Free to Hate: Hate Crimes' Intertwinement with the Evolution of Free Speech in the United States
Acknowledgements: Special thanks to my advisors Dr. Rupal Mehta & Dr. Donald Beahm who guided me in this project, and to UCARE for research funding.
In response to the growing tension between civil liberties and civil rights, this research investigates the relationship between the relative expansiveness of free speech and a the nationwide propensity for hate crimes. I argue that government’s legal limitations of speech influence the development of linguistic and hierarchical norms in a national culture. Given structural inequality’s association to violence and crimes of intimidation, I hypothesize that as the government expands the legal bounds of free speech, the national propensity for hate crimes decreases. Text analyses of 50 influential freedom of expression rulings in the United States (U.S.) Supreme Court from 1919-2019 demonstrate the United States’ increased tendency over the past century to rule with an increasingly expansive interpretation of freedom of expression. A conglomeration of secondary source data of prejudice-motivated victimizations in the U.S. over the same century creates an image of a rising annual hate crime victimization. This data and other findings within the research suggest that the national attention to hate crimes and tendency to record these incidents was deeply intertwined with cultural development in the U.S., specifically as it relates to social movements and attitudes towards diversity.
For complete work, see: https://go.unl.edu/free-to-hate-box
icon search Searchable Transcript
Toggle between list and paragraph view.
[00:00:00.990]Hello, my name is Lee Paulson.
[00:00:03.060]This is a presentation of my
independent research project
[00:00:06.180]entitled Free to Hate: Hate Crimes'
Intertwinement with Free Speech in the
[00:00:11.610]This research is in response
to the growing tension
between civil liberties and
[00:00:15.480]civil rights, and it investigates the
relationship between the relative
[00:00:20.220]expansiveness of free speech and the
nationwide propensity for hate crimes.
[00:00:27.410]My research question was how has the
evolving definition of free speech
[00:00:31.370]influenced the propensity for
hate crimes in the United States?
[00:00:35.000]In response, first
[00:00:36.200]I argue that the development of a
culture's social hierarchy and linguistic
[00:00:39.980]norms are influenced by
the legal limitations,
[00:00:42.560]that government places on
speech. To understand this
[00:00:45.620]it is important to think about how
communication is both reflective of the
[00:00:49.190]worldviews in a society,
[00:00:51.050]and that it influences those worldviews.
Meaning hate speech, as an expression of
[00:00:55.640]prejudice, reflects prejudice
sentiment in a society,
[00:00:59.390]and it influences others to normatively
accept prejudice, social hierarchy.
[00:01:04.580]However, communication is
also an agent of change.
[00:01:08.420]So this means that there
is more opportunity to
challenge hierarchy when the
[00:01:12.140]social and legal permission for speech
is broader. While a legally broad range of
[00:01:17.390]does mean that hate speech may be
permitted given that the majority is most
[00:01:21.890]likely to hold political power,
[00:01:23.570]it poses a lesser danger than allowing
governments to determine which speech is
[00:01:27.800]permitted and which is not to connect
this to violence and crimes of
[00:01:32.750]This means that if the norms of a
society maintain prejudice attitudes,
[00:01:37.280]structural inequality is a likely result.
[00:01:40.190]Structural inequality is associated
with violence and crimes
[00:01:43.700]of intimidation. Hate crimes,
my response variable are innately
[00:01:48.110]intertwined with that drive
to maintain social dominance,
[00:01:51.560]a drive that is perpetuated through
hegemonic ideology and when there's a
[00:01:56.360]weakness, and that hegemonic facade,
[00:01:58.700]meaning when people challenge the
oppressive assumptions of a culture,
[00:02:03.020]violence and intimidation are used to
silence and maintain existing social
[00:02:08.660]This leads me to my hypothesis that as a
more speech is permitted by government,
[00:02:12.980]the nationwide propensity for
hate crimes decreases. To test this
[00:02:18.770]I assessed and score the relative
liberalism of 50 randomly selected court
[00:02:23.600]rulings from a pool of
75 a major Supreme court
[00:02:27.260]freedom of expression cases
over the past century.
[00:02:30.740]So, I created a free speech index to
comparatively assess the relative level
[00:02:35.600]of liberalism between the cases
accounting for the different types of free
[00:02:39.470]speech cases present in the sample.
[00:02:41.930]This involved a detailed reading and
index scoring of each case ruling,
[00:02:46.400]which was followed by a chronological
graphing of the Supreme court index scores
[00:02:50.690]over the past century. And
during that same century,
[00:02:54.230]I collected as much data as I could
feasible within the practical limitations
[00:02:59.170]of this project
[00:03:00.550]in order to chart the number of reported
hate crimes during that century.
[00:03:05.320]And by no means is my resulting data
set of the recorded hate crimes,
[00:03:10.390]a authoritative set, um,
[00:03:13.390]a multitude of limitations arose
while I was collecting this data,
[00:03:17.260]which I will elaborate on,
[00:03:18.910]but I do believe that these discrepancies
themselves provide an informative
[00:03:22.720]window into the past. My findings show,
[00:03:26.130]a clear trend of liberalization
and the freedom of speech rulings.
