San Antonio's dumb anti-hate speech resolution doesn't violate First Amendment

San Antonio's dumb anti-hate speech resolution doesn't violate First Amendment

Fear not people of the Alamo City! The words ‘Kung Fu Virus’ and ‘Chinese Virus’ remain in the lexicon, for now. One needn’t fear governmental reprisal, at the moment, although an online tongue-lashing or eye-roll may be in the future of those who use those rather ridiculous terms.

The San Antonio City Council passed a non-binding resolution last week scolding those (think President Donald Trump) who add a country of origin before coronavirus.

“COVID-19 is a public health issue, not a racial, religious or ethnic one, and the deliberate use of terms such as “Chinese virus” or “Kung Fu virus” to describe COVID-19 only encourages hate crimes and incidents against Asians and further spreads misinformation at a time when communities should be working together to get through this crisis,” the resolution clucked before condemning conspiracy theorists who seek to pin the pandemic on the Jews. “[I]t is critical that the City of San Antonio take leadership and stand in solidarity with its Asian and Jewish communities to send a message that discriminatory and hate-motivated behavior or violence will not be tolerated.”

Their solution?

“The City of San Antonio will continue its efforts to protect residents and targets and victims of hate, and to prosecute and curb hate acts related to COVID-19,” the City Council vowed before calling on everyone in San Antonio to treat each other with respect. “The City of San Antonio urges residents to join us in calling attention to these harms and denouncing hate to help keep us all safe during this unprecedented pandemic and beyond.”

Typical politician speak found in a variety of resolutions across the country and the world. A rhetorical slap with no real power behind it since the uttering of rude and uncouth phrases is still allowed in this country although there’s a chance someone may be ‘canceled,’ to use the rather tired phrase, by society. Blasé, at best.

The response was surprising for a rather bland resolution. San Antonio talk show host Joe Pagliarulo called it a “Gestapo or Soviet move,” while Senator Ted Cruz deplored it as “NUTS.” Hot Air’s Karen Townsend wrote the City Council decided to “stifle the First Amendment rights of San Antonio residents” with a rather excellent quip on the Communist Chinese overlords being proud.

Yet, no First Amendment rights are being squelched. A part of the confusion may be due to News 4 San Antonio reporter Jaie Avila’s failed attempt to connect the terms “Chinese virus” and “Kung Fu virus” with hate speech. The resolution claimed the phrases encourage hate crimes but failed to splash any hate speech label on “Chinese virus” or “Kung Fu virus.” It’s doubtful anyone who wisecracks, “I think I got the Wu Flu,” on social media or in a public setting will end up with a police visit. Nor should they, unless they follow it up with some sort of specific, violent threat.

The overreaction was unnecessary but so was the resolution. Mayor Ron Nirenberg attempted to justify the resolution to San Antonio Express-News with a claim about rising racially-motivated crimes in San Antonio since the start of the pandemic. He failed to provide any evidence of such essentially stealing the line from those who wish to justify the Patriot Act’s existence with vague claims of stopping terrorism without any proof. The only ‘controversial’ sign in San Antonio was from Chester’s Burgers who briefly encouraged people to buy American, not Chinese. The burger joint got called out by the Asian American Alliance of San Antonio on social media, changed their sign, and everyone went along their merry way. Not exactly worth any sort of resolution from the government.

Perhaps Nirenberg wanted to outlaw the “Chinese virus” or “Kung Fu virus” phrases and was pulled back by the City Attorney’s Office. Perhaps the language was changed from one version of the resolution to the version voted upon by the City Council. Whatever the case, the resolution does not violate the First Amendment. It comes close, but does not go over the line. No words are made illegal and no punishment is doled out to those who choose to utter the phrases “Chinese virus” or “Kung Fu virus.” All it shows is the City Council cares for everyone, as long as you vote for them next municipal election.

The resolution is dumb and unnecessary. So was the freakout.

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