I have a group that pushes back whenever we see anyone trashing the Constitution. This time, my Champions of the Constitution Grassroots Network pushes back against Senator Ben Cardin, Democrat of Maryland.
Last week, he said: “If you espouse hate, if you espouse violence, you’re not protected under the First Amendment. I think we can be more aggressive in the way that we handle that type of use of the internet.” Wrong, but he later doubled down, saying, “Hate speech is protected under the First Amendment, unless it incites violence.” Wrong again.
Senator Cardin doesn’t understand the First Amendment and shows very little fidelity to free speech.
Let’s start with hate speech. You might not like it, but the First Amendment protects my right to stand on a street corner and say, “I hate Pollocks and you should hate them, too,” just to pick a group and ethnic slur at random. In fact, I can organize a whole neo-Nazi parade and march right down the main street of Skokie, Illinois – a Jewish suburb of Chicago – to express hatred of Jews. That was a famous case in the 1970s. So, regardless of what you hear these days, hate speech is protected under the First Amendment.
Espousing violence is also protected. The Supreme Court drew a line in 1969 that is still in place today. In the case of Brandenburg v. Ohio, the Court ruled that espousing violence is protected speech. Contrary to what Ben Cardin says, I can get up on a street corner and say, “Violence, generally speaking, is a good idea. People should throw rocks through store fronts and beat up the owners because violence is the only way we will ever throw off the capitalist system of oppression.” But what I can’t say is, “Alright, people, pick up some rocks and throw them through the store across the street and beat up the owner, right now.” That’s the incitement of “imminent lawless action” where the Supreme Court drew the line in Brandenburg. Cardin forgets the “imminent” part.
So, Ben Cardin is just wrong when he says “If you espouse hate, if you espouse violence, you’re not protected under the First Amendment.” He’s also wrong in saying, “Hate speech is protected under the First Amendment, unless it incites violence.” These statements are wrong because hate speech, espousing violence, and inciting violence in general do not cross the line the Supreme Court drew in Brandenburg at “imminent lawless action.” It would take an amendment to the Constitution to give Cardin what he wants.
Why do I say Senator Cardin shows little fidelity to free speech? Because he wants to be “aggressive” in curbing hate speech and general incitement to violence on the Internet. This is not a man who loves freedom. This is a man who wants to make everyone jump to his tune. This is a man who doesn’t want to hear certain speech and wants to stamp it out. He has the instincts of an authoritarian. Like former leftist David Horowitz says, “Inside Every Progressive Is A Totalitarian Screaming To Get Out.” To Cardin, we say, keep your hands off our Internet and our free speech.
People in my Network had instructive things to say about this. One said, “Using Ben Cardin’s interpretation of the 1st Amendment, he and most other Democrats, not to mention the violence prone Antifa and BLM, would be immediately arrested for their blatant hate and encouragement of violence against real Americans.”
Another wrote a parody constitutional amendment along the lines Cardin suggests, which includes a definition of hate speech:
“Hate speech” as used in this article shall consist of any speech deemed to offend Senator Ben Cardin, Democrat from the State of Maryland, or his replacement in his seat of Congress as long as the replacement obtains a greater than 51% approval rating from the Congressional Progressive Caucus….
This person also reinforces the point Ben Cardin should be checked for authoritarian tendencies, so I’ll give them the last word:
It is amazing to behold the hubris of the radical left as they announce this and similar plans to impose their authoritarian utopia on the American citizenry. That they do so without a hint of hesitation or uncertainty as to the constitutionality of their plan is breathtaking.
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