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In Defense of Hate Speech

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posted on Jul, 11 2017 @ 04:21 PM
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*Note: this is not a defence of racism, bigotry, discrimination, or other hatred, but is a defence of the freedom to hold and espouse those opinions, whatever opinion, no matter how obscene.

The necessary and often uncomfortable consequence of defending free speech is that it also applies to unpopular and dangerous opinions. It concerns not only the oppressed but also the oppressors. It holds true and strong for majorities and minorities, rich and poor, good and evil. A universal human right that does not apply to all human beings is, after all, not a universal human right. Therefor, free speech proponents will have to defend and protect from censorship, coercion, and violence the people who hold unpopular and controversial opinions: the Nazi screaming racial epithets, or the Mullah preaching genocide, just as he would the oppressed demanding justice—and for the exact same reasons. Anything less is to remain complicit with censorship, which remains to this day illiberal, ineffectual, and dangerously superstitious.

But besides defending speech in principle, what are the other reasons one might defend evil words?

Censorship Beget Evil Deeds


It does us well to remember Heinrich Heine’s famous quote:

“Wherever they burn books they will also, in the end, burn human beings.”

Heine was no prophet; he did not foresee that his own books would be thrown to the Nazi fires, or that human beings would be thrown into the gas chambers shortly after, but he was no less aware of the connection between the silencing of voices and the silencing of life.

But a notion greater in persuasive power than Heine’s now exists in the collective memory of the children of the 20th century: evil words beget evil deeds. This notion stipulates that speech can be dangerous, and if left unchecked, will eventually fester into wickedness.

The tendency of the dialects of execration and the tongues of hate to seduce people to evil and persecution and genocide is well recorded. It makes weaker minds spellbound by tribalism and bloodlust. Entire societies have been dazzled by these artifacts of hatred, that they would turn on their own brethren and countrymen. Used as it was, in combination with groupthink and paranoia, it can lead to the worst of humanity. In the end, their ugly and abstract reductionism of human beings into sub-humans, animals, even insects, justified their reductionism of concrete, flesh and blood human beings into corpses. As it follows, better to silence, punish and censor that hatred than to ever see it manifest again. Hence the hate speech laws, the banned books, and the forbidden words.

This notion, however, is more dogma than fact. Evil words do not necessarily beget evil deeds. Nowadays, one needs only to listen to hate speech to see that he is repelled and not seduced by it. But in one particular analysis, Hate speech legislation was useless, if not contributing to the worst crimes of mankind, in the one instance when there was real justification for it.

Up until the Enabling Act of 1933, the Weimar Republic had the most progressive hate speech laws in the history of the world, not unlike the hate speech laws found in many societies today. With strict ordinance against incitement to class struggle (Weimar criminal code 130), or against religious insult (Weimar criminal code 166), the Nazis were jailed on numerous occasions in the years leading up to their petty revolution. Der Stürmer, the anti-Semitic rag of Julius Streicher, whom was later hung in Nuremberg for “inciting hatred”, was either confiscated or taken to court on no less than 36 separate occasions in the decade leading up to 1933. The paper was even the subject of five litigations over the course of 11 days in the late twenties. How then, despite the legislation, the censorship, and their persecution, did the Nazis rise to power?

Knowing what we know now, the censorship from authorities only gave the Nazis a platform they never could have attained had their ideas been met in open debate. It wasn’t the hate speech that festered into wickedness, but its censorship. The persecution against them only glorified their hideous “struggle”, and gave reason for them to persecute others, using the very same legislative powers used against them as the tools to do so. The anti-Semitic propagandists gained the status of victim, oppressed and martyr. Each time Streicher was sent to jail, for instance, more and more supporters of the cause would accompany him, cheering and yelling Nazi slogans, and his return to prison resembled a triumphant arrival. Hitler himself was among them. Despite the censorship and despite the persecution, it did little to quell the hatred. In fact, it only helped the Nazis rise to power.

Otto Wels of the Social Democratic Party pleaded to the Reichstag to rebuke the Enabling Act, and to end the persecution of political opponents in a brave speech. But it was met with scorn and laughter by Hitler and his party, who were never afforded that same respect. Hitler's response:


Late you come but still you come!

“…You talk about persecution. I think there are few of us here present who were not forced to pay in prison for the persecution you practiced. Few of us here present who were not made to feel the effects of that persecution in acts of harassment a thousand times over and incidents of suppression a thousand times over! And in addition to those of us here present, I know a company of hundreds of thousands who were at the mercy of a system of persecution which vent itself on them in a disgraceful, even in a positively despicable manner! You seem to have totally forgotten that, for years, our shirts were ripped off our backs because you did not approve of the color.

