A new poll is bad news for progressives seeking to subvert many Americans’ constitutional right to free speech on the grounds they find that speech offensive.
According to a survey conducted by McLaughlin and Associates, the vast majority of Americans support First Amendment rights to free speech — and, more importantly, are opposed to any attempts to restrict those rights.
A whopping 85 percent of those polled agreed that the “Constitution guarantees that all Americans are entitled to free speech.” Seven percent said they were unsure, while 8 percent thought that only some Americans are entitled to free speech. A total of 85 percent of respondents also said that freedom of speech is a fundamental right and should not be restricted, even if it offends some people.
This latest poll to gauge Americans’ feelings about free speech mirrors closely a Rasmussen poll released nearly a week earlier, which revealed that “an overwhelming 85 percent of American adults think giving people the right to free speech is more important than making sure no one is offended by what others say.”
“There is always a tiny minority of intransigent demagogues who think it should be illegal to disagree with them, but it’s always a small minority,” Eddie Zipperer, an assistant professor of political science at Georgia Military College, told LifeZette. “With a lengthy legal precedent of absolutism when it comes to political speech, this small tyrannical majority is always doomed.”
The surveys will surely come as a disappointment to progressives bent on restricting Americans’ First Amendment protections. In the wake of shocking violence at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August, many on the Left called for restrictions on so-called “hate speech,” but the surveys make it clear that the American public doesn’t view constitutional freedoms as the issue at fault.
One reason for Americans’ reluctance to abandon the First Amendment in a drive to silence “hate speech” may be that “hate speech” is itself an ill-defined concept. It is often used to censor opposing opinions, as the growing controversy surrounding the leftist Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) shows.
On Tuesday a pair of right-leaning organizations, the Media Research Center and Family Research Council, published an open letter detailing why media outlets should stop referencing the SPLC and taking its “hate group” designations as valid.
“The SPLC is a discredited, left-wing, political activist organization that seeks to silence its political opponents with a ‘hate group’ label of its own invention and application that is not only false and defamatory, but that also endangers the lives of those targeted with it,” the letter read.
“The SPLC is an attack dog of the political left. Having evolved from laudable origins battling the Klan in the 1970s, the SPLC has realized the profitability of defamation, churning out fundraising letters, and publishing ‘hit pieces’ on conservatives to promote its agenda and pad its substantial endowment (of $319 million),” it continued.
“Anyone who opposes them, including many Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, and traditional conservatives is slandered and slapped with the ‘extremist’ label or even worse, their ‘hate group” designation,” the letter said. “To associate public interest law firms and think tanks with neo-Nazis and the KKK is unconscionable, and represents the height of irresponsible journalism.”
Another target of the SPLC agreed the organization is politically motivated and exists to silence speech its donors oppose.
“Americans clearly understand the dangers associated with attempts to censor speech and other forms of expression: Today, it might be someone else who is being silenced. Tomorrow, it may well be you,” said Frank J. Gaffney, president of the Center for Security Policy, which has been accused of “hate speech” by the SPLC, in a statement.
“To the extent that organizations funded by the likes of radical leftists like George Soros — including the Southern Poverty Law Center and Antifa — are allowed to act as the arbiters of who is allowed to communicate, about what and how, it’s just a matter of time before many millions of us are gagged,” Gaffney continued.
Zipperer, the assistant political science professor, said the Left can try all it wants, but will never convince most Americans to abandon free speech.
“They can gripe, demand others be silenced, protest, complain, and fall to the ground in histrionic tantrums, but they’ll never talk the freedom-loving majority out of the First Amendment,” he said.
Zipperer continued: “These ideas are so far removed from American values that even the most liberal justices on the Supreme Court disagree with them. Snyder v. Phelps, Texas v. Johnson, Citizens United v. FEC, and many other Supreme Court cases reaffirm that there can be essentially no abridgment of political speech. Anti-speech movements are loud and the left-wing media love them, but the Constitution always outlasts them.”