Can you reduce hate by banning hate speech?

August 5, 2021 • 11:00 am

Author Freddie deBoer, in his Substack column below, answers my title question with a firm “no”.  And although the evidence is circumstantial (see below), I tend to think he’s right. (If you don’t know who deBoer is, his bio is here; he’s an author who says he’s “a Marxist of an old-school variety” and has little sympathy with modern social-justice movements.)

Click on the screenshot to read his claims:

deBoer begins with a good point: the issue of whether we should censor “hate speech” (which of course is a slippery concept) can be taken both as an empirical issue—do laws against hate speech actually work in suppressing both speech and hate?—and a normative one—is it ethical to censor speech in this way? The first question should be answered before the second. For if laws against hate speech are ineffective, there’s no point in debating whether we should have them: we shouldn’t. Why create laws that have no palpable consequences?

deBoer then presents two pieces of evidence that laws against hate speech don’t work. These involve countries having such laws: Germany and France. I’ll show just his thoughts on Germany:

Germany has arguably the most aggressive anti-hate speech etc. laws in the world, or at least outside of those authoritarian countries that already significantly restrict speech in general. The concept is called Volksverhetzungor incitement to hatred, and it has been broadly interpreted for decades, resulting in aggressive government action against perceived bigotry. The country is home to the expansive and frequently-evolving Strafgesetzbuch section 86a, which is the legal framework that outlaws overt Nazi symbols and literature in the country and which renders Holocaust denial illegal. Federal prosecutors and the Ministry of the Interior regularly move against organizations deemed far-right or hate groups. Does all of that aggressive government posture actually prevent those groups from flourishing?

No! No it does not! Germany has a vast, varied, and influential far-right movement. All those hate speech laws have not prevented extremist parties from operating out in the open, or their leaders from occupying positions of power, or the parties themselves from earning significant victories. As in, 12.5% of the vote and third place overall kind of victories. Germany bans groups it declares far-right extremists all the time. They respond in the way any child would be able to predict: they just rebrand. All of Germany’s many protections against far-right extremism have not prevented fascists from infesting the country’s security services. Racism? Not shrinking, growing. Anti-Semitism? You got it, baby! The Holocaust denial I mentioned is illegal? Well, they’re stepping up efforts to shut it down, which might seem encouraging until you realize that people only step up efforts to shut something down when it’s been on the rise. Of course, Germans didn’t need more evidence of the futility of censoring far-right views, given that the Weimar Republic had laws forbidding what we would now call hate speech. How did that go?

The utter failure of German hate speech laws to actually slow the growth of right-wing extremism doesn’t make them harmless. On the contrary, their bad ideas have been exported to countries with repressive governments and the onus placed on private internet companies makes them de facto arbiters of what can and cannot be expressed.

He makes the same argument for France, which bans hate speech and “permits the government to disband groups that promote racism”, as well as banning Nazi symbols and groups.  Yet, deBoer argues, “hate groups” like the National Front/Rally party are doing quite well in France, there’s hatred of Muslims by non-Muslims and vice versa, and Marine Le Pen has become politically quite popular.

Now these are not controlled experiments. One could argue, for example, that without hate speech laws the amount of hatred, racism, and pervasiveness of hate groups would be even higher than they are in Germany and France. But at least you can see that there is surely not less hate speech in these countries than in, say, the U.S., where we have no hate speech laws.  Hatred and racism don’t seem to have been driven to ground in Germany and France.

deBoer also points out, as many have before (including Hitchens), that once you give a government power to restrict speech in this way, you can’t guarantee that the restrictions will always operate in your favor. His example is France’s recent attempt to prevent citizens from sharing photos and videos of police violence, something that surely should not be restricted. As always, the salient question is “Who will decide what speech is permitted and what speech banned?” There is no good answer to this question; the censor should always be the person who’s making the argument.