Let us stay within the realm of reality! Your persecution has made us strong! You also said that criticism is beneficial. We will take criticism from anyone who loves Germany. But we will take no criticism from anyone who worships the Internationale! Here too, you have come to your realization a good deal too late, Mr. Deputy.

You should have recognized the beneficial power of criticism when we were in the opposition. Back then, you had not yet been confronted with these words; back then our press was forbidden and forbidden and again forbidden; our assemblies were banned; we were not allowed to speak, and I was not allowed to speak- and that went on for years! And now you say criticism is beneficial!”


Hitler’s fanaticism, which by his own admission was propelled by his persecution, is a telling reminder that persecution or censorship only magnifies the fanatic’s vain struggles, thereby giving him a bigger platform. The banning of hate speech in Weimar Germany, and the censorship and persecution of the Nazis before they rose to power, directly contributed to their superstitious and pseudoscientific “struggle”, and consequently, everything that followed.

edit on 11-7-2017 by LesMisanthrope because: (no reason given)




posted on Jul, 11 2017 @ 04:21 PM
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Truth put to the worse


“Reasoning will never make a man correct an opinion, which by reasoning he never acquired.”

- Jonathon Swift

The advocacy of laws against evil words and their implementation is a “peculiar evil”, and for these reasons. Not only is it illiberal to silence another through threat of punishment, coercion, or violence; not only do censored ideas fester when they are driven into darkened corners away from the light of the inquiring sun; but it robs the human race of truth in the grand sense. It steals from those who dissent from the opinion even more than those who hold it. “If the opinion is right,” wrote John Stuart Mill, “they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth produced by its collision with error”.

By suppressing, threatening or otherwise committing violence against the voices of hatred, we only prove we lack the arguments against them, and are willing to resort to their tactics in order to do so. We prove the doubt in our own arguments while leaving theirs unassailed. We prove our fear in their falsity and errors, while resorting to falsity in error in order to muzzle them. Finally, we render useless what might best change their minds: the truth. In the words of John Milton, “Though all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play upon the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do injuriously, by licensing and prohibiting, to misdoubt her strength. Let her and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter?”

For My Own Safety’s Sake


In the latter half of the 1970’s, Areh Neier, then executive director of the ACLU, and once a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany, found himself defending the free speech rights of the Nationalist Socialist Party of America. The Nazis intended to march through areas of Skokie Illinois that were heavily populated with Holocaust survivors (1 in 6 was a survivor or directly related to one), and naturally, there was virulent outrage.

Various attempts to censor the NSPA, including an injunction prohibiting the use of Nazi uniforms and swastikas at the rallies, were proposed. The attorney’s for Cook county argued, without irony, that for Holocaust survivors, the act of seeing the swastika was like being physically attacked. They had already survived the worst of humanity and the brutality of the holocaust, but were subject to injury by symbol.

In the end, the ACLU, with civil rights attorney Burton Joseph representing them, defended the rights of the NSPA to wear their Nazi uniforms, to adorn themselves with swastikas, and they finally marched, albeit in Chicago. Neier and the ACLU were heavily criticized, losing some 30,000 members because of it.

Years later, Neier explained in his book “Defending my Enemies” why he stood up for the NSPA. As an analogy, he used a passage from Robert Bolt’s play “A Man for all seasons” in which Sir Thomas More confronts a witch-hunter who had just exclaimed he would cut down every law in order to arrest the devil.


“Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast– man's laws, not God's– and if you cut them down—and you're just the man to do it—do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law for my own safety's sake.”


If we forgo the laws, rights and freedoms in order to punish the enemy, we can never hope to be protected by those same laws, rights and freedoms when they turn ‘round on us. For Neier, defending the rule of law and the rights of our enemies makes us all safer.



As history has shown, the right of free speech has taken a long time to establish, but it takes a mere moment to destroy it. We free speech absolutists, and those who can still tell the difference between word and deed, must defend the rights of our enemies, no matter how hateful, how detestable, lest we become them.

edit on 11-7-2017 by LesMisanthrope because: (no reason given)



posted on Jul, 11 2017 @ 04:51 PM
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a reply to: LesMisanthrope

Excellent thread.

We need to allow irritating, offensive, racist, inflammatory and stupid speech.

