Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘hate speech’

The diplomat, 47-year-old Rowan Laxton, allegedly shouted “f***ing Israelis, f***ing Jews” while watching television reports of the Israeli attack on Gaza last month.

He is also alleged to have said that Israeli soldiers should be “wiped off the face of the Earth” during the rant at the London Business School gym near Regents Park on January 27. […]

After a complaint from a member of the public, Mr Laxton was arrested for inciting religious hatred – which can carry a seven-year prison term – and bailed to reappear at a central London police station at the end of March.

Here’s the full report.

The wisdom of having a law directed against incitement of racial hatred is questionable; the particular application here borders on the absurd. Or perhaps I am merely arguing from a strictly American viewpoint — courts here have repeatedly ruled that “incitement” must always carry an element of imminence — which might not apply in the land of the Queen.

Anyway, the point is, a person would never be prosecuted for a racial tirade in the US. Reminds me that in many ways, the US still offers free-speech protection far superior to anywhere else. I should do some research on Switzerland law before I move there.

Also read: My short post comparing free-speech protections in some selected countries.

Update: I should add that the free speech protections in this country exist primarily because they are constitutionally granted. If the present public had its way, it would certainly get diluted, as it has in so many other places.

Read Full Post »

Freedom has taken a battering in Netherlands lately and this latest news is a sad day for those of us who believe in free speech.

On a related note, it might be interesting to try and figure out what’s the best place for free speech today.

USA? Perhaps has the broadest protections for speech anywhere (thanks to the greatest piece of law ever written) with one sad exception: the obscenity statute. A culture of political correctness that is stronger than continental Europe does, however act as a social deterrent against certain types of speech.

Denmark? You will certainly not be prosecuted for obscenity, but hate speech laws exist — though they are rarely enforced.

Switzerland? Similar to Denmark, but also has laws against holocaust denial.

Netherlands? Till recently this would have been my answer, since their hate speech laws are not as broad and they will certainly not censor porn. Unfortunately they do have laws against discriminatory speech, which is what Wilders is (presumably) being charged under.

Ireland? I don’t know too much, but seems to be a good place. Technically laws against speech that ‘undermine public morality’ exist, but they are never enforced. They do not appear to have hate speech laws or holocaust denial laws.

Read Full Post »

Popular blogger and premier gay rights activist Andrew Sullivan writes:

So I oppose hate crime laws because they walk too close to the line of trying to police people’s thoughts. I support the right of various religious associations to discriminate against homosexuals in employment. I support the right of the most fanatical Christianist to spread the most defamatory stuff about me and the right of the most persuasive Christianist to teach me the error of my ways. I support the right of the St Patrick’s Day Parade to exclude gay people – because that’s what freedom of association requires. In my ideal libertarian world, I would even support the right of employers to fire gay people at will (although I am in a tiny minority of gays and straights who would tolerate such a thing). All I ask in return is a reciprocal respect: the right to express myself freely and to be treated by the government exactly as any heterosexual in my position would be treated.

Read Full Post »

David Bernstein has a fine post where he explains the perils of having ‘reasonable restriction on free speech’ such as hate speech laws:

When I was in law school, advocates of weakening First Amendment protections to restrict “hate speech” pointed to Canada as a shining example of how egregious expression could be banned without threatening freedom of speech more generally. At the time, the Canadian Supreme Court was holding that Holocaust denial and violent, misogynistic pornography are not protected under Canadian constiutitional law. And, really, who wants to defend Holocaust denial and violent pornography? Yet, less than twenty year later, we have Canadian citizens being prosecuted for quoting biblical injunctions against homosexual activity, or for merely reprinting the Danish Mohammed cartoons. (For the latest outrage, see here, courtesy of Instapundit). So the Canadian example hasn’t quite worked out as its prior advocates had anticipated. Instead of being an example of “reasonable” restrictions on freedom of expression, it has become an example of the slippery slope problems inherent in allowing restrictions on freedom of expression based on subjective views of what is sufficiently offensive or problematic to be banned.

I have pointed out the same thing in several old posts. And even leaving aside the slippery-slope argument, there is something fundamentally immoral about censoring someone’s opinions because it is distasteful.

Bernstein’s post also goes into other issues, such as the intrinsic arbitrariness of tribunals that end up enforcing such laws. Read the whole thing.

By now, the most important truth ought to be obvious to all — freedom of speech needs to be absolute in order to mean anything. Thus one cannot have a thing such as a “right to never have your feelings hurt”.

Unfortunately, as Orwell famously said, to see what is one front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.