Besides claiming that hate speech laws are ineffective, and thus not worth considering, one might make positive arguments for allowing hate speech. I’ve always said, for example, that Holocaust denialism should not only be legal, but people should read it. That is the way I learned what the evidence for the Holocaust really was—in the face of denialist claims like “neither Hitler nor any other high Nazi official promulgated a policy of exterminating the Jews.” (That claim was bogus, but I didn’t know the counterevidence.) The same goes for creationism: if you’re going to counter the 73% of Americans who believe in some form of creationism, you need to know what their arguments for it are (that is, arguments beyond religious brainwashing.) Note that I am not saying that creationism should be taught as science in biology class, only that one shouldn’t ban creationist arguments. And, as Mill pointed out, if you allow people to broadcast hate speech rather than doing it in samizdat, you learn who your enemies are and what they really believe, making it easier to identify and thus counter them.

At the end, deBoer makes a good point and then offers a solution to “hate”, though he himself undercuts that solution:

When people say they want to ban hate speech, what they really mean is that they want to ban hate. And you may as well say that we should ban jealousy, or anger, or greed, or fear. Hate is an endemic part of the human experience and so hate speech always will be too, even after they implant behavior-modification chips in our brains. Ban all the words you like; people will find new ways to express hate. Censorship is always an end run around a larger issue, a deeper, more vexing, stickier issue. The problem is never the expressions you wish to repress themselves but the existence of the people who would express them, and those people are ultimately the product of conditions in the world you can’t control. You cannot eliminate hate from the world, and no one alive will live to see the end of fascism. What you can do is to mitigate the negative effects of hate as best you can by empowering targeted groups and by trying to present a more compelling and attractive vision than the fascists. But that’s wild, unrealistic stuff. Try to stamp out extremism and hate with censorship when every attempt to do so has failed in the history of the world, cool. Try to make people see why you’re right and the other side is wrong? That’s too crazy to contemplate.

In my view, the only kinds of “hate speech” that should be banned are the types already banned under the U.S. courts’ interpretation of the First Amendment: personal and persistent harassment, calls for action and physical threats that are likely to lead to imminent violence, and harassment that creates an intolerable and uncomfortable workplace.

48 thoughts on “Can you reduce hate by banning hate speech?

  1. Really? We should consider whether it works before we decide to do it? I disagree. Decide whether it is ethical (or legal) to do it. If you decide it is, then determine if it can be done. and only do it if it is practicable. Our rights (at least in the US) sit before the discussion of effectiveness. It is nice, though, to see some consideration given to whether a policy works before its implementation. That seems rare. Non-existent is the idea of establishing performance indicators to use in determining if the goal is being met, and whether the policy should be continued.

    1. It is nice, though, to see some consideration given to whether a policy works before its implementation.

      Indeed. Wouldn’t it have been splendid if some consideration had been given beforehand to the efficacy of a border wall, a Muslim ban, and the proposed “skinny repeal” of the Affordable Care Act? Of if some consideration were being given now to the efficacy of the numerous voting-restriction laws being enacted by the several states. (Just such advance consideration used to be given to voting-law changes by the Civil-Rights Division of the US Justice Department under the preclearance provisions of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 until that section was gutted by SCOTUS in Shelby County v. Holder.)

    2. <>
      Yes, indeed.

      @Ken: Border walls empirically work very well to keep people from crossing a border illegally if you are prepared to “defend” them robustly, as in Eastern Germany or Israel.
      They massively reduce illegal crossings even when one isn’t prepared to shoot people to achieve one’s aims, as shown by the EU borders in Hungary (they erected a fence after 2015) or in Ceuta and Melilla (that one looks just like the GDR border outside of Berlin, but without the mines).

      1. East Germany only achieved a ~95% stop rate WITH active shooting. It’s completely unreasonable to think a non-murderous US barrier can ever function at anywhere near that.

