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Truth No Defense against Danish Hate Speech Law
January 14, 2011 9:20 PM   Subscribe

A Danish court rules that truth is not a defense to its hate speech law and fines Member of Parliament Jesper Langballe $1,000 for commenting that "Of course Lars Hedegaard [President of the Danish Free Press Society] should not have said that there are Muslim fathers who rape their daughters when the truth appears to be that they make do with killing their daughters (the so-called honour killings) and leave it to their uncles to rape them." Hedegaard had tried to explain that he was speaking in the context of an epidemic of honor violence within Muslim families when he said "They rape their own children"; he faces his own set of charges. (via Volokh Conspiracy)

Section 266b of the Danish penal code reads "Whoever publicly or with the intent of public dissemination issues a pronouncement or other communication by which a group of persons are threatened, insulted or denigrated due to their race, skin colour, national or ethnic origin, religion or sexual orientation is liable to a fine or incarceration for up to two years."
posted by shivohum (229 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Modern society fail.
posted by norabarnacl3 at 9:24 PM on January 14, 2011


Amsterdam vacation: cancelled
posted by b1tr0t at 9:25 PM on January 14, 2011


b1tr0t, you're kidding, right?
posted by JauntyFedora at 9:26 PM on January 14, 2011 [6 favorites]


Presenting the actions of a few crazy assholes as the way of life of one and a half billion people does not constitute "truth."
posted by Sys Rq at 9:28 PM on January 14, 2011 [31 favorites]


It's interesting how the discourse in Europe begins to sound more and more stereotypically 'American' when their countries' lily-white demographics start to get a little brown around the edges.
posted by notswedish at 9:29 PM on January 14, 2011 [9 favorites]


(Which is to say, "Yay, Denmark! About time you got one right!")
posted by Sys Rq at 9:29 PM on January 14, 2011


Amsterdam is in the Netherlands, not Denmark.

Langballe is the Danish equivalent of a Tear Party politician. Racism and nationalism wrapped up in the flag of Christianity.

Some of his other quotes, courtesy of Wikipedia:

Islam and Christianity cannot be reconciled. And they haven't been able to during the 1500 years that Islam has been in existence. I see the religion Islam as a threat to any society where it settles.

and

As a member of the Danish parliament I have eagerly contributed to integration work and I wish it all the best. But you shouldn't, trying to help integration, subject yourself to self-censorship and stop talking about real problems. If islamization is allowed to go on unhindered in Denmark, there is definitely a risk that in a few years we are subjected to sharia. Of course there is.

I understand that he's become pretty disgusted with the continuing multi-culturalism of Denmark, and is currently considering moving to Oklahoma. Weird, huh?

Hedegaard is another racist. Too many quotes to quote, but here's the first I found:

When I walk around in New York and I was recently in Washington, I see the signs. The best indication of the level of Islamisation in the country will always be the number of veiled women in the streets. Once you see veiled women in the streets, you know what’s going to happen.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 9:35 PM on January 14, 2011 [9 favorites]


Tear Party, ha. I meant "Tea Party." Though it does bring me many tears.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 9:35 PM on January 14, 2011 [7 favorites]


Also, that EuropeNews.dk site? Despite their tagline, "No tolerance for intolerance," they seem to devote a heck of a lot of their bandwidth--by my estimate, approximately 100%--spreading anti-Islam propaganda.

Avoid.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:38 PM on January 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


I am not comfortable with the framing of this, at least in terms of its title, which strikes me as editorializing. "Truth no defense against Danish hate crime law?"

What truth? It was an incendiary statement that made it seems as though honor killings, and internecine rape, is some sort of indigenous Muslim problem. He later claimed he didn't mean that, but this is an MP for the nationalist Danish People's Party who have opposed liberalizing Danish immigration laws because it will lead to Islamicization, with honor killings being one of their talking points about why this is bad. Langballe himself has said "I see the religion Islam as a threat to any society where it settles." He has referenced as sources books such as "The 1400 Year War," which argues that Muslims are engaged in a sophisticated jihad against the west, which they are ill-prepared for.

He also argues for the privileged status of the Danish National Church. Oh, and here's a quote from him regarding Jews: "The Old Testament is an altogether Christian book which the Jewish religion has misused, with no actual right to do so."

So, again, what truth? The subject of honor killings is a serious one, but it's not being treated seriously here, but instead as a bugaboo and a stick to terrify the general population in opposition to immigration laws that would bring more Muslims into the Netherlands. Whatever you think about Danish hate speech laws, this man is not a martyr. He's legitimately Islamophobic.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:42 PM on January 14, 2011 [35 favorites]


I understand that he's become pretty disgusted with the continuing multi-culturalism of Denmark, and is currently considering moving to Oklahoma. Weird, huh?

Talk about Tear Parties.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:43 PM on January 14, 2011


Horrible framing.

Attributing the actions of a few to all Muslims does not constitute truth.
posted by mulligan at 9:45 PM on January 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


I am not comfortable with the framing of this, at least in terms of its title, which strikes me as editorializing. "Truth no defense against Danish hate crime law?"

The phrasing is a reference to defamation law, where the truth of the statement is typically a defense even when incendiary language is used. Langballe made a specific request to the court to prove the truth of his statement in court, and that opportunity was denied as irrelevant to his violation of the law.
posted by shivohum at 9:46 PM on January 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm with b1tr0t. This shit makes my blood boil.

A free society doesn't have its government decree what opinions are acceptable to express. The response to assholes like this is to ridicule them. And hopefully vote them out of office.
posted by eugenen at 9:46 PM on January 14, 2011 [13 favorites]


The phrasing is a reference to defamation law, where the truth of the statement is typically a defense even when incendiary language is used. Langballe made a specific request to the court to prove the truth of his statement in court, and that opportunity was denied as irrelevant to his violation of the law.

Well, it's obvious bullshit.

You'd prefer Denmark devoted taxpayer monies to giving him a platform to spout more of it?
posted by Sys Rq at 9:52 PM on January 14, 2011


A free society doesn't have its government decree what opinions are acceptable to express.

Actually, many of them do. Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom, among others, have hate speech legislation.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:52 PM on January 14, 2011 [20 favorites]


This statement is the one you refer to as 'truth' here:

Of course Lars Hedegaard [President of the Danish Free Press Society] should not have said that there are Muslim fathers who rape their daughters when the truth appears to be that they make do with killing their daughters (the so-called honour killings) and leave it to their uncles to rape them.

Really? This is not truth. This is hate speech.

Looks to me like the Danish court ruled that hate speech was hate speech. Seems reasonable to me. Hate speech being hate speech and all.

Linking to a right-wing UK magazine article defending someone who is clearly a borderline far right-wing Danish politician does not do anything to dissuade me from this opinion.

There's some grade-A heavy editorialising right here in this post, attempting to conflate hate speech with truth.

Interestingly, Langballe also says: Islam and Christianity cannot be reconciled. And they haven't been able to during the 1500 years that Islam has been in existence. I see the religion Islam as a threat to any society where it settles.

A straight-up Islamophobe, then.

It's possible that there is a post on this subject which doesn't try to frame Langballe's views as the 'truth', and inshallah someone will post such a post. This is not that post.

tl;dr: Take your Islamophobia and piss off.
posted by motty at 10:00 PM on January 14, 2011 [8 favorites]


I had no idea MetaFilter was such a hostile place to the concept of free speech.
posted by andoatnp at 10:02 PM on January 14, 2011 [14 favorites]


Actually, many of them do. Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom, among others, have hate speech legislation.

Yeah, and they suck.

It's the cowardly way out. It takes guts not to do stuff like this. To trust your citizens enough. To take a stand for what's really important even though it may cause tension and wound.

After September 11, people in the US feared a spike in prejudice, reprisals, and even violence against Muslims. A few incidents and assholes aside, the fears weren't realized. We are doing better on this front than some of these countries. And without their stupid hate speech laws.
posted by eugenen at 10:07 PM on January 14, 2011 [9 favorites]


I'm with b1tr0t.

You mean you were also planning a vacation to a city without knowing what country it was in?
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:08 PM on January 14, 2011 [27 favorites]


There are gradations of free speech. Despite our American mythology of being free speech absolutists, we have made entire categories of speech illegal -- speech that incites people to violence, shouting fire in a crowded theater, walking into a bank and joking that you have a gun, declaring you have a bomb on an airplane, threatening somebody, lying under oath, defrauding somebody, etc.

Europeans, many of whose cities sit on the ashes of the relatively recently dead, and many of whom deal with genuine violence on an ongoing basis as a result of hate speech, have added a category we haven't to their listing of dangerous speech. That doesn't make them any more hostile to free speech than we are when we arrest somebody for threatening to kill the president. It just means they have drawn the line elsewhere. They have their reasons, and we may disagree, but our knee-jerk "they just hate free speech" responses doesn't actually give us the moral hand -- after all, there are a lot of examples of how we hate free speech as well. It actually just creates a conversational dead end, by presuming morality is with us. And why? Because we believe in an entirely unproven myth of a free market of ideas, where bad speech can be cured by more and better speech, instead of leading to holocausts.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:11 PM on January 14, 2011 [77 favorites]


I'm with b1tr0t.

You mean you're crap at geography too?
posted by ob at 10:11 PM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


George_Spiggott -you beat me to it!
posted by ob at 10:12 PM on January 14, 2011


I had no idea MetaFilter was such a hostile place to the concept of free speech.

Seriously? That's how you read it? Because that has little or nothing to do with it. What MetaFilter may be "hostile" to is the idea of politicians using inaccurate, inflammatory and racist speech to mislead people, to stir up trouble and to expand the threat of violence against peaceful members of society. Why - judging by your comment - are you hostile to those hostile to that?

