The first amendment in the constitution of the United States does not protect against hate speech. “Fighting words,” however, are viewed by the Supreme Court to “incite an immediate breach of peace” which allows the law to step in from there (Hudson Jr.). The difference is that these fighting words are said with the intention to initiate violence. Hate speech can be expressed without the intentions of inciting physical injury.
Though it is scary to think that our government may not be able to protect us against hateful speech in a time when our president is tracked by many different online news websites on how many people he has offended/disrespected to date, we must use our own rights to free speech to combat the negativity thrown at us.
But how does having such a hateful rhetoric manage to get you to one of the highest positions of power in our country? Let’s take a look.
President Trump is notorious for making headlines almost every day in which he has either done, said, or tweeted something that blatantly attacks a particular group or person. He has partaken in this kind of stuff for as long as we can remember, however. If we just look at the history of his twitter account, even some of his tweets dating back to 2011 were created in outrage, dislike, or intolerance of things or people he just doesn’t agree with. More recently, his attacks have been towards people that call him out for being inconsistent or insensitive.
So why does this type of rhetoric work? Or more importantly, why did America’s majority fall for it? We can compare the ways in which the oppressed people of our nation are treated/recognized to the ways in which Caliban is oppressed by Prospero in Shakespeare’s The Tempest.
Prospero is never respectful of Caliban. He constantly calls him derogatory names when addressing him, and this works to establish himself as the master: the person with more power. Such as when Prospero calls Caliban “poisonous” and “got by the devil himself,” he does so in order to make Caliban approach him and tend to his needs (1.2.383). By Caliban answering his call, he in a way submits to the names Prospero gives him. Though the scene continues and they argue because Caliban refuses to complete Prospero’s orders, Shakespeare’s play does not allow Caliban to successfully rebel against Prospero. Though he blatantly shows dislike and resentment towards his oppression, Shakespeare makes Caliban toward the ending of the play actually comply to Prospero’s orders responding “[a]y, that I will” when asked to return to his cell (5.1.351).
When Trump wants to establish power over a certain group of people, he will also use derogatory terms to identify them with, such as when he explained his opinions about Mexican immigrants during his campaign for last year’s Presidential Election: “[w]hen Mexico sends it people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems […] They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists […]” (Daily News). Though other rhetorical purposes for these statements include invoking people prejudiced against Mexican people into following and supporting him, he establishes that he has power over these immigrants. That he has the right to say these things and while assuming the highest position in the nation, he will uphold these beliefs.
This is an example of the power of his hateful rhetoric and how he abuses his platform. By expressing these statements out to the public, those that already had these same ideas in them feel more validated to believe in them even though they are hateful and morally wrong. It can also cause others to be persuaded by his words. Much like Miranda has been persuaded by Prospero that Caliban is inhuman and a vile being, the power of Trump’s rhetoric can cause people to adopt these hateful beliefs.
Now that he is our president,
as much as that pains me to say we must watch and judge for ourselves what statements of his we find to hold truth and what ones are immoral and idiotic. Though some may feel this is the worst president we’ve ever had, we must try to keep this kind of analyzation in mind whenever it comes to politics. Even news stations aim to distract us from more dire problems in the world, like palm oil deforestation, the bee decline, or Flint, MI’s water epidemic. Thus, it is up to us to know better and to not be controlled by the hate rhetoric.