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That he's a bigger asshole than Bush.

Hard to believe, but I believe he's proved his point.

"Counterproductive as well as wrong" pretty much sums it all up.

I should point out that there are some vital distinctions which are far too easily lost.  First, is between hate-speech codes and hate-speech laws.  The former, typically on college campuses and in workplaces, are about keeping a relatively civil and hospitable tone in places that exist for specific purposes.  They are consistent with other codes of conduct that also are commonplace in such contexts.  They are limited in scope and purpose, and do not carry criminal penalties.

Many people fail to realize that such codes are necessary, in part, because of power relations which enable members of dominant groups to intimidate, humiliate and otherwise distress members of subdominant groups through "mere speech," but not vice versa.  Curbing hate speech thus is not aimed at expression of ideas, but at expression and perpetuation of coercive power, which itself tends to suppress free expression.  The value of having zones free from such hate speech is that it creates a moral tone and example for the rest of society--a far better way to combat hate speech generally than by criminalizing it.

Second, there's the confusion around hate crimes.  Hate crime legislation is not punishing speech--although, unfortunately, too often the laws are applied that way due to poor understanding, a situation that hopefully will change over time.  Hate crimes go both to motive (just like the difference between murder one and man two) and to effect (just like the difference between burning down an empty shack and an occupied home).  There are not just centuries, but millenia of legal precedent for making such a two-fold distinction.  The only thing novel is that it's the powerless, rather than the powerful, who are being protected by the law.

Third, we come to one issue touched on here--that of anti-racist hate speech laws.  This is not an American phenomena, and is responding to social circumstances I do not know first hand, so my attitude is necessarily cautious.  My inclination--as indicated above--is against such laws because there are better ways. But I believe they can be justified without the slippery slope indicated above.  

I am not saying they should be justified.  They could be opposed on absolutist grounds.  But it's at least conceivable to me that they could--in some circumstances--be necessary in order to prevent recurrent violence and perpetual second-class citizenship.  This seemingly creates a delicate situation with respect to ethnic groups defined by religion, such as Jews and Sikhs, since ethnic and religious protection are difficult to separate in these instances.

But this is an incidental result.  There is no reason to make the further leap that multi-ethnic religions should be protected, since the law protecting Jews and Sikhs was never intended to protect their religion. It may seem unfair that Jews and Sikhs gain some special degree of protection, but the law cannot redress all imbalances.  The best available set of remedies need not be perfect.  It need only avoid being needlessly and capriciously discriminatory.  Ethnic hate-speech laws do this, despite protecting Jews and Sikhs.  One can oppose them on their face. But slippery-slope arguments against them can be rebutted, since there is a clear reason not to extend the logic.

Folks like Blair are especially heinous because they would destroy all the distinctions drawn above. The fact that he claims to do so on behalf of values I cherish only makes him more repulsive to me.

by Paul Rosenberg on Sun Jul 3rd, 2005 at 02:09:39 AM EST
Thanks for the distinctions.
As regards hate-speech laws, several continental European countries (including France and Germany) have laws against the apology of nazism, understandable in the historical context.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Jul 3rd, 2005 at 06:32:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, I'm familiar with those laws.  In The Beast Awakens, for example, Martin Lee talks about how links have been formed between European and US neo-Nazis, in part beause the Europeans import literature published over here.

I think that's an excellent example.  It would certainly be much better if the US were not awash in the analogous apology for slavery that survives to this day, particularly in the American South.  

by Paul Rosenberg on Sun Jul 3rd, 2005 at 01:17:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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