Banning Hate Speech Debate Assignment

It’s not been a good week for the unassailable principle of free speech, that’s for sure. First Milo Yiannopoulos, the pied piper of the “alt-right” (they’re a bunch of white supremacist Pee-wee Hermans, in case you were wondering), lost his job, his book deal and the chance to give a keynote speech at CPAC conference for the American Conservative Union, after a recording emerged of him apparently condoning paedophilia, noting: “You can get quite hung up on this child abuse thing.”

This came as a surprise to me, I have to say. Given so many on the right – and indeed, mainstream liberals – defended Yiannopoulos’s incessant public appearances using free speech arguments, I expected him to turn up on another late-night chat show to debate the merits of paedophilia via the Socratic method. Why didn’t this happen? Do we want a free marketplace of ideas or not?

A little closer to home, the University of Sussex has been embroiled in a strange and ultimately meaningless brouhaha. A week and a half ago, the Sussex Centre for Conflict and Security Research (SCSR) held an hour-long informal meeting called “Dealing with rightwing attitudes and politics in the classroom”. Despite the fact that this meeting quietly passed without consequence, and was attended by just 10 or 12 junior faculty members and PhD students, it somehow found its way into no fewer than three articles in national newspapers as an example of free speech under threat.

One self-described rightwing Sussex student breathlessly recounted his incandescence in the Daily Telegraph that a poster (a poster!) had been affixed to a door “for all to see”, leading to an embarrassingly craven statement from the SCSR that “silencing student voices is never what we aspire to as a department”.

Let’s debate what kind of society and what kind of values we want. Let’s be clear that bigotry is intolerable

Quite how the mere act of discussing rightwing attitudes amounts to “silencing” is unclear; nevertheless, someone who was actually at the meeting tells me that the few gathered participants spent most of the hour sharing their experiences of misogyny and xenophobia, not coming up with a Machiavellian scheme to introduce censorship. In fact, the meeting was only held after tutors requested it at an earlier meeting because they were worried about how to talk to their students about political shocks such as Brexit and the election of Donald Trump (these informal meetings happen once a week at SCSR and cover a variety of topics; this is the first that has led to any baffling hysteria).

What do these two incidences tell us about the infernal free speech debate? They tell us that it isn’t really a debate about free speech at all; it’s a debate about acceptable speech. Apparently Yiannopoulos could go on to have a glittering career after calling an ex-employee “a common prostitute” and threatening to blackmail her after she complained about unpaid wages. Apparently it’s fine for someone like him to occupy a considerable public platform after he encouraged the racist and misogynistic targeting of actor Leslie Jones.

Public figures who insisted on Yiannopoulos’s right to free speech after all these incidences, but not after he appeared to condone paedophilia, aren’t making a statement about liberal values; they are simply revealing what they themselves are willing to tolerate. His demise reveals that at the end of the day we all believe there should be limits to freedom of speech. The only difference between us is where we draw the line.

Moreover, the pint-sized moral panic over a single seminar at the University of Sussex suggests that – for the right – freedom of speech only travels in one direction. As soon as anyone dissents from their enforced values and behaviour, all hell breaks loose. Remember when the right lost its mind because Jeremy Corbyn’s bow on Remembrance Day was deemed insufficiently dramatic? Or consider the traditional national angst over the possibility that some local authorities might use the word “Winterval” instead of “Christmas”.

If we were genuinely debating freedom of speech, and not in fact having an ideological battle over the values that define our public sphere, quite a few of Yiannopoulos’s defenders would probably have defended Corbyn and Winterval too. They certainly wouldn’t now be reaching for the smelling salts because 10 people at the University of Sussex decided to talk about rightwing views one lunchtime.

