Free Markets, Free People

There is no “line” between free speech and hate speech – nor should there be

But the LA Times thinks there is as it states in its piece about the Garland, TX attack by Islamists:

The Garland attack refocused public attention on the fine line between free speech and hate speech in the ideological struggle between radical Islam and the West.

Hate to break it to them but what they categorize as “hate speech” is a subset of “free speech”.

Of course the term is now in popular use all across the world, but it has very interesting and nasty origin as the Hoover Institution discusses here.

The origin of the term comes from the Soviet Union and its satellites in arguments about the 1948 UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights (udhr).  The arguments during its drafting and particularly the area concerning freedom of speech showed the world the totalitarian concept of “free speech” as articulated by the USSR and its satellites.

The drafting history of the protection of the freedom of expression in the udhr does not leave any doubt that the dominant force behind the attempt to adopt an obligation to restrict this right under human rights law was the Soviet Union. On the other hand, led by the U.S. and uk, the vast majority of Western democracies, albeit with differences in emphasis, sought to guarantee a wide protection of freedom of expression and in particular to avoid any explicit obligation upon states to restrict this right.

In particular the USSR sought language that addressed “hate”:

The first draft was limited to the prohibition of “any advocacy of national, racial, or religious hostility that constitutes an incitement to violence.” However, a number of countries led by the Soviet Union were adamant that incitement to violence was insufficient, and sought a broader prohibition against “incitement to hatred.” Poland expressed dissatisfaction with a provision only prohibiting incitement to violence, since it did not tackle “the root of the evil,” and worried that freedom of expression could be abused and “contribute decisively to the elimination of all freedoms and rights.” The Yugoslav representative thought it important to “suppress manifestations of hatred which, even without leading to violence, constituted a degradation of human dignity and a violation of human rights.”

Of course we all know how loosely such a term as “hate” can be interpreted and how arbitrarily it can be applied, especially by a state bent on oppression of the opposition.  And, of course, that was the point.  The totalitarian regimes were looking for the blessing of the UDHR to sanction their planned oppression.

Eleanor Roosevelt found the language “extremely dangerous” and warned against provisions “likely to be exploited by totalitarian States for the purpose of rendering the other articles null and void.” She also feared that the provision “would encourage governments to punish all criticism under the guise of protecting against religious or national hostility.” Roosevelt’s concern was shared by, among others, the five Nordic countries. Sweden argued that “the effective prophylaxis lay in free discussion, information, and education,” and that “fanatical persecution” should be countered with “free discussion, information and debate”. Australia warned that “people could not be legislated into morality.” Furthermore, it noted that “the remedy might be worse than the evil it sought to remove.” The uk representative stated that “the power of democracy to combat propaganda lay . . . in the ability of its citizens to arrive at reasoned decisions in the face of conflicting appeals.” When challenged by the Soviet Union, the uk representative pointed out that during World War II, Hitler’s Mein Kampf had not been banned and was readily available in the uk, and that its government “would maintain and fight for its conception of liberty as resolutely as it had fought against Hitler.”

Of course, at the time this was being discussed, the West was adamantly against the restrictions that the Soviets were seeking, i.e. including “hate speech” as a legitimate reason to limit speech. They clearly understood the implications of such restrictions and how they could and most likely would be used.

Fast forward to today:

All western european countries have hate-speech laws. In 2008, the eu adopted a framework decision on “Combating Racism and Xenophobia” that obliged all member states to criminalize certain forms of hate speech. On the other side of the Atlantic, the Supreme Court of the United States has gradually increased and consolidated the protection of hate speech under the First Amendment. The European concept of freedom of expression thus prohibits certain content and viewpoints, whereas, with certain exceptions, the American concept is generally concerned solely with direct incitement likely to result in overt acts of lawlessness.

So, in essence, Europe has capitulated to Soviet demands a few decades after the communist nation ceased to exist.  It apparently buys into the notion that that state has the right to limit speech if hateful and reserves to itself the right to define what is or isn’t hate.  Eleanor Roosevelt, of course, was right – such laws are “likely to be exploited by totalitarian States for the purposes of rendering” free speech “null and void”.  That’s precisely what totalitarian regimes always do, with or without the blessing of a UDHR.  They are going to control speech and they’re going to suppress as “hateful” anything they don’t agree with.

