What to do about hate and speech?

Two quotations from the article linked:

HR and Employees known to be associated with hate groups

The First Amendment’s protections of freedom of speech apply only to the government, not to private employers. Private-sector employers do not have to allow employees to voice beliefs other workers may find offensive. But government employers may not be able to fire employees who participated in protests.


Offsite protests may be one more step removed, but if pictures of an employee’s participation in white nationalist rallies are circulating the office, for example, that could lead to tensions and problems in the workplace in violation of the policy. And if a white nationalist is a manager and an employee files an equal employment opportunity claim based on the manager’s treatment of him or her, defending the claim may prove difficult.



Okay, beyond law, per se, is right action in a democratic nation that upholds and should continue to uphold freedom of speech.  That private sector employees are not protected does not mean that employers should have the right to fire people because of their beliefs or what they say in public.  To support the right of employers to do so could apply to Hobby Lobby seeing a video of an employee at a pro-choice rally and firing them because their views go against the beliefs of the employer who finds pro- choice supporters to be ungodly and vile human beings.  Judgement of who is vile enough in their beliefs and in speech used to express those beliefs should be left up to whom?  Good law is based in principle and application of the law, to be principled, needs to be applied consistently, disputes about to whom or what a law applies settled through reference to the principles in which a law is based.


As I said, I have been reading a lot of material regarding how to deal with those who participated in the Charlottesville ugliness and I have thought a lot about the consequences of the various remedies being discussed for dealing with the problem of hatred and hate groups.  This is not the first time in recent history that this nation has had to face the question of how to deal with speech that is hateful.  We wouldn’t have had to have this conversation again if we were able to understand that what people say is only as harmful as the response they provoke.  We do not believe that some others are capable of understanding what wrong with such ideas and fear that they will be swayed by the speech.  We also worry about the emotional harm that comes with being a target of hate speech.  I think that we need a robust conversation about how to deal with such and I do know that at the university where I worked the response to a student being offended by a statement by another led to requests from administrators for curtailment of speech.  The better way to have dealt with things would have been to trust faculty to be able to do with the bad what needs to be done, deal with it in such a way that the problem is rectified and not just buried.

By lafered

Retired professor of education concerned with thoughtfulness

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