Judging from your profile, you're a PhD student . . . and you haven't ever had the lesson wherein shouting "fire" in a crowded theatre isn't protected by free speech? According to the laws in Denmark, this situation is akin to that one. Reasonably so, I reckon, considering the violence against certain people that hate speech causes. I believe that, even as I support the idea of free speech, and I'm intelligent enough to be able to view the two as perfectly compatible concepts.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 10:12 PM on January 14, 2011 [12 favorites]


I had no idea MetaFilter was such a hostile place to the concept of free speech.

It's not, unless by "free speech" you have some very absolutist definition.

Yeah, and they suck.

Your opinion, but not mine as a citizen of one of those countries who feels much more free where I am, in terms of freedom to express myself, than I did when I lived in the U.S.
posted by fatbird at 10:14 PM on January 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


This entire situation is pretty disappointing, because there's nobody to root for. The racists or the censors? Do I have to pick a side?

Advocating for free speech often means defending the distasteful and reprehensible. It wouldn't really mean much if it was easy.
posted by Edgewise at 10:15 PM on January 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


Yeah, and they suck.

In my experience, many of them are lovely.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:18 PM on January 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


What a horrible law. Offending people should not be a crime. People *deserve* to be offended.
posted by smcameron at 10:21 PM on January 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Judging from your profile, you're a PhD student . . . and you haven't ever had the lesson wherein shouting "fire" in a crowded theatre isn't protected by free speech? According to the laws in Denmark, this situation is akin to that one.

They are wrong, and it's incredible to me that anyone could take this seriously. There is a world of difference between something that directly causes panic and injury ("clear and present danger"), and what is essentially political expression that some people think has undesirable societal effects.

As for the Amsterdam thing -- yeah, I'm a dolt. Whenever this issue comes up here my reading comprehension starts to suffer.
posted by eugenen at 10:22 PM on January 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Calling someone an asshole for the ideas they have expressed is the epitome of free speech, not it's antithesis.

(to criminalize assholes would only increase our prison population; ostracize them or convert them [oh shit, that's what religious fundamentalists express, do something else then]).
posted by el io at 10:27 PM on January 14, 2011


Offending people should not be a crime.

I don't believe hate speech laws are contingent on whether anybody is offended or not, so you seem to be characterizing this wrong. The crime is that he told an incendiary lie about a despised class of people that is likely to increase animosity and possibly violence toward them.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:29 PM on January 14, 2011 [12 favorites]


I don't think he did tell a lie. I think he offended them.
posted by smcameron at 10:30 PM on January 14, 2011


Who do you think he offended? And how do you think that translated into a charge against him? And where in the law does it say the issue is whether somebody is offended or not?

You seem to have a sense of this that I don't. I'd be curious to see some evidence.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:31 PM on January 14, 2011


The crime is that he told an incendiary lie about a despised class of people that is likely to increase animosity and possibly violence toward them.

What was the lie he told?
posted by andoatnp at 10:34 PM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


""Of course Lars Hedegaard [President of the Danish Free Press Society] should not have said that there are Muslim fathers who rape their daughters when the truth appears to be that they make do with killing their daughters (the so-called honour killings) and leave it to their uncles to rape them."

It's pretty common knowledge that honor killings are a big problem.

I know one Muslim apostate blogger who disappeared from the face of the earth, presumed dead. It happens even in the U.S.
posted by smcameron at 10:34 PM on January 14, 2011


assholes would only increase our prison population; ostracize them or convert them [oh shit, that's what religious fundamentalists express, do something else then]).

Mark my words, assholism will come to be the "it" disease of this century. In time, we'll reconcile alcoholism, drug addiction, Aspergers, even conservatism ... but there will still be assholes everywhere.
posted by philip-random at 10:35 PM on January 14, 2011


Who do you think he offended? And how do you think that translated into a charge against him? And where in the law does it say the issue is whether somebody is offended or not?

Ahem.

"Whoever publicly or with the intent of public dissemination issues a pronouncement or other communication by which a group of persons are threatened, insulted or denigrated due to their race, skin colour, national or ethnic origin, religion or sexual orientation is liable to a fine or incarceration for up to two years."
posted by eugenen at 10:36 PM on January 14, 2011


People *deserve* to be offended.

Really? The vast majority of Muslims who don't murder and rape *deserve* to be maligned as murderers and rapists?

FUCK THAT
posted by Sys Rq at 10:36 PM on January 14, 2011 [18 favorites]


Europeans, many of whose cities sit on the ashes of the relatively recently dead, and many of whom deal with genuine violence on an ongoing basis as a result of hate speech, have added a category we haven't to their listing of dangerous speech.

I understand that this is the reason, but it's antithetical to what I consider to be the point of free speech. I think that repressing speech of this sort can have the opposite effect of what is intended.

They have their reasons, and we may disagree, but our knee-jerk "they just hate free speech" responses doesn't actually give us the moral hand -- after all, there are a lot of examples of how we hate free speech as well.

I hope we can avoid EU vs. US comparisons like this. To me, it's not necessary for our hands to be clean to have reasons of principle for disagreeing with laws like these. There are a lot of ways that I think we could improve free speech in this country (the US), but that's a separate issue, because we're talking about this one particular story.

Because we believe in an entirely unproven myth of a free market of ideas, where bad speech can be cured by more and better speech, instead of leading to holocausts.

Well, of course it's unproven; you can't prove political theories of this type. You're setting too high a bar to be able to criticize the European position on this issue.

The crime is that he told an incendiary lie about a despised class of people that is likely to increase animosity and possibly violence toward them.

Now THAT is certainly unproven (the lie part). Not that I agree with his statements (in fact, I disagree). But it's hard to prove such things, one way or another.

Who do you think he offended?

I believe that you're both part right, but smcameron is more correct. Here's the text from the top:
Whoever publicly or with the intent of public dissemination issues a pronouncement or other communication by which a group of persons are threatened, insulted or denigrated due to their race, skin colour, national or ethnic origin, religion or sexual orientation is liable to a fine or incarceration for up to two years.
I think it is not so much that someone specific was offended, but that the speech would be considered offensive. It's a pretty subtle distinction, though.
posted by Edgewise at 10:37 PM on January 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


I said people deserve to be offended. ALL of them.
posted by smcameron at 10:37 PM on January 14, 2011


"Americans are rapists and murderers."

Is that a lie? Is it true?
posted by fatbird at 10:39 PM on January 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Of course Lars Hedegaard should not have said that there are Muslim fathers who rape their daughters when the truth appears to be that they make do with killing their daughters (the so-called honour killings) and leave it to their uncles to rape them."
Obviously I'm a fan of freedom of speech, but in what sense is that a true sentence? The statement, literally read posits that all Muslim uncles rape their nieces. A sensible reading is that most Muslim uncles rape their nieces. If you read it as "some" Muslim uncles, then the same thing is true about every ethnic group.

The other thing that annoys me is that, unfortunately parents sometimes murder their children, but when a Muslim does it suddenly it's an "honor killing"

Also the people in this thread arguing that Hate Speech laws and free speech are compatible are delusional. Lots people say they support "free speech" so long as it doesn't bother them, once it does they say that speech doesn't count. They simply aren't able to confront the fact that they don't support free speech.
posted by delmoi at 10:40 PM on January 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Judging from your profile, you're a PhD student . . . and you haven't ever had the lesson wherein shouting "fire" in a crowded theatre isn't protected by free speech?

As the Wikipedia article makes clear, the issue is falsely shouting "fire" in a crowded theatre. What offends me as an ACLU pro-First Amendment type is that this Danish guy was forbidden from even attempting to argue the truthfulness of his statement at his trial.

Are people really defending the idea that a completely truthful statement can still be prosecuted as hate speech? And if not, then isn't part of the point of a trial to determine if the statement was a lie?
posted by andoatnp at 10:41 PM on January 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's pretty common knowledge that honor killings are a big problem.

No. Sorry. You're going to have to back that up. Please demonstrate that such killings are a) more prevalent amongst Muslims than non-Muslims, and b) a more pressing concern than run-of-the-mill murder.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:41 PM on January 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


"Americans are rapists and murderers."

Is that a lie? Is it true?

It's true. Some Americans are, and "Americans" is not quantified in the sentence, so sure. Big shrug.
posted by Edgewise at 10:42 PM on January 14, 2011


Europeans, many of whose cities sit on the ashes of the relatively recently dead, and many of whom deal with genuine violence on an ongoing basis as a result of hate speech, have added a category we haven't to their listing of dangerous speech.
Right, because the U.S. hasn't had to deal with the fallout of hate speech? Is that a serious argument?
posted by delmoi at 10:42 PM on January 14, 2011 [6 favorites]


Being offended is not something that happens to you. Being offended is somthing which you do to yourself. Offense is in the mind -- in the mind of the offended.

To my way of thinking, I don't want to live in a world in which it is a crime to cause people to become offended -- even if done deliberately. People who are such babies that they cannot take a little offense do not deserve protection of the law, but need to grow a skin.

The muslims of the world have an exceptionally thin skin. Draw a cartoon of Mohammed, and what happens? They go totally fucking apeshit. This is not reasonable. The response should not be, Ok, we'll enact laws making it a crime to offend people. The response should be to draw MORE mohammed cartoons, and desensitize these nut jobs and give feed back that "going apeshit" only makes the supposedly offensive behavior increase.

And it is not as if a cartoon of Mohammed is intrinsically offensive by nature. It is purely in the mind of those who are offended. The offense if completely manufactured by those who are offended.