The rise and fall of Milo Yiannopoulos – how a shallow actor played the bad guy for money

What is happening here is threefold: first, the right is so accustomed to its values dominating public discourse that many people within it have become grown-up babies who can’t bear to live in a society that isn’t constantly pandering to their sensitivities (what the writer Arwa Mahdawi describes as “populist correctness”). Second, others on the right are shrewdly exploiting the important principle of freedom of speech to ensure their ideas are the prevailing ones in society, by claiming any challenge to them as oppression. And finally, these groups are being aided and abetted by liberal dupes and cowardly university institutions, both of which are convinced that they’re engaged in an impartial debate about enlightenment values that isn’t actually taking place.

Enough is enough. The insistence that we exist in some kind of neutral marketplace of ideas has led to a situation where deeply ideological positions can be put forward without any moral value being ascribed to them. “The most marginalised position in public discourse today is ‘good things are good and bad things are bad’,” as academic philosopher Tom Whyman puts it.

Sexism and racism are, in fact, worse than equality – and public figures and institutions should not retreat into the belief that acknowledging as much amounts to some sort of discrimination. If we are going to have a debate, let’s debate what kind of society we want to build and what kind of values we want to live by. Let’s be clear that bigotry is intolerable. Because the Milo Yiannopouloses of this world know exactly what they’re doing – the only ones equivocating are us.

  • No, free speech was intended to protect polite speech.

    Because of those ignorant, homophobic, right-wing, gun-toting rednecks who routinely shout their "Kill all fags" and justify their disgusting behavior with "I have freedom of speech" -- "free speech" has made our nation more dangerous by forcibly making us put up with their insensitive, bigoted and intolerant hate-mongering. And because of this, our government needs to ensure that we attain and sustain a polite society.

    Hate speech isn't free speech; it's anything but "free."

  • In Canada we have a little thing called "reasonable limitations"

    For example. In the Canadian Charter we have something called mobility rights. Giving citizens the right to move anywhere in Canada as you please. Yet say your a prisoner. Under reasonable limitations your staying in prison for the duration of your sentence.

    So now take this into example. In Canada our version of free speech is known as freedom of expression and freedom to peaceful assembly, Hate speech is not peaceful.

    This website is an exception as the purpose of this website is to say your opinion even if hateful.

    Yet causing a protest on the streets of your city demanding that all minorities are to be deported is not free speech. Its freaking hate crime!

  • Hate Speech Hurts

    Hate speech should not be protected because it infringes on others' ability to pursue life, liberty, and happiness (like the constitution states.) Hate speech harms by spreading negative, disgusting stereotypes like we've seen since the attacks on 9/11 and recently with the Boston bombings. The people they are insulting are human, too.

  • First Amendment Free Speech is not unlimited according to the Supreme Court

    I'm sorry Constitution thumpers, the Supreme Court *does* interpret the Constitution. There are several landmark Supreme Court decisions that you should be familiar with...

    1) Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, 315 U.S. 568 (1942)
    Concerning verbal insults in public places.

    In 1942, the Supreme Court sustained the conviction of a Jehovah's witness who addressed a police officer as a "God dammed racketeer" and "a damned facist" (Chaplinksy v. New Hampshire). The Court's opinion in the case stated that there was a category of face-to-face epithets, or "fighting words," that was wholly outside of the protection of the First Amendment: those words "which by their very utterance inflict injury" and which "are no essential part of any exposition of ideas."

    2) Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444 (1969), was a landmark United States Supreme Court case based on the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Court held that government cannot punish inflammatory speech unless that speech is directed to inciting, and is likely to incite, imminent lawless action.

    3) Wisconsin v. Mitchell, 508 U.S. 476 (1993)
    In June 1993, the United States Supreme Court made the landmark precedent pertaining to First Amendment free speech arguments for hate crime legislation. In effect, the Court ruled that a state may consider whether a crime was committed or initially considered due to an intended victim's status in a protected class.

    Hate Speech, Bigotry, Fighting Words, etc that are meat to incite imminent lawless action are simply not protected by the First Amendment.

  • Idiocy protected by law?