[00:03:29.790]When the Supreme court first began
ruling on free speech in the early 20th
[00:03:33.660]century, the rulings were
rather restrictive and arbitrary.
[00:03:37.110]Nearly universally from
1919 to 1957 government
[00:03:41.730]restricted speech that it found
harmful or mostly potentially harmful
[00:03:46.590]in accordance to the dominant culture's
and government's preferences over
[00:03:51.120]time, particularly post 1969,
[00:03:54.540]the Supreme court ruled in an
increasingly egalitarian and unbiased way
[00:03:59.730]by routinely ruling in favor of
controversial ideas and ideas despised by
[00:04:04.680]government as a whole and the general
public at the time, for example,
[00:04:09.060]flag burning as for the other
variable and contradictions the
[00:04:13.830]expectations of my hypothesis,
[00:04:15.960]the annual recorded hate crime rate did
rise dramatically over the past century.
[00:04:21.600]I will stress that the data collected
does not represent the actual number of
[00:04:25.770]hate crimes committed each year,
[00:04:28.080]but rather only the
incidents which were recorded
[00:04:32.430]the implications of the quantitative
and qualitative data I encountered in my
[00:04:36.720]search for hate crime
records are fascinating.
[00:04:39.450]So to start the term of hate crimes,
[00:04:41.610]didn't actually come into popular
usage until the 1970s or 80s.
[00:04:46.350]And shortly after the government
and advocacy organizations
began to collect data
[00:04:51.030]on hate crime incidents. As a result,
[00:04:54.060]many of the acts of
violence and intimidation,
[00:04:56.400]we would stay consider hate crimes
were not categorized as specifically
[00:05:00.750]prejudice motivated crimes. That is,
if they were considered crimes at all.
[00:05:05.760]Yet many of the acts of violence during
the first half of the 20th century were
[00:05:10.050]horrendous, unimaginably violent,
and explicitly racially motivated.
[00:05:15.990]I went through written accounts of
race riots from 1919 through 1949.
[00:05:20.820]These riots comprised of arson,
[00:05:23.010]violent assault and the murder of
literally entire black communities.
[00:05:27.810]These rides could last hours or days,
[00:05:30.630]and they were instigated by racial
tension. In at least one instance,
[00:05:34.840]an entire black town, it was abandoned
in a collective flee for life.
[00:05:39.390]These incidents were not
considered criminal acts,
[00:05:43.260]generally speaking white on black violence
was not considered a criminal act.
[00:05:48.510]So this is why I and other scholars
are greatly skeptical of this
[00:05:53.130]appearance that the number of hate
crimes increased so dramatically.
[00:05:56.640]These findings are not substantial evidence
to conclude that the nation's actual
[00:06:01.160]propensity for hate crimes increased
over the past century. Rather,
[00:06:05.540]the data implies that the national
tendency to record hate crimes increased.
[00:06:11.510]this hollowed-out historical record
speaks directly to my theory--that
[00:06:16.520]hegemonic ideology discounts the
experiences of those that it oppresses.
[00:06:21.230]While a rumor of a black man raping a
white woman was a cause for newspaper
[00:06:25.550]articles, lynchings, and these
devastating deadly race riots,
[00:06:30.050]historical records of white men
raping black women is eerily vacant.
[00:06:35.450]During this time,
[00:06:36.500]people were pressured to heed to social
hierarchy and certainly leave it
[00:06:40.610]unchallenged. The only recorded
violence against oppressed
[00:06:44.180]people was publicized violence intended
to broadcast the reprimandation of
[00:06:49.070]minorities that were suspected
of challenging the norms
of hegemonic ideology.
[00:06:54.410]The intimidation latent publicity
was a utility for maintaining
[00:06:59.390]racial hierarchy and
legitimizing hegemony. From
what I was able to find,
[00:07:04.400]the American history of committed hate
crimes is largely vacated from the first
[00:07:08.840]half of the 20th century. Yet
given the culture of the time,
[00:07:12.620]I have little doubt that the acts we
would today consider hate crimes were more
[00:07:17.330]than likely very widespread.
[00:07:20.570]These implications do parallel my findings
of the Supreme court during the
[00:07:24.380]first half of the 20th century:
that free speech was not vibrant.
[00:07:28.610]It is not surprising that crimes
of prejudice motivated violence and
[00:07:31.940]intimidation were not deemed important
to record when culture and government
[00:07:36.920]worked hand in hand to maintain
social and racial hierarchy.
[00:07:40.970]Thus, my research implies that the
patterns of socially and legally enforced
[00:07:45.020]silence are motivated to maintain a
lack of opposition to the hegemonic
[00:07:49.280]ideology and public
dialogue. I could go on,
[00:07:52.610]but unfortunately I am out of time.
So, thank you very much for listening.
Log in to post comments