Reply Sun 27 Jan, 2013 03:40 pm
Can someone discuss this argument which I often hear from more conservative thinkers: "It is better to have a hateful ignorant opinion heard and protected from censure than to have a liberal policing of language"?

I find myself split in half by the arguments surrounding this, but so often have heard white middle-class men espouse the above view that I'm lead to wonder if these people aren't thinking with their demographics a bit too much, and enjoying the comforts which allow them to foster those views... it's easy to be relaxed about hate speech when you don't have to hear it, or suffer its' corollaries.

Does anyone want to come down more strongly on one side than the other?
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dalehileman
 
  0  
Reply Sun 27 Jan, 2013 06:15 pm
@medium-density,
Quote:
"It is better to have a hateful ignorant opinion heard and protected from censure than to have a liberal policing of language"?
By "censure," Med, do you mean censorship, and forgive me but what exactly is meant by "a liberal policing of language"

medium-density
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 Jan, 2013 06:22 pm
@dalehileman,
Yep, and by liberal policing of language I mean anti hate-speech legislation, for example.
contrex
 
  2  
Reply Mon 28 Jan, 2013 12:18 pm
@dalehileman,
dalehileman wrote:
By "censure," Med, do you mean censorship


"Censure" means "criticism". I am not sure if the OP realises this.

A liberal policing of language sounds like a liberal application of ketchup.



0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Mon 28 Jan, 2013 12:26 pm
As far as the United States is concerned, there is no such "policing." The test is whether or not speech can be shown to directly cause harm ("shouting fire in a crowded theater," in Holmes' pithy description), or that the speech, by intent, incites criminality or harmful behavior. The only "hate speech" laws which have passed judicial muster have been those which allow allegations of hate speech in mitigation after conviction for another crime.

I suspect that this author doesn't understand the distinction Contrex made in the use of the word liberal. I suspecr this author only sees liberal in an adversarial political context.
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dalehileman
 
  0  
Reply Mon 28 Jan, 2013 12:50 pm
@medium-density,
So Med, it can be reworded thus:

"It is better to have a hateful ignorant opinion heard and protected from censorship than to have, for instance, anti hate-speech legislation"

Forgive me Med, and I'm perfectly serious here, but "anti hate-speech legislation" can have several different meanings so you need to define it. For instance it could mean (1) opposition to legislation of any sort dealing with hate speech or (2) legislation against hate speech
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contrex
 
  1  
Reply Mon 28 Jan, 2013 12:50 pm
Ah, the L word. I remember my 1981 surprise at hearing Margaret Thatcher described by a BBC commentator as "an old-fashioned liberal of the Manchester School" (a perfectly accurate description, I learned).
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Mon 28 Jan, 2013 12:57 pm
@contrex,
Ironically, many of the reforms of the 19th century were passed by Peelite and Canningite Tories. I suspect that, after the Reform Bill in particular, they felt it was better to control the pace of change then to be left behind. Lord Grey, during the Reform Bill brouhaha made a brilliant move when he formed a committee, largely composed of Tories, to review the rotten boroughs.
0 Replies
 
medium-density
 
  1  
Reply Mon 28 Jan, 2013 01:27 pm
@contrex, seems there is a sense in which censure means to criticise with legislative underpinning, though I admit my above usage is still stretching that definition, and what I really meant was "censorship".

@setanta, of course I realise liberal means more than one thing, I was employing the word in one of its political contexts.

For those pointing out that my first formulation of the matter is unclear, thanks for clarifying where you have. Perhaps going forward we can move away from strict legal terminology like "hate speech" and focus on the question of whether Freedom of Speech as a principle is enough to fully justify the (arguably indirect) harm which is made by loose talk of the kind exemplified by the recent Suzanne Moore unpleasantness (both in her original New Statesman essay, and in the resulting vituperation she suffered on twitter.)
contrex
 
  1  
Reply Mon 28 Jan, 2013 01:44 pm
The word 'censure' is often used to mean a formal expression of disapproval, e.g. in judicial statements or reports of enquiries - in the report of the official enquiry into the loss of life following the sinking of the Goliath, the owners were censured for not providing enough lifeboats. It has nothing whatsoever to do with censorship, beyond a certain similarity of spelling.

Suzanne Moore. In an article featured in a new anthology, then re-printed in the New Statesman (a left wing British periodical), she told her readers that “the desired body for women is that of a Brazilian transsexual.” Following that she was widely accused of being 'transphobic' and not a real feminist.





0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Mon 28 Jan, 2013 01:47 pm
@medium-density,
I see no reason to couch this in political terms at all. Political conservatives have their hobby horses, too, and would like to curb speech of which they disapprove. Focusing on so-called "hate speech" is not very useful, unless you allege that where you live, or elsewhere in what are otherwise considered democracies, speech is being unjustifiably restricted.
0 Replies
 
medium-density
 
  1  
Reply Tue 29 Jan, 2013 02:42 pm
@contrex, I find your comment on the Suzanne Moore unfortunateness curiously free of content, save for the quotation marks around the word transphobic. Does that indicate a view as to the validity of the word?

@sentanta, Let us say I'm referring to a tendency within conservative thought that I've noticed- perhaps on the wing of conservatism which overlaps with libertarianism. I'm sure there are, as you say, particular language-gripes within right wing agglomerations... and to that extent we can indeed dispense with political divisions. Take, in that case, the principal of free speech vs the protection of minorities, divorce any political context, and treat it as a hypothetical problem, if you like.

