FREE SPEECH VERSUS HATE SPEECH

To the young and uninitiated, as well as the older who have not attained wisdom, legislating against “hate speech” is a no-brainer. I used to believe the same even in the pre-indoctrination/3Rs era of education. It’s easy to cite evil doctrines such as Nazism as justification. It takes a lot more work to understand why a free society should give such odious teachings air to breathe. But it must, to remain free.

The belief that permissible viewpoints can be legislated requires that the believer assume that people, the legislators in particular, are inherently wise and good. It ignores a history that demonstrates ad nauseam that people do good and evil, and that the former does not express itself automatically, but requires constant attention. The carnage of even the last century dramatically illustrates this. Those with good intentions that would give the power to government to decide which views are acceptable precisely to avoid repetition of a bloody past, seem unaware that the relinquishing of individual liberty is what leads to the calamity they seek to prevent.

The idea of legislating speech is a difference of opinion lying at the core of the current division between the Right and the Left. A true conservative will defend the Constitution’s guarantees of the right to speech even for the Nazi, to use the most extreme example, to express his views as long as he is not actively promoting violence, while simultaneously opposing the evil with all the resources at his command. A Leftist will argue that speech alone can be “microaggression,” or even violence, and should be banned.

The danger of the Leftist view, of course, is that any viewpoints that are at odds with the beliefs of those in power will be deemed unacceptable and can be designated as hate speech, as conservatives are now experiencing, and the country becomes a dark shadow of the America our Founders had struggled to birth. We are seeing examples of this in real time, the so-called “cancel culture” being the inevitable endpoint of this way of thinking. An illustration of the downstream effects is the anti-racist movement. Ill-intentioned and well-intentioned people alike find themselves supporting overtly, or tacitly by inaction or ignorance, teachings based on the premise that racism directed against whites is acceptable and even desirable. The doctrines have real-world consequences for those they purport to help. For instance, long-standing social problems such as fatherlessness and sub-par educational choices in black communities to go unresolved or are exacerbated by by ill-conceived policies informed by viewing everything through a hyperbolic racial lens to the exclusion of everything else. The existence of inequity, always present in just and unjust societies, is used to conjure up the specter of predominantly racially-motivated inequality, ignoring the evidence demonstrating that past abuses contributed to but have been largely overshadowed by other, eminently correctable, social issues. “Anti-racists” reach back into a troubling past to paint the changed present as unchanged to foment polarization and resentment, the necessary sparks to kindle the flame of “fundamental change.” It’s always the time-worn siren call to the failed paradigm of socialism. “This time it will be different,” we’re told. The process is always the same, the end result always foreseeable, tragic, and confoundingly unavoidable.

I used to believe, like many still do, “it can’t happen here.” But it is, and those outside our borders, especially those that lived or are living through it, see that clearly. My awakening occurred slowly over 10-15 years, with denial evolving to suspicion, and finally acceptance. We don’t have another decade to wake up, as the transition accelerates. A sharp U-turn, a fracture, or a descent into a darkness the well-intentioned don’t wish to face is coming.

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