Free Speech vs. Hate Speech

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By: Parker Williamson

On Tuesday evening an event called “Free Speech vs. Hate Speech” took place in Spratt 205.

Dr. Melinda Kovács was the first speaker. She explained the Bill of Rights specifically the First Amendment and what that means in today’s world. She said that other countries have laws against hate speech and the United States doesn’t. Hate speech is free speech in America and she wants there to be a widespread conversation about that.

“When we think about current debates of free speech or hate speech, we think about the people involved as individuals instead of a community of people,” Kovács said. “In other places around the world there is a more communitarianism based view on hate speech.”

Nazi symbolism is one of the things that the speakers considered hate speech. Another was a scenario where white supremacists would have racist related images or pages up on a computer in a public space where there were African American people. They called this a form of harassment and want conversations about laws to restrict things like this from happening.  

The second speaker was Angie Brunk who works in the Missouri Western Library. She talked about seeking objective information and unbiased sources. She encourages people to look at sites that may show both sides of a political issue.

“It is impossible to find completely objective information,” Brunk said. “We all come with our own experiences, our own knowledge bases, and our own understandings. This means that we are all capable of putting bias into our writing or searching for information.”

Towards the end of the event there was discussion of having more conversations about hate speech in America and what can be done to limit it. Both speakers encourage others to keep the conversation going either by contacting them or by reaching out to others.