Commentary

Response to William Schubart: who gets to decide hate speech?

By Peter Fernandez

Now that we have a social media Frankenstein experiment bubbling over in real-time, and ancient racism riding its cyber-rails, former Vermont Journalism Trust Chair William Schubart (Dec. 5 VT Digger) deems it necessary to have our First Amendment Rights amended and/or stripped. “It’s time for a statute prohibiting hate speech, online bullying, and threats of physical violence.” I agree, but…  

Who gets to make these gargantuan decisions regarding what hate speech is, anyway?  Ilhan Omar, Bernie Sanders, The Jack Dorseys, Parag Agrawals, Mark Zuckerbergs, and even local pee-wee news editors, Steve Pappas, and Oki Soga? Dorsey’s private company, a cyber monopoly not unlike Carnegie Steel, censors a sitting US President?! That’s certainly okay with the culturally evolved, sophisticated/superior left, Defund the Police people, Open the Border advocates, the liberal academia/media mob, because they know what is better for Cuba, Venezuela, and the USA.

The hate speech Schubert is targeting requires censorship, but I, for one, do not trust The Biden Administration to begin and end such a crusade with blatant racist threats, i.e., Kiah Morris. “Liberty!?” snarks President Biden.

My opinions were considered “hate speech”, and, then, blacklisted by The Barre Times Argus and Burlington Free Press in 2016. For decades, I contributed op-eds and letters regarding the Israel/Palestinian Conflict until these periodicals hired ” new and improved” editors. My crime was to continuously quote Arab leaders, and present facts/statistics from respected new sources. For example: “Since 1948 it is we who demanded the return of the refugees while it was we who made them leave,” said Khaled Al-Azm, Syrian Prime Minister after the 1948 War in his 1970 memoirs. “We brought disaster upon Palestinian refugees by inviting them and bringing pressure to bear upon them to leave.”  Arab Street readers perceive such gleaned information as Zionist propaganda. Hate Speech?

Finally, the UK has been discussing enforcement of laws that would prohibit “threatening, abusive, or insulting words,” in defense of “people with protected characteristics, disability, age, sexual orientation.” In Scotland, particularly, the Hate Crime and Public Order bill seek to inflict a criminal penalty, potentially even prosecution on those who make statements that violate such criteria.  “This includes journalism and theatrical settings, and could even extend to homes: conversations over the dinner table that incite hatred must be prosecuted under Scotland’s hate crime law, the justice secretary has said.” Mark McLaughlin, “Hate Crimes Bill: Hate Talk in Homes “Must Be Prosecuted.'” The Times, UK, October 28, 2020.

George Orwell’s novel, 1984, is now stacked in the non-fiction and/or Political Prophecy section. Or should be.

The author is a Northfield resident.

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15 replies »

  1. Thank you Peter for responding to William Schubert’s commentary. I was appalled by his reasoning for stripping Americans Of their First Amendment right to free speech. His claims were based on political bias and not fact. I listened to the Senate hearing in which AG Merrick Garland was questioned about threats of violence made against school administrators and school board members. AG Garland stated that he was unaware of any such communications. The scary part is parents are still being labeled as domestic terrorists, if they persist on objecting to school policy or the Marxist ideologies being forced upon their children.

  2. I would advocate it is the US Supreme Court who should be the sole arbiters of what is protected free speech, using the US Constitution as their guide. And thanks to our last President’s appointments to the Court, they are more qualified than in any time in recent history to be making such determinations. Too many people are comfortable with such decisions being in the hands of social media companies and their “algorithms” or the Southern Poverty Law Center, who bear no allegiance to the US Constitution. Certainly a self-appointed businessman-turned-journalist like Bill Schubart is entitled to his opinions, but not to decide such important Constitutional matters for others, just because his feelings are easily hurt. The US Constitution now stands pretty much alone protecting the free expression rights of Americans while these rights are disappearing across the globe by the forces of political correctness and leftist authoritarianism.
    As for Orwell’s 1984, it was written and intended as a cautionary tale of a dystopian future, as a means of preventing it. The left has embraced it as an instruction manual.
    Thank you, Peter Fernandez for this opinion piece and I hope too see more on the way.

  3. We all have a Constitutional right to free speech, expression, to assemble, etc & many will fight to the death to preserve them. Any state “law” CANNOT trump federal/constitutional law. The VTGOP and its allies & followers locally and nationally need to SATURATE the press & TV (via paid ads) addressing these and other issues that are currently eroding and ultimately seeking to destroy our once free country!

    Where are our Republican leaders & those in office? Do they utilize forums such as Front Porch Forum to alert their constituents to these grave issues? I see plenty of leftist outreach to the citizens from democrats & especially progressives, but other than Ingall’s counterpoints, I never hear from anyone else. Where are your editorials, your letters to the editors of papers, GOP legislators??

    Do you NOT realize that if the populace is unaware of what these communists are involved in doing, they will continue to party-line vote and/or not bother to vote at all?

    C’mon GOP leaders: Stand up.

