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Acknowledging The Important Value Of Hate Speech

95

Freedom of Speech

Freedom of Speech

Banning so-called “hate speech” is a grave, irresponsible, and serious mistake for at least three reasons. Such restrictions of free speech, while looking like an easy way out from an inconvenient situation, are horribly counterproductive even from a pragmatic standpoint. Besides, there is no such thing as “restrictions of free speech” – there is free speech, or there is not.

Several countries – even those who consider themselves first-world, free-world – have restrictions on what political opinions you may utter in public. This is the textbook case of not having free speech, and despite this, those countries tend to keep pretending they have freedom of speech – even to the point where it is written into the Constitution under ceremonious proceedings, then promptly ignored under a number of exception clauses.

One of the easiest such targets for irresponsible populist politicians is so-called hate speech, where somebody expresses rage, hatred, or other forms of prejudice toward a group of people. In such countries, irresponsible politicians have tended to ban this “hate speech”, harshly punishing such expressions of political opinion with jail sentences up to five years in the so-called free world.

This is counterproductive populism for three reasons.

1. The principle:

You are either in favor of free speech, or you are not. There is no free speech at all – zero – if you only allow “acceptable” expressions.

Free speech exists to protect the most despicable of expressions, the most vile utterances. That is for very good reason: every now and then, disruption proves that the despised people were the ones in the moral right. This has happened many times in recent history – human rights for homosexuals would be a recent lifetime example. (Who could have imagined 50 years ago that homosexual humans were humans too, and deserved human rights?)

Free speech exists specifically to allow and protect opinions that offend and repulse other people.

If you only allow speech and opinions that you like, then the next day, somebody else will allow only speech and opinions that they like. Those opinions may include a ban on regarding you as a human being in any way, shape, or form. (Don’t laugh. This is reality in Russia and some other countries for homosexual human beings.) Such a naïve populism can come back to bite you quickly, would there be a change of regime.

Consititutional protection was never necessary to protect somebody stating an uncontroversial opinion that everybody agrees with, and which is the equivalent of “kittens are cute”, “apple pie is good”, or “we have always been at war with Eurasia”.

Never poke fun at a Nigger
A Spic, or a Wop, or a Kraut

Monty Python – “Never Be Rude To An Arab

2. The pragmatic:

Hate speech is an important safety valve before hate violence.

If you prevent hate speech, people inclined to hatred will go directly from hate thought to the third step, which is hate violence. You want to prevent that.

Somebody who carries resentment can not be detected at the hate thought stage – the hate speech stage is the first stage detectable to society, which is why you want this, you want to see as much of it as possible. This is when somebody can be addressed by the community through informal and formal means – why are they full of hatred? Are they feeling well? Are they just stupid bigots, and if so, can they be talked out of it? Or have they possibly pinpointed a very real injustice in society? (Don’t neglect that last possibility.)

In all three cases, you want this hate speech to appear, so that the problem can be peacefully addressed. If it is not allowed to appear, it will proceed to the next stage, which is hate violence.

Banning hate speech does not get rid of the underlying problem. It does, however, destroy the crucial safety valve in society before violence appears.

Oh, the Protestants hate the Catholics,
And the Catholics hate the Protestants,
And the Hindus hate the Muslims,
And everybody hates the Jews.

Tom Lehrer – “National Brotherhood Week

3. The human:

Banning hate speech codifies that people are of unequal worth.

In some countries, you are prohibited from expressing that people born into a certain culture or skin color are of less worth. While I agree with this factually – that nobody is worth less because of how they were born – such a law codifies exactly that.

Ponder the fact that no law anywhere in such countries prohibit hate expressions against me, a middle-aged light-skinned male. Yet, there are several laws that prohibit hate expressions against other people that are, as the law says, “worthy of protection”.

This means that a law against hate speech of only certain groups codifies that people are of unequal worth because of conditions they were born into and had no say over. Such a law cannot possibly be just.

In conclusion, there are very good reasons to defend hate speech, and the politicians who take the easy way out and ban such speech and opinions (or defend an existing ban) are neglectful at best and irresponsible at worst.

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About The Author: Rick Falkvinge

Rick is the founder of the first Pirate Party and is a political evangelist, traveling around Europe and the world to talk and write about ideas of a sensible information policy. He has a tech entrepreneur background and loves whisky.

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95

  1. 1
    RB

    I agree with you on many things, but this is a bit controversial… Does that mean that bullying should be legal and qqwidely accepted ?! From a legal and social point of view, i mean ( youngsters tend to be the most affected, but many adults suffer from it as well). In the UK is a crime to verbally abuse someone with racist comments… Should we scrap that as well ?!
    Im all for free speech, but we can t just generalise things like that ! “One measure fits all”never got us anywhere, Even if it suits the majority ! And mind the word “SUITS”.
    While i can see where you are coming from, i think things should be more thought out than just that !

    • 1.1

      If I say I think you are an idiot, should that be illegal?

      (Note that I don’t think so – I am hypothesizing.)

      When I grew up, “bullying” meant that gangs of children gathered around one selected victim and beat him senseless. How did the word dilute into people saying “I don’t like you”?

      I get the “you’re an idiot” treatment on a regular basis. Up to and including “people like you should be shot”. I don’t think that should be illegal; they are legitimate opinions.

      Cheers,
      Rick

      • 1.1.1
        Brice Gilbert

        So would you say in a public school a student being bullied with sexist language is okay? Other students sending hateful texts, telling them they should kill themselves, that they are ugly? Maybe wearing shirts that say this? Is this not free speech worth infringing upon?

        • Do you see a difference in degree between “not okay” and “criminal”?

          You ask whether it would be okay for students to express hatred, when I specifically state in the article that allowing it has an important value – that such people can be caught early and treated for a possible emotional or empathic imbalance, before that resentment expresses itself as violence.