Interestingly it was a representative from Columbia who said it best:

Punishing ideas, whatever they may be, is to aid and abet tyranny, and leads to the abuse of power . . . As far as we are concerned and as far as democracy is concerned, ideas should be fought with ideas and reasons; theories must be refuted by arguments and not by the scaffold, prison, exile, confiscation, or fines.

Kirsten Powers points out that we’re slowly drifting toward tyranny when she talks about how it once was on the college campus and how it is now.  Contrary ideas are now characterized as “violence” and intolerance to those ideas is rampant for some.  Interestingly, for the most part, those who would ban speech they disagree with mostly find themselves on the left side of the political spectrum, which, at least, is historically consistent.  They’re heirs to the Soviet Union’s attempts to oppress free speech.

They must be very proud.


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26 Responses to There is no “line” between free speech and hate speech – nor should there be

  • Contrary ideas are now characterized as “violence” and intolerance to those ideas is rampant for some.

    *chuckle* *eyeroll* Professor Polywog McGoo doesn’t see these things on his whiter-than-Ivory soap campus, so it’s clearly not happening and shut up.

  • As should be obvious – even to a liberal – popular, uncontroversial speech does not NEED protection.

    The conclusion that follows should be equally obvious.

    That it is not so to many people is very disturbing. Especially elected persons.

  • Chris Cuomo ✔ @ChrisCuomo

    it doesn’t. hate speech is excluded from protection. dont just say you love the constitution…read it
    8:51 AM – 6 May 2015

    It is the practice of law, I’m told, but he should get his money back from Fordham.

  • Another weigh in.

    There is a problem the author does not seem to see while citing the Civil Rights era as precedent.
    His argument is that one group attempted to suppress speech by declaring it ‘hate speech’ to silence another group.
    MLK and others, using government to combat government ultimately were able to force the argument to be between two groups with power.
    To whit – the Federal government and courts defending ‘free speech’ against the argument it was ‘hate speech’ being made by various southern states.

    Ultimately one group of government (the governments of various southern states) arguing with another group of government (courts and or the Federal government) about what was and was not protected speech.

    What he isn’t seeing, or is ignoring, is the danger of government having the power to define hate speech.
    While it would have been wrong, the Federal government might conceivably have sided with the southern states. Just because it worked out as it did does not mean it would always be so.

    What it does demonstrate is that when a government entity can define some speech to be hate speech, all it takes for them to suppress the speech they don’t like is for them to be in uncontested or un-contestable power.
    Voila, the problem is solved – some speech is hateful and cannot be spoken because the government says so.
    That is precisely what the southern state governments were trying to accomplish to silence Dr King.

    Why mister Rashid thinks that always would end as it did in the case of Martin Luther King and Civil Rights advocates demonstrates a decided lack of historical perspective and absolutely zero sense of , at the least, American history.
    In the 1960’s it had only been roughly a little over 100 years since a black man wasn’t even considered a person or had standing to contest anything in a US Federal court, let alone win the right to say what he wanted (see Dred Scott).

    I’m not in love with Geller or her personal positions though I do understand some of her intent, but this is one of those times when you can’t chuck the whole tub out, baby and all, because the bath water is dirty.
    Free speech means just that.

    On the whole I find Geller’s side of this argument far more appealing than I find the side of the argument that clearly produces people (in ANY number) who think it’s okay to put you to death for saying things they find insulting to their beliefs.

    While I would dearly love for us all to just get along, I think Mister Rashid needs to examine why he isn’t working to ameliorate the teachings of his religion so that people who say hateful things about it are protested verbally rather than targeted for death.

  • Interesting piece, McQ. I didn’t know the history of “hate speech” as a concept, but it certainly rings true. Just another of those 1984 as a manual things.

    I’ve come to the clear conclusion that PC is simply the same thing in different guise. It is simply censorship and newspeak. I’ve decided I ain’t gonna play any more. Married ladies are “Mrs.”.


    The Collective is breaking cover, as we’ve noted before. A decade ago, no candidate for national office would DARE have espoused this bullshit. Now they have no fear.

  • The BIG BUTS of the Mushroom Media are a special brand of coward. Plus, THEY are the ones practicing religious bigotry. It’s alllllllll coo for EVERYBODY but the Islamists.

