THE U.S. PEOPLE ARE CONFLICTED ABOUT WHAT HATE SPEECH IS.

75th COMMEMORATIVE ANNIVERSARY OF THE LIBERATION OF AUSCHWITZ

Sevgin OKTAY, Representative of The Light Millennium to the United Nations Department of Global Communications
We know that Hate speech is speech that attacks a person or a group on the basis of attributes such as race, religion, ethnic origin, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity.  The U.S. Supreme Court on the other hand has repeatedly ruled that hate speech is legally protected free speech under the First Amendment and therefore, Hate speech in the United States is not regulated, “in contrast to that of most other liberal democracies,” as noted by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres.

The United Nations General Assembly Hall was full to the brim by attendees from all over the World for the 75th commemorative anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the ending of the Second World War, and the ending of the Holocaust.  It was a moving commemoration as well as a clarion call for doing something about stopping the increase in anti-Semitism all over the world and upholding the often cited “Never Again” to its meaning.  What caught my attention was the emphasis that the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres put on the magnifying effect of “hate speech” on these matters in the opening speech as he had done on several occasions before. 

Picking up from UN Secretary General’s comments, one cannot help but take away the message that we should try to address the “cause” and not just the “symptom” of especially violent acts that are committed in the name of what is advertised in hate speeches.  Even though “Hate Speech” is not regulated in this country, people are clamoring what do about dastardly acts  such as the horrendous number of 435 mass shootings (defined as 4 people or more shot https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_mass_shootings_in_the_United_States_in_2019#List )   just in 2019 in the United States.   As I wrote before, according to CATO Institute 2017 survey, for example, 79% agree Hate Speech is morally unacceptable, and yet only 40% call for the government to prevent Hate Speech. 

Hate speech in the United States is not regulated

The U.S. people are conflicted about what Hate Speech is.  The United Nations should be spearheading in explaining and educating the world at large what hate speech is.  We know that Hate speech is speech that attacks a person or a group on the basis of attributes such as race, religion, ethnic origin, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity.  The U.S. Supreme Court on the other hand has repeatedly ruled that hate speech is legally protected free speech under the First Amendment and therefore, Hate speech in the United States is not regulated, “in contrast to that of most other liberal democracies,” as noted by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres.  We, in the Light Millennium group, believe that the standing as proclaimed by the courts in the US are not protected speech in accordance with the eight articles of the First Amendment.  His excellency Guterres continued to state in 2018:

“We are addressing many of these issues as we support governments in implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. But this new strategy goes further, recommending a coordinated response, including efforts to identify those who engage in hate speech, and those who are best placed to challenge it. The strategy promotes education as a preventive tool that can raise awareness and bring about a shared sense of common purpose to address the seeds of hatred,“ which The Light Millennium Group applauds. 

Accordingly, we urge that there also be an SDG #18 called “Empathetic Speech” against “Hate Speech” that is conveyed to the governments “in implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”

Coming back to the Holocaust ceremony on 27 January2020, taking place 75 years to the day of the liberation by the Soviet forces of Auschwitz Birkenau Nazi German concentration and extermination camp (1940-1945), was hosted by Ms. Melissa Fleming, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Global Communications. The event included remarks by the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, the President of the seventy-fourth session of the United Nations General Assembly, the Permanent Representatives of Germany, Israel, Russia and the United States to the United Nations, and Mr. Dan Pavel Doghi, Chief of the CPRSI, Senior Adviser on Roma and Sinti Issues, OSCE/ODIHR. Holocaust survivors Mr. Shraga Milstein and Ms. Irene Shashar shared their testimonies. Judge Theodor Meron, who served as the President of the United Nations International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, delivered the keynote speech. Rabbi Arthur Schneier recited the Kaddish and Cantor Shulem Lemmer the memorial prayers. Mr. Itzhak Perlman delivered a musical contribution.

The Permanent Mission of Turkey to the United Nations hosted a side event, which unfortunately I could not attend, on the occasion of Holocaust Remembrance Day during which Turkish Pianist Ms. Renan Koen gave a piano recital. Renan Koen, is an international pianist, known for her efforts to publish the life-stories, ideals and works of composers who continued to create notwithstanding the prohibitions imposed on them while being imprisoned in concentration camps during the Second World War. She has given many recitals in Holocaust Remembrance events all around the world.

All in all, it was an impressive crowd of people attending the 75th commemorative anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the ending of the Second World War, and the ending of the Holocaust.  It is not only hoped but that the event will help people live up to the motto “Never Again.”

Sevgin OKTAY, Representative of The Light Millennium to the
United Nations Department of Global Communications

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