Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Coyne Champions Free Speech, Makes a Compelling Case Against Constraints on Freedom

In a masterful commentary in the NatPo, Andrew Coyne explains that, if a free society is to remain free, hurt feelings cannot be allowed to trump free expression. Also, that Hitler dude--he ain't coming back:
Probably the strongest case is that recently made by the American legal theorist Jeremy Waldron, in his book The Harm in Hate Speech. Hate speech, he argues, is nothing less than an assault on the dignity of the targeted groups, robbing them of the “implicit assurance” a just society owes to all of its citizens: that they are accepted as members of that society. Without such assurance, it becomes difficult, if not impossible, for them to participate fully in the community.
I can see that applying, in a society where such views were dominant. But a handful of neo-Nazis? How is anyone’s membership in society threatened because somebody, somewhere, has an Adolf Hitler decoder ring? Perhaps it might be argued that it is only the law that prevents the few from becoming the many: that in its absence, hatred would be, not the exception, but the rule.
Yet that is not the experience of free societies. Rather, it is in backward dictatorships that hatred of minorities is most virulent. How, indeed, does the impulse arise to protect vulnerable groups in this way except amid the general climate of tolerance of others that is the very basis of freedom of speech? Is it the ban on hate speech, then, that protects them, or the broader absence of such limits? 
The latter, clearly. But the inclination of some--sadly, too many of them Jews--to snuggle up to a fuzzy-wuzzy shut-yo'-mouth security blankie causes them to lose all rationality and, indeed, historicity.

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