          I see no difference between people studying and people not studying in this regard. Disrespect is not okay in any community, but the state – the government – has a duty to protect freedom of speech.

          No community has the obligation to accept any particular behavior, and this isn’t limited to schools or to expressions of disrespect. That is a completely separate issue from legislation about free speech.

          Cheers,
          Rick

        • The problem is not the free speec right, but the public school forced attendance.
          You force peaceful people to live years side-by-side with miscreants. And the teachers are rewarded to se no evil -speack no evil and bury any wrongdoing and penalized if they don’t.

          Private schooling or homeschooling and let children and families to choose their friends. And the problem go away.

          It is the business of the family to civilize these mini-thugs, not of the society at large.

        • > So would you say in a public school a student being bullied with sexist language is okay?

          No, because it disrupts the learing environment. A school is entitled to say what students can do on its premises.

          > Other students sending hateful texts, telling them they should kill themselves, that they are ugly?

          If this is outside school time, and not using their facilities, then there are severe limits to what a school can practically do in this instance.

          Having said that, if students (or staff for that matter) do things outside school that disrupt the learning environment, that’s something the school might reasonably regard as problematic.

          > Maybe wearing shirts that say this?

          It’s reasonable for a school to say to students that they can’t wear things in school that disrupt the learning environment. As for what they do out of school, there are both practical and principled concerns if they were to do the same thing: the school can hardly be expected to follow people around 24/7 to monitor their clothing, and it’s not really their business, is it?

          > Is this not free speech worth infringing upon?

          If you give people freedom, some will inevitably use that freedom in ways you don’t like. Is the answer not to give anyone freedom?

        • Anonymous

          Phil Hunt, none of the examples you listed have anything to do with “disrupting the educational environment.” They are all about control.

          The ability of students to learn and instructors to help them do that does not rely on a system of control that vaugely resembles prison- nor does it require an attitude of disrespect from a tax-funded babysitter.

        • I think inside school premises the management and teachers can and should provide clear guidelines. CLEAR, NARROW guidelines. “disrupting speech or behavior” as it is described in many school guidelines and even laws is not acceptable because it opens a loophole for control freaks.

          No speech should be forbidden. Even if it incites crime. If such speech leads to a crime then the one that used such speech should face criminal charges. For the fact that it led to crime, not for the speech itself.

      • 1.1.2

        Bullying doesn’t need to be physical, in fact bullying through snide comments and behaviour can be far more dangerous to the one who’s being bullied.

        In regards to this issue though; the devil shall always be in the details.

        • Aysel G.

          But snide comments are just that: snide comments. If somebody has a problem because he cannot cope with snide comments,, the problem are not first and foremost those making snide comments, but that a person is so insecure and instable inside..

    • 1.2
      scandinavianpirate

      The real dangerous bullying is usually not public speech anyway, but rather people talking behind other’s back.

  2. 2
    gregorylent

    for the wise, it’s all just sound waves or pixels or ink, nothing personal about “hate speech” at all … it reveals the mind of the “speaker”, has nothing to do with the “target” ..

    many teaching stories in all spiritual traditions about this ..

    of course, this is not a mature world

  3. 3
    Emil

    I do not agree to the premise of #2, that a lack of (publicly expressed) hate speech would cause hate violence. I would rather argue that disallowing it would serve as a marker that no, in this society we do not allow you to publicly humiliate and instigate against groups of people based on factors beyond their control.

    #2 also disregards the accepted view of ninternalization and normalization of opinions and behaviours in society. Repeated hate speeches, allowing hate speech in public et cetera will cause those opinions and the behaviour that follows to be accepted in the general discourse.

    A very recent example would be that we in Sweden have a normalization and internaliation of racism – a racist party in government and a nazi party allowed to march the streets under police protection.

    • 3.1
      Ano Nymous

      Answer to #3: Emil: You write “#2 also disregards the accepted view of ninternalization and normalization of opinions and behaviours in society. Repeated hate speeches, allowing hate speech in public et cetera will cause those opinions and the behaviour that follows to be accepted in the general discourse.”

      Yes, let’s go back a few decades: Those damn unnatural ungodly homosexuals are speaking up more and more! We can’t let them keep doing that, what if it becomes so common, homosexuality begins to be considered normal! Horrible thought! We must ban all homosexual propaganda immediately!

      Back to today: If hate speech is normalized, then it is what the people want. It’s plain old democracy.

      On the “safety valve”: why don’t you think so? It seems quite obvious to me.
      Hate speech is a symptom of something. If the symptom is removed, the “something” will return with a vengeance… If you weren’t allowed to protest against something you are really pissed about, would that make you less angry? Would you be equally angry? No, I didn’t think so. Serious enough matters and/or repeated enough times, I am absolutely sure most people would use violence. In many cases with every right.

  4. 4
    Keeton

    This premise is wrong: “You are either in favor of free speech, or you are not.”

    It is wrong because freedom is a balance, it is not unconditional.
    Where one person’s freedom infringes upon another’s, compromises must be made.

    Ruled by society, ruled by law, ruled by reason – not childish libertarian brainfarts.

    For example, the following is not acceptable, in a society where we, the people, have given the authority the legitimacy to carry out our common interests at the point of the sword if need be:
    * Death-threats
    * Bullying

    They are not protected under the rights to free speech, since they often have an adverse psychological affect on people, and are in fact also used to stiffle other people’s rights to free speech.

    Why do I need to explain this?

    Seriously. If you honestly don’t comprehend these issues, look them up on wikipedia or ask somebody with rudimentary legal understanding.

    • 4.1

      This premise is wrong: “You are either in favor of free speech, or you are not.”

      No, it is one of the most important points of the entire article. You can’t ban expressions you don’t like and pretend you still have freedom of expression.

