The Argument Between Me, Myself & I …

“To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker.” – Frederick Douglass


“One of the problems with defending free speech is you often have to defend people that you find to be outrageous and unpleasant and disgusting.” – Salman Rushdie


“You would argue with a fence post!”, my mother used to say.  She was right … I loved nothing more than a good debate.  While other kids were whining, pouting or throwing a temper tantrum, I was on my feet, logically arguing, making my points which just seemed to pop into my head unbidden.  I often wore my parents or teachers down and when they couldn’t come up with a better argument, I got the cookie, extra hour until bedtime or whatever prize I was arguing for.  Not much has changed … I still like a good argument, even if it is with my own self.  I was recently telling a friend that I argue with myself, and that sometimes three of me get in on the argument:  me, myself and I.  I have even been known to smack myself in the head from time to time.  Just last evening I was having quite a debate with myself (me was not feeling well and sat this one out) about Ohio State University and Richard Spencer.

The backstory in a nutshell …

“Officials at Ohio State University won’t allow noted white nationalist Richard Spencer to rent space on campus, citing safety concerns after several of his supporters opened fire on counter-protesters at the University of Florida.

In a letter from an attorney representing Ohio State sent on Friday, the lawyer noted the university was concerned that hosting Spencer would pose a “substantial risk to public safety, as well as material and substantial disruption to the work and discipline of the University.”

Now, the University of Florida is left with a $600,000 bill for the increased security — one that will ultimately trickle down to taxpayers — required for Spencer’s appearance on campus. Hundreds of police officers, as well as SWAT teams and snipers, mobilized at the school to help keep the peace.

Georgia State University student Cameron Padgett, currently organizing a speaking tour for Spencer on college campuses across the country, has already announced his intention to sue Ohio State for denying his request.

Padgett also sued Penn State University on Friday for making a similar decision earlier this year. Shortly after the violence in Charlottesville, Penn State’s president decided that Spencer was “not welcome on our campus” because his events posed “a major security risk to students, faculty, staff and visitors to campus.

The University of Cincinnati, on the other hand, was also under threat of legal action from Padgett’s lawyer but decided it will allow Spencer to proceed with booking event space on its campus.” – ThinkProgress, 21 October 2017

And then …

“An associate of white nationalist Richard Spencer is suing Ohio State University after university officials refused to rent space for Spencer to speak on campus.” – The Hill, 22 October 2017

And now begins the debate.  On the one hand, as a humanitarian, a supporter of human and civil rights, I do not want to see Spencer in any public venue.  First, his message is one of hate, it is one of white supremacy, arrogance and intolerance. Second, whither goeth Richard Spencer, violence is sure to follow.  Violence that will likely leave people injured, perhaps some dead, and property damaged.  Third, the cost of providing security falls, ultimately, on the taxpayer and frankly I think we have better things to spend our money on.  That is the one hand that speaks from mainly the right side of my brain, the side that is more intuitive, thoughtful, and subjective.

Then there is the other hand, the hand that spent nearly two years studying Constitutional Law, the hand that keeps a pocket copy of the United States Constitution by its bedside and another by its computer.  The hand that is attached to the voice that speaks loudly for the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution, including freedom of speech.  This hand says that it is not up to the government or its institutions to restrain or curtail any free speech.  The aforementioned schools are public institutions, and therefore government entities, thus they fall under the 1st Amendment without question.  This hand speaks from the left side of my brain, the side that is more logical, analytical, and objective.

constitution-2Is there a middle ground, a compromise?  Surely safety concerns and cost to taxpayers for the benefit of a very few are legitimate concerns?  But let’s be honest … the reality is that most college administrations do not want Richard Spencer and his ilk anywhere near their campuses because of his message.  It is the message that offends and insults.  If the Pope wished to visit Ohio State University, the cost of security would be equally high, if not higher, yet the University would welcome Pope Francis with open arms.

Then we must also consider this:  I have always believed and supported the idea that a university is a marketplace of ideas, and as a marketplace of ideas, students should be exposed to all different viewpoints, even on subjects that might offend them or even with viewpoints they might find offensive or disagreeable. And isn’t it the case that what one person may find offensive, another person will not?  In the 1971 Supreme Court case Cohen v California, the court ruled in essence that one man’s vulgarity is another’s lyric. How do we define what is offensive? What is disagreeable? Some people are going to love what he says and others won’t, and is not the government’s job to be in the business of drawing that line?

constitutionBut, given what happened in Florida last week, is it not reasonable to say that his message is incitement to violence?  The Supreme Court has made it clear that speech that is directed to inciting or producing imminent, lawless action and is likely to result in violence, can be censored before the violence actually happens. But all of those conditions must be satisfied. It must be provable that his intent is for his followers to commit violence against others.  Does he do this?  I suspect he walks a fine line, but typically stays within the law.

