Against the use and promotion of ‘hate speech’…

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Of all the reasons to write a book this one’s got to the most incongruous: i.e. the receipt of an email saying “YOU ARE A TOTALITARIAN ASSHOLE”.

Nice piece from John Paul Stevens in the New York Review of Books, in which he reviews Jeffery Waldron’s theses that freedom of speech should be tempered particularly when it comes to the use of ‘hate speech’. In the end Stevens is not convinced, but quotes Waldron’s call for the reinforcement of civility in public life:

“Public order means more than just the absence of fighting: it includes the peaceful order of civil society and the dignitary order of ordinary people interacting with one another in ordinary ways, in the exchanges and the marketplace, on the basis of arm’s-length respect.

Above all, it conveys a principle of inclusion and a rejection of the calumnies that tend to isolate and exclude vulnerable religious minorities. “[I]f we may openly speak the truth,” said John Locke, “as becomes one man to another, neither Pagan nor Mahometan, nor Jew, ought to be excluded from the civil rights of the commonwealth because of his religion.”

In Northern Ireland where most of us are definite in our politics by the religious affiliation of our parents and wider families that is only troubling when it comes to dealing with ‘de udder side’…

Not far from our old literary friend, Michael Longley

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  • aquifer

    Hate speech can effectively ‘flood the zone’ by displacing rational discourse, making conciliation impossible. It is used as an accessory to violence by people who would probably lose an evidenced argument and thus chose violence to promote their ends. The hate speech is issued to provoke violence and thus avoid the attribution of unjust aggressor, or to confer superior status on the speaker. If hate speech is unchallenged by refutation or by violence the perception can be that the speaker and their views are dominant, even if his (and it is usually his) arguments are without merit in terms of reason.

  • Mister Joe

    Protection of human rights is an appropriate matter for legislation. But I do not believe that freedom from being hated is such a right. Let the hatemongers speak and confront them vigorously.