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“Hate Speech” Versus Free Speech

 If you’ve been paying attention to the news lately, you might’ve heard about the controversial case before a Canadian “Human Rights Commission” regarding Mark Steyn’s infamous Maclean’s article, which is an excerpt from his book, “America Alone.” While I’m not necessarily a fan of Steyn or his thesis, which I find to be rather too histrionic, the fact that one of Canada’s most prominent journalists, as well as one of its oldest publications, being marched up in front of some “human rights” troika for the “crime” of essentially hurting some peoples’ feelings discomforts me, to say the very least.

After all, regardless of what one might think of buffoons like Rush Limbaugh or Michael Moore — or even outright racist scumbags like David Irving — here in the United States, people are for the most part free to say whatever they please in whatever forum will let them speak.

This article, published in the New York Times, muses upon the idea of whether or not the Canadian model, which effectively prohibits “hate speech” is perhaps, in some ways preferable to the American one, in which “newspapers and magazines can say what they like about minorities and religions — even false, provocative or hateful things — without legal consequence.” It cites legal scholars who are quick to put “respect” and avoiding “distress” before freedom, the argument being that some speech is simply “too dangerous” to allow.

Such a position is, I fear, even more dangerous to the values of a democratic society than any “hate speech” ever could be. In a perversion of Voltaire, “hate speech” laws seem to say “I disapprove of what you have to say, so I shall revoke your right to say it.” Opening the door for ever greater government control over what we can and cannot say in order to protect the “right” to not be offended is to test the law of unintended consequences.

There is a George Orwell quote that I am fond of: “Liberty, if it means anything at all, is the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” Those in favor of “hate speech” laws would do well to take it to heart. Being subjected to a racist tirade, suffering a homophobic rant, or being the target of any of what might be called “hate speech” cannot be anything but degrading, offensive, and hurtful.

It also should not be anything but legal. Otherwise, we’ve cashiered our liberty for the illusion of tolerance.


Reason has a post up today about the same subject that’s worth reading. I also encourage people to read the links that Olly posted in the comments section.

  1. Vincent says:

    ‘n Tapes…

  2. orwellduk says:

    Nike’s corporate right to lie activism(Nike vs Kasky) has set us all free. Livewrong and livestrong knowing this corporate cult is going to cure cancer, lock most of the campus in a weird altitude chamber and conquer Adidas with pork barrel olympic sport economic development”partnership”scams and strange”clear” potions. How do we get tickets to the Ducks China goofball game that is coming up? The track ducks are delivering some PREZ labeled nikes soon- how fucking cute. Did you see the story? Nice gimmick Phil. Shall we have a controversial Nike altitude facility retrofitted into the White House next? Or do we not know about those yet? Yeah, the ASUO is most important -no need to look at Nikes tech human guinea pig fetish.

  3. Olly says:

    “Dad? Are you now Canadian?”

    If the Graf family were a daytime soap, that would be one hell of an episode.

  4. T says:

    Dad? Are you now Canadian?

  5. old white guy says:

    as a canadian i am offended and angry that any government agency thinks it can tell me what i can or cannot say, or who or what i can hate. this will result in honest people being turned into criminals. i for one would die before appearing or even acknoledging these people. what police officer is prepared to kill me for my beliefs?

  6. Vincent says:

    No, no. They’re dragging him behind a carriage.

  7. Timothy says:

    Steyn has not said anything that should be subject to prosecution by any kind of (ahem) troika,

    Wait, the Canadian government is forcing Steyn to undergo Russian folk dancing? What is the world coming to?

  8. Vincent says:

    And don’t give me any of those “ahems”.

  9. Vincent says:

    Of course there are some categories of speech that are unprotected (libel, “fighting words,” etc.), but I think they can be considered different than “hate speech,” as it’s commonly accepted, don’t you?

  10. olly says:

    Yes. But:

    “Being subjected to a racist tirade, suffering a homophobic rant, or being the target [sic] of any of what might be called

  11. Sean says:

    So true.

    Thank you Vincent.

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