      There is no “balance”. It is a completely black and white matter. You are either allowed to express any opinions or thoughts, or you are not. When you are not allowed to express any opinion you like, you are not allowed to express any opinion you like.

      You are not explaining anything, by the way. You are reiterating dogma, and dangerous dogma at that.

      (Threatening somebody remains illegal, but not because of you expressing an opinion. “I hold the opinion that people like you should be shot” is an expression I’ve heard many times, and it is a completely legitimate opinion protected by free speech, as it should be; a death threat is not dependent on expressing it verbally or expressing a political opinion at all.)

      Cheers,
      Rick

      • 4.1.1
        Keeton

        So you agree that threatening somebody should remain illegal.
        But you claim that the issue of freedom of speech to spread hate speech, is black and white, and that one should be allowed full freedom of speech apart from direct death-threats?

        What then of bullying that drive teens to commit suicide?

        • What then of bullying that drive teens to commit suicide?

          This is possibly one of the worst “think-of-the-children” attempts at distracting from the issue I have ever seen.

        • Anonymous

          > What then of bullying that drive teens to commit suicide?

          I don’t think bullying actually falls under “free speech”.

          Free speech is about being able to send a message to somebody that you (in good faith) assume wants to hear you (and that “somebody” might be unknown people that you assume might be among “the public”).

          Bullying is about sending a message to a specific somebody that you know does NOT want to receive such message.

        • Anonymous

          Bullying does not drive teens to suicide. Teens statistically commit suicide to “make them pay,” not to “make them stop.” It’s about being angry, not wanting an escape.

          And as Rick mentions, the very concept of child bullying being legislated away is a ridiculous example of “for the children” policy by eager-beaver politicians and activists that think children need to be taught what they are doing is wrong, or that being punished by a body of law they have no influence over or respect from will make them grow up any faster.

        • There’s a context to be understood here. If a perfectly pacific person spits some threatening words in the middle of a rage moment then it’s obviously something said without the true intent. So in that sense an isolated death threat should be ok. Repeatedly threatening would fall under other crimes that do not involve restricting speech.

          “What then of bullying that drive teens to commit suicide?”

          Indeed. Destroy the lives of the bully and their parents because of something CHILDISH and IMMATURE that the bully has been doing without any disciplinary action to TEACH them how bad their ways were. Seems reasonable. And I’m not even mentioning that suicide is highly complex and the bully might have been just the trigger. But punishment-happy people like you seem to ignore everything in their “for-the-children” mantra

  5. 5

    Does “let’s all kill X” count as a death threat in your model, and if so, do you distinguish between “all X should be killed” and “let’s all kill X”?

    I live in a country where both are legally considered threats, and net door to one where neither is…

    –dave

    • 5.1

      Threats, by their very nature, need to be directed at a threatened individual or discrete group of people. If you and I talk about harming a person, then that conversation is not a threat against that person.

      • 5.1.1
        anonymous

        If you and him talk about harming me, then I would consider that conversation a threat to my person. And I would be morally justified in taking action against you – legally if possible, illegally if necessary.

        If someone talks about harming homosexuals in general, then I would consider that conversation a threat to my person. And I would be morally justified in taking action against them – legally if possible, illegally if necessary.

        Tolerance of what other people say or do should always stop when there’s a perceived existential threat against you or your loved ones. At that point you are allowed (or in some cases morally obliged) to take countermeasures. Society needs to provide legal means of doing this. But even if it doesn’t, that’s not an excuse for inaction when you feel threatened.

        • Anonymous

          No, you would not be morally justified in taking action against him. As a matter of fact, nearly no one on this planet appreciates cowboy justice, and nearly no one has for decades- outside of some very complex social systems deep in organized crime.

          Someone talking about how you deserve to be shot does not constitute a threat to your person, legally or civilly. No one will prosecute it, no one will give you a restraining order based on it, and most importantly most people will wonder why the person said it. Thus- it’s communication of an opinion.

          A percieved existential threat is a nonexistent thing. Perception does not equate reality. Ever- legally, morally- period.

          Lastly, I wish to express an opinion. People with the broken “I’m the one who decides whether or not its ok to harm someone that says something I dislike, and anyone who disagrees is wrong!!!” complex you have should be removed from society.

  6. 6
    Keeton

    I think perhaps we have a problem with a libertarian mindset here.

    The classical brainfarts of libertarianism, is of the form:
    1. Being a humongous Man Child: “MAH FREEDUHM!”
    2. Assumptions, the Mother of all Fuckup: “If we allow X, then good thing Y will magically happen”
    3. The Nile, a river in Egypt: “Bad things Z1…Zn will not happen ever for reasons unspecified”

    So let’s see here.
    Allow hate speech, and assume that 1) people can be caught early and treated for a possible emotional or empathic imbalance, and otherwise 2) that resentment expresses itself as violence.

    So, Step 1: Alice tells Bob that he sucks and to please go kill himself, and that is allowed and therefore she an be “caught early and treated”, and if she hadn’t been allowed to tell Bob to please go kill himself, then she would have resorted to violence.
    Step 2: Nothing happens because nobody knows when to do something about Alice’s behaviour because it is allowed
    Step 3: Go to Step 1

    Rick, do you have maybe some kind of a metric by which Step 2 could be refined upon? The usage of words, phrases, number of characters, messages sent per time unit, or some other thing?

    Because I don’t see neither how to get out of that loop without invoking the patron saint of libertarianism, namely the Mother of all Fuckups, and just assume that something good will automatically happen, like, I dunno, the Invisible Masturbating Hand of the Bullying Market correcting the supply and demand of bullying, like, magical fucking fairies man.