    Hate speech, cyberbullying, cybercrime, libel, slander, harassment through media. If these are not legal by physical means and you agree with those laws then how can you contradict the same thing virtually? Social networking was designed to connect not to promote legal harassment and an attack of these rights. Freedom of speech is twisted to mean something it was not intended for. Those in favor of hate speech are called cyber libertarians. Yes everyone is entitled to think what they want but that does not mean they should be allowed to verbally bestow their idiocy on the rest of us. Let me wake some of you 75 percentile's up real quick, would you like to be publicly humiliated and bullied to the point that it was inescapable true or not simply because someone disliked or was jealous of you. Do you think that it is okay to ruin another persons life by what you call freedom of hate speech? Would you like to have a son or daughter bullied literally to death by vicious hate speech on the Internet? Would you like your son or daughter to be an indirect victim of a mass violent act because of severe hate speech that was protected and drove someone over the edge. The damage from cyber hate speech is far more extensive than one on one or face to face. Once it is put into the cloud its permanent. It's easy to talk when you it hasn't been you or someone you love. Words use to mean something, honor, dignity, reputation. What about protecting that? It is not illegal to have an opinion but it should be to use it verbally or libellee with intent to harm. If we can see it so can dangerous hate groups and it only fuels the fire. So if hate speech is ok then lets make bullying legal, defamation, slander, harassment, hell why not stalking it practically is anyway. We have enough trouble with enforcing these laws that are needed and now you cyber libertarians want to give us another one that grows faster and reaches farther? Freedom of Speech well if you really for that strongly that your idiocy should be allowed then lets do this "Say it when your giving a speech to be quite literal about it!" Then it should be legitimate to the definition. The common since of right and wrong speaks for itself no matter the majority stance, that does not mean your right. I'm all for freedom of speech but hate speech is not speech at all its just trash and a weapon. If you want to speak do so but with tact and class, if you cannot then perhaps you should not be afforded that right at all...

  • Free speech does not give you the right to say anything.

    For instance, you cannot shout bomb in an airport. Also in times of war the government has limited speech and the Supreme Court has upheld those decisions. Hate speech dehumanizes people. It degrades them into thinking they are less than others. Hate speech has led to genocide, it has led to murders, it has caused young teens to commit suicide. Every other nation has law limiting hate speech, its time America steps up and does the right thing. Speech that dehumanizes others should not be protected.

  • Freedom of speech is freedom of speech.

    People are allowed to say what they want. The government gave us, the American people, the right to say what they want. Hate speech or otherwise. If it does not directly and physically harm someone and yes bullying is bad and can hurt people but taking away peoples rights is wrong. No one can say "but our forefathers couldn't have predicted the amount of hate speech we have..." YES THEY COULD!!! Hate speech is written all throughout history. Our forefathers probably hated on the English because they GAVE THEMSELVES THAT RIGHT. This is why I do believe hate speech should be protected as free speech.

  • Hateful Speech Should Not Be Protected As Free Speech

    Hateful speech should be banned because it is contributing to negative online activity which could cause harm in the long run. I believe when you make a point to direct hate towards a group of people, the "attacked" group should take alarm. You are intentionally trying to hurt someone. The first amendment is not guaranteed in every situation. You are not allowed to yell fire in a crowded movie theater. So you shouldn't be allowed to say I think Black people should die! There needs to be some clear distinctions between freedom of speech and criminalizing remarks. The government needs to start figuring out what the distinction is.

  • Hate Speech should not be tolerated

    Many children in schools are experiencing or have experienced hate speech, a form of "free speech", there needs to be a line drawn in terms of which form of speech is tolerable and which is not. Suicides are occurring because of the supposed free speech, and although the Founding Fathers of the constitution meant for America to be a democratic, free country, the definition of free speech has obviously been distorted.

  • Hate speech can kill people

    Hurting people with words hurts more than physically hurting someone. So why should be be able to spread mean words about people and as a end result have someone's life taken away since you said some mean words and you didn't 'mean them'. Also, we need to protect kids, not make them vulnerable to this...

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