It's not a crime, it's lunacy on the part of those who are offended.
\
posted by smcameron at 10:44 PM on January 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


No. Sorry. You're going to have to back that up. Please demonstrate that such killings are a) more prevalent amongst Muslims than non-Muslims, and b) a more pressing concern than run-of-the-mill murder.

In fairness, I'd agree with you, simply because at least the societies that consider this to be acceptable would not consider it to be a "big problem." I don't know what really constitutes a big problem in this context. But I would find it hard to imagine that it's just as prevalent in the West, where it is pretty much universally considered to be unacceptable.
posted by Edgewise at 10:45 PM on January 14, 2011


Are people really defending the idea that a completely truthful statement can still be prosecuted as hate speech?

No.

People are saying it wasn't true, its untruth is obvious to anyone with at least half a brain, and spreading such untruths breeds hatred and endangers people's lives.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:46 PM on January 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


I deserve to be offended.
posted by philip-random at 10:47 PM on January 14, 2011


Obviously I'm a fan of freedom of speech, but in what sense is that a true sentence? The statement, literally read posits that all Muslim uncles rape their nieces.

I believe that, even though it's an absurd and rotten thing to say, it's a stretch of the imagination to assume that he really literally meant "all." I mean, he's clearly hateful and racist, but he doesn't sound mentally incompetent.
posted by Edgewise at 10:47 PM on January 14, 2011


Are people really defending the idea that a completely truthful statement can still be prosecuted as hate speech? And if not, then isn't part of the point of a trial to determine if the statement was a lie?

In the US, it's not enough that it's a lie. You have to show some injury -- and in some cases, actual malice -- and hurt feelings don't count. Which is as it should be. And which is why you can't slander or libel ethnic groups, political parties, or other huge classes of people.
posted by eugenen at 10:47 PM on January 14, 2011


It's pretty common knowledge that honor killings are a big problem.

Well, that wasn't the whole of it. The whole of it was that Muslims let their uncles rape their nieces and then kill them.

Honor killings are often a response to rape, and a terrible one that should be condemned, and, mind you, has been condemned repeatedly by Muslim scholars and is not unique to Muslims -- they happen with discouraging frequency in Hindu communities in India, as an example. There's certainly nothing in Islam that encourages uncles to rape their nieces -- it's the unfortunate fact of rape that it tends to be somebody close to the victim that commits the crime, and an estimated 20 million Americans have been sexually abused by a parent, which, by the logic of Langballe, means that Americans are somehow predisposed to this sort of behavior.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:48 PM on January 14, 2011 [8 favorites]


People are saying it wasn't true, its untruth is obvious to anyone with at least half a brain, and spreading such untruths breeds hatred and endangers people's lives.

But don't you think a court of law should make this determination instead of punishing people because of their speech if it fails to meet the Sys Rq "half a brain" standard?
posted by andoatnp at 10:49 PM on January 14, 2011


I believe that, even though it's an absurd and rotten thing to say, it's a stretch of the imagination to assume that he really literally meant "all."
That's why I said the more sensible reading was "most". But really, the question isn't what he meant but what he said.
posted by delmoi at 10:49 PM on January 14, 2011


It's true. Some Americans are, and "Americans" is not quantified in the sentence, so sure. Big shrug.

Failing to quantify is generalizing. The plain reading of the statement is that Americans are generally murderers and rapists, that any random American you point to is likely to be a murderer or rapist. The fact that we have some leeway in interpreting the breadth of the generalization doesn't make it true in any strong sense just because more than zero Americans are rapists or murderers.

When most of the subjects of a generalization fail to make true the generalization, I'd say it's false. If I have nine white cats and one black, and I say "my cats are black", would it seem reasonable to argue that my statement is true because 10% of my cats are black?
posted by fatbird at 10:50 PM on January 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


And it is not as if a cartoon of Mohammed is intrinsically offensive by nature.

YES IT FUCKING WELL IS, just as much as tearing up a picture of the Pope, or dunking a crucifix in piss.

FWIW, I'm okay with all three, but come on. If you do something with the knowledge that a certain segment of society is going to freak out, you are actively offensive. That is what that word means.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:51 PM on January 14, 2011 [7 favorites]


smcameron: ""Of course Lars Hedegaard [President of the Danish Free Press Society] should not have said that there are Muslim fathers who rape their daughters when the truth appears to be that they make do with killing their daughters (the so-called honour killings) and leave it to their uncles to rape them."

It's pretty common knowledge that honor killings are a big problem.

I know one Muslim apostate blogger who disappeared from the face of the earth, presumed dead. It happens even in the U.S


Racism: it's even on MetaFilter!
posted by paisley henosis at 11:00 PM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


But really, the question isn't what he meant but what he said.

I'm not just talking about what he meant, but how it would be understood by most people. The literal interpretation of the words is, to me, less important than the generally understood meaning.

Failing to quantify is generalizing.

I would say it's a matter of context, as I was just saying above to delmoi. The important thing is what the consensus interpretation is. I'm not really interpreting the statement in the precisely the same way, and I don't claim to be authoritative

But that's the whole point, in my mind. In matters like these, I feel that it's hard to "prove" that one party is right or wrong. That doesn't mean that everyone is equally right. Rather, I think that the truth of things is generally hard to come by, and that's a big reason why I support free speech in matters such as these.

In general, I think one's support of free speech depends on how easy one thinks it is to tell right from wrong. The more Manichean one's worldview, the more likely one is to view many such issues as well and truly settled, and see any openness for debate as soft-headed tolerance for evil ideas. That's equally true on the right and left. I'm very far to the other side, believing that truth is very complex and hard to discern. But neither is it purely relative or subjective, which means there is some value in actually pursuing it.
posted by Edgewise at 11:01 PM on January 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also the people in this thread arguing that Hate Speech laws and free speech are compatible are delusional. Lots people say they support "free speech" so long as it doesn't bother them, once it does they say that speech doesn't count. They simply aren't able to confront the fact that they don't support free speech.

I was with you right up until that bit, delmoi.

"Free speech" tends to imply "Free TRUE speech." Egregious bullshit doesn't really count. This is a distinction the US doesn't seem able to grok. What's up with that?
posted by Sys Rq at 11:03 PM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


The more Manichean one's worldview, the more likely one is to view many such issues as well and truly settled, and see any openness for debate as soft-headed tolerance for evil ideas.

I would point out that this is also true for those who do not wish to debate hate speech legislation, but see the matter as settled and intrinsically a violation of liberty.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:03 PM on January 14, 2011


Edgewise: I'm not just talking about what he meant, but how it would be understood by most people. The literal interpretation of the words is, to me, less important than the generally understood meaning.

When you make a blanket statement about a large group, you explicitly *aren't* saying "some" or "a few," OR ELSE YOU WOULD FUCKING WELL SAY THAT, you are saying that a significant proportion, a preponderance, a majority of [those people] are [this way or thing].
posted by paisley henosis at 11:06 PM on January 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Free speech" tends to imply "Free TRUE speech." Egregious bullshit doesn't really count. This is a distinction the US doesn't seem able to grok. What's up with that?

I grok it. I just think it's egregious bullshit.
posted by eugenen at 11:07 PM on January 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Free speech" tends to imply "Free TRUE speech." Egregious bullshit doesn't really count. This is a distinction the US doesn't seem able to grok. What's up with that?

Back in the day when I programmed and (to some degree) organized a community radio station, we had basically one rule when it came to so-called FREE SPEECH.

Play anything you want, say anything you want -- just be prepared to put it into context if someone takes offense.

If you don't understand what "context" is, you're not experienced enough in the ways of the world to speak freely.
posted by philip-random at 11:09 PM on January 14, 2011


The response to assholes like this is to ridicule them.

This cannot be stated emphatically enough. I can understand the basis for many hate speech laws particularly in Europe, but at the same time, I cannot bring myself to support censorship. Hate speech is toxic to a healthy society, but I believe censorship is even more poisonous.

Let these bigots speak so that there is no doubt as to the odious nature of their opinions and how wrong they are. I've heard the phrase "Sunshine is the best disinfectant" mentioned in a few political threads before. I would suggest this is a very good example.
posted by Saydur at 11:09 PM on January 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


I grok it. I just think it's egregious bullshit.

Think harder, then.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:11 PM on January 14, 2011


>And it is not as if a cartoon of Mohammed is intrinsically offensive by nature.

YES IT FUCKING WELL IS, just as much as tearing up a picture of the Pope, or dunking a crucifix in piss.

FWIW, I'm okay with all three, but come on. If you do something with the knowledge that a certain segment of society is going to freak out, you are actively offensive. That is what that word means.


I think the point isn't whether the speech is offensive, it is whether offensive speech should be illegal.

I believe it should not be illegal in any free society. Thin-skinned folks (carefully not naming any groups here) should grow the hell up and realize that's part of life. Trying to enforce your silly superstitions on other people should be rightly laughed out of any court.

None of the three examples you list should be even arguably illegal. Simple.
posted by Invoke at 11:13 PM on January 14, 2011 [7 favorites]


"Sunshine is the best disinfectant"

Personally, I tend to agree. But it's an article of faith with me, and a sort of desperate faith, in that I want to believe that people move, however haltingly, toward justice. But I do not blame other countries for not sharing my unproven assertion that somehow good speech wins over bad speech, and that the demonstrable violence that often follows hate speech is temporary, while tolerance will win out in the end.

We've been experimenting with that for 200 years and have managed to produce Arizona.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:14 PM on January 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


Sys Rq: You haven't answered my question yet. If a country wants to punish hate speech if it's not true, then shouldn't a court determine if the statement is a lie?
posted by andoatnp at 11:14 PM on January 14, 2011


Trying to enforce your silly superstitions on other people should be rightly laughed out of any court.

