Media Analysis: UO Hate Speech Debate 03/02/10

A debate took pace at the University of Oregon Gerlinger lounge at seven o’clock on a Tuesday night, March 2nd. The topic was whether the UO should or should not adopt a hate speech code. “Discrimination is a growing issue throughout the U.S.,” one of the speakers from the positive side quoted Elie Wiesel as one of the opening lines. As a general aspect, the positive side emphasized the “symbol is intimidation” as their main argument. They referred to past Supreme Court case of Virginia vs. Black and the issue of cross burning. They argued mainly that if the speech is seen as an intimidation, then it ought to cause future harm and conflicts. They argued the case that freedom is not absolute, “free speech is only free for individuals who are in the dominant discourse.” To counter the arguments by the positive side, the negative side emphasized the idea of education, and how a hate speech code would limit this access of information. They argued back with regards to the First Amendment and the right to free speech. They emphasized that by listening to all sides and learn, a marketplace of ideas is created (process of education), and thus it is the only solution that would not cause any violence. They also referred back to the 1919 Clear and Present Danger Test. The argument that the negative mainly stuck with was that free speech triumphs over hate speech. After an hour, all three judges declared for affirmative.

Before the debate, originally I was very much sided with the negative side. However, after listening to all the choices and information that the positive side had provided, the idea of a hate speech is not all that narrow as I thought it was. I believe in the right to free speech, though I do agree with one of the arguments that the positive made. If one small regulation could reduce down violence acts and create a more peaceful society, then that sacrifice is perhaps necessary. As they said, freedom is not absolute. If by limiting ones right could mean preserving others’ rights to free speech, than I guess it’s ok in my opinion.

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