Yes, there are more Comments of the Day emitting from the Holiday Challenge, which asked readers to answer Noah Berlatsky’s essay on NBC’s website advocating the government censorship of “hate speech.” That’s not hard to do, or shouldn’t be. It is hard to do well, though. Many, many commenters did it remarkably well.
We talk about freedom of speech a lot here. The concept is not ethics, but it is a convergence of many ethical values—respect, fairness, autonomy, rights, process, empathy, openness, accountability, and citizenship. This is definitely a United States history and culture oriented blog, and no nation or culture elevates free speech to the priotity in its values that this nation does. That is one of its enduring strengths, That this strength has been increasingly under attack recently naturally sets ethics alarms ringing, or should.
After he authored the 2017 Comment of the Day that attracted more commentary, by quite a bit, than any of the thousand plus essays I labored over last year, I couldn’t omit this one by Zoltar Speaks! in response to the Challenge.
Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, An Ethics Alarms Holiday Challenge! Identify The Rationalizations, Logical Fallacies, Falsehoods And Outright Errors In This Essay Advocating Limits On Speech…:
The problem is that those that want to define “hate speech” these days don’t know the difference between free speech, hate speech, verbal threats, actively inciting riot/mayhem/chaos, and actual physical violence.
In my opinion…
1. Free speech as in sharing opinions, protesting, print, media, etc. etc. is clearly protected under the United States Constitution whether you agree with it or not. Period!
2. Hate speech in its simplest form is that which implies or states outright that the speaker(s) hate someone or something, this is clearly protected under the United States Constitution. Hate is an opinion/thought not an action and you and I have every right to think whatever the hell we like and hate is part of that.
3. Verbal threats are borderline protected speech, it can depended on the conditions surrounding the threat, the type of threat, the intent to follow through with the threat, and the physical ability to follow through with the threat. If some run-of-the-mill US citizen were to threaten to blow up NYC with a nuclear bomb, that would not likely be an achievable threatening goal because run-of-the-mill US citizens do not have possession of nor have access to nuclear devices, but if the same run-of-the-mill US citizen actually threatens to kill the mayor of NYC, the President of the United States, their spouse, the soccer coach, white people, black people, gays, their boss, or their asshole neighbor, or that drunken prick at the bar, that should be taken very seriously as an achievable threatening goal. If Jill threatens to tell Mom that Jack drank out of the milk container, it’s certainly a verbal threat that’s achievable but it’s certainly not an abusive verbal threat. Get the idea?
4. Actively inciting riot/mayhem/chaos is not protected speech. If I tell a crowd of people to go destroy Main Street stores and that crowd of people does what I told them to do, that is NOT protected speech. Where if I say the exact same thing to a different crowd of people that thinks I’m just a nut case and they don’t destroy Main Street stores I’m not actively inciting riot/mayhem/chaos although I’m sure there would be some kind of consequences to the speech, some known and some unknown.
5. Actual physical violence is not speech and is not protected under the Constitution.
I’m sure you can argue those points, but for now just take them for what they are and read on.
The part that people are having a real problem with is knowing when someone is abusing their right to free speech by using their right to free speech to squash the free speech rights of others or when their free speech goes beyond simple opinion or hate and turns into physical action or inciting physical action. There are coddled participation-trophy-bearing social justice warrior (SJW) complete idiots out there that are equating any kind of speech they disagree with as being actual physical violence against them. It seems that their defining line for violence is first, that they disagree with it, second, that they label it hate speech, and then they jump straight to it’s violent. Hate speech is not a violent physical action, and until these SJW idiots are put in their place in a very public way this nonsense is going to get worse.