There are those who advocate a more policed use of language, often, they say, for the sake of abused minorities who have buckets of hate thrown over them in instances like the Suzanne Moore case, and in many more severe instances besides. Does the principal of freedom of speech win out over this argument?
Setanta
 
  0  
Reply Tue 29 Jan, 2013 03:08 pm
As i've already indicated, my political heritage is from the United States. Yes, in all cases in which incitement to criminality cannot be alleged, in which a clear and present danger to society cannot be alleged (another concept articulated by Mr. Justice Holmes)--then the concept of freedom of speech trumps all other objections. It is rather like the concept of innocence until guilt is proven. The law in the United States assumes (or is supposed to assume--there have been glaring exceptions) that someone accused is innocent until proven guilty. With speech, all speech is considered to be protected, no matter how offensive to any person or group, unless and until it can be shown to incite criminality, or to constitute a clear and present danger to society. I revert to Holmes' example of crying fire in a crowded theater. The only waffling on this point that i've seen in my lifetime is the "community standards" dodge which the Supreme Court came up with in Miller versus California in 1973. The Court held that if speech was offensive to "the average person applying contemporary community standards" on the basis of prurient interest, violated state law on the basis of sexual content, and had no literary, artistic, political or scientific merit--the state can prohibit it. I think the Court was just attempting to dodge the bullet, especially in referring to "the average person," and "contemporary community standards.

Otherwise, i think the Supremes have upheld the concept of free speech to a degree remarkable in history.
medium-density
 
  2  
Reply Tue 29 Jan, 2013 04:15 pm
@Setanta,
Could it not be argued that supporting homophobic, transphobic, racist, or sexist (etc) statements contributes to a harmful societal narrative, which is particularly hard on those aforementioned minority groups, who should be receiving special protections and dispensations in any case?

I happen to think that such an argument can be made, but am not sure how far I'd go along with it. What are the limits of such an idealism?

Also, this case with Oliver Wendell Holmes you keep citing was one in which the Justice ruled that writing and distributing literature which was critical of the draft is not a practice protected by your country's first amendment. That kind of censorious judgement doesn't do much to recommend his comments, which seem somewhat past their prime in any case.
contrex
 
  1  
Reply Tue 29 Jan, 2013 04:17 pm
@medium-density,
medium-density wrote:

@contrex, I find your comment on the Suzanne Moore unfortunateness curiously free of content, save for the quotation marks around the word transphobic. Does that indicate a view as to the validity of the word?


It indicates nothing. I copied and pasted it from a blog I found. It was free of 'content' as you oddly put it, because it was intended to be neutrally informative only.

I find your comment odd. Are you taking the piss?
contrex
 
  1  
Reply Tue 29 Jan, 2013 04:19 pm
@medium-density,
medium-density wrote:
a harmful societal narrative


An arts or social science sixth-former? An E. Jarvis Thribb? or Dave Spart?


0 Replies
 
medium-density
 
  1  
Reply Tue 29 Jan, 2013 04:48 pm
@contrex,
Not taking the piss no. Just found it strange that you saw a need to give an impartial description of those events.
contrex
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Jan, 2013 01:38 am
@medium-density,
medium-density wrote:

Not taking the piss no. Just found it strange that you saw a need to give an impartial description of those events.


Why?
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  0  
Reply Wed 30 Jan, 2013 04:03 am
@medium-density,
To dispose of your error first, Holmes wrote a dissentient opinion in Abrams versus the United States--he held that the protests by political dissidents did not constitute a clear and present danger to society. Furthermore, the concept of a "clear and present danger" as a test of the inviolability of certain kinds of speech had already been established at the time the Court reviewed that case. You've got your facts wrong there.

I doubt that you could convincingly argue that "hate speech" which does not intend to incite criminality is harmful to society, and your allusion to a "societal narrative" in fact calls for a curtailing of free speech which would be far more harmful. I see no basis for you to argue that any group should receive "special dispensations and protections." It is precisely because the application of such dispensations could quickly muzzle almost all critical speech that speech must be protected in every case up to the line drawn against incitement to crime or a clear and present danger to society. For example, a devoted Christian has every right to condemn homosexuality, as long as they do not attempt to interfere with homosexuals' lawful conduct. To attempt to "defend" homosexuals with such a special dispensation would be discrimination against the Christian for holding an unpopular opinion, a far more dangerous principle.
medium-density
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Jan, 2013 04:55 pm
@Setanta,
I was referring to Schenck v. United States (1919), which is where the comments you have been citing were originally made, but I'm glad to learn Holmes had a readjustment in this area.

I am often persuaded by the kind of argument you make which says that the silencing of disagreeable voices is far less desirable than the abuse of the disadvantaged in society. In other words the oppressed can take aspects of their oppression on the chin because even the smallest encroachment of bigots' right to speak is too scary to contemplate, let alone legislate for. Often persuaded of this, but not completely convinced. What I'm particularly interested to examine is whether the view that speech must be totally free even where it contributes to a harmful narrative is easier to hold if you're not a part of an oppressed minority, and whether that (if true) would be a valid criticism of the argument.

Quote:
I see no basis for you to argue that any group should receive "special dispensations and protections."


My, I thought uncontroversial, view is that in Western societies White, English-speaking, heterosexual men have special dispensations and protections, tacitly proffered by our patriarchal society, and that it is worth spending time thinking about the ways in which we might redress this balance with regard to the less fortunate.
 

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