A few days ago, I published an article explaining how the US needs to get tough on hate speech through the law in accordance with international human rights standards, as the US remains the only country in the world – and certainly the only Western country – that has no legal definition of what constitutes hate speech. The article was based on my experiences as a human rights activist who has worked for many different human rights organizations around the world. Immediately after it was published, I received a torrent of hateful and abusive messages. While I am not the least bit surprised that bigots would be so highly threatened by my proposals, I would like to clear some things up.
First up, yes, I do strongly believe in freedom of speech, and I’ve worked with many human rights organizations to protest against genuine restrictions on freedom of speech and expression, such as government crackdowns on LGBT activists in Russia. Freedom of speech is the core of all democratic societies, and it’s a freedom that must be upheld in the strongest terms possible. But the people responding to my column with anger do not seem to understand what freedom of speech is. They seem to make no distinction between free speech and hate speech, and they seem to believe that freedom of speech includes the freedom to say anything.
Does your head hurt yet? The free-speech movement has gone from the freedom to say anything to the freedom to say absolutely nothing about anything you might actually feel passionately about. But it’s all in a day’s work for the New Fascists on the Left. Since this is Tanya Cohen, you simply must read every ridiculous word, even though you’re going to wish for an emergency root canal well before you finish:
Anyone with any kind of basic, entry-level knowledge of human rights will tell you that the human right to freedom of speech always has to be balanced against other human rights, such as the human rights to dignity, respect, honor, and non-discrimination. A human rights-based approach to freedom of speech (such as the one found here) emphasizes that speech has to be restricted when it comes into conflict with other human rights.
This, basically, is her entire argument, and while she’s a terrible, turgid writer, she is worth paying attention to for the crude way in which she gives the entire “progressive” project away: appearing to be arguing in favor of something (in this case, “free speech”), while in fact making the case against it, and then appealing to authority to back up her position.
All human rights groups understand that all governments have an obligation to punish hate speech, and that outlawing hate speech does not interfere with freedom of speech in any way (if anything, it is necessary to outlaw hate speech in order to protect freedom of speech). Amnesty International, for example, has emphasized many, MANY times throughout its long history that hate speech MUST always be outlawed. Here, you can find an explanation from Amnesty International about what freedom of speech REALLY is. Freedom of speech is NOT the right to say whatever you want about whatever you want whenever you want. Freedom of speech – like all freedoms – comes with responsibility. Words have consequences, and your freedom ends when it starts to intefere with the freedoms of others – such as their freedom to live without hatred and oppression.
Remember: real freedom is the freedom to be unfree:
I sent my article to many people in Europe, Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, and various other places all over the world. The reaction that I got was universally positive. Only American audiences had such a hostile reaction to my column, and I honestly believe that it’s because the concept of human rights is just so utterly alien to most people in the US. Americans do not understand that freedom of speech and hate speech are two completely different things, and that speech has to be restricted in many cases in order to protect human rights.
Many have compared my proposals to Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell. These people do not seem to understand that human rights policies exist to prevent something like what’s described in Orwell’s dystopian world from happening, as they prevent people from advocating totalitarianism and other human rights violations.