Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Why Banning Hate Speech is Wrong

Writing for the Jewish Magazine, Stefan Braun discusses the issue of censoring hate speech in Canada and why Canadian Jews were wrong to support such legislation. The big problem, as he points out, is that the definition of "hate speech" can easily change, and in Canada, it has:

To be sure, hate censorship laws and campus speech codes seemed like a good idea, back when they were first enacted. For awhile, it seemed to serve Jews well. What right thinking Canadian official would hesitate to muzzle militant neo-Nazis, sexists, homophobes, and xenophobes; or tolerate their indecent attempts to squelch the voices of their victims? Hadn't extremists done enough damage to societies everywhere? Didn't we learn our lesson in a horrific world war, combating the messages and the methods of their boundless hate? Weren't Jews the proverbial crow in the mineshaft of exploding Nazi intolerance and imploding German democracy? Justice before the age of clash of civilizations may have been hard, but it was unambiguous. Victims and victimizers were clear. This was the golden age for Jewish hate censorship.

So why, once again, do thoughtful Jewish students have to fear to speak when those whose hate knows no bounds do not fear to speak against them? Hate censorship laws and the speech codes haven't changed. But times have. The political climate has changed. Faces of oppression have changed. And so, too, have the discourses of campus hate censorship. There is now a new, more popular, more belligerent, minority in town; a new victim; the victim of occupation. Forget how this occupation came to be, or the complex truths of why it persists to this day. David is now Goliath, and Goliath is David, at least in the minds of those now favored to speak. Zionism, we are told is racism. A Palestinian Holocaust is unfolding. Jewish leaders are genocidal Nazis. Israel is an Apartheid state, not a legitimate repository of the historic Jewish identity. To merely identify with it, much less advocate for it, is to stand accused of the worst kind of criminal racism in the docket of hate. Jewish voices be warned; guilt by association will not be tolerated.

And so, Benjamin Netanyahu and Daniel Pipes cannot equally freely, or fearlessly, speak at any progressive, multicultural, Canadian campus. No pro-Zionist can. But just about every self-serving anti-Zionist demagogue and Israel-demonizing progressive ideologue can. Hate is whatever those with the power to disrupt, destroy, and silence, say it is. And so, only the Jewish voice is a campus security concern. Hate censorship has been hijacked. A shelter against illegitimate promotion of hate has been turned into a sword against legitimate exercise of Jewish voice.

(Emphasis added-DD)

Why Jewish Speech and Hate Censorship Do Not Mix

(Link courtesy of the Volokh Conspiracy)

Once you start banning "hateful" speech, you legitimate censorship. Then it may be only a matter of time before your own speech is labeled as "hateful".


Anonymous professor ed said...

I agree, I felt strongly that the implementation of "speech codes" and it's twin "hate speech" were and are wrong. Academic speech codes have stifled constructive/educational discourse in classrooms on various campuses in both the US and Canada. I do not agree with ethnic, racial, or even political derogitory language, BUT it is wrong to legally out law such speech. As we are seeing in our neighbor to the north, while all presumably "educated" citizenery favor "proper" speech in our communication with one and other, that word "proper" can occasionally be devilishly defined.

11:08 AM  

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