Mein Kampf led to the destruction of the Jews of Europe. I am not sure what you mean by superstition.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:15 PM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Mein Kampf led to the destruction of the Jews of Europe. I am not sure what you mean by superstition.

Wow, what an incredible misunderstanding of what happened. Banning the book wouldn't have changed a thing.
posted by Invoke at 11:18 PM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Mein Kampf led to the destruction of the Jews of Europe.

I think you skipped some steps there.
posted by andoatnp at 11:18 PM on January 14, 2011 [7 favorites]


Banning the book wouldn't have changed a thing.

I didn't say it would have. I said that there is demonstrative violence that follows hate speech.

I think you skipped some steps there.

Not very many, alas.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:20 PM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I would point out that this is also true for those who do not wish to debate hate speech legislation, but see the matter as settled and intrinsically a violation of liberty.

I don't see how you could not interpret such a thing as a violation of liberty. I thought we were discussing whether or not it was a warranted violation.

Besides, there's a difference between being open-minded and not having an opinion. I'm not saying that truth cannot be discerned, and thus we should not apply moral judgments to what we hear. I'm saying that we SHOULD judge what we hear, but there's no way to do that without listening.

I'm not terribly impressed with the argument that these matters are too touchy to discuss, and that people stating these opinions could lead to another Holocaust. Like I said, I think that pushing these ideas underground only makes them fester. Those who believe such things will have no opportunity to discuss these matters openly with others, and they will not give credibility to the arguments of the other side when they are not even allowed to express their own.

The impulse may be understandable, but I believe there are good reasons to think that it is counterproductive. Within the US, we have made great strides over the last two hundred years on our most sensitive and painful topics (*cough* race *cough*) by talking about them. Believing in the ability to discuss ideas and for the best ones to win out over time is to have a certain faith in civilization and humanity. Imposed wisdom is pretty much an oxymoron.
posted by Edgewise at 11:20 PM on January 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sys Rq: You haven't answered my question yet. If a country wants to punish hate speech if it's not true, then shouldn't a court determine if the statement is a lie?

Of course. Sometimes it's just incredibly easy.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:25 PM on January 14, 2011


Within the US, we have made great strides over the last two hundred years on our most sensitive and painful topics (*cough* race *cough*)

Really? Because we seem shockingly racist to me just now, and whatever movement we have made forward seems pushed by the Emancipation Proclamation, the Civil War, and Civil Rights legislation. But it just took a black man getting elected president to stir up all those unsettled issues, despite the openness of our society.

There are plenty of books that are functionally, if not legally, banned in this country. You have to really go out of your way to find out about The Turner Diaries, and you have to go to some sketchy people to locate a copy. I hardly think this makes it seem more credible, except to the sorts of people who are already predisposed to appreciating the book. Instead, it seems to me that it makes it seem fringey. It's when hate speech comes out in the open that it becomes really dangerous, especially when it comes from the mouths or the pens of people who are in charge. And I think we've been seeing an ongoing demonstration of that over the past two years.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:26 PM on January 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


When you make a blanket statement about a large group, you explicitly *aren't* saying "some" or "a few," OR ELSE YOU WOULD FUCKING WELL SAY THAT, you are saying that a significant proportion, a preponderance, a majority of [those people] are [this way or thing].

So you really think he was literally saying that a majority of Muslim families engage in uncle-rape and honor-killing? Step back for a second and think about that. I know it can be pleasing to imagine the worst of certain people, but I have not heard that this man is suffering from brain damage or some sort of neurological disorder.

As for what constitutes a "significant proportion," I would say that you've left a lot of wiggle room there. If it's twice as common as in the West, is that significant? What about 20%? Does anyone even know what the real numbers are? This is what I'm saying when I say there's room for interpretation, and it's pretty hard to "prove" anything one way or another.
posted by Edgewise at 11:29 PM on January 14, 2011


The important thing is what the consensus interpretation is.

I disagree. You're essentially special pleading that the statement "Americans are murderers and rapists" is true in a technical sense of there being more than zero murderers and rapists in America, but people just kind of understand that it's not most. This leaves every listener comfortably interpreting the statement how they want to or are directed to--you get to think it's as true as you want it to be, or need it to be later on.

But that's the whole point, in my mind. In matters like these, I feel that it's hard to "prove" that one party is right or wrong. That doesn't mean that everyone is equally right. Rather, I think that the truth of things is generally hard to come by, and that's a big reason why I support free speech in matters such as these.

I'd agree with this on some things, but it's fairly easy to prove that it's not generally true that Muslim uncles rape their nieces, after which they're murdered by their father--there are statistics on these crimes, and reasonable assumptions, such as that there are (conservatively) 1.3 billion Muslims in the world, and Honour Killings seem to happen on the order of thousands of times a year *. In other words, a trivial percentage of the whole population. For Langballe's statement to be, in any statistical sense, even remotely true, there'd need to be millions of rapes and Honour Killings a year. Langballe's statement takes something that happens to a tiny percentage of Muslim women overall and tells you that, on average, the Muslim man with children that you're looking at has killed a daughter after his brother raped her. It's demonstrably false and obviously an incitement to bigotry.

* "The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimates that perhaps as many as 5,000 women and girls a year are murdered by members of their own families." source
posted by fatbird at 11:31 PM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sys Rq: You haven't answered my question yet. If a country wants to punish hate speech if it's not true, then shouldn't a court determine if the statement is a lie?
Of course. Sometimes it's just incredibly easy.


From this article: "In accordance with Danish legal precedent he was denied the opportunity to prove his allegation that honour killings and sexual abuse take place in Muslim families. Under Danish jurisprudence it is immaterial whether a statement is true or untrue. All that is needed for a conviction is that somebody feels offended."

Sys Rq: I assume this means that you agree with me that this was a shameful legal outcome that should be protested.
posted by andoatnp at 11:31 PM on January 14, 2011


Just because he was a weasel when he spoke doesn't mean he was an innocent. If I were to say "Jews control the media," and then later say "I meant some Jews control some media," I'm not a reasonable man, I am somebody who thinks my critics will fall for anything, and words mean whatever I can later redefine them to mean.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:32 PM on January 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


All that is needed for a conviction is that somebody feels offended

I would have to see a second source for that, as I don't trust that source's interpretation any more than I would trust Harry Mudd to produce a live woman.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:33 PM on January 14, 2011


Really? Because we seem shockingly racist to me just now, and whatever movement we have made forward seems pushed by the Emancipation Proclamation, the Civil War, and Civil Rights legislation. But it just took a black man getting elected president to stir up all those unsettled issues, despite the openness of our society.

Really? When 50 years after the National Guard physically blocked black kids from attending high school a black man gets elected president and "stirs up" a few fringe freepers making idiots of themselves at Tea Party protests, we haven't made any forward progress?
posted by eugenen at 11:33 PM on January 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


You haven't answered my question yet. If a country wants to punish hate speech if it's not true, then shouldn't a court determine if the statement is a lie?

No. Because any reasonable person would see the statements as inherently offensive to a specific group of people, and made to be so, not to refer to, say, a specific instance. There's such a thing as prima facie evidence, prima facie statements (etc) . . . essentially, the assumption that some things can be agreed upon without a huge (and costly and lengthy) discussion of whether that "thing" is something else.

For instance, if a store is sued for negligence in cleaning up a pile of bananas because a customer slips and falls, it is not necessary to have DNA testing done on the "bananas" to prove they are not, in fact, plantains.

Reasonable people agree that these statements constituted hate speech, and were meant to denigrate - falsely - an entire class of people. More than that, the people who uttered the statements were well-known for making other, similar statements which did much the same, as well as loudly championing positions that tended to be rooted in discriminatory and bigoted ideologies. (It's worth noting that most non-Muslim Danes agreed, before this case, that these two fellows were bigots.)

Had I made the same sort of statement, the situation might be different - I could point to a lifetime of experiences, actions and oral and written statements that would go a long way towards substantiating a claim that such a statement was just poorly worded or a slip of the tongue or something. But Langballe and Hedegaard had a long history of such behavior, their statements were not made in isolation.

And for what it's worth, the idea that the United States is some special beacon of freedom of speech is a pile of shit, really. It's just that a different set of circumstances are allowed and not allowed. In much of Europe, one could make statements in class or on campus that nearly all American colleges and universities - including those "run" by the state - would forbid, and begin the process to kick the student out. Similarly, one cannot say "fuck" on the radio or television, or show nudity in situations where it would be absolutely normal in Denmark or Brazil. In Hungary, when I was there in 2006 and they protested in front of Parliament, the crowd was allowed to do things unthinkable in America, including setting fires, putting up stalls on old tables and selling beer and other drinks to protesters without any sort of licensing, entering government buildings to protest and more.

The truth is, one has to watch what one does and says everywhere on Earth, and many Americans would be shocked at how much freer they are to express themselves, in some ways, in places without "free speech" as they know it.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 11:34 PM on January 14, 2011 [34 favorites]


From this article:

From that article, on that racist website. No thanks. Point me to the actual ruling.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:34 PM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Really? Because we seem shockingly racist to me just now, and whatever movement we have made forward seems pushed by the Emancipation Proclamation, the Civil War, and Civil Rights legislation. But it just took a black man getting elected president to stir up all those unsettled issues, despite the openness of our society.

Gah, it always galls me when people refuse to see how far we've come. Yeah, we're pretty far from perfection, and we're never going to get there (of course), but if you don't think we've made huge strides in 200 years, you're essentially spitting on the contributions of thousands if not millions of brave and moral people over the generations, as well as hundreds of great leaders. Feel free to ignore the contributions that they made at great expense. I believe that this is massively cynical, if unconsciously so. I could name dozens of great leaders and thinkers, mostly black but some white, who have made real strides during many of the decades you choose to imagine that nothing was happening.
posted by Edgewise at 11:34 PM on January 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Obviously I'm a fan of freedom of speech, but in what sense is that a true sentence? The statement, literally read posits that all Muslim uncles rape their nieces. A sensible reading is that most Muslim uncles rape their nieces.

