by Adam Nash
December 10, 2020
The most common justification for the implementation of hate speech laws is that they stop hate. Yet this clearly is not true; silencing hate is not the same as eliminating it. Instead, it pushes hateful rhetoric out of the public eye and into the ‘underworld’ of politics. As Americans in the 1920s found out during prohibition, banning something does not get rid of it. It actually makes it more popular. Extreme ideologies, targeted by an increasing number of hate speech laws around the world, will become more deep-rooted and widely believed. To understand why, we must first understand the people who adhere to the ideologies and views that governments wish to silence.
Many people who join hate groups, or who buy into a hateful ideology, are young, lost individuals, who are looking for some sense of ‘belonging’. Feeling rejected by society, they turn to those who they feel represent ‘counter-culture’ and ‘rebellion’. Unfortunately, the ‘counter-culture’ they find is a culture of hate and fear. Preachers of these ideologies eagerly embrace their new disciples and give them the sense of purpose for which they have been searching. Another collection of people who join hate groups or believe hateful ideas are merely looking for something (or someone) to blame for their problems. Often, they have just experienced a tragedy, such as a break-up, job loss, bereavement, financial struggle, or other life-altering experience. Frustrated and confused, they turn to extreme ideologies to scapegoat their problems. The final type of hateful person follows extreme ideologies because their parents did. It runs in the family. They were taught as a child to hate others, teachings which they never questioned.
Members of all three of these categories share one thing in common; they were not born hateful. Hate is learned and not a part of human nature, which means that much like a misunderstanding in a school subject or a bad habit, it can be unlearned. Do authoritarians seriously believe that the way to deprogram these brainwashed individuals is by preventing them from speaking? Silencing these people reinforces in their minds that they are the ‘rebellion’, and that they are special. They convince themselves that they must be right. After all, they reason, if people could falsify their ideas, then they would not restrict their speech. And that is why we must not ban hate speech but argue with it. Let us use our rational beliefs to dispel their irrational ones. Let us use our ability to reason to show them that their beliefs are not reasonable.
Left or right, we can all agree that hateful opinions are wrong and baseless, so we should not be afraid to tackle these ideas head-on. When confronting someone who holds hateful views, we must put our political convictions aside and work together to change their mind, the result of our efforts being a better society. We should not be afraid of extremists; we know that they are mistaken, and we must be confident in our ability to wake them up from the brainwashed state in which they reside. With society so divided and polarized, and hateful ideologies spreading, why would we not challenge them? Why would we not try and heal society?
If hate speech is a broken leg, hate speech laws are merely aspirin, which simply numbs us to the problem.
Free speech is the cast that heals.