    God I am so high

    PS! Not high

    • 6.1
      Caesar

      So many argumentative fallacies on this post it hurts… Maybe simplifying Ricks position will help you?
      - If you prohibit hate speech, you cannot detect such hate exists until it manifests itself as violence.
      - Prohibiting hate speech does not in any way protect against hate violence.
      - If you notice hate before it becomes violence, you can be proactive instead of reactive.
      - If you prohibit some form of speech, you’re opening the flood gates of further prohibition (the russia example).

      Does this make sense to you now?

      • 6.1.1
        Keeton

        a) Everybody hates. It is a part of the most simplistic form of self-identification, the identification of the “I” by eliminiation.
        “‘I’ am not a stupid fat cunt like that idiot-girl over there and besides if I hate her I improve my hierarchical position in the herd”

        b) One does not have shit to do with the other, try reading Logic 101 (Rick this goes for you too)

        c) Bull

        d) More bull

        It makes sense to me now. Neither you nor Rick has any understanding of social dynamics or sociology.

        To repeat:
        1. People hate.
        2. We don’t want that to be expressed because it hurts others
        3. Fuck your idiocy

        • Ben

          I really don’t understand what you’re driving at here.

          Are you saying it should be a crime to hurt someone’s feelings?

        • scandinavianpirate

          Well people who hurt others will have that coming back at them, by same means of communication. Do you trust someone who is well known to gossip and talk shit behind people’s back?

        • Anonymous

          1. Hate-thought: Everyone does it.
          2. Hate-speech: You want to hide it, even though it doesn’t stop hate-thought, and potentially allows the discovery of hate-thought before hate-action.
          3. Hate-action: You believe that a reduction in the ability to detect hate-thought before hate-action isn’t worth it if you have to see hate-speech- even though a ban on hate-speech has no value as per #2.

        • Patrik

          > 2. We don’t want that to be expressed because it hurts others

          Hypocrite.

    • 6.2
      Anon

      Your disgusting fallacies, name calling, and immaturity is hilarious. All of your posts push the problems on others (you say libertarians). People like you have such a dangerous mindset and you don’t even realize it. How unintelligent and unwise you are is scary.

  7. 7

    I agree with you completely. Freedom of speech is freedom of speech or it is not. Especially regarding # 2: let it all come out in the open, so we can deal with it. Repressing it pushes it underground and makes it worse. Hate speech is a symptom, not the cause. By repressing hate speech we hide the symptom behind a blind, but we don’t address the cause, which is still oozing under.

  8. 8
    Per "wertigon" Ekström

    We need to realise that “hate speech” is not the same thing as say, rallying a crowd into riot.

    Hate speech is saying, “You’re ugly”. It can be further derogative, say, “You’re so ugly you should shoot yourself in the head and save the world the sight of your ugly face.” It’s still variants on the same theme. At this point, you are only expressing an opinion.

    Now, hate speech may or may not be combined with other abuses of free speech – such as causing a crowd to riot. But the crime then are not the hateful comments, instead it is the act of causing a riot that is criminal.

    So, yes, hate speech in itself is not illegal – but should that speech lead to someone actually committing suicide, then it’s a completely different matter. :)

  9. 9
    Jewstika

    Ben: “Are you saying it should be a crime to hurt someone’s feelings?”

    No, not at all. I’m just saying hate crime should be a crime, so that people can be apprehended before they drive others to suicide or cause them grievous mental harm and or anxiety.

    Sort of like the difference between a troll and somebody who raises a controversial point, is that the motives of the troll are evil but the motives of the contrarian are not.

    So back at you, and back at Rick: Is it okay to espouse hatred, veiled threats, bully, and so on, until one successfully provokes some other poor soul to suicide or mental breakdown, or should it be stopped before that happens?

    Idiots.

    • 9.1
      Ben

      There is a huge difference between harassment and hate speech.

      Nobody here is arguing for the right to harass people to the brink of suicide.

      • 9.1.1
        HitlerWasAGoodPainter

        Oh okay, so it’s a completely black-and-white matter to have absolute freedom of speech, except in the case of:
        * Death threats
        * Harassment

        Progress is made here, people.

        Fucking stellar.

        • donjoe

          Which just proves how stupid and untenable Rick’s overly general thesis is. Yes, there should be restrictions on pretty much every type of freedom, because absolute freedom always includes the freedom to cause harm among all those other fluffy and pink-colored types of freedom.

        • asdf

          Go kill yourself, fascist.

        • Martha

          haha!

        • jsebean

          Harassment and death threats are sort of different. It’s one thing to say, in an angry tone you think the president (as an example) should be shot for something he did. It’s another thing to actually act upon that.

          If you said tomorrow I’m going to go shoot the president, something should be done about that, as you intend to take someones life away and you expressed it. If you just simply whipped a gun out and started on a B-line towards the president (again, as an example) you still should be stopped, whether you said you were going to kill him or not.

          Harassment again is another thing. You don’t have to say hateful things to somebody to harass someone. You could push them around too. It’s still harassment. So that too should be illegal.

          Basically, think of it this way. One’s freedom should end where another’s begins. Nobody is justifying the KKK or Westboro Baptist Church (as two examples of what people would consider hate groups) but we still need to defend their freedom to express themselves. So long as they’re not actually killing anybody but merely just expressing their beliefs, as absurd as they are is fine, or should be fine, in the eyes of the law.

          Second, remember freedom is a two way street, otherwise it’s not freedom. So if somebody is saying something hateful, challenge them. If you censor them, you look like an oppressor, which only serves to prove, in their minds that they were right; you didn’t want to hear it. Instead, let them speak their nonsense, and them tell them what’s wrong. If they ignore you, fine. Being stupid shouldn’t be against the law :P

    • 9.2
      Timo

      No, it’s not okay to provoke a vulnerable person to commit suicide. Yes, by all means it should be stopped. For example by publicly shaming the bully.

      But should it be illegal? Definitely not!

