Friday, December 14, 2018

"Hate speech" is just an attempt to limit free speech

Free speech must encompass so-called ‘hate speech’ or it is not free speech at all – it is restricted, proscribed, regulated speech. Likewise, academic freedom that rules out ‘incendiary language’ and ‘the disparagement of any person or persons based on religion, nationality, race, gender, sexual orientation or identity’ is not academic freedom. It is permission to utter only banal and already-accepted platitudes.

Increasingly, the concept of ‘hate speech’ is being used to draw limits around what can and cannot be said. We need to be clear that hate speech is an invented, subjective and arbitrary concept. There are no objective measures of ‘hatefulness’. What counts as ‘hate speech’ is defined by the offended – or, more often, those quick to perceive offence on behalf of others – and enshrined by those in authority. The starting point for all this is that some people are more vulnerable than others and in need of special protections; their identity or beliefs need to be placed beyond criticism.

Over recent years, a pattern of censoring views deemed beyond the pale has become established. Initial offence-taking is swiftly followed by public declarations of outrage. The selective highlighting of ‘inflammatory’ words and phrases is accompanied by a social-media trial and calls for the guilty party to be removed from public life. The success of this formula has meant it has spread from campus into mainstream society, and from the political left to all shades of opinion.

For too long, campus and academic activists have been at the forefront of calling for views they disagree with to be censored rather than challenged. It is tempting to sit back and enjoy the times when this comes back to bite them. But a proper defence of free speech requires challenging the very notion of hate speech and insisting that all views are heard, no matter how contemptible.



Paul Weber said...

Ah for the good old days...

"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." - Evelyn Beatrice Hall

Stan B said...

A society's commitment to Free Speech is not measured by how well it defends popular, banal speech. It is measured by how well it defends those uttering the most hateful, contentious statements!

My own belief is that, as more and more on the left are hoisted on their own petards, the more of them will come to see the dangerous road they are treading.

Bird of Paradise said...

Its too bad more people were like Evelyn B.Hall we would,nt have to put up with all that whining