“Hate Speech” is healthy for the free exchange of ideas

“Hate Speech” is healthy for the free exchange of ideas

“Hate Speech” is healthy for the free exchange of ideas

Brendan Kerivan

In our politically correct society, the definition of hate speech has expanded beyond its historical and etymological meaning to encompass any statement that one, often a leftist, finds offensive. The radical left has weaponized this term, bludgeoning with it those individuals who proclaim ideas contrary to their “progressive” agenda. In fact, the political left has a brilliant way of framing contentious issues in a way that subtly entraps their argumentative opponents in a quagmire that discounts the validity of their positions altogether, depicting issues as deceptively stark contrasts between objective moral extremes. Take, for example, the term “progressive” itself. How is one supposed to dispute the positions of a professed “progressive?” Would doing so not imply that a dissident himself were, by definition, “regressive?” Along the same lines, the term “hate speech” has morphed from a veritable classification of violent, hateful speech to a convenient label used to stifle dissenting viewpoints and provide justification for the flagrant denial of free speech rights. Not only is this disingenuous abstraction grossly immoral, resembling the sort of tactic that a fascist regime might use to justify the revocation of dissidents’ free speech rights, but it is also destructive to the very social and democratic order that hate speech opponents supposedly desire to protect. Ultimately, the specific content of hate speech — even if it does, indeed, espouse or reflect hatred — bears no relevance to the question of whether society should prohibit it, for the structure of democratic society entails inherent self-corrective measures to both mitigate the harm caused by this sort of rhetoric and to learn from the views expressed in such speech. By interfering with this natural process, ideological protectionists end up stimulating and dispersing hatred that would otherwise be relegated to radical fringe groups. 

Like most liberal positions, vehement opposition to hate speech stems from a fundamental condescension for individual reason. So distrustful are left-leaning ideological protectionists—the same buffoons who advocate safe spaces and trigger warnings—of individuals’ capacity to judge the moral and logical content of diverse viewpoints that they feel compelled to filter the ideological content available for public consumption. This subtly masked censorship not only violates free speech rights, which, contrary to the beliefs of some illinformed leftists, do indeed encompass hate speech, but also disregards the opportunity that every instance of hate speech presents. When a statement is labeled as “hate speech,” two possibilities exist: either the statement is actually an expression of hatred or it expresses an inconvenient or unpalatable viewpoint. In both instances, the free, unregulated exchange of ideas leads to an optimal social outcome. 

In the former case, a statement of unjustified hatred against a particular group people can easily be countered with basic appeals to dignity and individual rights or by simply debunking the pseudo-factual premises upon which such views are often founded. Such an exchange does not necessarily entail the objective of changing the opponent’s mindset. In fact, it is often impossible to dispel an individual’s ingrained hatred through discussion alone—yet, through an open dialogue one can expose to others the fallacy of a hateful individual’s arguments, which, in our society, usually draw universal condemnation anyway. Thus, the most effective way to counter such expressions of hatred is to allow them to surface through whatever medium enables their expression so that the public can either recognize the absurdity of such views firsthand or witness the impeachment of the premises behind the hateful view. 

In the latter case of a contentious viewpoint falsely labeled as hate speech, which seems to be the more prevalent example nowadays, an individual with an opposing viewpoint has no incentive to condemn the expression, thereby eliminating any chances of constructive debate, of such a view as hate speech unless he himself lacks a valid basis for his own argument. Assuming that both arguments are founded upon reasonable premises, each party should operate under the assumption that its argument is the correct one, and thus should relish the opportunity to assert the dominance of its own viewpoint. The resulting debate both challenges each party to reexamine and perhaps expand or change its own viewpoint and provides the public with more information upon which to base its own take on the issue.

 Both of these scenarios outline how the free exchange of ideas, especially those deemed as hate speech, ultimately promotes the healthy development of society’s positions on various issues, allowing it to inch closer to enlightenment with regards to a given topic. Like the free market, the free exchange of ideas thrives in the absence of interference by any third party, whether it be the government, an organization or an individual—and, similar to interference in the free market, interference in the free exchange of ideas can yield disastrous consequences.

Widespread condemnation of any viewpoint—regardless of how hateful its content may be—without explanation or rational argument only serves to embolden those who hold that particular view. In the midst of perceived persecution, individuals who share the persecuted characteristic segregate and insulate themselves. Regarding this particular issue, individuals whose views are condemned as hate speech inevitably create their own little echo chambers independent of that which the politically correct authority figures wish to impose. Within this bubble, the rampant promulgation of the views that society deems to be so unacceptable spawns even more radical ideology and risks engulfing those teetering on the edge of moderate views and those that society condemns. What liberals fail to realize is that true hatred thrives in darkness—by refusing to even cast light upon the viewpoints that they so ardently condemn as “hate speech,” liberals invigorate the very influences they wish to smother. It is through these naive measures that liberals conceived the beautiful, poetic irony of Donald Trump’s election as president of the United States.

So, I would issue a simple challenge to liberals: if you maintain the superiority of your viewpoints, simply allow others to express whatever views they desire. If you are truly the progressive champions of truth and morality that you purport to be, then allow your dissenters to manifest their ignorance and offer us your enlightenment. If you are what you claim to be, you cannot lose by letting others speak.