It’s no mistake that freedom of speech is in the first Amendment to the Constitution. It’s impossible to overstate its importance to our democratic system. But respect for free speech doesn’t give us the right to turn a blind eye to dangerous, irresponsible speech. As we’ve seen through the explosion on rightwing hate, violent rhetoric can lead to violent actions, and we have a duty to stand up to it and call it by name.
Fourteen years ago, a PFAW memorandum (pdf) was released, focusing on the hateful rightwing speech on issues like racism, abortion, and LBGT rights. It is no coincidence that names like Rush Limbaugh, Pat Robertson, Newt Gingrich, and Randall Terry rise to the top of both this fourteen year old memorandum and the news headlines of today. In comparing this article to our current situation, it is easy to see that too little has changed in the last fourteen years.
People For stood up to hateful speech then, and we’ll continue to stand up to it as long as it takes.