Americans still believe in free speech

Freedom of expression in the USA - I guess we can still say that

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The Nazi rally in Charlottesville fuels an old question: does freedom of speech apply to the enemies of freedom?

Not only since the Charlottesville incidents has there been a heated debate in the USA about what "free speech" means for the country and American society. Does a march of neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan, racist and anti-Semitic calls fall under the fundamental right of freedom of expression, which is anchored in the US Constitution?

Yes, says one of the oldest civil rights movements in the United States, the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU is best known as a politically more left-wing organization. ACLU attorney Lee Rowland, however, sees no scope for political disputes in freedom of expression:

One of the most famous and controversial in ACLU history was when we defended the march of self-proclaimed Nazis through the streets of Skokie, a town where many Holocaust survivors lived.
Author: Lee RowlandACLU Attorney

The special thing about the first basic right is that it protects the citizens, no matter what their point of view or what conviction they have.

Large corporations mark the limits of what can be said

Numerous companies such as Google, PayPal and GoDaddy have long made it difficult for racist and right-wing extremist groups in the USA to do their business online. They don't want to support hateful content, they say from Silicon Valley. After the violent protests in Charlottesville, the attitude of the free speech advocates was again questioned.

The New York Times and the Governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe, criticized the ACLU, as here in an interview with the NPR radio network: “We, the city of Charlottesville, had tried to move the demonstration from downtown to a park a mile and a half away embarrassed, an open field. The demo should have been there. Unfortunately we were sued by ACLU and a judge agreed. "

Freedom is always the freedom of those who think differently.
Author: Rosa Luxemburg

“Free speech” is defended in the USA from all sides and for everyone. What seems unthinkable in European countries is everyday life in the USA. One only has to look at amazon.com to understand what free speech means in the United States.

In the largest internet department store in the world you can find the most notorious children's books from the Third Reich, the hate speech "The poison mushroom" and "Don't trust a fox on green Heid’ and no Jew ’in his oath" published by Nuremberg's Stürmer Verlag.

In addition, swastika flags, various other Nazi propaganda materials and National Socialist songs such as the "Horst Wessel Lied". It is completely legal to sell and buy something like this in the United States. All of this falls under freedom of expression.

The limits of freedom

"Freedom is always the freedom of those who think differently," said Rosa Luxemburg 100 years ago. This requirement, which is entirely understandable in theory, is currently being hotly debated in the USA. Because the question is: Does freedom of expression have limits and if so, when will they be reached?

There are already examples of this in which the “free speech” enshrined in the American constitution has been restricted. Nobody is allowed to shout "fire" in a full theater and thus trigger a mass panic.

Nor should one call for direct violence, for example demanding that the president be shot. This means that the call for direct violence is not always covered by this absolute and apparently irrefutable fundamental right in the USA.

Arndt Peltner

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The freelance USA correspondent works for several German-language newspapers and radio stations, including SRF. Born in Nuremberg, he lives near San Francisco.

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  • Commentary by Hans Bernoulli (H.Bernoulli)
    "... while these people are ... unconscious of the multitude of diabolical and anti-American actions our government is taking on their behalf at home and abroad ... as if these people really care that their government is acting in a completely diametrical manner to our state constitution ... These people may not be as superficial as an avowed Nazi, but despite everything they are far more dangerous "for US citizens as well as citizens abroad.
    Agree agree to the comment
  • Comment from Wolfgang Bortsch (a2b3c4d5)
    "I hate what you say, but I would give my life to keep you free to say it." Doesn't this philosophical idea sound familiar to you?
    Agree agree to the comment
    1. answer from Christa Wüstner (Saleve2)
      a philosophical thought that also contains a contradiction in terms. Even if Voltaire said it in his day, aphorisms are often taken out of context and then used as proverbs in other events. This sentence comes from the time of the Enlightenment and also for free opinion formation. But can it still be used for anything today.?
      Agree agree to the comment
    2. Show answers
  • Comment from Christa Wüstner (Saleve2)
    Freedom of speech and freedom of opinion for everyone yes but ..... if freedom of speech is used to represent ideologies that are tantamount to sedition, then no. With such a ban for the protection of the state, however, a ban on assembly would also have to be pronounced. Such a difficult question that can hardly be answered in general. A totalitarian state can then also forbid any freedom of speech. Hence the words of R. Luxemburg: Freedom is always the freedom of those who think differently.
    Agree agree to the comment
    1. answer from Christa Wüstner (Saleve2)
      I disagree When dissidents use your opinion to harm a state, then free speech is used to advocate its ideologies. As was the case with the Nazis.
      Agree agree to the comment
    2. answer from Karl Kirchhoff (Charly)
      There are also minorities here that the current government, although democratically elected, would prefer to abolish it and impose a different one on the majority. Actually, it is always minorities that are dissatisfied. Sometimes opponents of nuclear power, sometimes environmentalists, sometimes opponents of refugees, etc. Everyone is probably somewhere, part of a minority. Thoughts are free but freedom of speech is limited where it turns into agitation. My opinion.
      Agree agree to the comment
    3. answer from Christa Wüstner (Saleve2)
      Absolutely correct. I only complained because I was activated with O points. Then you shouldn't even post such a comment.
      Agree agree to the comment
    4. answer from Hans Bernoulli (H.Bernoulli)
      Think of the agitation against Putin and Russia, which was encouraged by those who now accuse others of agitation. Sentences like "those who are not with us are against us" are also inflammatory. This is an example that a government can also hate speech. This especially against the current enemy and everyone who doesn't go along with them.
      Agree agree to the comment
    5. answer from Christa Wüstner (Saleve2)
      I also agree with Mr. Kirchhoff. Hate speech always finds followers who do not want to express themselves.
      Agree agree to the comment
    6. Show answers

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