Hate Speech

NPR's Departing Ombudsman Thinks the First Amendment Does Not Protect 'Hate Speech'

A veteran American journalist wonders if Charlie Hebdo would be legally tolerated in the U.S.

|

Wikipedia

In his final farewell column (apparently there have been several), Edward Schumacher-Matos, NPR's departing ombudsman, announces, "I am not Charlie." He is not saying that last month's murderous attack on Charlie Hebdo (which he inaccurately calls a "bombing") was justified, but he wants to make it clear that he did not care for those cartoons, which he suggests exceeded the proper limits of free speech (emphasis added):

The French news media may have their ethical standards, but they are not American or sacred universal ones, and they shouldn't be French ones either. The United States has never had absolute freedom of the press. And the framers of the Constitution—I once held the James Madison Visiting Professor Chair on First Amendment Issues at Columbia University—never intended it to. You wouldn't know this, however, from listening to the First Amendment fundamentalists piping up from Washington to Silicon Valley.

In this case, the competing social and constitutional demand is the control of hate speech in the interests of social cohesion, without which the very idea of a nation is impossible. Look at the sectarian bloodbath that is the Middle East. Or look at the tensions in China, Myanmar, Ukraine, Nigeria, the Balkans, and elsewhere. Nothing guarantees that different peoples can live together, or that nations will remain as we know them.

The United States is the ultimate multi-ethnic, multi-sectarian society. It has sinned mightily against slaves and immigrants, but has managed to hold itself together through imposition by a civil war, an evolving sense of morality, and yes, political correctness in how we treat each other. Laws followed along.

I do not know if American courts would find much of what Charlie Hebdo does to be hate speech unprotected by the Constitution, but I know—hope?—that most Americans would. It is one thing to lampoon popes, imams, rabbis and other temporal religious leaders of this world; it is quite another to make fun, in often nasty ways, of their prophets and gods. The NPR editors were right not to reprint any of the images.

Whatever you may think of the decision by NPR and other news organizations to keep those images under wraps out of deference to Muslim sensibilities, the decision was theirs to make. Schumacher-Matos is suggesting it should not have been, because those cartoons qualify as "hate speech unprotected by the Constitution." Here is something that Schumacher-Matos, who grew up in the United States, has worked as a journalist here for more than three decades, and has lectured on the First Amendment, really ought to know: There is no such thing as "hate speech unprotected by the Constitution."

Schumacher-Matos is right that certain categories of speech, including fraud, defamation, and obscenity, fall outside the protection of the First Amendment as it has been interpreted by the Supreme Court. But "hate speech," however defined, is not one of those categories. Hence it is bizarre to speculate about whether federal courts would uphold a ban on "much of what Charlie Hebdo does." They would not. Contrary to what Schumacher-Matos seems to think, freedom of speech enjoys greater protection in the United States than it does in France, so if French law tolerates Charlie Hebdo, there is no question that U.S. law would as well.

To some extent, Schumacher-Matos is conflating several different arguments: whether NPR and other news outlets should run images that some might consider to be "hate speech," whether "hate speech" should be legally tolerated, and whether it is in fact legally tolerated in the United States. There is plenty of room for disagreement on those first two points, but Schumacher-Matos is plainly wrong about the last one.

[via Hans Bader]

NEXT: WATCH: How San Jose Took on the Unions and Saved Millions Through Pension Reform

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. As previously reported by…me.

    1. Hat tips are for closers, GKC.

      1. Just the steak knives, then?

        1. You’re fired.

  2. Even the Federalists of 1798 – the ones who voted for the Sedition Act – were willing to allow the truth of a statement as a defense in court.

    How do you defend “hate speech” as true? You can’t – if it insults the right (wrong) people, it’s a crime.

    For that matter, even the heresy laws insisted on proof that the defendant said something the court regarded as objectively false.

    With this frou-frou hurt-feelings crap, what *can’t* you censor?