        Additionally, our US border walls are only valuable in urban areas, when supported by rapid response. Out in the desert, it’s much more efficient to use motion detection or geophones and the like, with vehicle barriers. The wall provides a ~90-second delay to someone ready and determined to go over it. If you’re in a city, with agents nearby, that 90 seconds can be the difference between catching them on the street or not knowing where they went. But the desert itself provides a 1-3 hr delay to someone trying to fade into the general population, so giving our agents an extra 90 seconds of response time by building a wall is just irrelevant.

      2. @Ruth: My issue is that there was absolutely zero study done regarding the efficacy of the border wall with Mexico — no white-paper addressing to topic, no think-tank consideration given to it. The proposal was simply an applause line someone suggested to Donald Trump right before he stepped on a rally stage during the 2016 presidential primary campaign. It got a big reaction his crowd, so he kept repeating it, and, when the response began to falter, he added the entirely baseless promise that Mexico would pay for it.

        But if you can show me where such studies were done before Trump started touting it, or before he started diverting money from other federal programs to make his half-assed effort to build it, please point them out, and I’ll happily retract this assertion.

  2. I will take the counter position and say you can, with the following caveats:
    1. You have to be willing to be deeply authoritarian about it; I’m not talking German fine-you-for-anti-holocaust-speech authoritarianism, I’m talking Soviet and Chinese send-you-and-your-whole-family-to-a-work-camp-forever authoritarianism.
    2. This will initially only reduce the rate of speech. If you want to actually change minds, that’s much harder. At a minimum, to make a cultural change stick, you probably have to keep up that extreme level of authoritarian suppression up for a good 2-3 generations before you’ll even see a change. Maybe longer for the old ideas to die down to a trivial fraction of the population.

    But think about it this way: do you believe it’s a political possibility that China’s anti-Uighur efforts leads to the destruction of their culture? Gone from this world, existant only in records and stories? If so, doesn’t that same logic dictate that the destruction of a liberal or a right-wing extremist culture is also politically possible, if we were to use the same techniques? It’s probably not practically possible given that the western world is not as brutally authoritarian as China is or the Soviet Union was. But possible? Yes, if we were willing to be that tyrranical about it, I think yes possible. On the obvious follow-up question of “do you think right-wing extremism is such a problem that we should be that tyrranical about it”, my answer is a solid hell no.

    1. ” you probably have to keep up that extreme level of authoritarian suppression up for a good 2-3 generations…” This experiment was conducted by the Church of Rome for hundreds of years, with ambiguous results. It seemed to work most of the time, but then there was Jan Hus in Bohemia. And after that, there was Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, and the Protestant Reformation. On a smaller scale, we have the example of post-war Poland. 40 years of pretty tough authoritarian suppression, and then, in the legislative election of 1989, the Communist authorities made the mistake of allowing opposition candidates to run: the opposition won 99 out of 100 seats in the Senate and all the contested seats in the lower house (the Sejm), in which only 2 of the Communist (United Workers Party) candidates got enough votes in seats reserved for them to qualify. So, authoritarian suppression has its limits…..

      1. Fair enough; you can suppress most of the dissent for most of the time, but every few hundred years you have a break-out.
        I think my point was (to be pithy), you can’t change all the haters, but you can change most of the hater’s children’s children. The ethical question is should you, if it involved brutal tactics and reducing societal freedom. I agree with most people here (I think) on answering no to the “should you” question, even if I disagree in answering yes to the “can you” question.

  3. I’m completely in agreement that banning hate speech doesn’t work and is a bad idea. However, I have to say that deBoer’s conclusion seems off-target:

    “When people say they want to ban hate speech, what they really mean is that they want to ban hate.”

    I’m certain that these people would like to ban hate if it were possible but they know that banning hate speech won’t stop someone from having hateful thoughts. This makes deBoer’s conclusion an obvious strawman argument. Instead, these people are simply trying to ban the spread of hateful ideas via speech. They are trying to stop the hateful infecting others. It still won’t work but at least let’s argue the case fairly.

