This post is part of the series Free Speech
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In my last post I described some of the motives and underlying assumptions of hate speech regulations. I indicated some of the problems that hate speech laws have and suggested that alternatives are necessary. Hate speech laws divide society, increase hatreds, promote ignorance and punish questions. The solution to the problems of hate speech laws and hate speech is free speech.
If hate speech regulations do not exist and everyone is free to speak freely on any issue, then none of the problems of hate speech laws will appear. This much is clear. Now some people will lie, exaggerate, extrapolate beyond the evidence, speculate and distort the truth. Still others will believe in various hatreds out of ignorance or because of inherited beliefs. So it is not obviously clear that free speech by itself has no problems.
Free speech is the solution to the problem because it is required in order for the real solution to exist. The real solution to ignorance is truth. The solution to hatred is love and the solution to various distortions of the truth is the full truth with evidence. But none of these things can exist unless they can can be freely spoken. To show that ignorance is ignorance requires an understanding of what the ignorant person believes and why they believe it. Hate speech laws prevent that. To show that a hatred is hatred requires the same thing. Yet a complete understanding of these things requires no restriction on what sorts of opinions and evidence may be discussed.
This is especially true in the most extreme cases. Consider the case of neo-Nazism. Neo-Nazis vary in their beliefs but they usually believe that the Jews should have been completely killed. We view such opinions with disgust. However, we must not let our disgust prevent us from understanding why neo-Nazis believe as they do. Since the only way to understand them is by listening to their opinions, they must be allowed to speak freely. Afterwards, we can refute all of their reasoning, demonstrate that their opinions are false and do so in the open. Since both sides spoke freely, it will be evident to the public that Nazism is wrong.
There are two caveats at this point. First, free speech only permits wrong opinions to be refuted. It would be possible for the public to simply tolerate these opinions. Perhaps the public is lazy. Perhaps they do not really care about other people. But free speech will open that door. Hate speech laws will close it. Second, this assumes that all other things are equal. Much of the time they are not. But if other things are not equal, then it is those differences that must be examined. If there is a case to be made for restricting free speech because of those differences, then it must be made on those grounds rather than the grounds of hatred.
Next, I will discuss offensive speech and why some might believe that offensiveness is a reason to restrict speech.
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