Thanks for visiting!
Sign up now to learn about future programs and Holocaust education resources for the classroom.



Newsletter signup is also available in our footer if you prefer to keep browsing before you subscribe.
BLOG

ANTISEMITISM

CURRENT EVENTS



Americans know it’s not always pleasant to watch free speech in action.

View more +

As we witnessed this summer in Charlottesville, free speech can be hateful. It can be corrosive and demeaning. And yet, as Americans, we are dedicated to protecting free speech to a degree that our counterparts in other countries find astonishing—even ill-considered. It’s part of our Constitution, and part of our national character.

A 2015 Pew Research Center study of attitudes in 38 countries found that Americans are more tolerant of free speech than citizens of any other nation. Seventy-one percent of US respondents said they believe people should be able to say and write what they like without government interference or censorship.

Our full-throated commitment to free speech doesn’t mean we always have an easy relationship with it—the First Amendment has faced countless legal challenges from those who argue that our freedom of speech has actually become a freedom to intimidate, or a freedom to instill fear. That tension was famously on display in 1978, when the city government of Skokie, Illinois, filed a suit to stop neo-Nazis from marching through their town. At the time, Skokie, a suburb of Chicago, was home to an unusually high number of Holocaust survivors, and the mayor and other officials argued that the neo-Nazis’ right to free speech paled in comparison to the survivors’ right not to be terrorized. The ACLU stepped in to defend the neo-Nazis’ First Amendment rights, and the case went all the way to the US Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of the ACLU and the First Amendment. The neo-Nazis never marched in Skokie—they took their awful, legally-protected speech to Chicago, instead.

As a writer and researcher at the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, I know that the Skokie case remains painfully relevant, even today. I know how challenging it can be to balance the legal right to free speech with the much more human need for all citizens to feel safe.

My job involves monitoring and writing about some of the most hateful groups and people in America—from the Ku Klux Klan to neo-Nazis to anti-Muslim extremists. Every day, my colleagues and I are confronted with images and words of hate and vitriol. We read about Richard Spencer’s dreams for a white ethnostate. We listen to Milo Yiannopoulos disparage transgender people. We watch videos of speeches by anti-Muslim bigots like Pamela Geller and Frank Gaffney, who capitalize on fear and xenophobia and blame an entire religion for the actions of a few extremists.

We listen to these hateful people speak because it’s part of our jobs. We also listen because we need to know what they are saying. Their speech is real, and it affects people’s lives. And that’s the main reason we need to protect their right to speak publicly and freely.

Hateful speech that is muffled or suppressed will still exist. It will just go underground, where it has the potential to become even more powerful. People who are prone to extremism are often drawn to ideas and movements that society deems inappropriate.

I’m also a firm believer in countering vile speech with good speech. Whenever neo-Nazis march, the rest of us have to show up to peacefully protest the swastikas, racism and anti-Semitism on display. Whenever a Klan group leaves recruitment fliers on suburban doorsteps, the rest of us need to come together and make sure that every member of our community feels supported and safe.

The First Amendment is a right that confers huge responsibility. At this moment in history, the responsibility part of the equation seems to be falling to those of us who believe in civil rights, equality, and kindness.

Students who are keeping up with the news will undoubtedly have questions, and possibly concerns, about the practicability and ethics of protecting free speech, even when that speech feels confrontational, offensive, or just plain wrong. It’s a conundrum that can feel uncomfortable, and it’s important to allow the conversation to be in that place of discomfort. That’s where real critical thinking happens—about individual rights and the responsibilities inherent in living in a democracy. Ask your students how they feel about the rights of neo-Nazis to march in Skokie. Ask them how they might respond to a hateful person coming to speak in their city. Allow them to take up the different sides of the arguments, and help them understand that while the First Amendment is a bedrock principle, applying it fairly and objectively isn’t always easy.

After all, it’s no small feat to respect an individual’s right to express bigoted ideas. But that’s what Americans have always done. Just as one bigot has the right to speak his mind, the rest of us have a responsibility to let him know we’re watching, we oppose his hate—and we’re not going away.

Jessica Reaves is the senior writer and communications specialist at ADL’s Center on Extremism. The views expressed here are hers alone.