  4. Even if we assume that suppression of hate speech does not change the hater (not sure I agree with that), suppression of hate speech will change much for the bystanders who watch the hate unfold, and may learn to copy. There needs to be a clear message about unacceptable hate.

    Failure to address hate speech led many bystanders to conlude in 1930s Germany that hateful behavior, targeting specific groups or specific norms, was acceptable.

    1. There needs to be a clear message about unacceptable hate.

      Can you provide us a concise statement of how that message should be sent, by whom, and — most crucially — the standard for determining what is “unacceptable”?

      1. If he does not answer I would be glad to provide an example or two. The current bulk of the republican party has been completely transformed with conspiracy theories and out right lies. They continue with a several month audit in Arizona as we speak that is all part of the big lie. It is a fraud but on it goes and they have been trying to export the same plan to other states. Why is this allowed? Because you can shovel all the manure you want to feed the beast or party faithful as we call them.

          1. Not exactly hate-speech no. But we are talking about freedom of speech i believe and the ability to spread conspiracy and lies is what it is all about. Whether it is lies about Jews or lies about fraud in the election, the freedom to spread this stuff on a TV network, on the radio or media platforms without limit is the thing. It is pretty successful in this free society and it might just be time to put on the brakes. The writer of the post is saying that hate speech laws in Germany is simply causing more hate and I would say, not so. There is no proof of that just because you have a right wing party of 12 or 13 percent.

  5. Who is to say the laws in Germany or France are not working. Simply because Germany has a Fascist party does not mean their policies are not working. Have they had a return of Hitler? Have they had anything close to a government take over or coup? No they have not, not since 1933. So maybe the answer is yes, their policies have been a success. Whereas over here in the land of the free, we have had a pretty close call with a coup. If you think not, you better review. So maybe a little censorship or radical change in this so-called land of the free is truly needed. One dictator in the right place (Trump) has been and continues to be very successful, even though they took his access to twitter and facebook away for a time. The damage continues because of these platforms. If you want free speech so that you can counter all the lies and false information, you are only kidding yourself. There are already millions out there who are not listening because they are tuned into Fox.

    1. This was my thought. Not just Fox but also right wing radio, Youtube nuts, preachers and other assorted nuts, many with millions of followers and many who are outright suggesting it’s time to go to war against the left.

      The author states on party in Germany gets ” 12.5% of the vote and third place overall”
      Meanwhile in the US 30% are following Trump, many to their death.

      In America freedom to say whatever you want seems to not be working out so well. Sovereign citizens, militias, KKK, Nazis are not just growing but appear to have the support Trump and other Republicans. Many of them are in the military, police and other law enforcement agencies.

      As you write, the USA just had an attempted coup but the author wants to point out Germany and France’s laws on hate speech aren’t working?

      1. I don’t see the data the same way you do. In the US, KKK-type votes are courted by GOP representatives, yes, but KKK-type candidates lose their election runs. Consistently, everywhere (with maybe Steve King as the lone exception). In contrast, Nazi-like candidates in Germany sometimes win…and by sometimes, it’s like 10%.

        System effects (parliamentary vs. the US’ unique kludge) probably account for some of the differences in outcomes, but the US with it’s lack of hate speech criminal punishments elects far fewer actual Nazi and KKK types than the countries that ban Nazi types.

        The cynic in me says that’s because US voters are more naive. Here, a NYC wall street landlord can show a bit of racism and voila he gets the skinhead vote. He need do nothing more white supremacist than say ‘good people on both sides’ in a riot and they buy it hook line and sinker. In Europe, the skinheads don’t vote for you unless you actually show you’re a skinhead and will create skinhead policies and laws.

        1. But you are comparing apples and oranges. In Germany they run as Nazi in the party and win a percentage of the seats. The White supremesist party in the U.S. is the republican party. They are not going to wave nazi flags while running for office but that does not mean they are not the same as nazis. What they wave here with all their might is confederate flags. It is the same thing. Are they passing lots of laws in Germany to make voting harder? I don’t think so. They are doing it here as fast as they can.

