instead defending or ignoring individuals who blatantly trample provisions guaranteed by the Constitution? For several years, the President and his Attorney General have routinely ignored Constitutional provisions, failing to enforce federal laws they swore to uphold. But I digress.

    Last night’s slurs and hate speech by the tetchy Mr. Fitzgerald again demonstrate the need to protect the maligned and the slurred with the same enthusiasm shown in protecting the free speech of Anaheim’s oracle of obscenities (OOO). The recommendation that Mayor Tait turn his back or leave the council chamber during Fitzgerald’s fits is ridiculous, equal to the mayor saying, “It’s not nice to say that.” The vilest language from the OOO is not directed principally toward the mayor, so his retreat would be selfish, leaving the attacked (and remaining) council members to monitor and absorb disgusting remarks. On the other hand, the mayor could act proactively—as could slandered council members.

    Ryan Cantor pointed out to me that council members have “a prima facie case for defamation,” suggesting that members “sue, get damages, and a restraining order” without thwarting the oracle’s free-speech right. Good idea. Do it.

    The mayor and council members could have begun 2015 with more than silence, proactively responding to the OOO. Silence in this case is surrender.

  2. 1. I suggested the entire council turn their backs or walk out. If that wasn’t made clear, my bad.
    2. If I’m not mistaken, lawsuits in the past claiming defamation in various legislative bodies were tossed out because the plaintiffs were publicly elected officials, but you can look it up.
    3. Presidents and Congress have often ignored laws they were sworn to uphold. What else is new?
    4. Silence does not equal surrender. It represents respect to the Constitution.

  3. “I suggested the entire council turn their backs or walk out.” Really?

    “So again I ask you: as mayor, what do you do when a citizen spews hate speech?
    You can turn your back.
    You can leave the chamber.
    But you can’t shut him up.”

    “You, mayor, you, you, your, you, you.” There is no absence of clarity. You urged the mayor, and only the mayor, to exit the chamber.

    “Silence represents respect to the Constitution”? Really? Please give Al Charlatan and company a call and let him know.

  4. Since these dreadful hatemongers can’t be shut up, then the Council needs to put them down. To be clear, hate speech occurs at almost every meeting from several people and there is little which can be done about it.

    I suggest, after each time one of these cretins speaks, the Council pauses, say not a word for one minute to let the silence in the room speak volumes. This will make the malcontent uncomfortable and force everyone else in the room and the TV viewers at home to contemplate the vile words. Scorn and embarassment will come to the cretin which is the point. Gandhi would be proud.

  5. What if the council members exercised their free speach rights and disclosed the email address of disruptive speakers?

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