    1. You can censor anything because the only thing that determines censorship is feelings.

      That’s what makes this argument:

      “but I know?hope??that most Americans would. It is one thing to lampoon popes, imams, rabbis and other temporal religious leaders of this world; it is quite another to make fun, in often nasty ways, of their prophets and gods.”

      so fucking ridiculous. If the only justification for whether something is illegal is if some random religious group feels strongly enough about it, then you’ve not only reinstituted blasphemy laws, you’ve instituted blasphemy laws AGAINST ALL RELIGIONS.

      I mean, what happens if there are lots of Rastafarians in your country? Are we not allowed to say bad things about the former King of Ethiopia, who they worshiped? What if I declare myself a God?

      Does the government now have to arrest anyone who criticizes cult leaders whose cultists believe them to be living Gods?

      1. I’m saying that censorship *used* to be about suppressing stuff the government considered false. Now it’s about censoring stuff the government considers offensive, without considering whether it’s true or false.

        So we’ve retrogressed even from the Bad Old Days.

        1. Of course, there was the old doctrine that “the greater the truth, the greater the libel,” and the important point was the alleged libel undermined public confidence in the government.

          But I think they really had to stretch the common law to get to that doctrine, and at least with the federalists of 1798, they at least in theory recognized truth as a defense.

      2. I’m too lazy to go back and check, but I wonder what this guy thought of NPR’s reporting on the Piss Christ exhibit. I’m sure he was appalled and wanted Serrano locked up for making fun of Jesus.

        1. Except he wasn’t making fun of Jesus. Serrano is a Christian.

            1. Which reminds me, I must get some Spanish ham.

  3. but I know?hope??that most Americans would. It is one thing to lampoon popes, imams, rabbis and other temporal religious leaders of this world; it is quite another to make fun, in often nasty ways, of their prophets and gods.

    Allah sucks bacon-wrapped donkey dicks, shitbird. If you don’t like, say something to my face, don’t send your PC goons to do it for you.

  4. Good riddance to that hyphenated cunt.

    -jcr

    1. I’ve often wondered what happens when two hyphenators get married and have children; just how they work the names out.

      1. The name order is determined by lot.

      2. They adopt the name of a cartoon character or a social justice blogger.

      3. The wife gets her way. What planet do you live on?

      4. You get one of those mile-long Spanish or Italian names.

  5. Making money online is never easy, because it has now become me. I freelance on the Internet, earning $ 375 per hour. By doing the work only requires that you have a computer and an Internet connection, you can have one in your home to get more time with his family. A little effort and a handsome profit dream is just a click away …

    ????? http://www.netcash50.com

  6. That’s how NPR’s ombudsman thinks?

    1. This surprises you…..why?

      It’s NPR for chrissakes. They are THE PEOPLES RADIO.

      The RIGHT kind of people of course.

    2. That’s exactly how I would expect NPR’s ombudsman to think.

      …that’s your fake-shocked face isn’t it?

    3. That’s how NPR’s ombudsman feels.

      1. I guess that’s more accurate.

    4. That’s how most JournoList buttplugs think these days.

      “Not enough free speech for me, too much free speech for you!”

    5. This…is how NPR’s ombudsman thinks.

      National Public Radio.

    6. I’m actually kind of surprised. I know I probably shouldn’t be, but I think not assuming people to be fucking stupid makes me a better person.

      How is “free” such a difficult word to understand? You can’t support free speech without supporting the right of people to say hateful or offensive things.

      1. This is clearly not at all how the NPR of my youth would have thought. Even in the beginning of the PC era there were no prominent lefties who would claim such a thing. In fact, they would be standing with the ACLU in defending the right of the Klan to march through some southern town that didn’t want them there.

  7. In this case, the competing social and constitutional demand is the control of hate speech in the interests of social cohesion, without which the very idea of a nation is impossible.

    Does that cohesion-disruptive hate speech that the ombudsman is talking about include also those speeches from politicians and community leaders that allege there is a racial bias from whites against blacks? Or those speeches meant to incite hatred towards rich people, or police officers?

    1. or antivaxxers?

    2. Only if whites or rich people kill enough people.

  8. The real issue isn’t that he hates free speech (that’s pretty much the feeling the entire American media has at this point), it’s the fact that you can prove by reading his post that he’s completely incompetent at his job.