          1. They are not going to wave nazi flags while running for office but that does not mean they are not the same as nazis.

            I do not agree the GOP or your average Trump voter is the same as nazis. Not in policies. Not in techniques. Not in the target or extent or willingness to act on racism.

            But we may have reached an ‘agree to disagree’ point. To summarize: if one sees Trump-voters as nazis, then yes, it follows to say the no-hate-speech-laws US has more nazis in government. That’s your position. OTOH, if one views (only) self-identified white supremacists nazis, then the opposite is true – the hate-speech-law-containing European states have more nazis in government. That’s my position. I don’t think we are disagreeing over a statement of fact, so I don’t see any resolution to be had here.

          2. Perhaps we should use the word “fascist” instead of “Nazi.” David Frum, a former speech writer of George W. Bush, is now coming around to characterize the Republican Party as becoming more fascistic. He writes:

            “Two traits have historically marked off European-style fascism from more homegrown American traditions of illiberalism: contempt for legality and the cult of violence. Presidential-era Trumpism operated through at least the forms of law. Presidential-era Trumpism glorified military power, not mob attacks on government institutions. Postpresidentially, those past inhibitions are fast dissolving.”

            He concludes:

            “Trump’s no Hitler, obviously. But they share some ways of thinking. The past never repeats itself. But it offers warnings. It’s time to start using the F-word again, not to defame—but to diagnose.”

            During his 2016 campaign and presidency, scholars debated whether it was fair and appropriate to classify Trump and his cult as fascists. I think now the evidence is clear: Trump is a fascist as are his followers and the toady politicians. Certainly, it is clear that the cult has no concern for the preservation of democracy. They claim to be the true patriots. They obsess over the loss of their “heritage.” They are willing to do almost anything for the leader that assuages their grievances in a changing world they do not understand and hate. These are prime characteristics of fascism.


            1. And speaking of fascism, Tucker Carlson of Fox News fame has been broadcasting all week from Hungary, singing the praises of Viktor Orban, Hungary’s Prime Minister, and offering Hungary as a model for what the US should become. I guess it remains to be seen how many in Trump World will happily consume this but, if the past is any guide, they’ll accept it just fine. Various organizations that monitor the state of democracy in the world no longer regard Hungary as one. Here’s the BBC’s take on it:


            2. Another trait of fascism, hyper patriotism taught in schools. I’d suggest this fits many Republican states to a ‘t’.

  6. Booing idea’s should always be allowed. I can imagine there are circumstances that booing groups or individuals might be restricted temporarily (cool down period). Threatening with physical violence, if believable, should be an offense.

    Just an opinion.

  7. The assumption is that “hate speech” laws suppress something called “hate”. Most “hate speech” is speech that is either critical or mocking someone’s ethnicity, religion, or sex, or sometimes whatever sexual identity adopted. Also important are versions of the so-called “blood libel” that Jews are stealing Christian children and sacrificing them. This was used to stir up Anti-Jewish riots in the Middle Ages, but you can find similar occasions in more recent history, such as the Sepoy Revolt in India caused by the false rumor the British were issuing rifle cartridges doused in pig fat. Part of the impetus for Holocaust Denialism is undoubtedly the attempt to accuse the Jews of a “blood libel” against Christians/Europeans.

    On a pragmatic level, because these types of speech can provoke race riots and even revolts, there is undoubtedly a legitimate fear of groups using “hate speech” to incite riots, vigilante “justice” and individual violence. Hence governments often restrict hate speech, especially when the government gets to define it.

    In the context of democracy, there is another role served by hate speech, in that it becomes of symbol that acknowledges the importance or worth of the group protected. It is the same reason that people fight about monuments and renaming city streets and the rest of that type of political battle. I imagine that if Germany overturned their Holocaust Denial laws, many Jews would feel as if that was a slap in the face, that Germany was saying that the suffering of their ancestors did not matter. I think it was important in the Muslim community that the EU banned cartoons of Muhammad in that it was a political recognition of Muslims as having enough importance or significance not to allow people to mock their religion. Likewise, Burqa bans and the like were intended to signal the opposite message.

