June 11, 2017
First Amendment 'Scares Me,' Slate Writer And Podcast Host Admits

The First Amendment continues to be an oft-debated topic among liberals and conservatives in the United States, but for one Slate writer and podcast host, it is, for the first time in her career, scary.

Dahlia Lithwick writes the "Jurisprudence" column at Slate and hosts the site's Amicus podcast. In a Sunday op-ed, she writes, "For the first time in my life, I'm afraid of the First Amendment."

To further explain her point, Lithwick says that a group of Nazis, white supremacists, Holocaust deniers, and other assorted xenophobes and racists came to her hometown of Charlottesville, Va., in a march led by alt-right personality Richard Spencer.

Their purpose was a march in support of a statue named for the Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

There has been a movement throughout the U.S. to stamp out Confederate imagery and honors, and that has led to many of the countermarches like the one in Charlottesville.

Lithwick argues that when it comes to the First Amendment, "That is what has become of free speech in this country," adding that is the reason she is "contemplating breaking up with it."

Lithwick continues.

"I don't think I'm alone, either. There are a lot of people out there who feel that they ignored racist, xenophobic, sexist white supremacists at their own peril, for months and years, when they should have been punching back. And now, a lot of people in my town are not quite sure what to do."
To further exhibit the dangers of free speech and the First Amendment, Lithwick points out the Portland, Ore., white supremacist, who killed two men in May, noting that he had attended multiple free speech rallies.Others, she argues, no longer go to such events wondering if violence will break out, but instead it is "almost expected."

Dahlia also praised Portland's mayor, Ted Wheeler, for attempting to revoke the permits of alt-right protesters in his city.

Wheeler was found to have overstepped the U.S. Constitution in so doing, but his intentions were "good," Lithwick said, noting that Wheeler had taken his actions as an attempt to curb hate speech, which "is not protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution."

"Unfortunately, he is wrong as a matter of fact and of First Amendment doctrine because if Nazis get to march in Skokie, Illinois, racists can march in Portland," Lithwick acknowledged, as did the ACLU of Oregon.

In the end, Dahlia remarks, the First Amendment appears to be "allowing us to batter and attack one another in ways that are more pernicious" and asks "Why is my city, roiled and bruised by the events of May [the Portland murders], still allowing the KKK to march here next month?"

Ultimately, Lithwick concludes, "to guarantee an escape from conflict, from violence, requires censorship" and living with the First Amendment in these "high stakes" times requires one "to live with fear."

Many of the leading conservative voices have yet to sound off on Lithwick's column, but the narrative on the right is considerably different when it comes to where the violence is coming from.

Conservatives seized on the violence and threats of violence leveled at Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter during their attempts to speak at the University of California at Berkeley as well as Kathy Griffin's "decapitation" of President Donald Trump as evidence the left can be just as violent as the right.

But what do you think, readers?

Is the First Amendment "dangerous" to modern society? Sound off in the comments section below.

[Featured Image by Jasn/Flickr Creative Commons/Resized and Cropped/CC BY-NC 2.0]