      If you argue that people should go to prison for hate speech, by the same logic you could argue that people should go to prison for gossip. Perhaps gossip is more subtle than hate speech but it can be equally damaging psychologically, and yes, people do commit suicide because of gossip.

      Where do you draw the line?

      • 9.2.1
        donjoe

        You gather around with a bunch of other people, you think about it real hard and choose carefully where to draw a line that satisfies most of you rationally and/or morally, rather than running away from the task like intellectual cowards, ready to give up on civilization just because sometimes moral computations are hard.

        • Timo

          The question (and the whole point of this article) is not where to draw the moral line but where to draw the legal line. Those are very different questions. Not everything that is immoral should be automatically be illegal. Morality is concerned with what is right and wrong, the law is concerned about when it is legitimate to use force.

          There is a reason the law is binary and absolutist about things such as theft and murder, even though those too are fuzzy moral computations in real life situations. It’s because the law is based on the concept of universal rights. You either have a right to property, or you don’t. You either have the right to free speech, or you don’t.

          When it is legitimate to use force against immoral speech? I would say NEVER, because speech is a basic right. And that does not mean “giving up on civilization”, because there is a lot more that holds civilization together than just the legal system.

        • Anonymous

          Well said, Timo. Especially the bit about the purpose of law being to determine when it is acceptable to use force. Otherwise it’s just cowboy justice.

        • donjoe

          I don’t know what you think you’ve achieved with your clarification, as my reply above applies equally well to the question of the “moral line” as it does to the question of the “legal line”.

      • 9.2.2
        scandinavianpirate

        Exactly – and gossip is not even public speech.

        There is no way to outlaw all forms of harrassments. For freedom to work – it requires a brave population who shed light and put shame on the harassers. Most people are reasonable and will be able to tell who the real bully is….

        IF people just dare speak out and argue with the bullies…

  10. 10
    Ano Nymous

    I’m with you to 100% (or 99% at least, I’ll return to that later), but without having read any comments yet, I’m sure you will receive plenty of hate for this article. It seems it has come to the point (some time ago) when people begin to like being oppressed.

    The 99% – The only thing I disagree with you on is the last line: They aren’t irresponsible at worst, at worst and not completely unlikely they are doing it in order to suppress opposition, now or in the future.

  11. 11

    “When I grew up, “bullying” meant that gangs of children gathered around one selected victim and beat him senseless.”

    I call bullshit on that. Sweden, 1972, born and raised – it may have happened quite rarely, as severe physical violence escalating from bullying, but I don’t believe that’s what bullying meant then.

    Also, exclusion of the middle is a logical fallacy with a long history. True, the right to free speech is a right we wish to protect. There are also other rights we wish to protect. Sometimes (quite a lot, actually), there are conflicts between the rights to be protected. Those conflicts cannot be solved from first principles. There’s dumb freedom of speech and clever freedom of speech. There’s dumb protection against abuse, and there’s clever protection against abuse.

    How do you square slander laws and free speech laws? If free speech either is or is not, is it okay to spread malicious lies about someone for personal gain? If not, then is it okay to spread vague, difficult to disprove, malicious, slanderous lies about groups of people? Why?

    • 11.1
      scandinavianpirate

      Private communications is not even considered “speech”, and gossip can be equally damaging and much more subtle than outright harassment speech in front of a group of people. You can’t outlaw private communications. Just doesn’t work.

      • 11.1.1
        holist

        But I don’t see how that is relevant. There is something you can sanction (it doesn’t have to be a ‘crime’, it can be an offense or a misdemeanor), and there is something equally damaging that it isn’t feasible to sanction: so don’t sanction the first thing either? Why?

      • 11.1.2
        IStillDon'tKnowWhatI'mDoing

        Nobody have mentioned private communications.
        Including Rick.
        Except you saw fit to bring it up.
        To raise the argument that one cannot outlaw private communications.
        Which has nothing to do with the topic being discussed.

        In conclusion: We are all dumber for having listened to you, and may God have mercy on your soul.

        • scandinavianpirate

          So just because no one yet has brought something up makes it not worth talking about?

          Not very open minded.

    • 11.2
      Patrik

      I think the best way to answer that is by describing “free speech” as the idea that speech itself should never be criminal – but depending on circumstances it can be used to commit other crimes.

      To me, hate speech is basically a case of “is this law just or not” – and I think a just law must prevent actual damage. Emotional discomfort just doesn’t cut it IMHO. That’s why I think hate speech laws are bad, not because it’s a restriction on free speech.

      In your example – outlawing slander for economical gain is indeed both provable and damaging. Making it illegal thus makes sense to me.

      Hate speech, on the other hand is characterized by you as difficult to disprove and it’s also difficult to prove that any actual damage is being done. Thus I cannot agree with or support such laws.

      Notice the difference between saying something like “X looks like apes with clothes” and “X are all infected with AIDS”. One is not provable and the other is. Makes a whole lot of difference when you’re trying to sort things out in a courtroom. I can certainly see the rationale for trying to curb the latter; it is quite provably false and it’s also easy to see that it is damaging.

      Another way to look at this is that laws that focus on the speech itself is just a f*king lazy and irresponsible approximation that “bad words” = “bad consequences”, and that’s just wrong in so many ways that I feel disgusted by the concept. Please do your due diligence and prohibit actions that are known (as in, provable) to have bad consequences, but don’t be a lazy-ass waste of oxygen and try to prohibit things you randomly associate with said bad consequences.

  12. 12
    457jdfjfUYb

    Sigh.

    There are external controls, and internal controls for social problems.

    Externalised controls do not work in the long term.

    Banning “Hate speech” or speech of any sort does not work on a practical scale and is a excellent pretext for locking people up who have not commited a crime (yet… but they were GOING TO!)