  • I am trying to imagine the coming American “utopia”, where everyone will be compelled to publicly accept the moral neutrality of homosexual acts, traditional Christian teachings on the subject will be excluded from the the marketplace of ideas, but an enormous cultural carve-out will be made for Muslim sensibilities. If Islamist radicals shoot up a gay pride parade, will the incident simply be considered a moral wash, or will gays actually be expected to apologize for provoking their assailants?

    So much complexity when simplicity is so….simple.

  • Excuse me everyone…. This post was a clear micro aggression. You didn’t even provide a trigger warning!

    Now excuse me, I’m so traumatized by your very ideas that I need to find a fainting couch in a safe space,

  • “I do not like broccoli. And I haven’t liked it since I was a little kid…”

    Quote from the well known and self-proclaimed hater, George H.W. Bush

    Myself, I love broccoli, but I hate sauerkraut, waldorf salad, and flan.

    My name is Tim, and I, too, am a hater.


    See? That picture of those kids is “provocative” and “incendiary”.

  • Pretty obvious most of the media doesn’t get it.
    From what I can tell, they’re weighting freedom to speak against the possible reactions of people hearing it.
    If a collection of whackjobs gets offended enough to commit murder at our speech, then we shouldn’t say or do (or draw) those things.
    We’re acting irresponsibly and inciting.

    How do you suppose King George III would have reacted to Patrick’s Henry’s speech that summed up with “give me liberty or give me death” ?
    “Guards, accommodate that man….he shall have death”.

    The assassins veto, as it’s called, trumps free speech.
    In the view of the weak sisters if someone might be homicidally offended by your speech, you have a duty not to make that speech.
    And so as I commented on another thread, we are allowed to have a play about Mormonism that might conceivably anger Mormons and offend them by mocking their faith, but the general expectation is Mormons will act with restraint and there won’t be any killing over it. So it’s okay. Hell, people will PAY to go see it.
    Therefore THAT speech is free to be made.
    Because Mormons, apparently, aren’t homicidal maniacs.

    But draw a picture (not even a negative picture) of Muhammed – and you receive a death sentence.
    You should be tried by a Sharia court, and then executed preferably in some ultra-civilized fashion, like, having a 30 lb stone slammed down on your head as you’re held down in the gutter, or being thrown blind folded from a tall building. Nice touch the blind fold, very humane.
    And so you shouldn’t draw pictures of Muhammed or say things that offend them, because you might piss off some maniacs, and you have a civilized duty NOT to piss them off.

    So, the sword is mightier after all eh?
    At the end of the day, who’s behaviors are likely to be modified here?

    Should we then learn to accept wife beaters? Child beaters? Wives shouldn’t do things to anger their abusive husbands? Children shouldn’t anger their parents?
    How about we create a scenario – with Sally, and Fred.
    Sally doesn’t cook the noodles long enough for the spaghetti and they’re too Al dente. Fred hates that, it makes Fred mad.
    He smacks her around because, hey, she made him mad. She should have known better!
    Maybe, like the people who drew Muhammed cartoons, she KNEW it would piss Fred off.
    Maybe she did it on purpose.

    maybe Sally didn’t DO anything.
    Maybe she just SAYS things to Fred that make him mad.
    Maybe she tells Fred she doesn’t think it’s right for him to hit her all the time.
    Maybe she uses speech to say something to Fred that Fred doesn’t like.
    Would we all understand if Fred smacked her around a little then?
    Yeah, right.

    So how is a wife beater’s lack of restraint any different than the lack of restraint demonstrated by fanatics who will kill you because you drew pictures of their prophet?
    All that matters really is they’re angry because you did something that upset them. How is it any different.

    As far as I can tell violence in response to being made angry comes in way more flavors than being angered because someone insulted your religion.
    As a society we don’t accept that and we don’t coddle it, or try to explain it away, or find ways to justify it, or blame the victims for their attackers violent impulses.

    • Or, “that dress is sure short and provocative” – rape justified.

      • Violence is violence – beatings, rape, murder. It only varies in degree.

        So what if radical islamists didn’t murder the people who insult them, what if they just raped them instead? What then? Would we be having this discussion (yes, we would).

        Sigh. If I recall correctly though we’re talking about some of the people who selectively make a distinction between ‘rape’ and ‘rape rape’.
        The problem WE have is we have these standards we try to adhere to and they (the selective free speech people) don’t really have that ‘problem’.