Courts and Protecting Speech Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Freedom of Speech

The Brandenburg Case

The central holding in the Brandenburg case is the debate about whether suppressing hate speech or speeches that have the potential to incite violence is, in fact, violates the guarantee to freedom of speech as given by the First Amendment of the U.S. constitution. In the case of Brandenburg, while the state of Ohio declared him to have incited potential violence through his speech that he made on TV and sentenced him to 1-10-year prison and a fine, the Supreme Court of the U.S. overturned the verdict and found Brandenburg not guilty and opined that the Ohio state had violated Brandenburg's right to free speech. The supreme court noted: "Freedoms of speech and press do not permit a State to forbid advocacy of the use of force or of law violation except where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action."

This sparked a countrywide debate about what constitutes a free speech and which one would be termed as being illegal in terms of its potential to incite violence. The debate is about whether the Ohio state Statute that prohibits public speech which advocates a certain violent activity is in violation of the Defendant's right to free speech guaranteed under the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. While the act made advocating teaching doctrines of violence as illegal, it did not answer issues related to whether such speech would actually incite imminent violence. Advocates of free speech argue that a mere speech that talks about violence and even advocates violence is not the same as preparing a group for any form of violent action. In the case of Brandenburg, since his speech was not directly related to any form of violence but only advocated violence, therefore holding his speech illegal was a violation of the freedom of speech as guaranteed by the First Amendment of the U.S. constitution. They also argue in favor of the supreme court decision that as long as any speech is not likely to result in immediate harm or violence, such speech should be allowed under the freedom of speech clause.

However, those associated with civil rights activities and even others who are against any form of hate speech have argued that while people like Brandenburg could be permitted to state their ideas, it does not make it mandatory to listen politely to such speeches and messages without vigorous response. Such people argue that the freedom of speech clause was misused in the Brandenburg case and a flaw in the law had permitted Brandenburg to get away with a hate speech. Another section of arguments contends that the law on free speech should be coupled with a robust ethics related to free speech which can be used against hate mongers and people who incite violence making use of the freedom of speech act.

This case was important as it gave rise to a big dichotomy in the U.S.…

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