    Not only did he idiotically claim that courts might have deemed Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons illegal, but he said that he felt a majority of Americans would think those cartoons shouldn’t be published. Unfortunately, Pew Research has already done polling on that subject, and found that 60% of Americans thought they should have published the cartoons, with only 28% saying they shouldn’t have.

    This polling already exists. The ombudsman doesn’t have to speculate since evidence is out there. The fact that he just assumed most Americans would be on his side when the polling says the opposite tells me that a) he doesn’t know how to do research on Google and b) he is in such a bubble that he knows nothing about the broader world.

    Both of those should have disqualified him from a job as an ombudsman.

    1. Those polls included too many of the wrong people. QED.

    2. c) he’s completely aware of the polling data and is using his column to push his own preferred agenda.

  9. You wouldn’t know this, however, from listening to the First Amendment fundamentalists piping up from Washington to Silicon Valley.

    Dear Edward Schumacher-Matos, you are a spineless, cowardly piece of shit.

    Sincerely, 1st Amendment Fundamentalist

  10. Again, who on earth cares what Charlie Hebdo wrote? Murder is a crime, and crime must be punished.

    If they gunned down the staff at Salon, or a massage parlor, would that be the occasion for a National Conversation on the value of left-wing magazines or massages? No, it would be the occasion for a conversation on catching the criminals and putting them in a deep, dark dungeon (or hanging them, for those who into that sort of thing).

    1. I’m guessing it would be time for a National Conversation about guns.

      Again.

      1. Aw crap….I think you would be correct.

  11. Here is something that Schumacher-Matos, who grew up in the United States, has worked as a journalist here for more than three decades, and has lectured on the First Amendment, really ought to know: There is no such thing as “hate speech unprotected by the Constitution.”

    He also teaches at Columbia School of Journalism. They are certainly racing to the bottom with Rutgers.

    1. He doesn’t teach at Columbia School for Journalism, you fucking philistine, he was the James Madison Visiting Professor Chair on First Amendment Issues.

      Next time, why don’t you get the title right for one of the greatest legal minds of ours or any era before embarrassing yourself.

      1. I see Anna learned from the best.

    2. I honestly don’t know how you explain someone being this stupid. American journalism and journalism schools are just a culture of ignorance.

      1. I vaguely remember the time when journalists fought for the right to print pretty much any fucking thing they wanted.

        I cannot fathom how this fuckwad even exists.

        1. Notice how this waterhead included the caveat that it’s okay to make fun of “temporal” religious leaders so he doesn’t run afoul of the Larry Flynt liberal shibboleth?

          Yet something tells me he wasn’t leading any charges up the hill to denounce “Piss Christ” or any of its progeny.

          1. I bet he denounced Glenn Beck’s Piss Obama.

    3. What is it with these cunts and Columbia? I know if I was in charge over at Columbia I would be considering cease and desist orders against these fuckers. I don’t want my brand ruined by you fuckers.

      1. I don’t want my brand ruined by you fuckers.

        At this point, the fuckers are the Columbia brand.

    4. Well, if there’s one thing we learned from the Rolling Stone debacle, unless you have a degree from the Columbia School of Journalism you have to stand in the corner and shut the fuck up.

      (looking in Robby Soave’s direction)

      1. Exactly who I was thinking of.

    5. once held the James Madison Visiting Professor Chair on First Amendment Issues at Columbia University

      Perhaps the most frightful part of this story. This moron was teaching at a prestigious school, influencing young skulls full of mush.

  12. …hate speech unprotected by the Constitution…

    OH HOLY CRAP THERE’S SPEECH NOT PROTECTED BY THE CONSTITUTION???!!!?? Shit, this changes everything!

    [checks…]

    Oh, no, no there isn’t. Whew! False alarm guys, it’s just a moron.

    1. Fraud and direct credible threats are not.

  13. I do not know if American courts would find much of what Charlie Hebdo does to be hate speech unprotected by the Constitution,

    There is no and never has been any recognized exception to the 1st Amendment for “hate speech”. This is not Europe where things like Holocaust denial are illegal. Anyone who has read the Wikipedia entry on the 1st Amendment would know that.

