Sunday, January 9, 2011

Hate Speech

Until recently the following provocative banner was kept on the web site of Sarah Palin, the infamous pro-gun, bigoted extreme right wing US politician.

click to enlarge

"Don't retreat, instead RELOAD!" was Palin's battle-cry, asking voters to do away with Democrat congress persons.(1)

"Today the United States Democrat Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords survived a gunshot to the head after a gunman opened fire at an event she was hosting outside a Tucson, Ariz., grocery store. As of this moment, 6 out of the 18 (or 19) wounded have died, including a 9-year-old girl and a federal judge."(2)

"The problem of hate speech seems to set two fundamental commitments of liberal democracies against each other. While it seems obvious that we should condemn speech that conveys or worse incites hatred on the basis of race, religion, gender or some other shared characteristic, our commitment to freedom of expression seems to ask us to put up with it.

In the United States the courts are applying a guarantee found in a constitutional bill of rights: the American guarantee of 'freedom of speech' found in the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

Very little escapes the protection of the First Amendment altogether. There are only a few categories that First Amendment law recognises to be 'unprotected' or of very low value. The 'unprotected' categories have traditionally encompassed 'true threats', defamation (though that has since been qualified') and abusive language (or 'fighting words').

The First Amendment exception for 'fighting words' turns on the likelihood of violent response and the exception for 'threats' applies only to 'true threats' and not to 'political hyperbole'.

Hate speech laws have existed in various forms in Australia for well over a decade. Unlike other countries, such as the United States and Canada, they have not faced constitutional hurdles to their existence. The general acceptance of hate speech laws in Australia opens intellectual space for the exploration of a range of interesting questions regarding the laws' operation, the underlying values they pursue and the context within which hate speech is occurring."(3)

In my view hate speech should not be protected if it inflicted violent behaviour, and such restrictions should cover entire spectrum of political and civil organisations such as religious organisations, faith schools, associations, societies, and political parties. Hate speakers should be fully held accountable before Law which should decree sufficient penalties for the damage speakers inflicted upon the society.

(1) Sarah Palin prays for peace and justice; for congresswoman she ordered the assassination of
(2) The shooting of a Congresswoman
(3) Hate Speech and Freedom of Speech in Australia
(4) FDL firedoglake

1 comment:

Bob MacNeal said...

I agree. While it might be difficult to prosecute such crimes, perhaps not protecting hate speech with a demonstrable connection to violence would be a deterrent to wing nut ninnies like Palin.