FacebookTwitterEmailCopy Link


Close -




PREVIOUS POSTS



> <
GET INVOLVED
FAQs
PRIVACY POLICY

Echoes & Reflections is committed to privacy. This privacy policy discloses our information gathering and dissemination practices for this website: www.echoesandreflections.org.
This site contains links to other sites. Echoes & Reflections is not responsible for the privacy practices or the content of such Web sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by echoesandreflections.org.

GENERAL INFORMATION COLLECTION AND USE

Echoes & Reflections is the sole owner of the information collected on this site. We will not sell, share, or rent this information to others in ways different from what is disclosed in this statement. We collect information from our users at several different points on our website.

COOKIES AND WEBSITE ANALYTICS

Our site uses 'cookies'. A cookie is a piece of data stored on the user's hard drive containing information about the user. Usage of a cookie enables us to track and target the interests of our users to enhance the experience on our site, but is in no way linked to any personally identifiable information while on our site. If a user rejects the cookie, they may still use our site. The only drawback to this is that the user may be limited in some areas of our site (for example, certain surveys or other such activities).
We use Google Analytics to collect information about visitor traffic and behavior. This allows us to identify usage trends and to improve the performance and content of our websites.
We do not use this tool to collect or store your personal information, and it cannot be used to identify who you are. You can use the Google Analytics Opt-Out Browser Add-on to disable tracking by Google Analytics.
We currently do not use technology that responds to do-not-track signals from your browser.

VARIOUS REGISTRATIONS

To receive certain updates, enroll in certain programs, or use certain features of our website, a user may have to first complete a registration form. During registration a user is required to give their contact information (such as name and e-mail address). This information is used to contact the user about the services on our site for which they have expressed interest.

NEWSLETTER

If a user wishes to subscribe to our newsletter, we ask for contact information such as name and e-mail address.

ORDERS

Our site uses an order form for customers to request certain products. We collect visitor's contact information (such as name, e-mail, and address). Contact information from the order form is used to send information about Echoes & Reflections to the users of our website. The customer's contact information is also used to get in touch with the visitor when necessary. This information is not shared or resold in any circumstance except as may be required by law.
Users may opt-out of receiving future mailings; see the choice/opt-out section below.

SHARING

We may share aggregated demographic information with our partners. This is not linked to any personal information that can identify any individual person.
We use an outside shipping company to ship orders. These companies are contractually prohibited from retaining, sharing, storing or using personally identifiable information for any secondary purposes.
We may partner with third parties to provide specific services. When a user signs up for these services, we will share names, or other contact information that is necessary for the third party to provide these services.
These parties are contractually prohibited from using personally identifiable information except for the purpose of providing these services.

SECURITY

Our website has security measures in place to protect against the loss, misuse and alteration of the information under our control. This includes a firewall and 24 hour monitoring of site activities by our hosting service provider as well as 128-bit SSL encryption (where allowable by law) on all transaction oriented operations between you and Echoes & Reflections via our transaction service provider. While we use SSL encryption to protect sensitive information online, we also do everything in our power to protect user-information off-line. All of our users' information, not just the sensitive information mentioned above, is restricted in our offices. Only employees who need the information to perform a specific job (for example, our billing clerk, a customer service representative, or database administrator) are granted access to personally identifiable information. Any time new policies are added, our employees are notified and/or reminded about the importance we place on privacy, and what they are required to do to ensure our customers ' information is protected. Finally, the servers that we use to store personally identifiable information on are kept in a secure environment.

CHOICE/OPT-OUT ONLINE & OFFLINE

The following options are available for removing information from our database to discontinue receiving future communications or our service.

1. You can unsubscribe or change your e-mail preferences online by following the link at the bottom of any e-mail you receive from Echoes & Reflections via Constant Contact.
2. You can notify us by email at info@echoesandreflections.org of your desire to be removed from our e-mail list or contributor mailing list.

CONTACTING THE WEB SITE

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of our website or your interactions with the website, please send email us at info@echoesandreflections.org

NOTIFICATION OF CHANGES

If we decide to change our privacy policy, we will post those changes here so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and the circumstances, if any, we disclose it.
RESOURCE OVERVIEW
Echoes & Reflections delivers value to both experienced Holocaust educators who are supplementing their curricula and to teachers new to Holocaust education. Learn how to engage further with the important work of Echoes & Reflections by signing up here.

Third a Content