Really? That's strange. I got an entirely different literal and sensible meaning out of it.

If I look at the phrase "there are Muslim fathers" then the number of them is clearly unknown and unstated. "...they make do with killing their daughters" The word they refers back to the unknown number of Muslim fathers.

Jesper Langballe's statement on its own really doesn't say how many or what kind of percentage we're talking about. I'd imagine he wouldn't be making it if he didn't think it was in some way significant, though. Significant doesn't have to mean all or even most; it could just mean he believes Muslim fathers are more likely to do this than fathers of other faiths (or maybe just his). And expressing that belief is defined as hate speech in Denmark, as far as I can tell.

Lars Hedegaard's original statement of "They rape their own children" is pretty context free right now for me. I'm looking around for the context now, but I can believe that "they" was intended to mean "Muslims".

It's interesting that Langballe didn't seem to take it to mean Muslims in general by starting his statement with "Of course Lars Hedegaard shouldn’t have said that there are Muslim fathers who rape their daughters". At least that's the implication I get.
posted by ODiV at 11:35 PM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


There are plenty of books that are functionally, if not legally, banned in this country. You have to really go out of your way to find out about The Turner Diaries, and you have to go to some sketchy people to locate a copy.

Really? Worldcat lists it at more than a dozen public libraries in the Chicago area alone. You can buy it right on Amazon for $6 used. You can get it for free as a Nook ebook.
posted by shivohum at 11:35 PM on January 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yes. Pushed forward by Civil Rights legislation, and with the force of the National Guard, as I said. Not produced by free speech. We seem to agree on this point.

Again, I am fine with our system as it is. But I refuse to sit in judgment of another country making laws based on their collectively defined sense of what is safe in public speech, any more than I would be comfortable with our laws being decried as a violation of liberty by a country that defines falsely crying fire in a theater to be free speech.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:37 PM on January 14, 2011


I find some of the arguments pro-free speech in this thread a bit reductive, and a bit - god I hate to drag this perennial metafilter favourite out, given I think it's a bit overused but - privileged.

Here in Australia we have laws against slander, against harrassment/bullying, fraud, and also against racial vilification. All of these laws are based on the understanding that words can indeed hurt and damage people. It makes me wonder if those seeking to exempt them from governance have ever witnessed or experienced the very serious damage that words can cause - as serious as forms of physical assault, or theft etc.

This is not to say we're slap a lawsuit on every reactionary politician or op-ed columnist - far from it. But we do have laws that protect people in Australia from the damage that words can cause, and I think that's a good thing.

I don't know, it just seems like a given to me. After all, we have a suite of laws against hurting people through other avenues. Words don't seem that different to me; simply another weapon used by bad people against those unable or unwilling to defend themselves.
posted by smoke at 11:37 PM on January 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


Really? I had to start my comment with "Really?" not realizing it was already used so much in the thread? I was honestly asking though and not trying to be condescending.
posted by ODiV at 11:37 PM on January 14, 2011


Really? Worldcat lists it at more than a dozen public libraries in the Chicago area alone. You can buy it right on Amazon for $6 used. You can get it for free as a Nook ebook.

This was not the case seven years ago, when I had to buy it at a gun show. I will be curious to see if its increased availability makes it seem more credible.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:38 PM on January 14, 2011


...we seem shockingly racist to me just now...

This is a tremendous step forward in race relations. Fifty, sixty years ago, America wouldn't seem shockingly racist at all to most white people living here - it was so pervasive and ingrained to American culture. Even intellectuals and political activists of the time with a few notable exceptions wouldn't pick out race relations as something worth giving much thought to. That changed in the late '50s and 60s, and continues to change, slowly... most Americans still deny we're a racist country, but they also acknowledge there is racism, and that it must be confronted.

This progress would not have been made if outlawing "harmful" speech was possible in the US - advocating desegregation would be considered "harmful speech" in the '50s by a majority of Americans living in segregated states.
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:39 PM on January 14, 2011 [7 favorites]


You're essentially special pleading that the statement "Americans are murderers and rapists" is true in a technical sense of there being more than zero murderers and rapists in America, but people just kind of understand that it's not most.

Let's not get too hung up on that one example. I'll certainly concede your interpretation of your own words. But that was the first comment of yours that I saw, and I had no idea where you were coming from. I wasn't even sure which side you were trying to make a point for when you said that, because there was zero context. In the meantime, it's obvious that you're right about that statement, because you made it, but I didn't understand where you were going at the time I replied.

...it's fairly easy to prove that it's not generally true that Muslim uncles rape their nieces, after which they're murdered by their father

Of course it is, but my point is that it would be truly ridiculous if he was actually saying that this is "generally true," i.e. most Muslim families engage in this behavior. If that's what he really meant, I think he should be in a hospital and not a courthouse.

Even so, I'd support free speech even if he said something hateful and provably wrong for reasons I've outlined elsewhere.
posted by Edgewise at 11:41 PM on January 14, 2011


This is a tremendous step forward in race relations.

I obviously was not clear enough. I do think we have made tremendous strides forward. I do not see evidence that this movement forward was primarily caused by the marketplace of ideas, but instead by the power of legislation and the economic pressures that come with boycott. And now that codes racist messages are embedded in a lot of public speech by pundits and professional politicians, racism seems to be coming back in a big way, despite being routinely decried.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:41 PM on January 14, 2011


I do not see evidence that this movement forward was primarily caused by the marketplace of ideas, but instead by the power of legislation and the economic pressures that come with boycott.

Free speech is a necessary condition for an organized boycott. Give it a shot in China.
posted by eugenen at 11:44 PM on January 14, 2011


But hate speech is not a precondition of boycott.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:44 PM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yes. Pushed forward by Civil Rights legislation, and with the force of the National Guard, as I said. Not produced by free speech. We seem to agree on this point.

You're going way too far. How do you think Civil Rights legislation got passed? Don't you think it had something to do with heroic figures like MLK and Malcolm X and all the thousands of black leaders over the decades who struggled? Free speech, to the extent that it could be had, was greatly facilitating to this. This is blindingly obvious.
posted by Edgewise at 11:46 PM on January 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


I guess all I'm getting at here is that Blood Libel oughtn't be protected speech.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:46 PM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


(The real kind, not the Sarah Palin kind.)
posted by Sys Rq at 11:47 PM on January 14, 2011


But hate speech is not a precondition of boycott.

Until someone decides that calls for economic reprisal against white folks are "hate speech."
posted by eugenen at 11:51 PM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


How do you think Civil Rights legislation got passed?

Well, in the case of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, there was a lot of sneaky politicking and then it was pushed past a bloc of 19 southern senators, who fillibustered. And it was disapproved of by a majority of white southern voters. So I concede that there was free speech involved, but the democratic process isn't precisely the market of ideas that we're discussing. It's more like a knackery, and this was an example of a small group of people enforcing, judicially, their standards onto a very large group of people. The south wasn't convinced by door-to-door conversation. They were forced by law. I imagine if you asked a lot of them back when it happened, they'd say their speech was ignored, if not actively trampled on.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:54 PM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I guess all I'm getting at here is that Blood Libel oughtn't be protected speech.

For what it's worth, I don't think an American should be prosecuted for saying "Jews kill children to use their blood for ritual purposes."
posted by andoatnp at 11:54 PM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Until someone decides that calls for economic reprisal against white folks are "hate speech."

Well, when that actually happens, I'll be happy to discuss it, but you can win any argument by proposing a fantasyland in which a decision leads to dystopia.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:56 PM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


For what it's worth, I don't think an American should be prosecuted for saying "Jews kill children to use their blood for ritual purposes."

What should be done then?
posted by philip-random at 11:59 PM on January 14, 2011


Well, in the case of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, there was a lot of sneaky politicking and then it was pushed past a bloc of 19 southern senators, who fillibustered...

AZ, your scope is way too narrow. You're talking about a legislative effort as though it just sprung out of nowhere. In fact, it was the culmination of over a century of groundwork by many (apparently) unsung heroes. Your description of how Civil Rights got passed curiously fails to mention people like Dr. King and the freaking civil rights movement that sort of preceded the civil rights laws.
posted by Edgewise at 11:59 PM on January 14, 2011


I think you're simply missing my point.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:02 AM on January 15, 2011


I guess all I'm getting at here is that Blood Libel oughtn't be protected speech.

Absolutely correct. Blood libel should not be protected speech. Not in Europe anyway. For all of those defending the "right" of free speech would you feel as strongly if he said this?

"Of course Lars Hedegaard should not have said that there are Jewish fathers who rape their daughters when the truth appears to be that they make do with killing their daughters and leave it to their uncles to rape them."

In Europe that sort of talk leads to places most Europeans remember all to well and would rather not return to.

This is what Americans don't get. Despite all of the post war socialism and generally left leaning European governments, compared to the European right wing with its history of fascism and genocide, the Tea Party is just colored water. In Europe, "never again" means actively stopping it before it even gets started.
posted by three blind mice at 12:03 AM on January 15, 2011 [11 favorites]


I would say it's a matter of context, as I was just saying above to delmoi. The important thing is what the consensus interpretation is. I'm not really interpreting the statement in the precisely the same way, and I don't claim to be authoritative
That's nonsense. If I were to say "Fat people eat a lot of food" the obvious interpretation is that I believe most or almost all fat people eat a lot of food. The meaning of the construction doesn't change if I swap Muslims for fat people and child molesting for over consumption.

