The thin line between hate speech and violence

Members of Neo-Nazi group
Members of the Neo-Nazi group, The American National Socialist Movement watch an angry crowd of counterprotesters as the group held a rally in front of the Los Angeles City Hall, on April 17, 2010. Police in riot gear formed a line in front of a crowd of about 500 counterprotesters who gathered at City Hall to protest the white supremacist rally.

When, according to police, Wade Michael Page shot and killed six people at a Sikh temple near Milwaukee, it was the first time the general public had heard of him. But groups that track extremists had known about him for a decade. Even though the statements of these groups may be threatening and offensive, they are protected under the First Amendment, which safeguards Americans' right to free speech and assembly.

"Hateful ideology in and of itself is not a crime, nor a basis to deprive someone of a right that is otherwise guaranteed by law," said hate speech and political extremism expert Brian Levin on Southern California Public Radio's AirTalk. "One thing though, the skinhead subculture does glorify violent acts. While most of these people are more or less benign, they are a more dangerous subculture of the extremist hate world."

Levin, Director of the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center, and Pete Simi, co-author of "American Swastika: Inside the White Power Movement's Hidden Spaces of Hate," join The Daily Circuit to discuss the thin line between hate speech and violence.

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