why hate speech laws can't work

citeIt seems inevitable that when you give the government the right to regulate speech based on content that they will inevitably move to attack unpopular speech. See this example in Russia where they are jailing an atheist for saying there is no god on social media.

I’m not seeing the connection between that story and hate speech laws.

Russia also adopted communism for a while, so we’d better abolish progressive taxation.

My emphasis. I think we should abolish the word inevitable, as it’s a slippery slope that always leads to bad thinking.

Without looking at the cite, I can say that I probably disagree on many specific points with the OP, but I agree that hate speech laws aren’t a good idea. After there was some violence in a place I lived, at the synagogue, and the Korean Methodist, one guy was actually murdered, and patrol cars were parked in front of the synagogue until the guy who killed the man at the Korean church was found dead of suicide, everyone in the synagogue was all worked up about passing hate speech laws.

My personal opinion was that people have a right to hate us, and killing us is already illegal. The killer-suicide guy had been passing out “hate speech” flyers for about a month before his killing rampage (he also made several phone threats to out rabbi, and would have been charged with stalking if he’d been arrested instead of killing himself). He did not apparently convince one person to turn to the dark side, and I don’t buy that arresting him for hate speech would have prevented a murder, because they could have arrested him for littering (he had unpaid fines, so there could have been a bench warrant, but there wasn’t), or trespass, when he started going door to door with his stuff. And in any event, I really doubt a hate speech law would have stopped him. He might have just ramped up to murder earlier than he did.

I also agree that it is hard to define hate speech, and there are certainly jurisdictions where it will be used to harass people with unpopular opinions.

I remember when Hallmark set up these kiosks, back in the early 90s, or something, and you could make a card with a personal greeting. Certain words were blocked to prevent obscene cards, or cards that might be used to harass someone. Any word that referenced same sex relationships was on the “blocked” list. So if you were gay, and wanted to make your boyfriend a card, it couldn’t say “gay,” “queer,” or anything like that.

And I remember when the first magazines to get targeted by anti-pornography laws in one state were some lesbian periodicals that had no suggestive graphics. Playboy and Hustler were allowed to go on as usual. The law said something about “community standards,” which is why this was allowed to happen.

Community standards are part of the test for obscenity. And it has been and remains constitutionally permissible to ban or restrict obscene messages, images and media since the country was founded. Somehow, we haven’t backslid into 1984.

Hey, if you abolish “inevitable”, that’ll lead to dictionaries being used for kindling to burn people at the stake!

Hate speech laws are good in theory, but often easily abused in real life.

“My opponent criticizes my political agenda? Hate speech!

The U.S. doesn’t have “hate speech” laws.

We have hate crimes laws, where hateful speech might be indicative of intent in the commission of a crime. But the speech itself is not banned here.

Not everything’s a slippery slope. Sometimes the slope goes up and is filled with gravel and hard to move forward, and then it ends in wall with barbed wire on top so you cannot easily get past it.

My impression has been that “hate crimes” laws mean that racial bias etc. can be considered an aggravating factor in a crime such as an assault and that no one gets charged with a crime just for expressing hate verbally. Is that correct?

Yes. If you beat someone up, that’s a crime. If you beat them up because of their race or sexual orientation, that might be a hate crime.

There are no hate speech laws in the USA.

As answered: yes. It’s taken into account in sentencing, where some jurisdictions have instituted harsher penalties for some kinds of proven intent.

No one gets charged with a crime just for expressing hate verbally – unless they cross certain boundaries, such as making threats, or publishing libelous untruths. Tom Metzger was taken down when he made a public speech that was taken as exhorting others to commit violence. That kind of speech is actionable.

But if a racist chappie wants to write and self-publish a book all filled with disparagement against blacks and Jews and women and golfers, there is absolutely no law against it.

Yeah I generally think claims of American exceptionalism are complete fantasy (I am a brit living in US), but this is one area where the US constitution actually does it’s job and protects Americans civil liberties. The kind of hate speech laws currently enacted in the UK are absolute BS. This kind of thing is totally unjustified, the freedom of speech should cover the right to make offensive jokes about terrible tragedies. Likewise for this prosecution, which was particular galling as he DIDN’T lose his job in the England football team (you shouldn’t be prosecuted for racist speech, you shold lose your job over it!).

And how is that invoking a hate speech law? one candidate has no authority to charge another candidate.

And in any event, since the US does not have hate speech laws, you’re giving an example from another country, right?