    • Front Porch Forum is a leftist/progressive community forum. They sensor all content based on community policy. I was just denied from posting a Swedish website that showed scientific evidence about the effectiveness of mask wearing as a means to stop the spread of COVID-19. They informed me that they will not publish any scientific material that does not agree with the CDC or VT Health Dept. They have even stopped the release of a meeting notification for the Republican party.

      • I’m well aware of their antics & have been banned twice at two different addresses. However, they CANNOT allow democrat legislators to post long diatribes on their radical agendas and then tell one of the few republicans they cannot do the same. It should NOT be tolerated & they have the power & connections to go after them. We don’t unless we have deep pockets & nothing better to do than take FPF to court. And they know it. Our elected should NOT be supporting censorship; disgusting.

  4. I know that my life has improved drastically since I stopped reading VTgravedigger’s word salads written by liberal know it all’s like Bill Schubart. These people are so full of themselves it’s quite sickening. All the virtue signaling on the opinion page is all talk for the choir to feel good about themselves. People like Bill have elevated themselves to elite status able to preach to the lowly useful idiots and followers of the great liberal religion. A religion of elite snobs, devoid of God whose mission is to spread misery for everyone to enjoy. Always in a quest for the great liberal Utopia when in fact, everything they touch turns to bull droppings. These people think they have the upper hand in our future. I have news for them and some advice. They should stop poking the bear. People will only be pushed and prodded so far as history has shown.

  5. Re: “I agree, but… Who gets to make these gargantuan decisions regarding what hate speech is, anyway?”

    I don’t agree… at all. The Constitution says we can say anything we want to say at any time we want to say it. And, yes, that means yelling fire in a crowded theater.

    The answer to the question is already provided in the Constitution. If someone says something that harms or damages another person, the Constitution provides for a judicial system allowing redress of any grievance.

    For example, what if someone yells fire in a crowded theater when there really is a fire? Conversely, what happens when someone, or some group, makes the ‘gargantuan’ decision to censor the yelling of fire and there really is one? What happens when it’s not a fire but someone with a gun threatening another person and a spur-of-the-moment decision to yell fire is found to be a more effective warning, for whatever reason.

    The elegance of our U.S. Constitution is that it doesn’t definitively determine right and wrong for a given instance at some time in the future. How could it? One size never fits all. One time is never an exact replicate of another time. The Constitution establishes the ground rules for tailoring the moment, and for allowing anyone aggrieved by its fabric, for any reason, to have redress of their grievance.

    Not only do I mistrust Schubart, Omar, Sanders, Dorsey, Agrawals, Zuckerberg, and ‘pee-wee’ editors everywhere. Not only do I not trust Brandon (err, I mean Biden). I don’t trust any individual as a matter of law. Not even myself in every case. But I do trust the U. S. Constitution. What I must do is understand and abide by it, protect and defend it. And so should all of us… if we have any sense in the matter.

    • Thank you, H. Jay, but maybe I should have been more clear. I only agreed with Mr Schubert’s assertion that the Kia Morris incident was definitely hate speech, a personal threat and our First Amendment doesn’t guarantee or protect criminal “threats.”

      • The point I’m making is one of specific detail. What signifies a ‘threat’? … or a ‘criminal’ threat? Can a threat be a ‘civil’ violation, not ‘criminal’? Are all threats harmful? To what extent is a threat harmful? If a ‘threat’ simply hurts your feelings, is that the same as a ‘threat’ that frightens you to the point of altering your lifestyle or your health… and to what extent might that be?

        In other words, no two ‘threats’ are ever the same. And no two ‘threats’ ever have precisely the same consequence, as long as they are merely threats. If there are damages, what are they? Physical damage? Emotional damage? Both?

        My point is that in a free society, how people interact should be their own business – unless they harm or damage someone else in the process. And because no two instances are ever precisely the same, what form of governance best provides for reasonable remedies when people disagree in that regard?

        In a free society, we are presumed innocent. We can drive over the speed limit whenever we choose to do so. We can attempt to rob a bank whenever we choose to do so. We can yell at others whenever we choose to do so. But whatever we choose to do, our Constitution provides remedies for others to hold us accountable for those choices when those choices are harmful.

        The Kia Morris issue is a case in point. You and I can agree on the issue. But that’s irrelevant. What counts is the constitutional due process that includes ‘discovery’. The Town of Bennington and Ms. Morris chose to settle, out of court, exercising their constitutional prerogatives. Max Misch, on the other hand, has been arrested (more than once) for a couple of ‘criminal’ violations surrounding the issue. And, to the best of my knowledge, some of those violations remain ‘alleged’ and have yet to see their day in court. But in the last sentence of the Attorney General’s 7-9-21 amendment to Max Misch’s ‘conditions of release’, the AG says:

        “The Attorney General’s Office reminds the public that a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.”

        Again, this is as it should be. I don’t trust anyone’s personal judgment as a matter of law, not even my own. But I do trust the U. S. Constitution. And I will protect and defend it to the best of my ability.

  6. There’s no way to legislate “hate,” or what people feel inside. Not possible. That can only lead to dictatorships. We have an amazing Constitution with enough reasons for freedom.

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