    I don’t think the purpose of restricting “hate speech” was ever about stopping “hate”. The reality is that if you have two rival ethnic enclaves living side by side, there will be enough sources of friction and enough chauvinism to ensure antipathy if not hate. The point of hate speech laws are to recognize the groups politically protected by those laws, the same way you might establish a federal holiday or build a monument or make a cabinet appointment. This is the primary point of these laws, as places like Canada did not enact “hate speech” laws in response to the Casbah burning down in Toronto. It is part and parcel of multicultural politics, which is to de-emphasize the native culture and native groups, and prioritize ethnic minorities and new comers. [Of course, thereby creating the political resentments giving rise to the “hatred” by the majority while, of course, muzzling them from expressing political grievances.]

    Trying to be descriptive here, and if I have done so, it is not clear to me that “hate speech” laws do not serve an important political function, even if it is not suppressing “hate” (perhaps the opposite) nor is it unclear that in a multi-ethnic society, legislation around “hate speech” will perpetually remain an important concern whether these laws prevent “hatred” or not. Further, while I suggest that multiculturalism might feed “hate”, I do not mean to suggest that the adoption of multiculturalism is a way station on the path to a Yugoslavian Civil War. Multiculturalism has been around a long time, and its not clear that multicultural policies in say Canada are pushing that country to the brink of civil war or anything. Something can be obnoxious and venal (as hate speech restrictions are) without creating some kind of existential threat.

    1. I think it was important in the Muslim community that the EU banned cartoons of Muhammad in that it was a political recognition of Muslims as having enough importance or significance not to allow people to mock their religion.

      The EU has not banned cartoons of Muhammed (though vast numbers shy away from anything such for fear of violence), and surely, surely, surely everyone here supports the right to mock any religion? Don’t they?

      1. Please don’t cut my head off for saying it, but mocking the Prophet is not protected speech per the EU Court of Human Rights:

        Please do not view my comments as condoning blasphemy or other hate speech laws. However, they exist for political reasons, and I do not believe it has much to do with fighting “hate”.

        1. The EU court (to its great discredit) did indeed decline to over-rule an Austrian law protecting Muhammed from being insulted (someone had called him a paedophile over his marriage to the young Aisha), but there is still no EU ban on cartoons about Muhammed.

      2. Free speech laws.

        The UDHR is balancing rights, which I don’t see US Constitution does but perhaps the litigation system. So no one wants to ban Muhammad cartoons since they are criticism and humor, not hate speech – I don’t think any European nation has banned them (and a search seems to back me up).

          1. I don’t have any – that is a religious idea. And I’m not the Austrian court, so I don’t know how they define and uphold their hate speech laws.

            I seem to remember that case and a discussion here – maybe we had it – and IIRC the articles described it as an example of how laws work.

            For a more recent example:

            EU: New hate speech rules for social networks in the European Union
            Photo of Dr. Andreas SplittgerberPhoto of Caroline Walz

            By Dr. Andreas Splittgerber and Caroline Walz on 29 June 2021
            Posted in Privacy & Data Protection, Regulatory

            There is news for social media network providers operating in the European Union regarding prevention of hate speech and crimes: Austria enacted a law against hate and crime on social networks, the Communication Platform Act (KoPl-G). Following the German Network Enforcement Act (NetzDG), both laws are intended to make the deletion procedure simpler, more transparent and shift responsibility to the social network provider. A unified European Law, the Digital Service Act (DSA), could soon replace these local country rules.

  8. Feel free to rebut me. I can take it.
    An argument for banning hate speech is that having such bans offers societal and government support and solidarity to the targets of hate. It won’t prevent the victims from experiencing the hate, and the resultant fear and feeling of isolation, but at least you know that the greater society and its government is not just sitting by while it happens.

