Restrictions on Hate Speech

>> Tuesday, April 28, 2009

In con law my professor asked a question about whether we should restrict hate speech. By speech he meant real speech. The act of talking. Whether we should be so tolerant of the Nazis marching through Skokie. Would we be so tolerant of them if we thought they had a chance of actually succeeding in convincing people that they were correct? If we viewed Nazis as a serious threat to democracy and amercian society would we shut them down?

There are separate questions and issues in there. the first is about the restriction of hate speech. the greater portion of society views hate speech like nigger in a very negative light. People in the national eye who use it in a pejorative sense are spotlighted, singled out for rebuke. This i believe is a good thing. Allowing the haters to spew their hatred allows for the rest of society to identify them and to deal with them accordingly. I do not wish to support hate in any of its forms and i cant avoid doing so unless i have information about who hates. If we repress the haters ability to mouth off then i cant separate myself from them socially, economically, etc. I cant identify their mode of thinking as something that is incorrect. The stifling of those with deviant opinions will build resentment and a underground traffic in the hate.

The benefits above only work in an environment where the majority is willing to condemn the hate view. The benefit in knowing who hates is realized with the social ostracism and castigation mitted out. If however, the majority of a society agrees with the hate then the benefit in allowing the hate speech to flourish is reduced dramatically. When the hate is mainstream instead of heretical different approaches are needed to deal with it. This is where the idea of shutting down the nazis and kkk etc comes in.

Hate speech has real consequences for the minorities it is targeted against. It creates a climate of fear and anger in those communities. When the minority communities are left to deal with the hate on their own without the support of the non haters the speech is even more dangerous and the benefits of allowing it seem to disappear as the group ceases to be a minority. The same is true for allowing the Nazis to spew their hate speech if they had a chance to actually effect the discourse and policy of the country.

The rules are designed to defend minorities from the majorities. As soon as the Nazi and other hate looks like it might transition from minority view to majority view then it is fair game for the restrictions needed to keep the minority safe. The protection of the minority from the abuse and hate becomes the overriding social purpose. I suspect that if it looked like the Nazis might actually take over as a dominant view they would be shut down.


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