Criminalizing Hate Speech — What Could Go Wrong?

From Billie Murray, a Communications Professor at Villanova University, writing in The Hill:

Although this is a contentious and complex issue, there is no reason why our democratic institutions cannot develop guidelines for criminalizing hate speech. We already restrict speech in cases of libel, fighting words, in professional settings, and with regard to commerce. If we truly believe in the importance of free speech, then we must be willing to have these conversations and protect ourselves from the harms of hate speech. Not just the immediate harms to individual people or groups, but the harms to democracy itself.

It’s so easy to find stupid and evil like this in our public discourse, and so hard to continuously stamp it down.

If America tosses away the right to speak freely, it will be because of so-called hate speech. The pressure is so great, and the basic civic knowledge of the average citizen is so poor, that we’ll give up our rights in the name of anti-hate.

And we will lose our democracy in the bargain.

Which great societal shift could have happened without controversial speech?

Women’s suffrage? Civil rights for minorities? The abolition of slavery? I guarantee that any of these movements could have and would have been snuffed out, had the ruling class been able to simply label them as hateful, or harmful to individual groups.

I’m not willing to let the same people who wrote the tax code figure out exactly what I can and cannot say. 


This entry was posted in Free Speech, freedom, Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Criminalizing Hate Speech — What Could Go Wrong?

  1. The Shoveler says:

    People have tried criminalizing “hate speech”, and we have had a Supreme Court opinion about it. R.A.V. vs. City of St. Paul. I recommend reading the brilliant majority opinion written by Justice Scalia.


  2. Paul Krendler says:

    “I will consent to your ban on hate speech on the day you consent to my definition of it.”

    Liked by 3 people

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