For A Hate-Speech Bill That Could Open The Door To Censorship, The Muzzle Award Goes To Ed Markey

Whenever the free-speech rights of Sesame Street characters are threatened, US Senator Ed Markey is ready to stand up and be counted. For instance, consider what happened in 2012 after Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan, threatened to cut off funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Markey — then a congressman — issued a statement saying, “A Ryan-Romney ticket buys admission to a budget match-up where Big Oil wins and Big Bird loses.”

Sen. Ed Markey AP

Unfortunately, Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, is less enthusiastic when it comes to supporting the right to speak offensively on television, radio, and the Internet. This past April, Markey proposed legislation to monitor so-called hate speech that might instigate “crimes based on gender, race, religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.” The monitoring project would lead to a congressional report.

“We have recently seen in Kansas the deadly destruction and loss of life that hate speech can fuel in the United States, which is why it is critical to ensure the Internet, television and radio are not encouraging hate crimes or hate speech that is not outside the protection of the First Amendment,” Markey said in a press release.

Despite Markey’s assurances that his bill would not threaten constitutionally protected speech, others aren’t so sure. Civil-liberties lawyer Harvey Silverglate, who writes the Campus Muzzle Awards, which accompany this article, told the Boston Herald, “This proposed legislation is worse than merely silly. It is dangerous.”

And Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz put it this way in an interview with the conservative website NewsMax: “I have never in my life seen a successful effort to define hate speech that does not interfere with rights of free expression.”