Hate in America and Across the Pond: Analysis of Case Law and the Emerging Differences in Free Speech Rights across Two Western Societies
Normally, the United States and most of Europe are grouped into the same category as “Western countries”, yet their ideological differences have become larger in the last 50 years, especially in regards to free speech/expression protections. This raises the possibility that extremely broad free speech/expression protections aren’t intrinsic values of a Western society, but are instead an American experiment that was gradually adopted by Western Europe. Analyzing historical documents from both Europe and the United States, this becomes much more of a probability than a possibility and would help explain the recent differences in case law regarding free speech rights in American and European jurisprudence. Furthermore, Europe is also experiencing a potential threat to social stability in the form of massive, sudden demographic shifts, something that America has not experienced on nearly the same scale. Due to the heightened sensitivity towards hateful expression resulting from such a demographic shift, governmental action in the form of restrictions on racially, religiously, and ethnically charged forms of expressions may be deemed necessary in order to preserve social cohesion. Often throughout history, governments have deemed it necessary to limit free expression/speech and the spread of information in order to prevent any threat to its ability to rule, regardless of whether or not said government is tyrannical or democratized. Although not a direct threat to power, in a representative democracy social unrest created by increased division in the populace rooted in the spread of hateful ideology is nonetheless still a threat to those who depend on social harmony in order to govern in a representative democracy. In analyzing these two possible reasons for emerging differences and considering supporting textual and historical evidence, it becomes much clearer as to what the differences in case law and fundamental beliefs regarding the extent of free speech protections are attributable to.