I love how they include a picture of the illegal tweet, but blur out the guy’s face and the text of the tweet. Making the graphic completely useless.

I realize I hold a minority position on this subject and I hold out no hope of persuading First Amendment absolutists that such absolutism is not productive, but let’s at least understand what hate speech is. These examples do not demonstrate such an understanding. The OP example is simply another incident in a country which does not have free speech and which is notably deficient in other basic areas of human rights, including aggressive persecution of gays. What is the subject of this alleged “hate”? Is God somehow a persecuted minority in need of special protection? The second example is even more ridiculous.

Hate speech can be usefully defined as speech that advocates genocide or violence against an identifiable group by race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual identity. Free speech absolutists will argue that laws against such speech are not necessary because the acts of violence are themselves illegal, and that is sufficient. I beg to differ, and in certain instances so does the US Supreme Court. But I differ on the broader principle that I don’t want to live in a society where such acts occur and prisons fill up with the perpetrators, all so that hateful bigots inciting violence can ply their trade. Far better to live in a society where those things don’t happen. This is hardly an unusual principle – we don’t argue that drunk drivers shouldn’t be punished until and unless they actually have an accident or kill someone. Sometimes it’s wise to be preemptive instead of enduring ongoing consequences as a permanent way of life.

The “slippery slope” argument is moot because anything other than carefully circumscribed laws against the incitement of violence as described above would not survive a constitutional challenge. If someone want to posit a dystopian fantasy like a crazed Supreme Court that upholds excessively restrictive speech laws, there’s a flip side to that coin: what if the government itself engages in and promotes hate speech? Look up Kristallnacht for an example, or how about the entire history of institutionalized racism in the US south?

And not only is the white supremacy movement alive and well, it’s just endorsed a major presidential candidate, one who is likely to win the Republican nomination. I find that a lot scarier, and a lot more real, than some silly fantasy that hate speech laws might make it illegal to be an atheist. Hate speech laws are not inconsistent with constitutional protection of speech in a free society – they are complementary, and together they define the kind of society we want to live in, and our basic human decency and respect for people of all races and cultures.

Haven’t you stated you think that hate speech laws should be used against Fred Phelps?

Haven’t you also on numerous occasions claimed that the Supreme Court and “First Amendment Absolutists”(catchy title BTW) argue that burning crosses on the lawn of a black family is “protected speech”?

I don’t ask to pick a fight but to lay our cards on the table and such claims about Phelphs is not consistent with your rather lengthy post on what you think constitutes hate speech and such a statement about how cross burnings on the lawns of black people doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in your analysis of free speech.

If I’m wrong, apologies and feel free to correct me.

  1. There are already laws against inciting violence. Why do we need special ones for inciting violence against groups such as diesel mechanics or redheads?

  2. Genocide includes cultural genocide: disintegration of political and social institutions, of culture, language, national feelings, religion, and economic existence. By this standard, Richard Dawkins advocates genocide when he says that children need to be protected from their parents indoctrinating them in their faith. Anybody who says that groups shouldn’t be able to genitally mutilate thier children is advocating genocide Do you really think that Richard Dawkins should be charged with a serious crime? This is part of the slippery slope: the definition of genocide is horrendously broad especially when used, as you do, to mean something distinct from violence.

  3. Paedophiles are a sexual identity. Our entire society advocates violence against them. Or do you get to pick and choose what sexual identities are OK to advocate violence against?

  4. What’s an identifiable group? Aren’t polygamous Mormon sects an identifiable group? Don’t these laws mean that politicians can’t even debate locking them up for praticing polygamy? Aren’t Southern Baptists and identifiable group? Does that mean that any lawyer arguing that their entrenched cultural practice of prayer in school be stopped is committing a hate crime?

These are always the problems with hate speech laws. They sound OK if you don’t think about what they mean. But as soon as you start examining them, you realise that you *must *end up with the effects that we’ve seen in Europe or Australia where journalists are charged for publishing opinion pieces on affirmative actions, people are charged for disputing the official number of people who died in the genocide and message board users are charged for making offensive jokes.

There is simply no way around that because the definition of “identifiable group” and “genocide” is ridiculously broad once you make it distinct from violence. And of course if you only mean advocating violent genocide, well there are already plenty of laws against that.

Just want to point out one thing: You start out with " … speech that advocates … " but thereafter it’s " … speech that incites … ". SOCTUS does make that distinction and Free Speech has the limit of Imminent lawless action.

I understand, but first we have to limit hateful beliefs, only then can we effectively limit hateful speech.