I end where I began, with one hand wanting him barred from speaking in any public venue, but with the other hand knowing that by law, by our Constitution, he has as much right to a public voice as do I. And now, dear friends, I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

 

42 thoughts on “The Argument Between Me, Myself & I …

  1. Pingback: A Conversation Starter … | Filosofa's Word

  2. Spencer is a hate monger, simple as that. He sets one race against another and then cowers behind the constitution. There is no nobility or dignity. He is a terrorist- don’t lock him up, it’ll only make him a martyr With Civil Rights comes Civil Responsibilities. Dirty tricks ops. Dig out the dirt and carefully spread it by the steady drip so it seeps into the consciousness and he becomes tainted and thus credibility destroyed.
    Sometimes you need to dig out and burn the weeds for the garden to flourish.
    End of conversation
    (Man, I’m on a socialist reality roll this morning)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good points all. For surely if he were ever arrested there would be a surge of protest from the white supremacists and their fringe followers, led by Steve Bannon, no doubt. Digging up the dirt is a far better idea, but I must leave that, I think, to better minds than mine, for I wouldn’t know where to find the dirt. And would it even matter to the masses, the lemmings? Seems that all Trump’s lawsuits and the claims of sexual harassment against him have not mattered on whit. People cherry pick their morals, their values.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Our Constitutional rights should be respected by all who live under the law. BTW, there’s always a 3rd option, what happened to rationality and reasonableness?

    If this Spencer fellow wish to spew his inflammatory rhetoric on college campus, then let him express his 1st amendment right! However, freedom comes with responsibility, and one’s personal rights stop when it infringes upon another’s.

    I propose that Spencer should pay the $600K security bill if he so chooses to speak. If he incites violence, it is akin to shouting FIRE in a crowded theatre, he should be held personally liable for any damages or death.

    Freedom of speech comes at a price, the taxpayer should not pay for his right to express himself. The same goes for the Pope! Separation of church and state, if the Pope comes to town the Vatican should cover the bill and not the local government. We do not uphold a Theocracy in this country.

    Given these very reasonable stipulations, future orators will necessitate thinking before speaking!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Jill, good discussion and comments. We have the right to free speech provided it does not incite violence and is done civilly. Also, we have the famous argument of you cannot shout “fire” in a crowded theater. So, the key is not to endanger. So, even people we vehemently disagree with have a right to free speech with the above caveats.

    With that said the listeners have a right to rebut the speaker, again provided it does civilly. To assure both, the police must restrict weapons as having them in a crowd is unwise.

    My best example is the Westboro Baptist Church that would protest against LGBT rights at military funerals of any soldier, LGBT or not. The courts said they had the right, although their lack of compassion runs counter to Jesus’ teachings. But, a group of veterans decided they had the right to protest as well, so hundreds of them blocked the view of the soldier’s family from these Westboro protestors.

    So, the safe (and cheaper) answer is to bar neo-Nazis from speaking. The constitutional answer is to allow it, but encourage civil rebuttal. That is what occurred in Florida.

    Keith

    Liked by 1 person

    • The slippery slope comes in determining what can be considered to be inciting. And it shouldn’t likely be the problem it is, except in today’s highly-charged atmosphere of right vs left, democrat vs republican, etc., tensions are high, and it would take such a tiny spark to set fire to the dry forest. Ten years ago, twenty years ago … it wouldn’t cause near this much angst and discussion, threats of lawsuits, etc. But today is a whole ‘nother world, one we are still struggling to figure out. Meanwhile, how many more Heather Heyers have to die? Just luckily nobody died in Florida last week, but it certainly could have turned out much worse. All the elements were there. And why are weapons not banned at these events???

      Liked by 1 person

        • So true, and you already know I agree with you. But what would you bet that somebody will claim that to force them to check their guns is a violation of their 2nd amendment rights? And how easy would it be for someone to slip a weapon in, especially a small pistol that could be hidden underneath clothing?

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  5. Good luck trying to speak on the campus of a UK university if the lunatics that pass for undergraduates don’t like you. I suspect this Richard Spencer would get short shrift at say an Oxford college. And, in the UK, if you utter one word that somebody / anybody doesn’t like, you could be done by the rozzers for inciting racial hatred.
    Outside of Parliament, there is no such thing as free speech in the United Kingdom these days.
    As always, an excellent post Jill. I really respect and admire you. I kind of like you too. ❤ ❤ ❤ 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah yes, and in the case of any private college, that would be perfectly acceptable. But, these are state institutions and must play by the same rules as any other government entity. Fine lines, but important ones. This year alone, 2017, is likely to keep every single attorney in this country employed for the next decade! What a mess!

      You feeling better, I hope?

