If politicians are given the power to silence citizens, three things will happen:
1. There will be an abuse of power
2. There will be gross incompetence
3. There will be situations where people can’t tell the truth, because the truth has been deemed offensive and therefore classified as restricted speech
In the United States of America, you are not allowed to verbally threaten violence against other individuals. Outside of that, people have a lot of liberty in regards to what they are able to say.
There are hate groups that take advantage of that freedom to spew their garbage. I’m going to give two examples of this, and how it was handled. Not by the government, but by society, by community.
In 1995 the KKK came to Wheaton, IL
Wheaton is a Western suburb of Chicago next to Naperville. In 1995 the Ku Klux Klan legally obtained a permit to demonstrate in the county court house. So what do you do when this happens in your town? An organization of hate and ignorance which has historically caused great suffering to a great number of people.
This is how it was handled in Wheaton. Citizens of Mexican heritage organized a 26-piece mariachi band to perform on the common grounds. There were also protestors. If you came to this event you could stand with the protestors and chant, “Hey! Hey! Ho! Ho! KKK has got to go!” Or you could hang out with the band and do a little La Bamba.
The best case scenario for a KKK rally is that nobody shows up. Having not that many people there and a mariachi band wasn’t a bad response. That organization hasn’t been back to Wheaton since.
There was a police presence to keep the peace. To make sure people were protected from harmful actions, not offensive words.
The Westboro Baptist Church comes to Orlando
What’s the biggest dirt-bag thing you can think of doing? How about harassing people who are grieving for lost loved ones? This is what the Westboro Baptist Church does. After the Orlando shooting this organization came to spew their garbage about how God wanted this to happen and hates gay people.
How did Orlando deal with it? Not through the government. An organization came together and formed a group called the Angels. I may be an atheist, but these Angels I believe in. They came with big wings and provided a barrier between the people grieving and a despicable hate group.
In the USA, most people have the wits to understand that we don’t give politicians the power to silence citizens.
So what’s wrong with a politician wanting to censor speech if they have good intentions? What if they genuinely want to protect children from hate speech? You care about the children don’t you? And they only want to ban a tiny part of speech. No big deal right? You won’t even notice.
The problem is that once you crack that door open, the politicians will rip that door off the hinges. You give them an inch, they will take a mile. If censorship is allowed to become law, a line miles long will form with people looking for handouts. You banned speech here, so we want you to ban speech there. You did it for these people, so do it for us. Otherwise, that’s discrimination.
Before you know it, there are so many hate speech laws in the books that the country has become an Orwellian police state. People are arrested for thought crimes. People become afraid to speak if what they say might in anyway be considered offensive and warrant a fine or imprisonment.
Historically these laws have always been used by people in power to silence opposition. Make it illegal to criticize a creed, associate yourself with the creed, and now you are exempt from criticism.
Is anyone naïve enough to believe that such laws will be implemented fairly? That they won’t be used to silence one side of the political spectrum over the other? All you have to do is accuse someone of using so called offensive speech and you can shut them down. Get some friends of yours together and make the accusation against someone you don’t like to the local authorities.
Is anyone naïve enough to think that there won’t be mass hypocrisy in so called hate speech laws? Criticism of one religion will be considered hate speech, but not criticism of another. For one group saying hateful things is fine, but not for another.
And, of course, religions will be exempt from criticism that’s been classified as offensive speech, but the hateful speech within the religious text itself calling for non-believers to be murdered and tortured forever will somehow get a free pass. There’s nothing hateful in the Bible or the Qur’an right?
And then there’s the matter of gross incompetence. Historically these laws have been so vague they’ve resulted in frivolous lawsuits. People offended by everything will be suing everyone. And it just takes one misguided judge to rule in favor of something being offensive that anyone with common sense can see is not, and a precedent is set.
Reason is lost. Context won’t matter. Someone who’s for restricted speech just by mentioning what he or she thinks should be banned can later be trapped in their own web.
And once again, people won’t be able to tell the truth if the truth is deemed offensive. Let’s suppose there is a hierarchy of power in a church that has been caught protecting child predators. Telling the story will be considered religious discrimination and hate speech. So the story doesn’t get covered and the crimes continue.
There are people in European countries that have experienced the corruption and incompetence that these so called hate speech laws have created. There are people in Australia who are afraid that their politicians are going to go in this same misguided direction.
I’ve heard people in Australia say that they don’t have the First Amendment like we do in the States. My response to that is GO GET IT! We Americans are generous! We 100% give you the authorization to copy and paste our First Amendment into your governing documents. Get your representatives to make this happen. If they won’t, find representatives that will.
For the people in European countries inflicted by government censorship, get the legislation necessary to make all existing so called hate speech laws null and void. Get your representatives to make this happen. If they won’t, find representatives that will.
The individual rights and liberties of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom to peaceably assemble are not American values, or Western values, they are human values. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights from the United Nations has the same ideology. This represents the pinnacle of human reasoning. Any change to that is not progress, it’s going backwards. It’s taking a society backwards.
The best way to deal with hate speech isn’t to pretend it doesn’t exist. Expose it and address it. Don’t confront bad ideas with censorship, address them with the better arguments.
Let reason prevail and let freedom ring.
-James Kirk Wall
The New York Times – In Illinois, Klan’s Protest Answered With a Mariachi Celebration
NBC News – Tim Stelloh – Angels Quietly Block Westboro Protesters at Orlando Funeral
Michigan State University International Law Review – Kelly Kane – European Hate Speech Laws and their Chilling Effects on the Freedom of Expression
The Intercept – Glenn Greenwald – In Europe, Hate Speech Laws are Often Used to Suppress and Punish Left-Wing Viewpoints
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