  13. 13
    Max Pont

    Kudos! Falkvinge’s article is incredibly important. Or to quote the left wing intellectual Noam Chomsky: “If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.”

    Even though hate is not a laudable virtue in any way, I would go further and argue that the idea in the today’s Zeitgeist of banning hate per se and making it illegal is misdirected. Hate is a natural reaction to intense aggression or overwhelming force that threatens your own existence.

    It is ridiculous to reprimand people with legitimate reasons for feeling hatred.
    A beaten and abused wife is perfectly entitled to hate her husband. A raped woman should be allowed to feel hatred towards the perps. A low income community that is being evicted by corrupt city officials and rich landowners are perfectly entitle to feel hate.

    • 13.1

      The problem arises when the husband uses his free speech to consolidate opinion against the abused wife. Thing with free speech is that it isn’t only used by the good guys.

      Not disputing that it is important, just saying that it isn’t so clear cut and predictable.

      • 13.1.1
        Autolykos

        In any even remotely healthy community, said abusive husband wouldn’t be able to get any support this way (but probably make a lot of people very angry at him instead). Nobody is forced to believe what others say – trying to manipulate people on a large scale can (and often will) backfire.

    • 13.2

      The problem arises when the husband uses his free speech to consolidate opinion against the abused wife. Thing with free speech is that it isn’t only used by the good guys or victims alone.

      Not disputing that it is important, just saying that it isn’t so clear cut and predictable.

  14. 14
    anonymous

    This is another one of the BEST article you WROTE Rick.
    Especially for those in countries where equality laws (leftist) predominate. Let’s not forget that because of such equality laws, abuse can be made. Such is the case of Hate Crime Hoax. http://m.nationalreview.com/phi-beta-cons/356464/liberals-caught-red-handed-another-hate-crime-hoax-nathan-harden

    I will save this article. I think it should be introduced in school education. Only that its another place with many leftists.

  15. 15
    Karellen

    Yet, there are several laws that prohibit hate expressions against other people that are, as the law says, “worthy of protection”.

    “Worthy of protection” has nothing to do with the inherent worth of any individual, but has to do with how much in need of protection the members of a particular group are.

    There are specific laws with harshly punitive penalties against killing some types of animal, like black rhinos and Siberian tigers. Black rhinos and Siberian tigers are worthy of protection in ways that other animals that horses and foxes aren’t. That doesn’t mean that black rhinos or Siberian tigers have more “inherent worth” than horses or foxes (whatever the fuck that even means); it just reflects the fact that they are more widely persecuted, and in greater need of help to have something even close to a “level playing field” in order to prosper.

    If black rhinos and Siberian tigers were as plentiful as horses and foxes, they wouldn’t need laws protecting them. And if some ethnic groups of people had not been marginalised, persecuted, slaughtered and/or enslaved over the past couple of centuries – and *still* suffer economically, educationally, socially, and in a multitude of other ways as an ongoing result of that history – then you’d be right. But! That history is there, and those groups of people are still suffering the lingering effects today of the injustices of that past.

    I wish that history didn’t exist. I wish that, because these people aren’t being persecuted any longer, then the sociological effects of that persecution just vanished overnight, and their children could grow up with exactly the same chances in life as the children of rich white people. But wishing doesn’t make it so.

    (Your points #1 and #2 are spot-on though, and are each sufficient by themselves to justify free speech, even over the objections I have to #3)

    • 15.1
      BuddhaFacepalmed

      #3 is very real to me. I’m part of the a minority in my country and every day a certain politician spouts racial supremacy speeches to all our national newspapers. But because he’s part of the majority race, he gets a free pass. But the minute someone questions the role our dear beloved Prime Minister in a murder and the subsequent cover-up, out comes the police, the gags, and saying that “hate speech will not be tolerated in our country”…

      • 15.1.1
        Karellen

        Sorry, I can’t tell if you would prefer less free speech so that the PM and associated majority would be unable to spout their crap, or if you would prefer more so that you would be able to counter it properly.

        Or whether you’re just pointing out the hypocrisy of people in power.

  16. 16
    Sascha

    Some people need to read books. In order to understand how common and mundane “evil” really is.

    Such as “The Lucifer Principle” (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Lucifer-Principle-Scientific-Expedition-History/dp/0871136643/).

    Because you are so clueless you might as well be still sucking on your mommy’s tit.

  17. 17
    Googla

    Rick is once again showíng us that he certainly isn’t the sharpest tool in the the toolbox.

    For all those who don’t know : Rick professes to be a ULTRACAPITALIST and for such a creature anything goes as it in the long run hopefully maximizes profits and such. So lets take away all the regulations and rules and watch the conflicts and wars rage on in the name of the mighty dollar or as in Ricks case Bitcoin.

    • 17.1
      AynRandIsDeluded

      Or as Bitcoins have been alternatively called:
      * Buttcoins
      * Dunning-Krügerrands

    • 17.2
      Anonymous

      Rick does not profess to be an “ULTRACAPITALIST,” you just professed that he professes to be one. That’s called a strawman argument, where you set someone up to look like they have an opinion- one which is indefensible or hard to defend- which they don’t.

      • 17.2.1
        Googla

        He certainly calls himself an Ultracapitalist http://www.dn.se/nyheter/politik/pp-ledaren-kallar-sig-ultrakapitalist/

        And if one follows his posts its easy to understand why.

        • And if you had bothered to read the original article, you’d see that I called myself “ultra-capitalist and digital communist”, in an attempt to illustrate how badly the old left-to-right scale fits the net liberty perspectives.

          Not that that would ever stop you from taking things out of context with your usual poor command of English, but hey, at least it makes your writing style easy to recognize.

          Cheers,
          Rick

        • Googla

          Rick I actually have read the original article and there you say the following:

          – Jag kallar mig ultrakapitalist och det var så jag kom in på de här frågorna.”