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Yeah! This is a Massive Conundrum! I prefer to opt or a ‘rider’…….The ‘Good’ of Others take precedent over the ‘good’ of the ‘self’……Hence, Free Speech must embrace the ‘Good’ of Others! 😉 Hugs!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. The problem with suppressing free speech is that it opens Pandora’s box. The trend on universities these days is to refuse to allow certain types (usually Conservatives, as it happens) to speak on campus. Militant students and faculty threaten Administrators who frequently back down. This is wrong. Period. The incitement of violence in Spencer’s case is a serious problem, I will allow. But it is the risk we must take in order to defend the First Amendment.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I have two thoughts Jill.
    1) Inhibiting free speeach in a public area is one thing but University campuses are private property, as would be my front yard, and I think falls subject to different rules. Talking on a street corner is not the same as being given space and time at an institution where people HAVE to be there for the education they paid for.
    2) The same people who support such ‘free speech’, as in the actual content of Mr. Spencer’s diatribe, would be wholly in favor of physically abusing and/or silencing news reporters who are exercising their own rights of free speech when questioning political officials in public forums.
    Free soeech is a conundrum. As is most of human existence with regard to peacable living.. 😔

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ah, well … but these universities are public institutions, not private property. Now, in the case of a private college or university, there would be no question, they would be well within their rights to deny Spencer access. But the public universities fall under the 1st amendment just as does that street corner. You own your backyard, but We The People own Ohio State University. Now, the reality is that I am not sure how these lawsuits, if they ever see light of day, will be decided, especially in light of the incident in Florida last week, and the rally in Charlottesville in August.

      As to your second point, you are right in that the people who demand Spencer be allowed to speak in these venues are the very ones who would deny others their rights. I doubt they would try to shut down reporters, for they actually want the publicity, the attention, for that is half of their goal. Isn’t it a sad state of affairs, though, that we even have to be having this discussion, for it should just be common sense that one can speak one’s mind, but do so in a civil manner that doesn’t rile people to the point of violence. But, when the ‘man’ at the helm is no different than a street fighter, what more can you expect? Sigh.

      Thanks for your insightful comments! I mostly agree with you … but unfortunately the law may not be on the side of keeping this man out of the public venue.

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  9. I believe I’m very lucky not to live under your constitution.The right to free speech is one that should be tempered with care. The majority of speech from this man and his ilk incites to hate and to violence. Worse, it does so against other citizens of the United States.. People who rally in favour of a divided society will allow this man to talk and that speech will doubtless be reported in various newspapers across the land,there is the opportunity for your school pupils to learn of the prejudices within society without having to listen to such bile on their own school grounds. After all, any school which welcomes him under the first amendment risks offending and bringing fear of harm to black pupils within the school. Risks in fact actual harm to black pupils as a result of the incitement allowed on school grounds and would I think be liable to judgement under the law for not taking care of it’s pupils.
    If under the constitution you cannot deny free speech, is it specific as to where that speech may be undertaken. For if not, each person has the right to deny said speech in their own proximity, especially if they cannot move. but given a vote, if the majority rule that he be allowed to speak the school must ensure the naysayers are removed to a place of safety, It the majority is against having such a guest speaker then then the minority could perhaps be bussed to a venue where he is speaking.
    Cwtch

    Liked by 2 people

    • There are so many things to consider. I fully concur with your first statement, that free speech must be tempered with caution. My own opinion is that any public speech should be civil. There is a way to make a point without screaming, cursing, bullying and threatening. But look at the example being set by the leader of the nation. He invites jerks like Spencer, Bannon and their ilk. As to the responsibility of the school … again, a slippery slope. Certainly they have a responsibility to protect ALL the students, and doing so is cost-prohibitive, yet they must. My own thoughts are let Spencer rent a place for his speech off campus, and any students wishing to attend can certainly do so at their own cost and finding their own transportation. But, as it is a public school, that is not an option. I also looked into what others suggested … making him pay the $600,000 for security … he likely couldn’t or wouldn’t come up with that amount. But, the courts have already ruled that would constitute harassment. The ideal outcome would be if he held his rally and nobody … not one single person … came to hear him. But, people love a good fight, so they will show up. Sigh.

      xxx Cwtch xxx

      Liked by 1 person

      • Surely the right of free speech doesn’t include on someone else’s property.Therefore schools should be able to ban him talking on their properties. And if he gains permission and the school then have to hire security I do not see it as harassment to have him pay fees his speech incurs.
        xxx Cwtch xxx

        Liked by 1 person

        • Sadly, it isn’t private property, or someone else’s property, it is government property owned by the public. It would be like denying him access to a public park. And asking him to pay for the security is considered a “heckler’s veto”, or a denial to the right of free speech by a government entity. Personally, I agree with you, but the law says otherwise. Sigh.
          xxx Cwtch Mawr xxx

          Liked by 2 people

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