  9. You cannot make the argument that Germany bans certain speech as hate speech, and simultaneously argue that people do vote for that same hate speech — which is supposed to be illegal. That’s where DeBoer uses a bait and switch: people vote the AFD for all sorts of (bad) reasons, but they cannot vote them for hate speech that is verboten. I have no doubt about the neo nazi wing of the AFD, and saw it that way early. It’s sufficiently established by now, too.

    But it’s not something they advertise with, because it harms them at the polls. They worked for years to deny any allegations, and of course that denial trickled down to their followers, who are stereotypically elderly, conservative East Germans in rural regions where not much is going on, and the youth went away to more exciting cities. Their appeal is also partially because the main right wing party, Merkel’s CDU, is still vaguely christian-conservative (if not in practice, in occasional rhetorics) and East Germans, grown up in atheist GBR, have no warm and fuzzy feelings for their Christian rhetoric. Merkel is also rather left for a conservative, and made decisions like in the “Refugee Crisis” to which left-behind East Germans vehemently disagreed with. Even though the AFD is a con job with a fascist appendage, like Trump/Republicans, people can be tricked into voting them who are not automatically signing up for hate speech.

    There is also a control. There are fringe Neo Nazi parties where their orientation is obvious and they never got over a few percent, typically shattering at the 5% threshold. The exception was the NPD who made it over the 5% about a dozen times, but barely so.

    In comclusion, this data is misleading and doesn’t support his argument.

  10. “Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thought-crime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it.”
    George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty Four

    …and what may be expected for the end of hate speech will be a narrowed view of the world, acceptable to the elite, while half the population seethe in silent anger

  11. If deBoer is correct that the censoring of hate speech doesn’t work in reducing hate (an untested assumption) then, as he implies, democracy and free societies are in very great danger. Modern technology is the reason for this. Dictators of the past, such as Hitler, Mussolini and Mao, were able to win mass adherents through the use of radio, newspapers, and speeches as means of communicating their propaganda. Now we can add to the mix cable television and the internet. Today, people in their ideological bubbles can be exposed to propaganda 24 hours a day. There is no need to hear or consider alternative views. Thus, “good” speech will not even have the chance to counter “bad” speech. Such a situation will invariably lead to the growth of extremism, such as witnessed today. For example, in pre-internet days the number of anti-vaxxers would be much smaller.

    So, censor speech or not, it apparently makes no difference. We’re all on the road to authoritarianism and chaos. It’s human nature.

    1. Historian, do you have any evidence that things are “worse” today than in times past? In the 19th Century, the papers were pretty much advocacy journalism, Hearst was famous for beginning Yellow journalism (in the service of imperialistic wars). Is anti-vax more prevalent than in times past? Is it media or a decline in trust in government and “science”? If trust has declined, is it possibly do to bad governance leading to suspicion of “experts”?

      Certainly, many stupid people today, but plenty of stupid people in the past, and more rural and less connected. Today, you can find out at your fingertips what China thinks about an issue, what is happening in the EU, what the NYT says.

  12. DeBoer seems to confuse hate speech laws with laws against hate groups, so his numbers say nothing on the extent of the former. As I always note here, we want statistics to tell us if hate speech prevalence is affected.

    And the non-jurisprudence argument that what is the subject of law can’t be decided is philosophical – we have laws and they work by making such decisions. Frankly, it sounds like an argument that we can’t have science because we can’f decide what nature is beforehand.

    All hate speech laws say is that you should be nice:

    The Public Prosecutor’s Office

    Incitement against ethnic group
    To publicly disseminate statements that threaten or demean a group of persons, alluding to race, color, national or ethnic origin, creed, or sexual orientation.

    [ ]

    This isn’t rocket science. In fact, without statistics it isn’t empirical at all.

  13. The current movement to ban “hate speech” is not about safety or even civility. It is about suppression of dissent. The same people are trying hard to define speech or actions that they disapprove of as “violence”.