I wish I were surprised when I here some one bemoan what someone said and they want it stopped. Seems that it never crosses their censoring mind that one day their speech will be the one to be under the PC microscope.
edit on 11-7-2017 by seasonal because: spelling



posted on Jul, 11 2017 @ 06:21 PM
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a reply to: LesMisanthrope

So you should be able to tell people to do violence and it still be considered free speech?!?



posted on Jul, 11 2017 @ 06:28 PM
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originally posted by: JoshuaCox
a reply to: LesMisanthrope

So you should be able to tell people to do violence and it still be considered free speech?!?



This is usually handled using the disorderly conduct laws.



posted on Jul, 11 2017 @ 06:36 PM
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a reply to: JoshuaCox




So you should be able to tell people to do violence and it still be considered free speech?!?


Speech is speech. You should be able to say what you want. The problem is not necessarily the speaker, but those who do his bidding.



posted on Jul, 11 2017 @ 06:47 PM
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originally posted by: LesMisanthrope
a reply to: JoshuaCox




So you should be able to tell people to do violence and it still be considered free speech?!?


Speech is speech. You should be able to say what you want. The problem is not necessarily the speaker, but those who do his bidding.


Society at large asks for decency and civility...that includes holding your tongue with certain subjects, LesM, so as not to offend. Read your audience, then plan your speech. That is why we have the 'mud pit'.



posted on Jul, 11 2017 @ 06:49 PM
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a reply to: InTheLight




Society at large asks for decency and civility...that includes holding your tongue with certain subjects, LesM, so as not to offend. Read your audience, then plan your speech. That is why we have the 'mud pit'.


If someone is offended by what I wrote they clearly did not read it.



posted on Jul, 11 2017 @ 06:52 PM
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originally posted by: LesMisanthrope
a reply to: InTheLight




Society at large asks for decency and civility...that includes holding your tongue with certain subjects, LesM, so as not to offend. Read your audience, then plan your speech. That is why we have the 'mud pit'.


If someone is offended by what I wrote they clearly did not read it.


No, you do not take direction well, do you?



posted on Jul, 11 2017 @ 06:53 PM
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a reply to: InTheLight




No, you do not take direction well, do you?


Especially when it is misdirection.



posted on Jul, 11 2017 @ 06:53 PM
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a reply to: LesMisanthrope

Touche...but not really.



posted on Jul, 11 2017 @ 06:53 PM
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a reply to: InTheLight




posted on Jul, 11 2017 @ 06:54 PM
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originally posted by: seasonal
a reply to: InTheLight



Explain.



posted on Jul, 11 2017 @ 06:57 PM
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originally posted by: JoshuaCox
a reply to: LesMisanthrope

So you should be able to tell people to do violence and it still be considered free speech?!?


This is a very important question - think about it. Think about KKK and protestors who turn to violence to make their free speech heard. Is it really then free speech or anarchy or the start of a revolution?



posted on Jul, 11 2017 @ 06:58 PM
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a reply to: LesMisanthrope

We've always had "hate speech".

It's the reason why the US has the 1st Amendment. It is there to protect "hate speech".

And for the most part, it has worked. People understood that, understood the intent behind the 1st.

the reason it is such an issue now, is that taking offense from someone's speech entitles the listener to the false premise of silencing that speech.

Saw a funny meme that might be appropriate.




posted on Jul, 11 2017 @ 06:58 PM
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a reply to: InTheLight




This is a very important question - think about it. Think about KKK and protestors who turn to violence to make their free speech heard. Is it really then free speech or anarchy or the start of a revolution?


They do not resort to violence to make their free speech heard, and no worse piece of sophistry has been uttered. They resort to violence to censor others.



posted on Jul, 11 2017 @ 06:58 PM
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Hate speech is free speech.

It's scary that so many don't understand this.



posted on Jul, 11 2017 @ 06:59 PM
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a reply to: InTheLight

Do you want to silence the KKK?



posted on Jul, 11 2017 @ 07:02 PM
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originally posted by: LesMisanthrope
a reply to: InTheLight




This is a very important question - think about it. Think about KKK and protestors who turn to violence to make their free speech heard. Is it really then free speech or anarchy or the start of a revolution?


They do not resort to violence to make their free speech heard, and no worse piece of sophistry has been uttered. They resort to violence to censor others.


Yes, when you get two opposing protesting groups...violence usually ensues. Where's the free speech then?



posted on Jul, 11 2017 @ 07:02 PM
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originally posted by: DBCowboy
a reply to: InTheLight

Do you want to silence the KKK?


Does the KKK want to silence me?




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