Learning to love hate speech

Almost everyone these days has heard that hate speech is a federal crime. That’s because hate speech is hurtful to people’s feelings, especially when it exposes in public what people are: whether in terms of gender, religion, political creed, ethnic background, economic status, body mass, cheerfulness, diligence, or intelligence. For people to hear what they are — or aren’t — can be very upsetting. Therefore Congress has passed laws against hurtful speech.

If this were a pollster’s sample question, a majority of Americans would probably agree that hate speech is now illegal in the United States. And fortunately it’s illegal because it hurts people’s feelings, and people have a right to feel their feelings undisturbed.

But, of course, hate speech isn’t illegal in America. In the public forum of political discourse, such speech is completely protected by the First Amendment. And in private, hate speech is equally protected by three little eternal words, “freedom of speech.”

In short, hate speech is not illegal in the United States. And those who say it is are either misinformed, or they’re lying. At the insistence of the American people, the Founders wisely put “freedom of speech” in the Constitution, and ever since then the Supreme Court has vigorously protected it. You don’t have a right not to be offended by public speech.

Consider liberals who are so adamantly opposed to hate speech. Ask them if hate speech against Hitler and Nazis should be banned. Of course not! How about hate speech against Trump? Double ditto no! And against Obama? Oh, but that’s different! That should be illegal! In other words, liberals are really just advocating their own political speech, and aiming to ban everyone else’s. That sounds like hate silence, and a despotism of ideas. Those were Hitler’s techniques.

Other countries are enacting laws that forbid hate speech in the name of political accord. That sounds good. But when you look at those countries, you quickly discover that their records for domestic tranquility are inferior to America’s. Indeed, no country in the world can match the United States for its political stability and civic accord.

The correlation between freedom of speech and domestic tranquility isn’t a coincidence. When people have the right to explain, repeat, demand, chant, shout, yell, and scream their opinions in public, however offensive or absurd, they’re at least venting their feelings. When they’re denied this right, their energies get locked inside with increasing anger and desperate frustration. That’s when the pressure suddenly blows in political and private violence.

And so the next time someone is hatefully discoursing in your direction in public, listen to them, and then change your mind and thank them, or don’t listen to them and follow the advice of the Supreme Court and walk away. But even then thank them in your mind — and even in your heart — for the violence of speech which replaces the violence of action.

Robert Jacques

James Stuchell


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