A Berkeley 2017 protester. Conservatives see this and eat it for breakfast. Are moderates also dining on it for lunch?

Free Speech Is Not Being Protected by The Left and It’s Emboldening The Right

Bill Maher is Right. Howard Dean is Wrong. Seriously, this is Why Donald Trump Won. Please Stop.

Picture and excerpt from Politico (no, they’re not dating): He still mixes it up with eclectic panels of guests, many of who can be as abrasive as he is, such as the conservative agitator Ann Coulter, a longtime friend. “I know the liberals hate it, and I don’t care,” he says. “First of all, I’ve known her that long. There’s something about an old friendship. You just have history with somebody. Not romantic history. No. I would never date a Republican. I never have. I wouldn’t. Nor would she be interested in dating me. But she is a fun person if you just don’t get political when you talk. When you know somebody that long, you just know where not to go. And she’s a fun New Yorker type of person. And people like her. They expect to hate her.”

“Berkeley, you know, used to be the cradle of free speech,” Maher said to CNN’s S.E. Cupp. “And now it’s just the cradle for f — king babies.”

“I feel like this is the liberals’ version of book burning, and it’s got to stop,” Maher said before taking aim at former Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean for his tweet stating hate speech isn’t protected by the First Amendment.

“Yes it is!” Maher insisted.

“Threats are not protected by the First Amendment,” the host added.

“It doesn’t mean ‘just shut up and agree with me.’”

“Our position on this case, and First Amendment rights in general,” explains Kathleen Burch, Interim In-House Counsel for ACLU Georgia, in a telephone interview with The Christian Science Monitor, “is we often see infringement of rights being against those on the fringes of society, and if we don’t protect them, we can’t protect anyone.”

In June 2012, Georgia’s Department of Transportation denied the International Keystone Knights of the Ku Klux Klan’s application to be part of the highway scheme, citing its potentially distracting effect on drivers, and the department’s unwillingness to promote an organization “with a history of inciting civil disturbance and social unrest.”

In their statement announcing the lawsuit on the KKK’s behalf, the ACLU admitted that many find the group’s views “abhorrent.” But as Debbie Seagraves of ACLU Georgia told the Guardian in 2012, “even if it is difficult for me to say we are considering representing the KKK, if we let that First Amendment protection be eroded, all of us will suffer for it.”

In other words, if we go by what is offensive to someone, the right to free expression means merely the right to say something until someone is upset by it. Which isn’t a “right” at all.

Sometimes hate speech is also a threat or “fighting words.” In those cases, hate speech would be excluded from protections offered by the First Amendment, said James Weinstein, an expert in free speech at Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor Law School, in a past PolitiFact interview.

For example, it would be unconstitutional to ban someone from putting a racial epithet on a sign at a protest. But if someone used the same racial epithet while credibly saying they plan to harm someone of that race, that might count as a threat and therefore lose its First Amendment protection. But the speech loses the protection because it’s a threat, not because it’s hate speech.

Our ruling

Dean said, “Hate speech is not protected by the First Amendment.”

There are some exceptions to the free speech clause in the First Amendment, but “hate speech” is not one of them. The Supreme Court has repeatedly held up the right of an individual or group to engage in speech that much of the public likely finds offensive, like displaying swastikas, burning crosses or protesting a soldier’s funeral.

We rate Dean’s claim False.



Writer. Researcher. Designer. Human seeking better outcomes for all. Empiricism, relevant facts, and logical arguments > simple narratives.

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David Shuey

Writer. Researcher. Designer. Human seeking better outcomes for all. Empiricism, relevant facts, and logical arguments > simple narratives.