Governments should be careful creating hate speech lawsBy Nicolas Briscoe | 07/06/2017 8:18am
On June 20, the Sussex Police Force, of Sussex, England, posted a tweet that would go on to draw mixed reactions from those responding. It read “This man used Facebook to express his hatred for Muslims & has gone to prison #WeStandTogether against hate crimes." In Germany, twenty-three police departments raided thirty-six homes across fourteen German states in search of suspected ‘hate posters,' and removed their Internet-connected devices.
The reaction from the citizens of these nations was unnervingly supportive. The majority of respondents on Twitter echoed the sentiment of the hashtag. There were many standing together against the apparent crime of hateful expression, regardless of the Orwellian totalitarian enforcement tactics of the supposedly well-intentioned governments. This willful submission to the full frontal assault on freedom should send a shiver down the collective spine of those citizens around the world who value liberty over oppression.
The tendency for the uncomfortable to seek rectification for their discomfort by virtue of government intervention is not a new phenomenon, nor is it terribly novel. Tyranny rarely presents itself as such. It is the first rule of authoritarians and tyrants to assuage the desires of the concerned by curbing the right of the people to speak freely in a manner contrary to a perceived “common good”. Like boiling a frog, the slow uptick of heat in the cauldron of civil liberty abuses is historically almost unnoticeable until it is too late, and you find yourself a fully cooked victim of authoritarian rule.
Once the precedent has been set allowing the government the prerogative to curb speech it deems unsavory, government power is checked only by the restraints of the current ruling class, rather than a concrete guardian of liberties that transcends personal ideologies. Willfully granting the government the authority to decide what speech will be regulated will inevitably result in government believing it has that right.
Despite the claims that the United States has set its own precedent in the war against speech with the “fighting words” doctrine established in Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire (1942), no such equivalency exists. The narrative that hateful speech leads directly to violence is the undeniable beginnings of totalitarian rule. The equivocation of anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic, anti-black, anti-white, or anti-anything speech with “fighting words” is a dangerous equivalency that mars the boundaries of both concepts. Saying that Muslims should not be allowed in this country (see: vile racism, legal) is a fundamentally different statement than telling a Muslim that you intend to hurt or kill them, or other Muslims (see: fighting words, illegal).
The American penchant for absolute or near-absolute free speech has allowed for a nation freer than any on Earth. Stories are rampant across most of Europe, the socialist utopias of Scandinavia, Canada, and outliers elsewhere in the world, of government crackdowns on free speech resulting often in detention or arrest. Rather than addressing the concerns of the overwhelming masses that radical Islamic terrorism and its sympathizers pose a serious and existential threat to western society, they opt to display their own tolerance by being entirely intolerant of dissenting opinions deemed unsavory.
There are many in the United States that seek to emulate the free speech violations of other western nations. We see the guerilla militia tactics of “Antifa” stifling free speech using violence and the threat thereof. Conservative speakers such as Ben Shapiro, Ann Coulter, and Charles Murray, among several others, encounter massive protests designed to stop the spread of their opinions at college campuses—often supported by a willfully complicit administration. Those spoiled by the luxury of liberty are often those who seek to degrade or destroy it. They seek enhanced crackdowns on free speech, while simultaneously taking every possible opportunity to eviscerate the President and calling him everything from the stupidest dope that has ever been elected to public office to the most brilliantly evil mastermind/superspy/saboteur in human history—all within a span of five minutes. The accusations might be ridiculous and their insults poorly thought out, but the right to criticize the government is a hallmark of free society.
Those demanding the government act to curb that which they deem “hate speech” will be shocked at how quickly speech against the government is deemed hateful, and banned. Eagerly granting government power over the speech of its citizens is beginning the descent on a sharp, slippery slope towards oppression and despotism. Each law that chips away at our most closely held civil liberties, no matter how opposed you might be to the application of the liberty in question, is an unacceptable affront to the foundation of our republic and the inalienable rights that emanate thereof. As is often said, “If you do not support the liberty of those with whom you disagree, you do not support liberty.”