Saturday, May 23, 2020

Hate speech

Arthur Milikh writes in part in,
America’s big tech companies—Google, Twitter, and Facebook—largely imitate the premises of Europe’s “hate speech” laws. And they are currently in the midst of expanding restrictions. A leaked Google internal memo shows the company’s skeptical view of the freedom of speech, comparing the “American tradition” to the “European tradition”: America prioritizes “free speech for democracy, not civility,” while the European tradition “favors dignity over liberty and civility over freedom.” The memo states Google’s support for the European tradition and argues that all tech platforms will move in that direction eventually.

Similarly, Twitter publicly states its commitment to prohibiting “content intended to incite fear or spread fearful stereotypes about a protected category” and “content that degrades someone.” Since inciting fear is so broad as to have no intelligible content, anything short of celebration of a protected identity group can be considered suspect, although Twitter is particularly devoted to stopping “hatred, prejudice or intolerance” that “seeks to silence the voices of those who have been historically marginalized.”

Facebook’s policies explicitly ban the use of what it deems to be “dehumanizing” terms as applied to groups. The problem with “hate speech,” according to Facebook, is that it prevents people from authentically expressing their identities. What exactly might constitute obstruction of individual expression of identity will be judged by the moral mirror within the tens of thousands of Facebook’s human “hate speech” reviewers and algorithms which monitor and ban content.

...many of America’s colleges and universities already actively promote and implement policies to ban offensive thoughts through speech codes. This, of course, is in stark contrast to the original purpose of these institutions: freedom of the mind and the pursuit of truth. Many of America’s colleges and universities are now the training ground for a generation of future citizens sympathetic to outlawing “hate speech.” A recent poll reveals that only 53 percent of college students—a bare majority—favor freedom of speech, a marked change from the spirit of 1960s campus activists.

...Many well-meaning, decent Americans do not yet clearly see the underlying goals or the political implications of “hate speech” laws. They should first recall that America’s laws already ban incitement to imminent violence of any kind; they already protect citizens against individual defamation. Perhaps even more powerfully, the law of opinion already opposes hatred and contempt for protected groups in the public square. There is thus no need for “hate speech” laws.

Restriction advocates, to various degrees, are committed to creating a world that is hostile to political liberty and freedom of the mind—viewing these, in fact, as conflicting with their genuine goal of dignity and equal self-respect. If the law’s aim becomes securing “each person’s proper pride and dignity against the soul-shriveling humiliation that a discriminatory rebuff can give rise to,” despotic measures must ultimately be instituted. 121
Waldron, The Harm in Hate Speech, p. 84.

In civil conditions, one can neither compel the earnest respect of others nor force one’s own self-respect, though it is possible to destroy political liberty in the attempt. Should such laws be implemented in America, the public square will be transformed into an arena where forced silence and false celebration rather than free political deliberation are the norm and where the state uses its power to act out resentments against oppressor groups. There will be more hatred and more political instability.

Thus, at least two possible outcomes may await America: despotism if “hate speech” advocates fully have their way or rebellion if they do not. On the one hand, the obedience of a free people to the goals beneath such laws is not produced through the kind of compulsion prescribed. If laws repress speech slowly, the nation will make of citizens mindless subjects incapable of political judgement and suited to being ruled by the state or by a triumphant marginalized group acting through it. On the other hand, free citizens, while still living with the memory of political liberty, will come to despise this new order and may well rebel against it. In such a rebellion, a new fierce spiritedness could be born that judges democracy and equality to be contemptible and grotesque ideals. An unstable mixture of the two is imaginable.

In the coming years, the public should be prepared for so-called moderate voices who in time may grow friendly to speech regulation and claim that “America would be even more American” if it enacted “hate speech” laws.122
Delgado and Stefancic, Must We Defend Nazis? Why the First Amendment Should Not Protect Hate Speech and White Supremacy, p. 105.

Moderate voices, however, are moderate only insofar as their desire for immediate peace blinds them from soberly judging what awaits the nation.

Courageous and patriotic politicians must fight for the freedom of speech by reminding the public of its purpose and the consequences of losing it. Many of today’s elites have already been at least partly convinced of the need to outlaw “hate speech,” and in late democracies throughout the world, the will of the majority is more and more disregarded by them. But public jealousy of free speech and anger at possible future usurpations, along with other possibilities, will be the only imperfect barriers that in the long run may protect this right.
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