It sounds like you're basically arguing that because the statement is obviously not true that no one would interpret as being true, and therefore the statement as interpreted is true by virtue of being false. Which is clearly ridiculous.
"Free speech" tends to imply "Free TRUE speech." Egregious bullshit doesn't really count. This is a distinction the US doesn't seem able to grok. What's up with that?
That doesn't even make sense. There is no mechanism by which we can determine which statements are true and which are false that can't be corrupted. Therefore restricting people to making "true" statements actually means restricting people to making statements the government thinks people should believe.
So you really think he was literally saying that a majority of Muslim families engage in uncle-rape and honor-killing?
Of course. That's the plain meaning of the sentence. If you don't believe that you're either completely illiterate engaging in self-delusion.
When 50 years after the National Guard physically blocked black kids from attending high school
Uhh... I think you have that backwards.
This progress would not have been made if outlawing "harmful" speech was possible in the US - advocating desegregation would be considered "harmful speech" in the '50s by a majority of Americans living in segregated states.
Exactly. That's the thing "ban speech" advocates don't really understand -- That they won't be the ones deciding what kind of speech actually ends up getting banned. If you set up a censorship system based on a statements "harmfulness" then the people in charge will define that however they please.
posted by delmoi at 12:03 AM on January 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


What should be done then?

Some people could say that Jews don't kill children to use their blood for ritual purposes. That seems like a good solution to me.
posted by andoatnp at 12:04 AM on January 15, 2011


Good thing there's no "Right To Not Be Offended" in the US Federal Constitution.
posted by mikelieman at 12:04 AM on January 15, 2011


Well, when that actually happens, I'll be happy to discuss it, but you can win any argument by proposing a fantasyland in which a decision leads to dystopia.

My guess that if such a course of action had been available to the city of Montgomery in 1955, it would have taken it. My whole point is that the government should not be able to classify and ban speech this way.

I am going to bed.
posted by eugenen at 12:04 AM on January 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Some people could say that Jews don't kill children to use their blood for ritual purposes.

That really, really did not work in Europe.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:04 AM on January 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


I had no idea MetaFilter was such a hostile place to the concept of free speech.

Well, even MeFi has moderators. It's hard to find a community where you can say anything under any circumstances. (4chan, maybe?)
posted by WalkingAround at 12:07 AM on January 15, 2011


I think you're simply missing my point.

That's not very constructive.

Dude, I believe that I totally got your point. You're saying that civil rights was unpopular, and thus freedom of speech isn't as instrumental as a small group of people forcing a larger group of people to behave properly.

MY point is that this is a small part of the picture. The whole civil rights legislation wouldn't have come before that small group of people unless generations devoted themselves to the cause. And for their efforts, free speech was vital.
posted by Edgewise at 12:09 AM on January 15, 2011


Well, even MeFi has moderators. It's hard to find a community where you can say anything under any circumstances. (4chan, maybe?)

I wasn't talking about free speech on MetaFilter. I meant free speech in the context of government action.
posted by andoatnp at 12:09 AM on January 15, 2011


My guess that if such a course of action had been available to the city of Montgomery in 1955, it would have taken it.

Perhaps. We can't know this, and I try not to argue hypotheticals, although, if this were an alternate America based on the movie Blade Runner, I might feel differently.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:10 AM on January 15, 2011


Good thing there's no "Right To Not Be Offended" in the US Federal Constitution.

I gotta say, shit like this really gets my goat up. If anybody thinks racial vilification is about - or limited to - "being offended" for its victims, I am genuinely unsure how to have any kind of positive dialogue.

Furthermore, the vast majority of people chucking off about this seem to have no knowledge or interest in seeing what vilification et al laws actually look like in practice in the countries that have them, in favour of painting some kind of zealously prosecuted police state dystopia.

Fuck man, it's not like these laws are so hard to find. As an Australian, I certainly don't feel like I'm living in some kind of censor-loving police state. Indeed, I wish our vilification laws were actually pursued with a bit more energy; maybe then shit like this wouldn't happen.
posted by smoke at 12:12 AM on January 15, 2011 [9 favorites]


So you really think he was literally saying that a majority of Muslim families engage in uncle-rape and honor-killing?

Of course. That's the plain meaning of the sentence. If you don't believe that you're either completely illiterate engaging in self-delusion.


"there are Muslim fathers" does not plainly mean all or a majority of Muslim fathers. I'm not illiterate or engaging in self-delusion.
posted by ODiV at 12:15 AM on January 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


And for their efforts, free speech was vital.

No, you actually are missing my point. Yes, I agree. They had to meet freely. They had to be able to speak to each other, and speak with a great deal of freedom. But they didn't have to engage in any of the non-protected classes of speech that we currently disallow. They didn't have to yell fire in a crowded theater. They didn't have to threaten to kill the president.

You're using the word "free speech," but not defining it. If you mean "absolute free speech," well, they didn't have it, and didn't need it. And, if what is commonly defined as hate speech had been bundled in with the speech we disallow, Martin Luther King would still have been able to make his "I have a dream" speech, legislation still would have passed, and the March to Montgomery would still have happened.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:16 AM on January 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am sure any confusion about the point I was making was my fault, as I conflated several points into the Civil Rights discussion. I apologize for a lack of clarity; it's a risk when you make an argument you haven't made before.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:20 AM on January 15, 2011


If I were to say "Fat people eat a lot of food" the obvious interpretation is that I believe most or almost all fat people eat a lot of food.

I'm afraid this is the nonsense. This is a poor comparison because, first of all, the obvious interpretation is true. Fat people have to consume more calories to maintain their weight. I should know, I'm pretty hefty.

I don't want to argue analogies all day. Yeah, you have a point that I am assuming, to an extent, that he does not mean the literal meaning of the words he is saying because they are obviously absurd. We do that a lot of time, in many ways. If you really want examples, I'll furnish some, but I think you can come up with some if you think about it.

Look, it's certainly possible that he literally meant what he said; I don't know this guy's history. Maybe he is that stupid and crazy. I'm just assuming otherwise until I learn otherwise. It's not even that important to me, anyway, since I support freedom of speech to say even hateful things that are manifestly untrue, in most cases.
posted by Edgewise at 12:21 AM on January 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


The thing about Civil Rights was that they were actually popular in the North.

Does anyone else remember 2003-2004. The Dixie Chicks, people like Bill O'Riely arguing that you "couldn't support the troops without supporting their Commander in Cheif", the crazy-ass vitriolic warbloggers and all that? What the right was doing was basically acting like criticism of the war or of America was as offensive to them as the N-Word was to black people. They were arguing that you shouldn't even say.

I don't really think it's a stretch to imagine that anti-war speech might have been banned if the government had the capacity to do that. Certainly there would have been a lot of political support for it from the right. But obviously the U.S. would be a completely different place without the 1st amendment.

This isn't to say that the U.S. isn't somewhat extremist compared to other countries when it comes to Free Speech, but I think it's a net plus overall.
posted by delmoi at 12:21 AM on January 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


If it's twice as common as in the West, is that significant? What about 20%? Does anyone even know what the real numbers are? This is what I'm saying when I say there's room for interpretation, and it's pretty hard to "prove" anything one way or another.

Not really. "Honor killings" in Islam have little to do with religion, and much more to do with local culture and regional tradition. They're no less common in Hindu areas, or in many other parts of the world. But the idea of "honor killing" has become a racist trope by which feelings of paranoia and suspicion against Muslims can be spread.

I once asked a bunch of seemingly intelligent Americans how they believed the number of "Muslim" civilians killed by "Christian" people compared to the opposite, since (and including) 9/11. The answer that came closest to the truth was from someone who said, perhaps the numbers are roughly equal. In fact, Muslim civilians have been killed in greater numbers by Westerners by a factor of between 15 to 50 times, depending on how one calculates it.

Yet when asked if any individual Muslim was "very likely" to commit an act of terrorism, a majority of Americans believed it was so. Think of the over one billion Muslims on Earth and ask yourself how stupid that opinion is. Of course, people like Jared Loughner aren't called terrorists, even though people like Major Nidal Malik Hasan are, just because of a name or faith . . . this sort of thing also perpetuates inaccurate stereotypes and hatred.

"Honor killings" are more common in Islam than in the West (for the sake of argument, consider the West to be Europe and all predominately English-speaking countries.) But this doesn't mean a thing. For one, the term "honor killing" could be applied to many killings which occur in America, but for whatever reason, it's reserved only for Muslims. For two, the murder of family members by other family members in predominately Muslim countries is much, much, much lower than in the West.

In 2006 (the most recent year cited in Wikipedia), there were 17,043 murder in the US. If the USA had the same population as Islam, these 17,043 murders would actually be 86,829 (based on Wikipedia figures.) Homicides of family members account for 30% of the murders in the USA, which would mean the number of family-caused murders in the Islam-sized USA would be 26,048. What percentage of those murders could be perceived as "honor killings?" It would only have to be less than 20% in order for the Islam-sized USA to have more honor killings than Islam itself. (Based on fatbird's figure: "The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimates that perhaps as many as 5,000 women and girls a year are murdered by members of their own families.")

That math's as accurate as I can make it, and I tried to find the most reliable numbers, and I don't really want to get nitpicky about it, because the main thing I'm trying to point out is that the "outbreak" of "honor killing" concern is really just bullshit. Honor killing exists, but it's no more of a problem than family-killing in the US, and maybe much less so. But it's used to demonize anyone who's Muslim.

