Is 'Hate Speech' Dangerous?

As a concept, freedom of speech arguably dates back to Socrates. He said to his prosecutors, "If you offered to let me off this time on condition I am not any longer to speak my mind... I should say to you, 'Men of Athens, I shall obey the Gods rather than you.'" While Plato was busy writing dialogues and showing us that Socrates was advocating for free speech more than 2000 years ago, freedom of speech as a legal right did not actually exist until the 17th century.

The people of both the United States and Britain were ensured certain rights. Both countries grant freedom of speech, although in modern society, speech considered "harmful, hurtful, or hateful" has been deemed, "hate speech" in much of Europe and in Britain.

This new worldview on dangerous words has made its way to the United States. "Progressive" activists such as Antifa and the 3rd wave feminist movement, would see freedom of speech hampered to end speech they find offensive.

Online "hate speech" is currently an arrestable and jailable offense in the United Kingdom. There is an entire branch of law enforcement devoted to policing words on the internet. Many have received jail time over tweets and Facebook posts others did not agree with. How did this happen? Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 made this policing of words and subsequent punishment possible.

An article published by the Independent claims "According to the Register, a total of 2,500 Londoners have been arrested over the past five years for allegedly sending “offensive” messages via social media. In 2015, 857 people were detained, up 37 per cent increase since 2010."

In the U.S., many are trying to push for "hate speech" laws, although the courts have ruled such laws unconstitutional thus far. The First Amendment protects the right to free speech, no matter how much some may not like what is being said.    

While private business can make rules for conduct as they see fit, individual states and factions of the federal government cannot in the United States; the laws about speech are expressly written in the Constitution.

In the United Kingdom free speech was not expressly granted under the Magna Carta, it was granted 400 years later under the British Bill of Rights; however today it is all but stripped completely. The British Bill of Rights (An Act Declaring the Rights and Liberties of the Subject and Settling the Succession of the Crown) was written in 1689 and granted freedom of speech in Parliament. This was the first instance in history that any form of freedom of speech was codified into law. The British Bill of Rights granted sweeping freedoms to British citizens, and became a document looked to for inspiration in other countries. Both the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and the United States Constitution used the ideas from the British Bill of Rights when creating their versions.

Today in the United Kingdom the Online Hate Crimes Hub Polices "offensive materials" on social media. It is highly likely that you could wind up in a jail cell for insulting someone on Facebook.

Now the question becomes, what exactly is hate speech? Hate speech laws in England and Wales are found in several statutes. There needs to be an expression of hatred towards someone based upon the following: color, race, disability, nationality (which includes citizenship), ethnicity or national origin, religion, sexual preferences and sexual orientation, gender identity. All of these examples are forbidden. Next, we arrive at “Any communication which threatening or abusive, and is intended to harass, alarm or distress someone is forbidden” – Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994

Rather vague language which can be blurred easily to fit any situation. Now when you add in the Communications Act of 2003, which defines illegal communications as “Using public electronic communications network in order to cause annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety.” Breaking this law carries a fine of up to £5,000 or a six-month prison term. If you call someone a “slut” on Twitter this could land you in prison. If you like a political personality this week, better watch your language online, and that joke you posted to Facebook could also carry a sentence, if anyone feels annoyed or anxious over it.

Many social media platforms are currently demonetizing thinkers they do not agree with (YouTube does this regularly); and in some cases, out and out banning them from utilizing the platform at all, which silences their voices. Steven Crowder was has publicly shown us a “black list” of channels that are hidden via YouTube.  Other recent examples of this are Facebook and the subsequent Instagram banning of Paul Joseph Watson. Watson is an outspoken man and free speech enthusiast. His articles, videos, and views on current events tend to send some into a “triggered” state of utter turmoil; believe it or not, that is good thing! Echo chambers do not allow for critical thinking, and equal discussion of the topics at hand. If both sides cannot speak freely, that is oppression of ideas. Facebook had gone as far to label Watson as a “dangerous individual” for not towing the leftist line as they expect from their political users.  In an ironic twist of events, after Mark Zuckerberg was found to be holding meetings with conservatives such as Tucker Carlson the opposition on the left is now hollering about “#DeleteFacebook” as the trending item of the last 24 hours. It took meeting with people the left did not agree with, to cause upset with Facebook and its practices.

The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that hate speech is legally protected free speech under the First Amendment. Trying to ban speech that is offensive, or may cause another to become upset, is a slippery slope which causes more risk than the “overall good” intended. There are very clear laws in place that hate crimes are illegal and punishable. These crimes involve bodily injury to another person based on race, creed, religion, sex/gender, etc. Hate crimes also include vandalizing property. Governance over words is an inherently dangerous activity to a healthy, and ultimately free society. Take away the right to voice an opinion, no matter how vile it may be, and you are ever closer to totalitarian rule.  However, that seed has been planted by very vocal left-leaning groups who do not want hate speech protected. When a group vocalizes repeatedly about how hate speech is a danger to society, that poison pill has been placed. Many who are not very politically active hear the side that makes the most “chatter” and tend to agree with the popular opinion instead of researching the situation on their own. Many citizens of the United States have no idea that other countries are struggling with free speech, and that we are the last bastion of hope for expression. Clueless that positions in other governments include titles such as “Chief Censor.” If they knew, more outrage over trying to silence hate speech would be front and center.

Once you cannot speak out without repercussions, all other rights are taken soon after. This is how dictators take over countries and oppress the citizens. This model has been seen time and time again. It is absolutely imperative that at least one country on this planet still has freedom of expression. This is how the others will rebuild their own freedoms, much the same way that the United States forged its way using the Magna Carta and British Bill of Rights all those years ago as inspiration.

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