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View Diary: "Hate Speech" is Not the Same as "Free Speech" (188 comments)

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  •  Who decides? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    T100R
    We will be no less free if it is against the law to intentionally stir up hatred against vulnerable minorities.
    The problem is that you then need to create legal definitions for terms like "stir up hatred" and "vulnerable minority"—and those definitions would have to be drawn either so narrowly as to make it all but impossible to violate them, or so broadly as to take in virtually any criticism.

    Fundamentalist* Christians, for example, would maintain that they're a minority in this country, and that calling them bigoted or hateful or ridiculing or mocking them is "intentionally stirring up hatred" against them. They would also claim that their speech towards LGBT people is motivated not out of hate, but out of love for their souls and desire for them not to continue in their sin and go to hell.

    That people like us think they're wrong on both counts would make no difference if they managed to gain control of whatever governmental entity had the power to decide what constituted "stirring up hatred" and "vulnerable minority." And any system that insulated that governmental entity from being used by fundamentalist Christians to outlaw any criticism or ridicule of their beliefs, would all but certainly be similarly insulated from supporters of LGBT rights using that entity to outlaw the kind of anti-LGBT bullying that leads to far too many suicides.

    So we're left with this governmental entity being either a political football, used by those in power as a bludgeon against those with whom they disagree, or being so completely insulated from any kind of controversial opinion as to outlaw only the most egregious, Westboro Baptist-esque speech acts.

    The truly hateful bullies could easily find a way to skirt the Westboro Line and engage in speech that would be just as damaging to the psyche—and could, in fact, be even more insidious and dangerous, since it has now been officially declared Not Hate Speech by the government.

    * I use that term to refer not to all evangelical Christians, but to Christians whose denominational history is specifically tied to the fundamentalist movements of the 1890s-1930s.

    "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

    by JamesGG on Sun Aug 18, 2013 at 03:17:15 PM PDT

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    •  Lawmakers decide (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      twigg

      like they do on other matters in our republic. You're right, there will need to be legal definitions of terms. This is something that would need to be hashed out by lawmakers.

      This works for other Western nations, and I do not buy that the law would be impossible to write and the terms impossible to accurately define.

      I don't mind if you're straight. Just don't flaunt it in public.

      by Chrislove on Sun Aug 18, 2013 at 03:27:53 PM PDT

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      •  I find it odd that there are even liberals (1+ / 0-)
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        Chrislove

        who think this is too hard for America to accomplish.

        People cling to the 1st as a mantra, wanting the protections it affords, yet seemingly resigned to the very real disadvantages that accompany that Amendment.

        In reality, for nearly everyone, how much real harm would be done to people's rights to be heard?

        In the name of the 1st Amendment, how much harm is currently being done?

        I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
        but I fear we will remain Democrats.

        Who is twigg?

        by twigg on Sun Aug 18, 2013 at 03:32:00 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Too hard for America, or too hard for Congress? (0+ / 0-)
          I find it odd that there are even liberals who think this is too hard for America to accomplish.
          It's not about what America as a nation can accomplish—it's about what the American government, and particularly the American Congress can accomplish. And right now, this American Congress can't even accomplish basic things like raising the debt ceiling or passing a transportation bill.

          What makes you think that the very same U.S. Congress that can't even continue to fund the government without right-wing extremists hijacking the process, would be capable of navigating the unbelievably complex and dangerous waters of defining a new limitation on speech?

          "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

          by JamesGG on Sun Aug 18, 2013 at 03:51:53 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Why do you trust the government so much? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Be Skeptical

          Do you also believe the government when they say that voter ID laws are intended to prevent fraud?

      •  ps ... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Chrislove

        I also think there are many commenters who have never suffered as a result of overtly expressed hatred.

        I rather think they would take a different view if they had.

        I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
        but I fear we will remain Democrats.

        Who is twigg?

        by twigg on Sun Aug 18, 2013 at 03:33:33 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I think you're absolutely right (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          twigg

          People who have not directly suffered seem to view this in the abstract. It drives me nuts, because this is anything but an abstract argument...lives are at stake.

