This was stuck in my drafts folder. I have published it on the date of creation. It is half-baked and unfinished, so forgive the roughness.
Few argue with the stated objective of hate speech legislation, but it is widely abused for political means, interferes with free inquiry (needed for science and democracy) and is often counterproductive (inflames rather than reduced ethnic tension).
Countries like Australia are ditching it. We have ancient and effective laws against incitement that are enough to handle direct harms. Look at Sweden. It has the most draconian Hate Speech legislation and has an exploding problem with extreme far-right nationalism. A significant part of the problem is that honest dialogue is impossible because the laws are used a political weapon.
Here in Denmark where we have great free speech, we have no such problems. People speak freely, there is a marketplace of ideas, pragmatic and fair solutions are created where all stakeholders – including the often silenced minorities – are considered. This leads to increased social cohesion, not less.
In Europe, we waged a 1000 year fight against religious and state authorities to establish rights that you take for granted and are the underpinnings of liberal democracy. People are entitled to believe what they want, even if it is that certain groups are sub-human (Freedom of thought). They also have the rights to express those beliefs (freedom of speech). Those natural rights are, as you say, constrained by the harm principle (You should not hard others with your actions). The argument since WW2 has been what harms come from certain kinds of speech. We have gone from direct incitement (“Kill that man!”) to a situation where merely insulting people is now criminal.
In our desperate effort to contain the problems arising from mass migration and botched multiculturalism, we are destroying our rights. The second order effects are damaging to democracy and ruinous if not utterly destructive to minorities. We are like rats gnawing on the ropes that keep us from falling into the sea. In our short-sighted effort to address the symptoms of our problems (Hate speech, rising social tensions, erosion of democracy, radicalism) we damage the tools we will need to fix them (like freedom of speech).
It is impossible to explain the subtleties here, but please read the magnificent book Kindly Inquisitors by the gay rights activist Jonathan Rauch. It is one of the finest books on the subject.
Another example – from the Tito era – is the perpetuation of social and political silliness because people want to avoid offending other’s beliefs or are too scared to say things out loud. This wonderful RSA animated presentation by Professor Renata Salecl on The Paradox of Choice. Check out her description of people in Yugoslavia pretending to believe in Communism despite almost no one really believing it.
- We protect free-speech as fiercely as we can.
- Fist we believe we can find a political solution – no more fatalism and pessimism.
- We do not leave this to the state, it has failed to manage this and cannot be trusted. We address it at a civic level.
- We use the ancient tools of building trust: Honest dialogue, acknowledgment, the truth
- We make it safe for people to speak up. We establish genuine politico-cognitive diversity
- We (Europeans) accept immigrants as 100% equals as citizens and stakeholders (like in the USA)
- We repudiate essentialism. You are defined by what you espouse and choose to support e.g. you may be judged for supporting slavery, not because you are white.