When the ACLU prevailed in National Socialist Party of America v. Village of Skokie in 1977, it was to make a point that the protection of the First Amendment was for unpopular speech. After all, popular speech needed no protection. It was not to say that the speech was worthwhile, or acceptable, or even okay with them. But it was speech, and that was reason enough for it to be protected.
Now, some frat boys from SAE at the University of Oklahoma have disgraced themselves. It was caught on video and published, and the President of the University, David Boren, has expelled two students and threatened to shutter the fraternity, condemning the speech as creating a hostile educational environment. More sanctions may be coming.
On the one hand, this couldn’t have happened to a nicer bunch of guys. Post hoc explanations that they didn’t really mean it, aren’t really racists, don’t make it okay. There are lines one doesn’t cross, even in jest, and “only kidding” is so utterly inadequate as to offend again. There are no jokes to be had here.
And that’s what’s making people’s heads explode, because what happened here was so offensive, so unbearable, that there must be a way to punish it. And, indeed there is. Let the students who engaged in this speech be held accountable for it. The video is there for all to see who at the University of Oklahoma would do such a thing.
Let them be pariahs for their speech. Let them hear the counterspeech of their friends and classmates. Let them bear the consequences of the expression of twisted words.
Some law profs, like Eugene Volokh, Scott Lemieux and Howard Wasserman, have taken the position that, vile as this may be, it’s exactly what the First Amendment protects….
The speech was vile. The speech is protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. And nothing about that changes the fact that the students who uttered this speech should endure the brutal opprobrium of their fellow students, their teachers, their friends, their parents, and everyone else in society who will hold them in infamy for their words.
This speech was not okay. This is why it is protected by the First Amendment.
From Simple Justice –