Hate speech has been a topic of contention for some time now, at least if you follow politics at all. If you don’t know, hate speech is supposed to mean words that “attack a person or group on the basis of attributes such as gender, ethnic origin, religion, race, disability, or sexual orientation” (Wikipedia). What it really means, or what many people want it to mean, is anything you disagree with or find offensive that should be stifled or even punished under the law. Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean put this out into the twitter-sphere just yesterday:
Well, Mr. Dean, I think this was pretty hateful…
But seriously, it’s not protected by the first amendment? Are we reading the same thing? The first amendment is very concise:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances”
That’s the whole thing. I read it over a dozen times and I’m still looking for the part that says “except for speech that hurts someone’s feelings”. Again from the left we see that hurt feelings are the most important issue plaguing society, AND that the government should step in to intervene. Canada recently passed a law against hate speech, particularly against the religion of Islam. But who decides what is classified as hate speech? Every time someone is offended, should we have a trial? If you criticize Nazis, and the eight actual Nazis left in the world are upset, do they have a right to take you to court? Should you be put in jail? No. The whole premise is ridiculous. If you have any opinion at all, it’s going to offend someone. If you live life without offending anyone, you aren’t really living. (I’m sure someone has said that before, but I couldn’t find a source.)
As I was looking for sources on this article, I came across this little gem from themuslimahmommy.com:
I just can’t help but laugh whenever I see or hear things like this. Like, I literally LOL. I’ve seen this same sentiment on other politicized topics, and it’s still funny. They’re actually taking life advice from children, and it definitely reflects in their worldview. I know what you’re trying to do. I’ll give you some credit and believe that you have good intentions. I’m with you as far as the fact that people shouldn’t be hateful. But using supposed ‘hate speech’ as a reason to shut people down is crazy.
You can see all kinds of examples of this from the regressive left. From alt-right provocateur Milo Yiannopolous being run out of Berkeley to liberal ‘factual feminist’ Christina Hoff Sommers being protested at Oberlin and everyone in between, there has been an increasing effort to silence people who might be deemed ‘offensive’. Whether you agree with these people or not isn’t the issue, it’s the fact that they have not been allowed to speak. Of course people have the right to protest, but not shut down an event that other people are using their freedom to attend.
I don’t think these people realize that not only are they not helping their own cause, they are actually promoting the people they try to silence! Milo would not have nearly the following he does without the Berkeley riots. In fact, he was invited onto Real Time with Bill Maher shortly afterward. My stance is always in favor of more speech, not less. Let people tie their own rope and hang themselves. Sooner or later they will, much like Milo did with his comments regarding pedophilia. If they don’t hang themselves, and they continue to attract an audience, maybe there is something in there worth hearing. But my guess is that most of these protesters haven’t even tried to listen to their targets.
The only exception I can think of to freedom of speech is inciting violence. As Eugence Volokh of the Washington Post writes:
Indeed, threatening to kill someone because he’s black (or white), or intentionally inciting someone to a likely and immediate attack on someone because he’s Muslim (or Christian or Jewish), can be made a crime. But this isn’t because it’s ‘hate speech’; it’s because it’s illegal to make true threats and incite imminent crimes against anyone and for any reason, for instance because they are police officers or capitalists or just someone who is sleeping with the speaker’s ex-girlfriend.
Aside from direct threats, say whatever you want. If you are offended by another person’s thoughts, don’t try to control them. You are really saying that you are not in control of yourself if your reaction to offense is to lash out and shut people down. You’re saying that you can’t handle your own emotional response, and it’s everyone else’s responsibility to conform to your specific worldview. And certainly the government cannot be involved in such oppression of speech. It’s too arbitrary to decide who is and isn’t offended, and what should be done about it.
Featured Image: Action Institute