Friday, September 9, 2011

Against the notion that error has no rights

A comment I made here.

“Hate speech” laws are just modern blasphemy laws (as an historically literate lawyer points out here) and entitled to no more respect. If error has no rights, then that just means power is given to whoever gets to define “error”. Moreover, such laws are never operated evenhandedly. Neither in what counts as “hate speech” nor in which “hate speech” is prosecuted. Regarding the latter, everyone knows that, in jurisdictions with such laws, they are broken in various mosques every Friday and that such folk will rarely, if ever, be prosecuted.

Common law notion of incitement provides a well-attested mechanism against speech that actually seeks to break legal protections. It is as far as one needs to go.

Hate crimes are in a different category; first, because there are actual crimes involved. Secondly, because it is a criminal attempt to intimidate an entire category of people.

Speaking as a gay man, I particularly dislike the way “hate speech” prosecutions give conservative Christians a warm sense of victimhood.

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