That CNN has become the journalistic equivalent of old manure is a truth that most Americans have embraced. So much so, in fact, that it almost feels like bullying to point out when one of their anchors makes a public fool of themselves. Still, when Chris Cuomo is out there tweeting his idiocy for the world to see, it’s hard not to take notice. It may not be tasteful to rubberneck when you drive past a car accident, but it’s just so damn hard to resist.
In response to someone who said they were tired of people pretending as though hate speech did not fall under the realm of free speech, Cuomo tweeted: “Hate speech is excluded from protection. Don’t just say you love the constitution…read it.”
Wow. There’s something beautiful about ignorance when it comes served with a side helping of arrogance. It can be infuriating, but there are other times when you just have to throw back your head and laugh. That an ostensibly-respected journalist thinks there is a clause in the First Amendment forbidding “hate speech” falls somewhere in the middle. It’s funny, but it’s also a little sad.
Cuomo isn’t that much of an idiot, of course. He doesn’t think the Constitution’s framers actually put an exception for hate speech into the Bill of Rights. Instead, as he explained later, he thinks the courts have decided that speech that rises to the “Chaplinsky test” is outlawed. That test, devised by the Supreme Court in 1942, determined that speech that could lead immediately to injury or “an immediate breach of the peace” could not be protected by the First Amendment.
It’s worth stopping here to mention that all of this is in the context of the “Draw Mohammed” contest in Garland, Texas. Liberals like Cuomo think that Pam Geller – the event’s organizer – crossed the line by holding such a contest. This opinion, unfortunately, isn’t limited to progressives. Even Bill O’Reilly has condemned Geller for poking the hornet’s nest. But even if everyone in the country agreed that Geller’s contest was ill-advised and contemptible, there is a difference between disagreeing with speech and legally forbidding it.
In the years since the Chaplinsky verdict, the courts have repeatedly narrowed the window in favor of free expression. More often than not, judges go out of their way to afford people the right to say whatever they want. That’s as it should be. It is far more dangerous to start limiting speech here and there based on societal trends. Sadly, that may be exactly where we’re headed as a country.
We won’t be the first. Several European countries and Canada have already tainted their democracies with “hate speech” laws. Liberals who want to see minorities protected from insults and bile think that’s just fine. They want to see it begin in America. What they don’t see, apparently, is how easy it would be to go from limiting hate speech to limiting political speech.
Then again, maybe they see it all too well.