Ironically, again I have to point out that my parents, both happy civilians, were killed in Europe by umm, "non-Muslim" terrorists. I had a dear friend, who was a Serb, who Sarajevo left without saying goodbye, and fled to Serbia. Recently, she found me online and wrote me a beautiful, expressive letter of her memories and undying friendship and how much she'd missed me - we'd been pals almost since birth. I wrote back and in my letter, I asked her why she'd left She told me her family had to - the "bad" Muslims (presumably I am a "good" one) were executing Serbs in the Baščaršija (the very old central part of the city), their blood was flowing from the big fountain, and they even killed many Serb babies in front of their mothers. Of course, this was utter nonsense. We lived three blocks from the Baščaršija. We'd been there the day before she fled, hunting for make-up. She absolutely knew this wasn't true . . . her brain had changed the past. But that's what a few years of absurd hate speech will do to you, make you forget what your own eyes know.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 12:22 AM on January 15, 2011 [51 favorites]


It's not even that important to me, anyway, since I support freedom of speech to say even hateful things that are manifestly untrue, in most cases.
Supporting free speech doesn't mean pretending false statements are true. While it may be true that most people would interpret his statement as being hyperbolic, that's not true of all people. The right wing believes some pretty crazy things about Muslims.
posted by delmoi at 12:23 AM on January 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you mean "absolute free speech," well, they didn't have it, and didn't need it.

No, I don't, and I am not advocating absolute free speech. In this case, I refer specifically to political speech. I don't believe that fraud should be legal, or the old fire-in-the-crowded-theater chestnut. I just think that once you start limiting one kind of political speech, it can be a bit of a slippery slope unless you think you have a stronger handle on capital-T truth than I believe myself to have.

I apologize for a lack of clarity; it's a risk when you make an argument you haven't made before.

No apology necessary; it's all pretty abstract stuff, easy to get blurry. Sorry if I got a bit hot under the collar about the whole history of civil rights thing. It's a bit of a pet peeve of mine.
posted by Edgewise at 12:27 AM on January 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


The right wing believes some pretty crazy things about Muslims.

How should I interpret this? Do you mean most right wingers?
posted by Edgewise at 12:29 AM on January 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Furthermore, the vast majority of people chucking off about this seem to have no knowledge or interest in seeing what vilification et al laws actually look like in practice in the countries that have them, in favour of painting some kind of zealously prosecuted police state dystopia.

I have a pretty good idea of what they "actually look like in practice." But I wouldn't be happy with any version or manner of execution of "vilification laws." I think they are wrong in principle. They violate one of the values I hold most fervently.

Now I really am going to bed. Apologies.
posted by eugenen at 12:31 AM on January 15, 2011


C'mon, delmoi, you have to admit you walked into that one.
posted by Edgewise at 12:32 AM on January 15, 2011


b1tr0t, eugenen, etc. : There are people who incite human prejudices as a way to gain power, which has often enough ended up very badly for the target of said prejudices. All modern hate speech laws are built upon the basis of incitement, which has a very long pedigree as a criminal charge, together with the reality of how racial prejudices are exploited.

Ideally, there should be an 'influence test' built into hate speech laws, meaning you're more culpable the more power you hold, or simply the more people hear you. A successful politician like Langballe should always get into trouble for hate speech. Your senile ranting grand dad, not so much. "With great power, there must also come great responsibility."

Imho, the assassination of
Pim Fortuyn robbed the Netherlands of a truly unique opportunity to sideline these racist wackjobs and bring their followers closer to the mainstream. Instead, these racists have been given martyrs by the assassinations of Fortuyn and Theo van Gogh.

Btw, you've clearly never actually read much history about the federal government's involvement in the Civil Rights movement. In truth, Eisenhower understood that desegregation was essential for the Cold War effort against communism.
posted by jeffburdges at 12:49 AM on January 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure how I feel about this. Reading this thread, and a few related ones, has brought home how hopelessly naive my thinking has been on the subject. I grew up American and Yay Free Speech!, and that still informs a huge amount of my gut reaction.

But words do have the power to mislead, corrupt, and cause harm to others. Not in a vague, abstract way, but for serious. There are whole categories of statements and arguments that are corrosive to other people's ability to live peaceably as part of the larger society. Because of how these corrosive statements work, it's hard to see any upside to them. In fact, I've kind of come to the conclusion that the only way there could be an upside to hate speech would be if the statements were being made against groups of people that were, in objective fact, monolithically evil. Which is absurd on the face of it.

A big shift in my reaction occurred when I began to think about why free speech is important--beyond the usual rhetoric of, "It just is, dummy."

The communication of unpopular ideas, and the freedom of artistic expression, are the biggies that come to mind. And increasingly, it seems to me that the things these douche bags say do not fall under either category. Still, people should be able to seriously propose ideas from all over the spectrum in public, including ideas from crazy racist land.

But perhaps, at extreme ends of the spectrum, certain modes of communication--hate speech--cost too much for literally no gain. These quips are soundbites, not arguments. And the ability to make an unpopular, wrongheaded arguments in clear and unambiguous language is not the same as the ability to lash out with heated rhetoric in an inflamatory, hurtful manner.

That's about as far as my thinking has been able to get me, as of yet. In closing, I'm not sure how I feel about this.
posted by jsturgill at 12:51 AM on January 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


A free society doesn't have its government decree what opinions are acceptable to express.

Actually, many of them do. Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom, among others, have hate speech legislation.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:52 PM on January 14


And none of those societies has "freedom of speech" if citizens can be prosecuted for expressing outlawed views.

Without free speech, deciding what constitutes legal discourse and what doesn't is a slippery slope.
posted by knoyers at 12:54 AM on January 15, 2011


The communication of unpopular ideas, and the freedom of artistic expression, are the biggies that come to mind. And increasingly, it seems to me that the things these douche bags say do not fall under either category. Still, people should be able to seriously propose ideas from all over the spectrum in public, including ideas from crazy racist land.
You're saying that their racist nonsense isn't unpopular? Also the idea that the government only suppress "popular" ideas is pretty absurd. How would that possibly work without also suppressing unpopular ideas in the process.
posted by delmoi at 12:59 AM on January 15, 2011


But perhaps, at extreme ends of the spectrum, certain modes of communication--hate speech--cost too much for literally no gain. These quips are soundbites, not arguments. And the ability to make an unpopular, wrongheaded arguments in clear and unambiguous language is not the same as the ability to lash out with heated rhetoric in an inflamatory, hurtful manner.

That's about as far as my thinking has been able to get me, as of yet. In closing, I'm not sure how I feel about this.
posted by jsturgill at 12:51 AM on January 15


Who decides what's "inflammatory" or "wrongheaded"?

The supposed best interest of society should never afflict everyone who wants to open their mouths as a legal burden to bear.

Then censorship becomes society's burden and "thought police" is reality.
posted by knoyers at 1:05 AM on January 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't agree that this is a slippery slope. Most developed countries in the Western world have some laws against hate speech. As far as I know, none of these laws have led to broader prohibitions on non-hate speech, and it's certainly not true that they necessarily do so.

In Denmark, free speech is protected by the Constitution and by the European Convention on Human Rights. Denmark's racismeparagraf prohibits "publicly making statements that threaten, ridicule or hold in contempt a group due to race, skin colour, national or ethnic origin, faith or sexual orientation" (wp). If Jesper Langballe felt this law was illegal, he could appeal within the Danish court system and to the European Court of Human Rights.

Now, just because Denmark is able to outlaw certain types of speech, that doesn't mean that they could outlaw other forms of speech. That would be like saying that because we've placed certain restrictions on time, place, and manner of speech in the U.S., that we're going to run around arresting anyone who suggests repealing health care reform.

I'm not saying that I agree with the Danish hate speech law, but I don't see how it's The End Of Free Speech As We Know It, or how we Americans are The Only Free People In The World.
posted by neal at 1:18 AM on January 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


For more information on actual vilification laws rather than how Americans think they function in their heads, also see here: Racial Vilification Law in Australia. Note especially the "exemptions" and "relevant federal cases" sections.

Slippery slope arguments are horseshit: Argue what the facts and laws are, not what they are not, what they might (or might, you know, not) become. This delicious rice paper roll in front of me will become shit in about 24 hours, and yet it is not shit now; it is a good and proper thing.
posted by smoke at 1:23 AM on January 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


Breakfast pastry: cancelled
posted by Smedleyman at 1:25 AM on January 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


I don't know about all those countries, but, for example in the U.K. There are other restrictions on speech, such as the Libel case against a scientists who criticized the British Chiropractic Association. Ultimately the scientist won the case but it still is going to have a chilling effect on scientific discorce. Another example would be suppressing stories about the Prince Charles having a Gay affair (leading to the funniest Daily Show segment ever). Also, the news about Blair and Bushes phonecall, where Blair convinces him not to bomb Al Jazeera was prevented from being published on "National Security" concerns.

As far as Australia goes, it's a country where witchraft was illegal until 2005.

Not horrible abuses of power (unless you're a witch), but problematic none the less.
posted by delmoi at 1:32 AM on January 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


but it still is going to have a chilling effect on scientific discorce.

Is it? I'm afraid I'm gonna need some evidence for that, dude, cause it's not actually evident. The chiropractors lost, for goodness' sake.

Also, tell me again what witchcraft has to do with either vilification or Australia's vilification laws. What the hell, man, I thought you were better than pissy guilty-by-association like that. Also, maybe think twice before using about.com to lecture an Australian about their own laws FFS. The "law" in question concerned some wording one state's vagrancy act, and I defy you to find a single case example with reference to that part of the act. Witchcraft has never been illegal in Australia so far as I'm aware, and I very much doubt you would be able to find an example of any prosecution based on practicising witchcraft (not even on about.com) and we certainly have a history of paganism/wicca/whatever-you-want-to-call-it that stretches back more than a century.

