Letters to the Editor: Racists and antisemites have freedom of speech. So do decent people
To the editor: Columnist Nicholas Goldberg is correct that our 1st Amendment guarantee of free speech requires protecting even the hateful speech of antisemites and other bigots.
Incidentally, my 1st Amendment professor in law school at Ohio State University was David Goldberger, the ACLU attorney who defended the right of Nazis to march through a Jewish neighborhood in Skokie, Ill., in the 1978 case that Goldberg mentions in his column.
However, while the 1st Amendment prevents government from restricting speech based on viewpoint, it bestows an obligation upon people to be responsible citizens who participate in the marketplace of ideas. We must counter hateful speech with humane speech and falsehoods with facts.
In the case of Skokie, the town responded to the Nazis by opening the Illinois Holocaust Museum, a permanent repudiation of their hate.
Stephen A. Silver, San Francisco
To the editor: Goldberg admits that we already regulate speech involving obscenity, incitement, libel and false advertising. I assume that it is to protect others from harm that results from such speech. Antisemitic and racist hate speech is no different in that it too can result in harm to others.
In Germany, Adolf Hitler began with speech. But it mushroomed into violence and eventual genocide.
In this country, violence against racial minorities follows hate speech. We don’t need to wait for violence to rear its ugly head. We know that in many cases hate speech gives way to violence. So why not fix the root cause of violence in the first place?
Nothing positive comes out of speech that falsely denigrates and besmirches other human beings.
Jack Berens, Alta Loma
To the editor: Goldberg is right when he says, “We don’t toss people in prison for saying the most offensive, bigoted, or politically indefensible things.” If we did, former President Trump would have been in jail before he was ever elected.
Kathi Weiner, Dana Point