Do you believe in free speech?
Of course you do.
Everybody does not believe in free speech. They just won’t admit it. Or they will admit it, but they’ll say something illogical like “free speech has its limits”.
Free speech means exactly that.
Speaking freely. Without restrictions. Which means that anything goes. And by that I mean anything goes without being criminalised.
Because, obviously, all speech is free. You can say whatever you like by virtue of sounds coming out of your mouth. I’m referring to the consequences imposed by the state. Such as Penny Sparrow being fined R150,000 for an insulting Facebook post. Or Vicki Momberg being jailed for shouting derogatory and racist slurs at a cop.
Fining or jailing individuals for saying the “wrong” things won’t make them better individuals, and unnecessarily burdens the judiciary and taxpayers. Moreover, nothing happens when you’re offended; you won’t get cancer.
And that’s what many people, usually on the left, struggle to comprehend.
If I claim to believe in free speech, then that includes “hate speech”. (I write “hate speech” with quotation marks because the definition keeps changing.)
To be clear, “hate speech” is a political construct that is universally inconsistent. What is deemed “hate speech” in South Africa might not be deemed “hate speech” in the United States.
That said, speech can indeed be hateful, but hateful speech isn’t necessarily “hate speech”. For example, swearing at somebody might be hateful, but it isn’t necessarily “hate speech”
So, let’s bust a few myths.
“I have a right not to be offended!”
No you don’t.
“Some words have historical context that can’t be ignored.”
That’s subjective. While some feel the desire to allow certain words to mentally enslave them, others focus on more important matters like liberating their minds and succeeding in life.
“Are you saying that we should say hurtful / sexist / racist / etc / things to people?”
Of course not. I’m saying that people shouldn’t be criminalised for saying those things. There are less costly and more effective approaches. Such as more free speech.
“What about inciting violence?”
When Julius Malema was instructed, by the court, to stop singing “Kill The Boer”, he simply changed the words to “Kiss The Boer”. The point is that, if somebody wants to harm you, then silencing him isn’t going to change his mind. Knowing his intention trumps not knowing his intention.
“Words lead to actions, so we must stop the words in their tracks!”
I’ve seen this one bandied about on social media, and it’s a terrible argument. Words are merely an outward expression of one’s thoughts. Thoughts, therefore, lead to actions. Silencing words won’t silence thoughts.
“Yes, but silencing people will stop the spread of their ideas!”
George Orwell will be proud of your descension into a totalitarian and repressive police state.
Be decent with your speech.
If you can’t be, then you shouldn’t be criminalised for it.
You should be ridiculed.
And no, I don’t actually love hate speech.