    Forget politics, anyone who would make a statement like that is just offensively ignorant. And for a journalist to be that stupid is pretty epic even by the low standard set by American journalists. This is just embarrassing.

    1. Oh, it’s worse than that, John. This guy at one time held a professorship named after James Madison.

    2. I know, and I don’t specialize in First Amendment law. Heck, we see far worse than that published every single fucking day in the U.S.

      1. I mean, no one has locked up SugarFree, amirirte?

        1. Precisely. Each time your stomach lurches while reading his lurid prose, America is slightly freer.

    3. That is pretty amazing. How fucking ignorant can he be? Does he actually believe that hate speech (whatever that is even supposed to mean) isn’t protected by the first amendment? Hasn’t he ever heard of Westboro Baptist Church? Or Illinois Nazis?
      I though it was supposed to be a point of pride in this country that we protect the right to speak even for people we strongly disagree with.

  14. The best part is towards the end when he starts intellectually masturbating and declares that NPR’s only bias is a bias towards the ‘truth and evidence’ that their ‘college educated listeners’ demand.

    He says this after wondering aloud whether or not the Constitution defends hate speech, despite the fact that many Supreme Court cases have already determined that it does.

    You’d think someone biased towards truth and evidence would have known that already.

    1. Typo – he meant to say “truthiness”

  15. Ever notice the perfect correlation between those who want to ban “hate speech” with those who characterize opposing political views as ‘hate’ ?

    1. And only slightly less correlation with people with amazingly punchable faces.

  16. So he doesn’t support the Charlie Hebido attackers, but only becaue he thinks the police should have been the ones attacking the Charlie Hebido staff instead of forcing those poor terrorists to resort to “self help” to resolve the situation.

    1. I have a cunning plan. Terrorist proxies. Instead of committing crimes of terrorism, the terrorists act through paid proxies within government, who, operating within the parameters of law, attack and destroy designated targets.

  17. Two straight punchable-face posts. Huh.

  18. The French news media may have their ethical standards, but they are not American or sacred universal ones, and they shouldn’t be French ones either.

    Jesus. Fuck you, dude.

  19. It has sinned mightily against slaves and immigrants

    Wow, not only does he ignore Native Americans, it’s like he phrased it in order to avoid mentioning natives. The NPR set ought to be smashing his balls for that.

    1. It sinned so mightily that they kept coming here by the millions and do so until today.

      How many immigrants were lining up to go to the old USSR or Cuba or Venezuela today?

      This guy lives up to every stereotype of the hateful, ignorant NPR listener. I give NPR credit, they hire people who match their listeners.

  20. And the framers of the Constitution?I once held the James Madison Visiting Professor Chair on First Amendment Issues at Columbia University?never intended it to.

    That’s got to be about the most condescending, obnoxious thing I’ve ever seen in print. There’s no argument whatsoever; just blatant, self-serving credential-pulling.

    1. He doesn’t offer any argument because there is no argument to be made. He is just completely wrong. They absolutely intended to protect “offensive speech”. They didn’t intend to protect obscene speech, but they absolutely intended to protect offensive or controversial speech.

      1. What’s obscene speech?

        1. Porn. Obscenity laws were ubiquitous at the time of the drafting of the 1st Amendment and no one who drafted it nor anyone else at the time or until well into the 20th century ever thought it protected such.

          Yes, I know you think that it does and depending on how you look at it, maybe you are right. That however doesn’t mean the people who wrote it intended it that way. And that is my point.

          1. You’d think they would’ve included “except for porn” somewhere in the text then.

            1. No. You would have thought they would have immediately invalidated all of the obscenity laws. But they didn’t. And no one thought they should. So clearly that is not what they meant.

              You would think they would have including “except for porn” clause, if you a fucking moron who has no idea how the thing was drafted, sure.