          I don't mind if you're straight. Just don't flaunt it in public.

          by Chrislove on Sun Aug 18, 2013 at 03:34:36 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  In my case, you'd think wrong. (0+ / 0-)

          I was bullied growing up, because I was awkward, nerdy, and a bit "odd."

          And I can tell you from personal experience that those who were doing the bullying knew exactly where the line was drawn by whatever set of rules was in force, and exactly what they could do without ever crossing it.

          "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

          by JamesGG on Sun Aug 18, 2013 at 03:45:52 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Perhaps it's a matter of degree. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Be Skeptical

          I have been subject to antisemitic speech several times over the course of my life, mainly when I was younger, but I don't think I suffered a great deal as a result. Most off the time I attributed the comments to ignorance, and didn't take them as personally threatening. But this is partly because the cultural context had become less hostile to Jews than it perhaps had been earlier, and I didn't face the same level of obstacles that others did.

          Gondwana has always been at war with Laurasia.

          by AaronInSanDiego on Sun Aug 18, 2013 at 04:19:21 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  In *this* Congress? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Be Skeptical
        This is something that would need to be hashed out by lawmakers.
        If you think John Boehner & Company would allow any truly damaging and hateful anti-LGBT speech to be outlawed, I think you're deluding yourself.

        We would be left with definitions drawn so narrowly as to be virtually meaningless in all but the most extreme situations—which would do very little, if anything, to stem the tide of the kind of hate speech that drives LGBT teenagers to suicide.

        "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

        by JamesGG on Sun Aug 18, 2013 at 03:43:18 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Who said anything about this Congress? (0+ / 0-)

          I certainly didn't. We can't even get ENDA out of this Congress.

          I don't mind if you're straight. Just don't flaunt it in public.

          by Chrislove on Sun Aug 18, 2013 at 03:54:17 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  And yet, you would give that very Congress... (0+ / 0-)

            ...that even now won't pass ENDA, because the idea that employers shouldn't be able to discriminate against LGBT people is too radical for them, the power to define "hate speech" and prescribe criminal penalties against those who engage in speech that meets that legal definition.

            Unless you're going to change the very nature of Congress and the legislative process itself, giving the power to criminalize speech to any Congress means that you're eventually going to be giving that power to another Congress like this one.

            If you're serious about this proposition becoming law in the US, it would have to pass not through an ideal Congress but through the real one, in which many of the representatives hold opinions that might place them on the receiving end of any penalties prescribed for hate speech.

            "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

            by JamesGG on Sun Aug 18, 2013 at 08:11:12 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Obviously, it's not going to pass out of Congress (0+ / 0-)

              anytime soon. That much, we can all see. In principle, I wholeheartedly support criminalizing hate speech, but I am not blind to political realities.

              Assuming something like this became law, neither of us can look into a crystal ball and know whether or not a future Congress would try shenanigans with the hate speech law. But that doesn't change my support for hate speech laws. I believe it is fundamentally the right thing to do. Obviously, the passage and survival of a hate speech law comparable to those in other Western countries would require a number of moving parts, including a Congress willing to pass it and a Supreme Court willing to uphold it. I do not look for it to happen in my lifetime, but I will go to my grave supporting it.

              I don't mind if you're straight. Just don't flaunt it in public.

              by Chrislove on Sun Aug 18, 2013 at 09:05:17 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

    •  James ... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Chrislove

      Much of the answer here is not about defining banned speech, and punishing the wrongdoers, although there may be an element of that.

      It is about making a statement about who we are, and what we will and will not tolerate.

      Making a law in isolation does little other than persuade some to try to circumvent that law, but changing the dialogue, and supporting that with some modest proposals regarding the laws is normal. It is what we do.

      We did it with DUI, we did it with seatbelts, we will do it with guns and we can do it with hatred.

      If a particular church has a problem with that, then that church has a problem with a society that will not tolerate bigotry and hatred, and they will change or shut up.

      It's not so long ago that it was considered permissible to beat your wife. Then we made laws against it, and, patchily, started enforcing them.

      I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
      but I fear we will remain Democrats.

      Who is twigg?

      by twigg on Sun Aug 18, 2013 at 03:28:33 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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