“Free Speech” is the mantra of today. Cried by both liberals and conservatives alike. It’s so important to our society that it was the very first right guaranteed in the U.S. constitution. And rightfully so, because the freedom to speak your mind is the cornerstone of civilization, of innovation itself. We cannot hope to ever make advancements in our society if we cannot speak freely. Hell, it’s how Communism itself was developed.
However, we also recognize the need for limits to speech. As the common phrase goes: you cannot yell “fire” in a crowded theater. We recognize this because it causes undue harm, it actually erodes the foundation of society. If we recognize the need for restrictions of speech in one area, then we must at least recognize the possibility to limit speech in other areas.
The very purpose of hate speech is to bring harm against it’s target. It is used to create antagonisms against a group of people and organize actions to hurt them and restrict their freedom. Hate-Speech is anti-freedom. If we want to maintain a free society, then we must not tolerate hate-speech.
However, the “slippery-slope” arguments against prohibiting hate-speech does make a good point. If we simply outlaw the vague concept of “hate-speech,” then that could be turned towards any language that the government doesn’t like, such as mere criticism of it. But that is why you don’t make such laws so vague. We have to be specific about what speech we outlaw, such as Germany’s law against denying the holocaust. We can outlaw speech that promotes white supremacy, genocide, or the inferiority of different ethnicities.
I know that many people would argue that such laws could still be abused by the government, that it could twist such laws to restrict dissent. But that is an argument that can be levied against any and every law. And besides, we already limit speech in this exact manner. It is already illegal to verbally threaten someone’s life. That very law could be abused. They could arrest anyone that makes offhand comments like “I wish they would die,” or “I’m gonna kill someone,” which is a common expression to indicate that a person is angry. But the government doesn’t, because discretion is used, as it must be used in the enforcement of all laws.
Society must be as flexible in the enforcement of anti-hate-speech laws as it is in the enforcement of all laws. It must be flexible, it must have administrators that know when and where to hold people to the strict “letter of the law” and where to let it slide. And if those administrators abuse the law, like they can with any law, society must have systems in place to remove them from office.
In order for a tolerant society to exist, it must be intolerant of intolerance. Otherwise intolerance will gain power and end the tolerant society.