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The Harm in Hate Speech

The Harm in Hate Speech

Jeremy Waldron
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Harvard University Press
Pages: 264
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  • Book Info
    The Harm in Hate Speech
    Book Description:

    For constitutionalists, regulation of hate speech violates the First Amendment and damages a free society. Waldron rejects this view, and makes the case that hate speech should be regulated as part of a commitment to human dignity and to inclusion and respect for members of vulnerable minorities.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-06508-6
    Subjects: Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. 1 Approaching Hate Speech
    (pp. 1-17)

    I want to begin by explaining the position I am going to defend in this book, and I want to say something, too, about what has led me into this controversy. Let me start with the position and the concerns that underlie it.

    A man out walking with his seven-year-old son and his ten-year-old daughter turns a corner on a city street in New Jersey and is confronted with a sign. It says: “Muslims and 9/11! Don’t serve them, don’t speak to them, and don’t let them in.” The daughter says, “What does it mean, papa?” Her father, who is...

  4. 2 Anthony Lewis’s Freedom for the Thought That We Hate
    (pp. 18-33)

    The United States, says Anthony Lewis, is the most outspoken society on earth: “Americans are freer to think what we will and say what we think than any other people” (ix).¹ They can do so without fear of official retaliation. If I had written, for example, in 2008 that George W. Bush was the worst president we had ever had, and that his vice president and former secretary of defense were war criminals, I would not have expected to be arrested for my impudence. That’s just business as usual in America. “Today,” says Lewis, “every president is the target of...

  5. 3 Why Call Hate Speech Group Libel?
    (pp. 34-64)

    What we call a thing tells us something about our attitude toward it, why we see it as a problem, what our response to it might be, what difficulties our response might cause, and so on. So it is with the phenomenon that we in America call “hate speech,” a term that can cover things as diverse as Islamophobic blogs, cross-burnings, racial epithets, bestial depictions of members of racial minorities, genocidal radio broadcasts in Rwanda in 1994, and swastika-blazoned Nazis marching in Skokie, Illinois, with placards saying “Hitler should have finished the job.” When we call these “hate speech,” we...

  6. 4 The Appearance of Hate
    (pp. 65-104)

    It is now time to turn attention to the social harm that hate speech does and to the substantive purpose of the legislation that aims to suppress it. In keeping with my emphasis on group libel, the approach I take will focus on the visual aspect of a society contaminated by posters or publications that deprecate the dignity and basic citizenship of a certain class of people in society. I want to contrast the ugly visual reality of a society defaced by racist or homophobic or Islamophobic slogans with what we would hope to see in a society that was...

  7. 5 Protecting Dignity or Protection from Offense?
    (pp. 105-143)

    Are hate speech laws supposed to protect people from being offended? I think not, and in this chapter I shall set out the basis of a distinction between undermining a person’s dignity and causing offense to that same individual. It may seem a fine line to draw, but in this chapter I shall argue that offense, however deeply felt, is not a proper object of legislative concern. Dignity, on the other hand, is precisely what hate speech laws are designed to protect—not dignity in the sense of any particular level of honor or esteem (or self-esteem), but dignity in...

  8. 6 C. Edwin Baker and the Autonomy Argument
    (pp. 144-172)

    I turn now to the critics of hate speech legislation. In this chapter and the next, I will examine the views of two opponents whose work I have found particularly challenging: Ronald Dworkin and the late C. Edwin Baker. They both make powerful cases against any restriction on hate speech. But, more than that, each of their critiques is illuminating and insightful. I have learned a lot from them about what is at stake in this issue, and the best I can do in response is to show that there are insights to be gleaned from the other side as...

  9. 7 Ronald Dworkin and the Legitimacy Argument
    (pp. 173-203)

    We find in the literature a number of arguments linking the protection of free speech to the flourishing of self-government in a democracy. Some say little more than that, though they say it sonorously and at great length.¹ In a few of these arguments, however, the position is advanced beyond a general concern for the democratic process. It is sometimes said that free and unrestricted public discourse is a sine qua non for political legitimacy in a democracy, not just for the quality of democratic engagement.² This raises the stakes a little. Saying that free speech improves democracy, when it...

  10. 8 Toleration and Calumny
    (pp. 204-234)

    This final chapter takes a different turn. In the past, I have written about toleration, particularly the seventeenth-century debate about toleration conducted by philosophers like Pierre Bayle, Thomas Hobbes, and John Locke.¹ Until recently, I never thought to make a connection between that debate and the debate about hate speech. But I believe now that there is a connection to be made, and this chapter attempts to set it out. If nothing else, it may help to add a dimension of historical richness to our often flat and colorless constitutional debates about these issues.

    In 1732, somebody called Osborne (spelled...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 235-278)
  12. Index
    (pp. 279-292)