              1. It took a long time for most of the protections we consider basic free speech/press to actually be enforced

                I’m sure they didn’t all intend for it to apply to obscenity, but if that’s what they wanted, they should have written it down. Perhaps some of the founders had trouble with the concept of freedom as well.

              2. I come down on the side of “the law is the law as written”. The first amendment clearly does not allow the government to regulate any speech whatsoever, including porn. No matter what their understanding was at the time.

                Of course, the same goes for just about everything that our federal government currently does. The constitutional construct of our government clearly requires explicit authority be granted in the constitution before the federal government can wield any powers at all. And most everything they do is not authorized by the constitution. Including the entitlements, weapons controls…. well, lets just say that as written the constitution provides for a very weak central government that would require many, many constitutional amendments to function as it currently does. Or as it ever did for that matter.

      2. You just need to look at the offensive speech these same guys slung at each other in electoral campaigns.

    2. Appeal to his own authority?

      1. Exactly, and it’s as if he deliberately wrote it to sound as boastful as possible. And it has only been a few years since the Supreme Court decided 8-1 to protect offensive speech in Snyder v. Phelps.

    3. I don’t recognize this position. It means nothing to me.

      For instance, I’m the permanent Sitting Professor Chair on First Amendment Issues at PimpWagon University of the Streets.

      I say hate-speech survives constitutional scrutiny.

  21. Hate speech is speech that I hate, right?

  22. And the framers of the Constitution?I once held the James Madison Visiting Professor Chair on First Amendment Issues at Columbia University?never intended it to.

    I’m sorry, but who the fuck is supposed to care what they *intended* to do?

    Never mind, I found it in the Bill of Rights We Sorta Wanted.

    1. In a number of ways, we have far greater speech rights than we did at the time of the founding. It’s one of the few areas that’s true. Not that we have perfection by any means, but it beats the other liberties we’ve completely or partially lost.

      1. I agree we have greater freedom of speech in the areas of butt sex and four letter words, but is there any evidence we’re more free in the realm of political speech?

        Political speech has become the central place where progressives claim we can apply restrictions, something the ‘liberals of the 80s’ warned against when conservatives attempted to restrict four-letter-word speech.

        I think the framers would he not only horrified, but perplexed that we can define money as speech in regards to an in-kind contribution.

        1. *define speech as money*

          Reverse those above.

          1. No, no, you had it right the first time.

            /Tony

        2. It’s not the wholesale freedom I’d like to have, but I’d say it nets out better than what we once had.

        3. Well, if you stretch “the founding” to include the enactment of the Sedition Act, I’d say that bit is a strong piece of evidence.

        4. ‘Conservatives’ like Al and Tipper Gore?

  23. ‘It is one thing to lampoon popes, imams, rabbis and other temporal religious leaders of this world; it is quite another to make fun, in often nasty ways, of their prophets and gods.’

    Interesting priorities. You can make fun of me, just please, not my imaginary friends!

    1. In any case, fuck this guy.

  24. As a journalist, I honestly hope that the opportunity someday arises for me to confront Edward Schumacher-Matos in a drunken — but fair — fight and repeatedly punch him the face. I have the feeling he and I don’t frequent the same establishments, however.

    1. He doesn’t hang out at the Double Deuce?

  25. Reason 7,952 why NPR no longer enjoys a place on my car radio.

  26. He is not saying that last month’s murderous attack on Charlie Hebdo (which he inaccurately calls a “bombing”)

    Huh?!

    1. Shooting, knifing, bombing…whatev.

      /NPR

  27. The United States is the ultimate multi-ethnic, multi-sectarian society. It has sinned mightily against slaves and immigrants, but has managed to hold itself together through imposition by a civil war, an evolving sense of morality, and yes, political correctness in how we treat each other. Laws followed along.

    Wrong, wrong wrong, wrong… wrong wrong wrong. Wrong.

    Wrong. Wrong wrong. Wrong. It’s so wrong, an explanation as to why it’s wrong isn’t even needed.

    Wrong.

    Wrong.

    W-R-O-N-G.

    1. ^^THIS^^

      We were never “multi ethnic”. It was called the melting pot for a reason.

