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July 15, 2020 / Congau

Freedom of Hate Speech

Hate speech is also speech, and if speech is to be free, so must hate speech. Only if there is a difference between the meaning of the simple word “speech” in those two instances, can it logically be argued that the one connected with hate should be forbidden.

Clearly, speech is not simply speech in either case. That is, it is not just about the utterance of words by means of the vocal cords. Also, it is not meant to protect the use of any words in any circumstance, like falsely crying fire in a crowded theater, revealing trade secrets or impolitely interrupting a toastmaster. The whole point of free speech is that any opinion is to be tolerated by the government. Whatever anyone thinks about any issue, they should be allowed to express it without being met with state sanctions. Other kinds of talking that are not about any general issue potentially concerning a wider public, like private slander against one’s next door neighbor, cannot be considered opinions and therefore cannot demand protection.

What then about so-called hate speech? Sure, it may sound like slander, but it is usually not private. Insulting entire groups of people, however reprehensible, may still be an expression of an opinion. Even going so far as to call for a genocide is an opinion as long as it is not a part of the actual planning and execution of such an atrocity. Saying that members of certain ethnic groups are inferior, is also an articulation of an opinion no matter how awful most of us think it is. If we mean anything by free speech, we must allow it to be said.

People hate each other, and hate is an awful thing. Banning it sounds like a nice Utopian idea, but if we do, we’ll have to give up the idea of free speech.

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