    Even if we assumed that these arguments were being made in good faith, we run headlong into human nature. Once such rules were in place, someone will eventually get themselves into the position to be able to define hate speech to include any views they disagree with. Political tides shift, and even if you are comfortable with Chuck Shumer being the one to define what speech is or is not a crime, you might not be as happy when Mitch Mcconnell gets to decide. And those people are probably the best case on could hope for. Such power would draw the wrong sorts of people. It would be irresistible to them.

    My strong preference is that we nobody such power. Lets try to go back to a point where politics is boring again, and where we experience a bit of disappointment when the other side wins, instead of fear.

    1. “Lets try to go back to a point where politics is boring again, and where we experience a bit of disappointment when the other side wins, instead of fear.”

      Of course, it’s only one side that’s doing more than experiencing a bit of disappointment over an election that didn’t go their way. Nice of you to want to calm the waters but it’s Trump and his supporters to which you should be addressing your sentiment.

      1. What do you think is going to happen the next time power shifts to the republicans?
        The current restrictions on speech are not being proposed by moderates or even conservatives. They are being proposed by woke people who are willing to risk serious damage to the country on the outside chance that the restrictions will allow them to crush their enemies, and will never be used to suppress their allies.
        It is not that these restrictions are being proposed to counter a sharp rise in incidents of racism or violence. If anything, allegations of those things are being invented to justify the goal of desired restrictions on speech and other rights.
        Because it makes no logical sense that anyone could reasonably expect such restrictions to diminish conflict, it seems more likely that they are intended to do the opposite, and might even originate from those who wish us harm. Whether those people are domestic or not remains to be seen.

        1. “The current restrictions on speech are not being proposed by moderates or even conservatives.”

          Tucker Carlson is in Hungary all week to learn how to do it. On Fox News he’s offering Viktor Orban’s government as a model that the US would be smart to follow. In that model, when those in power waits hears something they don’t like, they simply throw the speaker in prison. Laws are for weaklings.

          Given the authoritarian leanings of their current heroes, I have no doubt that the Republican party would pass laws banning speech if it bought them anything. Right now they’re looking to prevent their enemies from voting. Speech isn’t today’s problem.

        2. Perhaps you’ve missed the various Republican states banning the teaching of various negative events of American history and critical race theory?

          1. I don’t think you can draw much of a parallel between those things, and calling it “banning the teaching of various negative events of American history” seems inaccurate.
            Typical of such laws are prohibition on curriculum that teaches- “That any sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, or national origin is inherently superior or inferior,” “That individuals should be adversely treated on the basis of their sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, or national origin”. That sort of thing.
            The laws I have read do not ban the teaching of things like slavery and Jim Crow laws, but they prohibit teaching that some of the kids in the classroom are responsible for those things because of their race.
            The school boards that approve curriculum are normally elected officials, chosen to represent the voters and parents, under state supervision. CRT activists want to subvert that authority, because they apparently believe that the urgent need to teach kids from a Marxist perspective should take priority over the desires or rights of parents or anyone else.
            Our local schools are owned by the school district, under state authority. The staff and teachers are paid from that same source. Public schools are literally a function of state government. Accreditation of those schools is also a state function.

            Discussions of free speech tend to wander into grey areas, but this does not appear to be one.

  14. I have alway thought it best for hate speech to be out in the open.

    Banning it sets a precedent for banning all sorts of speech that is not hate speech.

    And most people can see what nonsense hate speech is anyway so we shouldn’t be afraid of it.

    Better out than in.

  15. Ban liquor ==> speakeasies
    Ban homosexuality ==> underground sex clubs
    Restrict religious expression ==> secret underground worship
    Restrict free speech ==> growth of the “dark web”

    In every case, those who are restricted become aggravated and feel victimized. They finally explode ala “StoneWall Inn.”

    It’s probably a good official government policy to restrict holocaust denial on any government literature or be allowed in any govt agency. However, on the street you simply can’t engage the thought police without creating division.

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