          “– Moderaterna är inte så renodlat kapitalistiskt som jag tycker om. De är någon slags halvmjäkiga socialliberaler, säger Falkvinge.”

          Contrary to what you wrote here you don’t call yourself a digital communist at all. Instead you say :

          “På sätt och vis kan han till och med tala om att piratpartiet slåss för en form av digital kommunism”

          http://www.fokus.se/2009/06/hjarnan-bakom-piraterna/

          Very ironic that you the ultaracapitalistic piratebrain complains about my english when you yourself speaks a n d writes in a very jibberish sweamericanetglish way which is by no means of a very high standard.

        • donjoe

          Thank you, Googla, I didn’t know this about Rick and it explains a lot about how he came up with such an article that I so strongly disagree with after so many others that I strongly agreed with.

          It’s kind of sad to find out he’s one of those confused people who say that every kind of authoritarianism is wrong and should be abolished _except_ the economic authoritarianism inherent in the master-servant relationship that is today’s capitalist employer-employee relationship.

  18. 18
    Anonymous

    Only a middle-aged, white, male person with political influence would write such an article /parody

    • 18.1
      MySphinxterShrugged

      By “political influence” I think you meant “bozo desperate for”.

      Nobody takes this clown seriously, including his own party members.

      • 18.1.1
        asdf

        Free speech is dead?

        • WhyAreOnlyManChildsLibertardians

          No, free speech is alive and well.

          It’s just not unlimited, and censored by near unanimous decision, in the cases of but not limited to:
          * Death threats
          * Harassment
          * Child Pornography

          And I think that is a good thing, and there are many who agree with me, therefore your retarded, juvenile opinions are as they should be, violently crushed by the state which has the rightfull monopoly by the powers we the people have vested in it, to commit violence.

          To idiot fucktards.
          Such as yourself.
          And all the other circle-jerking libertardians.

        • Jungle Dave

          *takes picture of growth on breast*
          *emails to doctor for analysis*
          *gets charged with production of child porn*
          *gets added to Sex Offender Registry*

          Your damn laws are overbroad, over bearing, and over saturated, thou foolish fool, @WhyAreYouSuchAMoron.

          That’s a real life example there.

          Censorship, in any form, is bad. Punishing dicks for being dicks? No problem with that. Punishing children for voluntary actions? I have problems with that. Or using “think-of-the-children” as an excuse to control everything-

    • 18.2
      Martha

      For people against free speech you’re sure speaking freely. Your opinion is ok, so is mine. So is Rick’s.

  19. 19
    Gustav Wetter

    Freedom does not exist, only varying degrees of dependence.

    • 19.1
      Mike

      What you are saying only applies to positive freedom (freedom to act).

      However, negative freedom (freedom NOT to be interfered with) does indeed exist.

      Consider the limiting case: Robinson Crusoe has absolute negative freedom, because there isn’t anybody on the island who could interfere with him. On the other hand, his positive freedom is limited because he has few resources at his disposal.

      Negative freedom is the default state of an individual and society is ONLY capable of subtracting from that freedom. Almost exactly the opposite is true for positive freedom.

      It’s important to make that distinction because when we are talking about restricting freedom of speech, it’s a fundamentally different discussion than talking about restricting free healthcare. We should keep in mind that we are not “striking a balance” but starting from a zero point. Thus, the burden of proof lies with the people who want to restrict the freedom and not the other way around.

      • 19.1.1
        PositiveInsular

        Stay on the island if you don’t want to be a part of society.

        No wait, you don’t have an island.

        Nor were you ever on one, all alone.

        Kind of like the saying “no man is an island”.

        Gosh. What a heavy burden of proof weighs upon my puny shoulders. Woe is me, that I should encounter such a wise and insightfull libertardian.

  20. 20

    I was surprised to see a Swedish Pirate defend free speech, since Sweden is all about antiracism and feminism. A crowd commonly associated with support of limits of free speech and other totalitarian ideas.

    Like someone earlier did, I will bring forth Chomsky.
    Read:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faurisson_affair

    His writing can be found here:
    http://www.chomsky.info/articles/19801011.htm

    Quoting:
    “Let me add a final remark about Faurisson’s alleged “anti-Semitism.” Note first that even if Faurisson were to be a rabid anti-Semite and fanatic pro-Nazi — such charges have been presented to me in private correspondence that it would be improper to cite in detail here — this would have no bearing whatsoever on the legitimacy of the defense of his civil rights. On the contrary, it would make it all the more imperative to defend them since, once again, it has been a truism for years, indeed centuries, that it is precisely in the case of horrendous ideas that the right of free expression must be most vigorously defended; it is easy enough to defend free expression for those who require no such defense.”

    Chomsky, who is Jewish, defends the freedom of speech of an academic who wrote a book questioning the standard view of the holocaust (probably some form of holocaust denial/revisionism). This is how intellectuals should act when it comes to free speech, defending even opinions that goes against his own ideas or his race, religion or whatever.

    -

    There is also one thing missed by the article.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shouting_fire_in_a_crowded_theater

    I guess not even Falkvinge will defend that on free speech grounds, even though he himself claimed it was a black/white issue. I think he will do wise to drop the black/white issue claim, and still acknowledge the importance of hate speech and insulting speech etc. There is a very simple reason for this: Some people are insulted by nearly everything. To limit free speech to utterances not insulting to them implies massive censorship. It is also blatantly obvious how one can claim to be insulted to avoid criticism in much the same way one can claim copyright to take down critical reviews on YouTube.

    It is not very easy to draw the line. The next thing that is often banned is inciting to commit crimes. There is a law about this in Denmark. Should it be illegal to say things like “Kill Richard Falkvinge!”?

