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Why We Should Resist It with Free Speech, Not Censorship

Published May 1st 2018 by Oxford University Press

“[T]he strongest weapon against hateful speech is not repression; it is more speech—the voices of tolerance that rally against bigotry …, and lift up…mutual respect.” —President Barack Obama (quotation in epigraph)
“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” —Martin Luther King, Jr. (quotation in epigraph)

This was an informative read though difficult due to the intensity of legal information and its result on me which is to tie my brain up and work really hard to understand, or fall asleep trying. A good read nonetheless and an important topic, one that today needs a revisit. I can certainly understand that hate speech should be free, that speech shan't be judged and must be expressed by all in a democratic society. I wonder though how we approach what we see so rampantly today (2020): disinformation, which does feel oppressive and abusive. Are lies free speech?

Why shouldn’t we suppress speech that conveys hateful and discriminatory ideas? Why shouldn’t we try to stop those ideas from spreading, and from potentially contributing to discriminatory or violent action? And why shouldn’t we try to protect the psychic well-being and dignity of the people whom the speech disparages? To be sure, constitutionally protected “hate speech” does not directly cause specific imminent serious harm [emphasis added]; that is precisely why it may not be punished. But why isn’t censorship justified by the speech’s feared harmful tendency: to potentially cause emotional harm and to possibly contribute to potential future discriminatory or violent acts? (p. 20)

And the thing about imminent, physical harm. "Sticks and stones may break my bones..." Yeah, that is an important precedent. I'm not sure the last word's been said on this; the postulation yet feels incomplete. We have more to uncover about the depth of harm and damage caused by "words." Whether those words are spoken hatefully or altered and laced with falsehood in order to manipulate a people, it is a wrongful act.

Freedom of speech has been a long and widely cherished right for multiple reasons, venerated under international human rights law and in most national legal systems. For individuals, it is essential for forming and communicating thoughts, as well as for expressing emotions. It is a prerequisite for democratic self-government in the United States, allowing “We the People” to exchange information and opinions with each other, and with our elected officials, in order to influence policy and to hold officials accountable. Additionally, freedom of speech is the prerequisite for exercising all other rights and freedoms, enabling us to advocate and organize in support of such rights, and to petition the government for redress of rights violations. Free speech also facilitates the search for truth [emphasis added] and promotes tolerance. Speaking from his prison cell in 2010, upon having been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, Chinese human rights activist Liu Xiaobo eloquently described this precious freedom, for which he sacrificed his physical liberty: “Free expression is the foundation of human rights, the source of humanity, and the mother of truth.” (page 21)

text/review content © copyright 2022 Jean A. Turman, Lucid Style

Strossen, Nadine. Hate: Why We Should Resist It with Free Speech, Not Censorship. Oxford University Press, 2018

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