On Sunday, Aug. 5, according to Wisconsin police, Wade Michael Page walked into a Sikh temple in Oak Creek and opened fire with a 9 mm handgun, killing six people.
Page wounded one police officer who had responded to a 911 call about the shooting. Initial news reports said Page was killed when another officer fired his service weapon and wounded the alleged gunman, but more recent news reports quote FBI sources that say Page killed himself after receiving a wound to the abdomen.
Although police are still investigating a motive for the shooting, several news reports have linked Page to at least one white supremacist organization, while others allege he played in a white supremacist rock band called End Apathy.
You can be sure that, in the wake of the Oak Creek massacre, there will be yet another spate of cries for "stricter" gun control laws from those on the Left. And you can be sure, given Page's alleged racist views, that there will be this:
Renewed calls for a ban on "hate speech."
Gregory Rodriguez, a Los Angeles Times columnist, already broached this subject back in March. "Hate speech is a form of vandalism," Rodriguez wrote. "It defaces the environment, and like a broken window, if left untended, signals to other hoodlums that the coast is clear to do more damage."
You can see that, when it comes to free speech, Rodriguez isn't exactly a civil libertarian.
Anyone not in America's "Enemies of Liberty Brigade" -- which includes the likes of Rodriguez, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino -- will no doubt be alarmed at Rodriguez's comparison of those who engage in speech to hoodlums.
The very first problem is this: What exactly is "hate speech"? Who gets to define it? And who gets to ban it?
It was months ago that talk radio host Rush Limbaugh had the bad judgment to call Georgetown University Law School student Sandra Fluke a "slut." I didn't care for Limbaugh's characterization of Fluke. What I cared for even less was this:
In a writing course I teach at Johns Hopkins University, one of my students turned in a paper claiming that Limbaugh's calling Fluke a "slut" was "hate speech" that needed to be banned.
I found this even more over-the-top than Limbaugh's use of the word "slut." And it proved to me one thing: For those folks who want to ban "hate speech" -- or "nip it in the bud," to use Rodriguez's elegant phrasing -- hate speech is basically defined as any speech that offends you or that you don't like.
Does anybody really think that a charge of engaging in "hate speech" is going to be leveled at a guy like poet, playwright, essayist and activist Amiri Baraka?
When Condoleezza Rice was secretary of state, Baraka wrote a poem calling her a "skeeza," slang for a woman with morals so low that she makes prostitutes look downright saintly.
A few years later, when Michael Steele was chairman of the Republican National Committee, Baraka referred to him as a "real public coon."
And let's not forget New York City Councilman Charles Barron's unforgettable declaration right here in Washington, D.C., some 12 years ago: "Sometimes I'd like to slap a white person for my mental health."
What do we call pronouncements like the ones made by Baraka and Barron? "I love you very much speech"?
No, they sound like hate speech, and you can bet America's "Ban Hate Speech" bunch is comfortable with each and every one of them.
Should we ban "hate speech"? Not if we cherish living in a free society.
Examiner Columnist Gregory Kane is a Pulitzer-nominated news and opinion journalist who has covered people and politics from Baltimore to the Sudan.