    The thing is that one has to draw the line somewhere. I’m inclined to draw it at the “FIRE!” in theaters rather than “Kill Falkvinge!” type of utterances. What about you?

  21. 21

    I agree with this article in theory, and I believe that in an ideal world, this is how it should be.

    However, for this to work, what is needed is people to be equally eloquent. You see this problem frequently in India, where there is tremendous amount of disinformation spread by certain political entities that is designed to spread hatred for some communities.

    Ideally, exposing the disinformation should empower people to reason things through.

    In practice, apathy and incompetence of those with mass reach have brought about a situation that there is a large amount of fiction circulating among the masses as “everybody knows” kind of indisputable “facts”. And some of those “facts” are designed to create very serious risk to some people and spread paranoia creating tinderboxes that catch a spark and end with mobs out to kill each other.

    People believe things like people from one religion are out to seduce people from another, places of worship of a specific religion recruit terrorists, places of worship of another religion are conspiring to take over the country, the majority religion is about to be reduced to a minority through a well designed combination of conversions, killings and so on. Selective presentation of news to “prove” these facts, powered through by dedicated teams of trolls ensuring anyone attempting to dislodge them is shouted into oblivion.

    In a desperate effort to curb communal anger from flaring into riots, the government had even briefly banned a few social media accounts. While I am against censorship, I do see why they found it necessary. They were failing to find and combat the hate speech.

    The hate speech had gone well beyond being an indicator for hate violence and was actively fueling it.

    I don’t think the bans helped much or if they did, I don’t think the impact lasted long, but I think if there is a conflict of interest and one side is considerably more able to present a view and out-talk the other, there will come a point where some new idea needs to be found. Don’t know if such ideas should be censorship or they should be some form of moderation by independent body or something else.

    What that should be is something I don’t know, but I do see that some people have turned the right to free speech into a tools that turns others into weapons for their interest with no risk to themselves.

  22. 22
    mijj

    Banning X = giving the powerful and influential a means of banning what they in particular deem to be X. If they don’t find it to be X, then it will be permitted.

    Ie. “banning X” is how the influential vector X for their own purposes while making themselves immune.

  23. 23
    asanisimasa

    I agree fully. Another thing is that Hate speech would restrict artists from using certain types of hate speech for satire. Sometimes satire is subtle; will a committee judge something as satire or not? Hate speech, if genuine also tends to self-satirize anyway, which ultimately shifts popular opinion against them. The West Baptist church is a good example. They do nothing but galvanize support for homosexuals. Lastly, this does nothing but stunt people’s intelligence when you have to hide from them “dirty nasty words”. It is always the fault of the receiver as to whether he is offended or not. And that is something that should be promoted. To have an emotional reaction to a phenomenon is to lack understanding of its necessity. Hate speech is a real and honest expression of someone’s vulgar mind, and even this is at the very least better than the deceptive and manipulative PC speech used by people such as politicians. That, to me, is far worse and destructive.

  24. 24
    J

    “Ponder the fact that no law anywhere in such countries prohibit hate expressions against me, a middle-aged light-skinned male. Yet, there are several laws that prohibit hate expressions against other people that are, as the law says, “worthy of protection”.”

    I don’t think you have actually investigated what these hate speech laws do, exactly. In the UK, for example, there are laws against “incitement to hatred” (which basically means generalized incitement to violence, as opposed to inciting a specific crime, which was already illegal) against people on the basis of their race, religion, or sexual orientation. These laws treat anti-white hatred exactly the same as anti-black hatred, anti-Christian hatred exactly the same as anti-Muslim hatred, and anti-straight hatred exactly the same as anti-gay hatred. As I understand it, this is typical of hate speech laws – I suspect that hate speech laws that singled out particular races, genders, etc., would violate the European Convention on Human Rights.

    The reason this isn’t obvious to you is because incitement to hatred against straight white Christians/atheists never really happens (at least in the West). You may like the idea that everyone is treated equally, but it isn’t true in reality. Promoting equality sometimes means treating people differently.

    “You are either in favor of free speech, or you are not. There is no free speech at all – zero – if you only allow “acceptable” expressions.”

    Well, I hope you are willing to get rid of most of the laws we have on blackmail, incitement, fraud, plagiarism, false advertising, public order, negligence, libel, contempt of court, privacy, and so on. I suppose we would also have to ban private contracts that limit speech (people might be coerced into signing them) – but wait, aren’t those contracts a form of speech too?

  25. 25
    bab

    “If you prevent hate speech, people inclined to hatred will go directly from hate thought to the third step, which is hate violence. You want to prevent that.”

    THIS IS THE MOST RETARDED BULLSHIT I’VE EVER READ. Do you know literally nothing about psychology? It appears so. Road rage doesn’t make people happier, you idiot, IN FACT, it makes them MORE LIKELY TO GET ANGRIER.

    this site is garbage

  26. 26
    BAB

    “Banning hate speech does not get rid of the underlying problem. It does, however, destroy the crucial safety valve in society before violence appears.”

    [CITAITON NEEDED].

  27. 27

    I like to consider myself open minded, I am curious of this concept Mr. Falkvinge, but freedom in my mind should “end where another’s begins”. Many here are discussing bullying, but a more broader view is harassment. What are your views on that? Do you think it should be okay to send text messages harassing an individual, or emails, or following someone down the street saying hateful things? All of these could be considered expression, but where do you draw the line on such a thing?

    I’m under the personal opinion that harassment toward individuals should and remain banned. But talking about a group that may be considered hateful may be permissible, nobody said you had to listen to someones opinion anyway, and as long as they don’t violate another’s freedom it’s fine?

  28. 28

    In the absence of an automatic pingback:

    I have linked to this page in a post on my blog. It’s about Sweden’s Radio censoring comments linking to falkvinge.net blog, but it is in Swedish.

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