      He doesn’t know what that word “sectarian means and uses it improperly. Sectarian means narrow minded and intolerant. Attaching the preface “multi” doesn’t even make any sense.

  28. “Comments for this thread are now closed.”

    Lololololol, of course they are. What a chickenshit piece of fucking garbage NPR is.

    1. They’re dead to me.

    2. I mean, at least they’re consistent. Gotta give ’em that.

  29. How difficult is it to understand “free”?

  30. the competing social and constitutional demand is the control of hate speech in the interests of social cohesion, without which the very idea of a nation is impossible. Look at the sectarian bloodbath that is the Middle East. Or look at the tensions in China, Myanmar, Ukraine, Nigeria, the Balkans, and elsewhere.

    Of course. It got that way because they talked smack.

  31. It is one thing to lampoon popes, imams, rabbis and other temporal religious leaders of this world; it is quite another to make fun, in often nasty ways, of their prophets and gods.

    He’s saying it’s worse to insult long-dead prophets & gods than it is to insult living people?

  32. one thing to lampoon popes, imams, rabbis and other temporal religious leaders of this world; it is quite another to make fun, in often nasty ways, of their prophets

    Littledick-Peabrain doesn’t want anyone to make fun of LDS?

    https://www.lds.org/topics/prophets?lang=eng

  33. I find Edward Schumacher-Matos’s article to be offensive hate speech. Where do I report it so he will be criminally prosecuted?

  34. Speech broadcast to the public by radio/wire must not be “obscene, indecent, or profane” per 18 U.S. Code ? 1462 and is not only NOT protected by the First Amendment but a crime:

    Whoever brings into the United States, or any place subject to the jurisdiction thereof, or knowingly uses any express company or other common carrier or interactive computer service (as defined in section 230(f)(2) of the Communications Act of 1934), for carriage in interstate or foreign commerce?
    (a) any obscene, lewd, lascivious, or filthy book, pamphlet, picture, motion-picture film, paper, letter, writing, print, or other matter of indecent character; or …..

    1. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

      Check, and mate.

  35. If you are a white, male, heterosexual and a victim of a violent crime committed by any kind of person other than another white, male, heterosexual, you should demand that the case be prosecuted as a hate crime.

    My bet is you won’t get anywhere with that. Then sue for discrimination.

    If enough denials of WMH victims’ requests for hate crime prosecution happen, some traction might be gained on abolishing hate crime laws.

    A beating should be just a beating, no matter what personal and personality aspects the victim and perpetrator have. That’s what EQUAL treatment means. No crime victim or perpetrator should receive special benefits or extra penalties simply because of the color of their skin, or their physical or mental gender.

  36. I’m at the point now that I’m actually FOR hate speech – whomever it’s directed at. I would advocate for hate speech directed exactly at me and my ilk – old white guys. Oh that’s right, that doesn’t count as hate speech since I am of the privileged oppressor class, or so they tell me. It can only be hate speech if it is directed one of the many I spend my days oppressing. Of course all this hate speech crap brings to mind Bill Buckley’s comment that we have free speech to protect good speech.

  37. Why am I not surprised that an NPR muckety-muck would only support government-approved “free” speech?

  38. We have no freedom of speech if we have no freedom of hate speech.

    Some people want to teach a maxim that differs from the one kids were taught when I was growing up in the ’40s:

    Sticks and stones may break my bones,
    But words and cartoons will utterly destroy me and everyone else.

    Rather than suppress speech, we need to show everyone that words and cartoons produce no harm unless one manufactures the harm in his or her mind. Only harmful behavior needs suppressing.

  39. This guy is a flat-out moron. Someone with his stinking ignorance on freedom of press issues should not be a journalist, let alone an ombudsman (!), let alone sully the memory of Madison by holding a chair that bears his name.

  40. NPR: Headlines and teasers:

    – Not angry with Global Warming deniers but their non acceptance of world weather diversity
    – Seattle elephants enter recovery/ rehab, 12 step therapy
    – Catholic hospital removes crucifixes after Muslim patient read ” Allah sucks’ in EKG readout

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.