Neo-Nazis And Free Speech Essay, Research Paper
Neo-Nazi?s are entitled to the same First Amendment rights under the Constitution as all other American citizens. Simply because a group expresses beliefs which are unpopular and generally considered to be ?wrong? does not mean that the group is no longer entitled to free speech. When people are given true freedom of speech, it should be understood that there are always going to be differences in opinions, and that the opinions held by some people will almost invariably be seen as offensive to at least some other people. If the government were to try and censor everything that anyone felt was offensive, then eventually no one would be able to voice their opinion on anything anymore, and the problem with censoring Neo-Nazis and other extreme racist groups is that it opens the door to just this sort of thing.
What?s more, no one is being forced to listen to anything that the Neo-Nazi?s have to say, so the argument that they are causing people irreparable ?mental anguish? is just plain invalid because anyone who doesn?t agree with what they have to say can just walk away. The people who think that the Neo-Nazi?s should be censored simply because their ideas are hurtful to other people need to grow up and realize that words are just words. Although words can be hurtful at times, if someone says something that people find offensive, then they can just not listen, rather than crying to the government and asking it to hold their hands and protect them from the world. Also, by trying to take legal action to get Neo-Nazis censored, people are inadvertently helping the Neo-Nazi cause, because many more people will get exposed to Neo-Nazi ideas through the press that this generates than would be exposed if people decided to let them have their rallies and ignore what they have to say.
Also, although the Neo-Nazi philosophy may advocate violence and lead to an increased number of hate crimes, this is not a reason to revoke their First Amendment rights either. I believe that although most Neo-Nazis are uneducated racists, the truly violent Neo-Nazis make up only a small extremist fringe within the overall group. Besides this point, stopping the open public expression of Neo-Nazi ideas will not stop the crimes. This is because the crimes are a result of Neo-Nazi ideas, and not a result of the fact that these ideas can be openly expressed. The ideas will continue to exist even if the public expression of them is banned, and because of this, the hate crimes will continue to be an issue, even if Neo-Nazis are denied the right to publicly state their beliefs. Also, if a Neo-Nazi rally becomes a riot because of spectators who heckle and harass the Neo-Nazis, then the riot is just as much the fault of the spectators as it is the Neo-Nazis, and if you were to censor the Neo-Nazis because of the riots, then you would also have to censor the people with anti-Neo-Nazi beliefs as well. The people who say that Neo-Nazis are evil, should be eradicated from our society, and do not deserve the most basic of human rights are really no better than the Neo-Nazis themselves, but what they say has never been called into question, simply because they represent the majority, and their opinion is typically considered to be the correct one.
Although other democratic countries have historically censored Neo-Nazi and other racist ideologies and been successful while doing so does not make this action right, nor does it make not censoring wrong. The United States of America was founded upon the ideals of freedom from oppression, and equal freedom for everyone, regardless of who they are, or what they believe in. While other countries have censored unpopular beliefs, this does not mean that we should or are obligated to follow in their footsteps, and if we did follow their example, we would be going against the very thing which this country was founded to protect, namely, individual freedom. I think that it says more about the strength of our country and our society if we are able to tolerate unpopular, extremist beliefs without censoring them.
Censorship has already gone to far in this country, from words which aren?t allowed to be said on television or radio (after all, words are just a collection of sounds which represent an idea, and no one should have the right to say that certain ideas are not allowed to be thought, or communicated), to the well intentioned, though somewhat oppressive sexual harassment laws which have people being sued for complimenting their coworkers (when this sort of thing starts happening, you know you have a problem?). Censoring Neo-Nazi ideas would just be another step in the wrong direction, a step away from a society where people are free to think, believe and say whatever they want to, and it?s really a sad thing when people aren?t even free within the confines of their own minds. If someone says something which you find offensive, then you are free to tell them that you think they are wrong, and argue your point, or free to walk away. You do not, however, have the right to say that simply because you don?t agree with what they are saying that they are not to be allowed to say it. Whenever you have a society where free speech is permitted, there are going to be some people who ascribe to some very unpopular beliefs, but these people are still entitled to the same freedoms as everyone else, and for this reason, Neo-Nazis should not have their First Amendment rights revoked.