Do the people who want to ban hate speech actually hate speech?
On October 16, the Heritage Foundation hosted an event in which panelists discussed free speech in America, with an important focus on ‘hate speech’. The panel consisted of professor of law at New York Law School and former ACLU President Nadine Strossen, Heritage Foundation Associate Director and Research Fellow Arthur Milikh, and professor of political science at Boise State University Scott Yenor. The three of them said that they are supportive of free speech, even when it is deemed “hate speech.”
Strossen said that our culture “…is riven by divisiveness and tribalism and charges and countercharges of hatred for all manner of ideas that people at various points on the political spectrum consider hateful and hated…” She believes that hate speech should be allowed, and that “…more harm is done by allowing the government to have power to punish speech that does not satisfy the emergency principle than is done by allowing that speech to go forward and to be countered instead through education, through counter-speech, through other non-censorial measures…”. As a liberal, Strossen believes that free speech is helpful in achieving goals such as equality and diversity, and she is in favor of both diversity of people and diversity of thought.
Milikh went back to the founding of the country and said that “…the Constitution ensconces the right to absolute free speech for members of Congress because of the critical nature of being able to rule yourself…” Free speech also benefits citizens, making them rational and giving them the ability to persuade others. He said that “…the real battleground for the future of speech is taking place right now on college campuses…” Students who come out of the universities may still carry ideas of restricting free speech with them. Milikh said that “The radical goal behind this (restricting hate speech), it seems to me, is to silence the human capacity for judgment and therefore reason.” Progressives want to ban hate speech to preserve people’s dignity, but Milikh turned to the Founding Fathers to rebut this: “For America’s Founders, human dignity is based on the fact that we have a rational faculty, which means especially that we have forethought, which in turn means we can be held morally accountable for our actions.”
Yenor said: “Universities are the place in American life where the left has created an environment sanitized by a hate speech ethos, and many campuses have adopted hate speech codes and built an apparatus, creating what they believe is a safe campus.” He said that the idea of ‘diversity’ being emphasized has led to hate speech codes being enacted. He said that the results of lack of free speech on campus such as limited acceptable political discourse, prosecutions, and failure of scientific innovation were being seen and “…will spread to the detriment of freedom, prosperity, national cohesion, and technological innovation. If that is not the system we want, then lines need to be drawn on the universities sooner rather than later.”