So I repeat myself, ad nauseum, for that is all I can do really.

Read Full Post »

After Canada, it is Australia.

Australian gun lobbyist Ron Owen has been told he is entitled to express his homophobic views, but that he went too far with the bumper sticker: “Gay Rights? Under God’s law the only rights gays have is the right to die.”

Queensland’s Anti-Discrimination Tribunal found Owen guilty of inciting hatred against homosexuals with the bumper sticker when he parked his car outside the Cooloola Shire Council offices in Gympie, north of Brisbane.

[…]The former president of the National Firearm Owners of Australia was taken to the tribunal by several local lesbians, who claimed they had been offended despite only one having seen the bumper sticker.

Two of the women were awarded $4,195, with a third awarded $2,000 in damages.

The problem with a hypothetical “right to not get offended”, indeed with any hate speech law is that it not only contradicts the more important right to freedom of speech but also that offence is an incredibly subjective phenomenon. For example, it is a fact that I am extremely offended at the tribunal’s decision. It insults my deepest beliefs about human rights. It makes me cynical about the state of the world and the future of liberty. Indeed the commision’s decision makes me and other libertarians feel insecure and hated.

Now, can I have my money too?

Read Full Post »

Check out Ilya Somin’s post at Volokh about the United Nations campaign to create a new international law norm banning “defamation of religion.” Money quote:

Given the broad scope of religious ethics, almost any political or ideological statement might be seen as offensive to the values of one religious group or another. To some theologically conservative Muslims and Christians, advocacy of gay equality is just as offensive to their religious sensibilities as a negative portrayal of the Prophet Mohammed. And claims that Muslim nations mistreat homosexuals might be viewed as no less “defamatory” of traditional Islam than the Mohammed cartoons. […] The right place to block this particular slippery slope is at the very top of the hill.

Read Full Post »

Scott Aaronson has a nice post in which he plots political freedom and economic freedom on a chart and concludes that while the two are definitely correlated, the correlation seems to disappear near the high-freedom areas of the chart. In fact he hypothesises there might be a ‘Pareto curve’ fitting this negative correlation between the two freedoms near the top of the scale.

Unfortunately, as I point out in a comment on his blog, his data is suspect, especially near the top end of the scale that is relevant to the Pareto curve discussion. For instance, Canada and Sweden lie near the top of the political freedom scale according to the Freedom House survey that he uses. In particular, they both have perfect scores in “freedom of expression and belief”. Of course, this is deeply flawed as both countries have insidious hate speech laws that stifle speech, especially those belonging to the far right.

Read Full Post »

Hanging a noose has been a symbolic expression of hatred towards blacks since the days of the Ku Klux Klan. However, noose incidents have increased substantially over the last year, prompting some states to pass hate-crime style laws against it. According to DiversityInc,

To date, three states have passed laws to punish those who use nooses as a means to intimidate. Connecticut and New York passed laws in May, with prison sentences ranging from a year in Connecticut to four years in New York. Earlier this month, Louisiana, the state where thousands of protestors marched in support of the Jena 6, became the third state to pass such a law. So far, no one has been sentenced under these new laws….

Louisiana’s law makes hanging a noose, or an image of one, on another person’s property or on public property with “the intent to intimidate” illegal and punishable by up to $5,000 and up to a year in prison.

Lawmakers in Florida, Maryland, Missouri and North Carolina are considering similar legislation.

There is no doubt that the noose is associated with racial bigotry and intimidation and those who display it to show their lack of regard for others deserve contempt. But do they deserve legal action?

As Mike Riggs points out,

The noose’s negative cultural significance is not sufficient justification to ban it on public property. Why is a group of hicks waving images of a noose—or actual nooses—in the middle of a public park any less deserving of 1st Amendment protection than thousands of Ku Klux Klan members staging a rally on main street? Afterall, in order to allow groups like the Klan to march, cities must be able to differentiate between a protest rally and a mob hell-bent on peforming a lynching. That same rubric should be applied to displays of nooses on public property.

I have similar views on the matter. Expressions of contempt or hatred, provided they are undertaken in a non-violent manner, are consitutionally protected in the USA; there is no need to make an exception for nooses. Of course, if the noose is merely a precursor to an actual lynching or violence, the law has to step in. That would however be true for any similar act that does not involve nooses; as Riggs points out, cities ought to be able to differentiate between the two cases.

