Empty Words: The Supreme Court’s unequal view of speech

Sexual harassment often involves speech; so does slander; so do threats; so do hate crimes, often as not. Most of these things remain legally actionable—if only barely, sometimes. Online harassment is notoriously difficult to prosecute and most police departments either fail to take it seriously or elect to play ping-pong with the FBI over jurisdiction.

What the valiant free speech absolutists of our time, both on the Court and in the comment sections of countless blogs and websites, fail to grapple with is the fact that we do not live in a truly equal society. Some of us do have more speech than others, more right to that power than others, creating cultural distortions that actually prevent people from exercising the full range of their rights. By protecting the speech of pro-life protestors (which in and of itself was never under threat by a buffer zone; they were allowed to say the same things from that distance), we have yet again chipped away at a woman’s right to choose—and, frankly, it is a right that some genderqueer people and trans men might need to avail themselves of as well. As our own Alexandra Brodsky argued, a history of very real violence and aggression is often sired by the “speech” of those protesters.

via Empty Words: The Supreme Court’s unequal view of speech.