Howard Dean on the Coulter-Berkeley Controversy: The First Amendment Doesn't Protect 'Hate Speech,' You Know

Guy Benson
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Posted: Apr 21, 2017 4:05 PM
Howard Dean on the Coulter-Berkeley Controversy: The First Amendment Doesn't Protect 'Hate Speech,' You Know

This man was the governor of a state, a leading presidential candidate, and Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and he evidently (and wrongly) believes that the Constitution doesn't protect "hate speech" -- a term of art that is by its very nature subjective. In fact, the Constitution protects nearly all speech, with extremely limited exceptions.  In response to the disgraceful flare-up over Ann Coulter's scheduled appearance at Berkeley, a New York Times writer dug up and highlighted one of her more inflammatory jokes, the proper response to which is: Okay, so what?  I don't find it especially funny at all, and I fully understand why someone at the Times would take offense, but it's quite clearly protected speech.  But not according to Angry McDeanScream:


Again, yes it is.  And the standard by which we test and uphold the American value of free speech is how we safeguard people's right to engage in unpopular speech.  And Dean may want to rethink his position on this issue.  As numerous people pointed out on Twitter, in the not too distant past, Dean was suggesting (joking?) that perhaps Donald Trump was a cocaine user.  I'm sure many Trump supporters would argue that this was slanderous and hateful trolling.  Under Dean's restrictive view of the First Amendment, is it time to lock him up?  No place for H8, etc.  In fact, Dean and other pro-censorship puritans scolds are at least bordering on justifying threats of violence and mob rule to shut down speech to which they strongly object.  But again, be careful what you wish for, leftists -- a point made succinctly by David Burge in a delightfully simple formulation that we've showcased before:


Resist and ban hate speech! Interesting. Would you like President Trump and Attorney General Sessions to decide what qualifies? Oh, you would not? Okay, that's sort of the point.  After Dean dashed off his Coulter tweet, conservative writer Ben Shapiro blasted the hard Left's selective, ideologically-self-serving hostility to the First Amendment:


Hyperbole? Perhaps. But many Democrats have habitually demonstrated their disdain for religious freedom and speech protections when they conflict with their secular-statist governing project. Senate Democrats proposed amending the First Amendment to curtail political speech in 2014, and the Obama administration fought Catholic nuns in federal court to try to force them to facilitate the purchase of birth control products that violate the tenets of their faith. The Constitution acts as an indispensable buffer against the ruling party's excesses, which often proves frustrating to coercive Statists.  But on a purely transactional, ends-justify-the-means level, is Shapiro right?  Allahpundit reminds us of a 2015 YouGov survey in which members of one political persuasion -- and only one -- strongly supported making "hate speech" a criminal offense:


Democrats were in favor of this form of (easily abused) government censorship by a two-to-one margin, while Republicans and independents broke against the idea.  I wonder how these results might shift if a new survey asked whether the Trump administration should be allowed to criminalize speech deemed to be hateful toward Christians, white people, or heterosexuals.  Democrats may suddenly lose their appetite for federally-enforced gag orders -- and I fear that some Republicans may abruptly experience an unexpected surge in enthusiasm for authoritarian.  Partisan tribalism is one hell of a drug.