The greatness of the First Amendment lies in its absoluteness. Other countries that had incorporated weaker versions of free speech protection, — i.e. with caveats — were ultimately left with no  real  free  speech at all. As I have often pointed out, it is only speech that offends that requires government protection. Recent events in Canada and Europe have amply displayed the chilling effects of hate-crimes legislation.

Notwithstanding the offense-quotient of nooses, banning them, even on public property, does much more harm than good. Offensive or false speech is best countered by forcefully articulating the opposite point of view. It took a long time for mankind to realise the most important truth; let us not go back to the dark ages.

Read Full Post »

One of the many good arguments libertarians and other advocates of complete free speech offer in support of their position is the slippery-slope argument. Basically, once you restrict certain types of speech, the bar is lowered and the censorship gets more and more oppressive with the passage of time. The result is a slow but steady decline into a society without any real freedom of speech.

Just how bad can this slippery slope be, sceptics may wonder? Surely those at the helm of affairs are sensible people and will know where to draw the line?

Well it can be really, really bad. For an example, look at this decision out of Canada, more specifically the Alberta Human Rights Commission. The heroic Ezra Levant, who faced the same commission a few months later in this video, calls it the most revolting order he has ever seen in Canada. Eugene Volokh calls it a “breathtakingly broad prohibition, which extends far beyond the terms of the (already troubling) statute.” So what does the ruling say?

Well, ladies and gentleman, it orders Stephen Boisson, the defendant, and an organization called “The Concerned Christian Coalition” to 

cease publishing in newspapers, by email, on the radio, in public speeches, or on the internet, in future, disparaging remarks about gays and homosexuals.

That’s right. Because a certain letter that Boisson sent to the editor of a newspaper contained his opinion that homosexuality is immoral he can never again express any opinion of that nature in speech, writing or even email. This isn’t China or Iran or some ancient autocracy but 21st century Canada. A country that, unlike rigid US of A, was `progressive’ enough to write a hate-speech exception into its free-speech laws. The result was a hate-speech law which — unlike defamation — does not differentiate between factual claims and opinion nor allow truth as a defence. It was meant to be used in only the most extreme of circumstances. Canada’s Supreme Court dismissed fears of abuse in its upholding of the law, saying,

as long as human rights tribunals continue to be well aware of the purpose of [this law] and pay heed to the ardent and extreme nature of feeling described in that phrase, there is little danger that subjective opinion as to offensiveness will supplant the proper meaning of the section.

Welcome to reality, Sirs. 

(For more accounts of assaults on freedom by Canada’s human rights commissions, check out Ezra Levant’s excellent blog. Also, check out this article on the ongoing Maclean’s trial.)

Read Full Post »

Robin Hanson debunks the notion that speculators and manipulators are responsible for rising gas prices.

Eugene Volokh debunks the oft-made claim that free speech laws in the US do not, somehow, apply to ‘hate speech’.

Jim Lindgren debunks internet rumours about Michelle Obama.

Read Full Post »

OMG, this is so awesome!

But a little bit of background first. Ezra Levant is the publisher of Western Standard, a right-wing Canadian magazine. I quote from Glenn Greenwald’s post on Salon, where I first came across the video that appears next.

In February, 2006, he published the Danish Mohammed cartoons, which prompted an Islamic group’s imam to file a complaint against Levant with the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission, charging Levant with “advocating hatemongering cartoons in the media,” and the imam specifically accused Levant of “defaming me and my family because we follow and are related to Prophet Mohammed.”

Rather than dismiss the complaint as a blatant attempt to punish free thought and free speech, the Alberta Human Rights Commission announced that it would investigate. To do so, they compelled Levant to appear before a government agent and be interrogated about the cartoons he published, his thoughts and intent in publishing them, and the other circumstances surrounding his “behavior.” Under the law, the Commission has the power to impose substantial fines and other penalties on Levant.

Well, Levant insisted on recording the proceedings and was directed by the Commission not to publish the video, but he did so anyway. Just watch it! I would have replied in exactly the same words as Levant if I were in his situation, but it’s still f***ing awesome! Here’s the video.

Any restrictions on free speech by the government, yes even hateful and bigoted speech (except perhaps, speech that is part of a direct criminal conspiracy to incite violence) is fundamentally wrong. After all, it is only offensive speech that needs protection; thus the only kind of freedom of speech that is meaningful is the kind that has no caveats whatsoever. Hate-speech laws, ‘do-not-ridicule’ laws and holocaust denial laws have no place in a truly liberal society and they eventually come back to bite even their proponents, as many leftist intellectuals in Europe are discovering now.

Here are some previous posts by me on this theme.

Read Full Post »