Not that any of that is germane to this discussion except as a pretty piss weak attempt to malign the state of Australia's democracy, which is certainly a damned sight more healthy than America's - vaunted "free speech" or no.
posted by smoke at 1:51 AM on January 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


I've argued this before in detail and in the peculiar context of the US penal system. We've incarcerated some 2.5 million people largely by perfecting the art of plea arrangement, of stacking up Hanois of nested charges until the defense - guilty or not - can no longer accept the risk of trial. Whatever your position on the terroristic or political qualia of violence, do consider how these laws (and, really, any crimes of super-aggravation, such as the possession of a drug in a school zone) might serve a machinery that hums on the de facto denial of due process.
posted by kid ichorous at 2:19 AM on January 15, 2011 [8 favorites]


@smoke your link explaining the racial vilification laws in australia is fascinating; i'd recommend all americans read it. i don't actually agree with all of it but it's thoroughly laid out and has a breakdown of an example (and first) federal conviction under the laws.
posted by asymptotic at 2:36 AM on January 15, 2011


"Americans are rapists and murderers."

Murderers and rapists? We can't even refer to them as USians without a huge tribe of them demanding an immediate ban.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:45 AM on January 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


You have to really go out of your way to find out about The Turner Diaries, and you have to go to some sketchy people to locate a copy.

Sergey Brin and Larry Page aren't *that* sketchy.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:56 AM on January 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, tell me again what witchcraft has to do with either vilification or Australia's vilification laws. What the hell, man, I thought you were better than pissy guilty-by-association like that.
I was pointing out how states without free speech laws also are repressive in other ways as well.
Is it? I'm afraid I'm gonna need some evidence for that, dude, cause it's not actually evident.
Singh himself said that he was going to quit blogging about scientific frauds out of fear of future lawsuits, as he had to spend thousands of pounds defending himself even though he ultimately won the case. The Chilling effect has been commented on quite a bit.

From wikipedia
The Wall Street Journal Europe cited the case as an example of how British libel law "chills free speech", commenting that:

As a consequence, the U.S. Congress is considering a bill that would make British libel judgments unenforceable in the U.S. ... Mr. Singh is unlikely to be the last victim of Britain's libel laws. Settling scientific and political disputes through lawsuits, though, runs counter the very principles that have made Western progress possible. "The aim of science is not to open the door to infinite wisdom, but to set a limit to infinite error," Bertolt Brecht wrote in The Life of Galileo. It is time British politicians restrain the law so that wisdom prevails in the land, and not errors."[26]
Here's an article about what Sing himself has to say about it:
The case has highlighted the uniqueness of Britain’s libel laws. In his speech at the Union, Singh pointed out that the legal costs of fighting a libel case in this country are a hundred times more expensive than elsewhere in the EU.
...
On February 22nd Simon Singh will be in court again as part of his appeal process. He stated to the Union that his main fear was that the “chilling effect of libel” threatens our basic right to free speech.
It's not evident to you because you obviously don't know what's going on.
posted by delmoi at 3:10 AM on January 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Coming into this late, but I wanted to point out that this guy has simply had to pay a fine for his speech. As far as this making Denmark the enemies of free speech, to me it seems hardly more restrictive on speech than copyright law. Especially if you compare with the multi-million-dollar Jammie Thomas-Rasset verdicts.
posted by XMLicious at 3:19 AM on January 15, 2011


Hello everyone.
I felt I needed to create an account, in order to explain some of the context for this.
First, excuse me shivovum, but everything you've linked to is far right apology. There is nothing about the actual verdict, or the relevant Danish law. The "truth no defence against Danish hate speech law" is Langballes own interpretation, and he himself pleaded guilty, and thus gave up on the chance to take this to the highest Danish and European courts. Probably with good reason: now he can pretend to be a martyr for free speach. Not so much after a voyage through the entire legal system. I can see it's really hard to find relevant documentation in English; here is a short notice
The Danish law against hate speech is from 1939 - before WW2. Its original purpose was to protect Danish Jews. For what it's worth, the Nazis never really got a foothold here, and almost all the Danish Jews were saved. Did the law have anything to do with that? I don't know, but it was a strong signal from the country's leaders that the Nazis were on the wrong track.
Langballe is a parliament member for the ruling coalition. It's not like he is some tormented outsider. Don't imagine this is government suppressing free speech.
Contrariwise: a large part of the problem during the cartoon crisis was that our Prime Minister refused to even meet with ambassadors from Muslim countries. Free speech is a sort of religion in this country.
Langballes "documentation" is posted on his party's and his own website, and only consists of more hate. No proof that uncles in Muslim families are convicted of rape and/or murder more than other religious or ethnic groups.
Lars Hedegaard founded his Free Speech Society when Danish Pen refused to accept him as a member because of his vitriolic hate speech, and his expressed desire to use Pen for anti-islamic activities.
It has been very interesting to read Dee Xtrovert's posts in this thread. Thank you.
posted by mumimor at 4:02 AM on January 15, 2011 [34 favorites]


There are other restrictions on speech, such as the Libel case against a scientists who criticized the British Chiropractic Association.

There are libel (well, defamation) laws pretty much everywhere, including in the US. The problem with the Singh case wasn't that it's theoretically possible to sue someone for libel when they make particular claims about your organisation, but that under the libel laws of England and Wales, the person being sued is at a serious, serious disadvantage when compared to other jurisdictions in Europe or elsewhere (even the one just over the border in Scotland).

Libel law in England and Wales does need significant reform, and that's an FPP in its own right. But the existence of a libel law doesn't, by itself, constitute some restriction of speech that's unique to us Europeans.
posted by Catseye at 4:34 AM on January 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


mumimor's comment above ought to be highlighted, best answer style.
posted by sveskemus at 4:39 AM on January 15, 2011


I think anyone pushing the "slippery slope" argument should have to explain why the restrictions American law places on free speech are not likewise a slippery slope.
posted by creasy boy at 5:37 AM on January 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sys Rq:

Really? The vast majority of Muslims who don't murder and rape *deserve* to be maligned as murderers and rapists?

The thing is, he didn't say or imply that all or even most Muslims are rapists and murderers by any reasonable interpretation of his words. "Hate speech" laws the outlaw direct incitement to violence and offensive maligning of entire groups are reasonable, even if they won't satisfy all free speech purists. What is a problem is when the standard for deciding whether statements meet those criteria becomes "is it possible for the most mentally challenged, low IQ individual in society to interpret it as such?". There are a lot of people who don't properly understand the concept of statistical averages or the genetic fallacy, don't realise that a negative social phenomenon being more prevalent in one group of society doesn't mean all members of that group partake in it, and so on. If everyone has to dumb down their discourse to accomodate the lowest common denominator when deciding what is acceptable then free speech is going to take a serious hit and certain sensitive topics are going to be off-limits for all intents and purposes. People should be held responsible for what they actually say, not for how someone might misinterpret it. How about holding stupid people responsible for their stupidity for a change instead of demanding that smart people try and work around it?
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 5:49 AM on January 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


The muslims of the world have an exceptionally thin skin. Draw a cartoon of Mohammed, and what happens? They go totally fucking apeshit. This is not reasonable.

Interesting. There's a man I work with, has always told us he's a Muslim. He didn't go fucking apeshit about the cartoons of Mohammed, so I guess he must be lying to us about being a Muslim for some reason. Monday morning, I'm going to give his beard a good tug, because I reckon it's going to come right off in my hand.
posted by reynir at 5:59 AM on January 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Delmoi wrote: As far as Australia goes, it's a country where witchraft was illegal until 2005

... not exactly. Australia inherited most UK legislation when its colonies were founded. The Witchcraft Act of 1735 made it illegal to impose on people by pretending to be a witch. I can't find a copy of the original act, but it survived as an offense in Australia along the lines of "Every person pretending to tell fortunes, or using any subtle craft, means, or device, to deceive and impose upon any person" commits an offense. In other words, telling fortunes was illegal - and I've read lots of cases where palmistry has been used to extort money - as was cheating, threatening, and deceiving people by pretending to be a witch. You could prance around calling yourself a Wiccan all day as long as you didn't either (a) pretend to tell fortunes, or (b) threaten to curse people unless they paid you to go away.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:02 AM on January 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Jokes about Catholic priests are still legal, right?
posted by ryanrs at 6:11 AM on January 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


How about holding stupid people responsible for their stupidity for a change instead of demanding that smart people try and work around it?

Smart people like Jesper Langballe, I assume?

Looking at what he said in the context of which he said it, he was responding to an interview with Lars Hedegaard, titled 'Islam Is An Army', in which Hedegaard mentioned rape in Muslim families. I don't speak Danish, but someone's helpfully provided an English translation of that interview here:

Hedegaard: "When a muslim man rapes a woman, it is his right to do so. It is a part of slavery. A muslim man, as you know - unless he is a prophet - he can have four wives. Then he can have an unlimeted number of female slaves on the side. Muslims have slaves, as opposed to Jesus, who had no slaves.

A loose woman, that is a woman who is not under protection and guidance of her guardian, is basically free to be raped if she moves around in the city without a guardian. You can freely rape her.

Of course we have many examples - I mentioned Sweden here, probably the most prominent example of this in the West, where swedish girl a raped, gangraped etc. etc. There is nothing wrong in it, viewed from an islamic perspective. This is your right, you are even obliged to do that.

Interviewer: But then again, to know that children are raped and still do nothing about it, how can that be on a higher ethical level than.... it does not make sense.

Hedegaard : But they rape their own children ! You hear all the time that girl in muslim families are raped by their uncles or their cousins or fathers..
"

In response to that, Langballe's statement was that Hedegaard was wrong in regards to Muslim fathers raping their daughters, as "the truth appears to be that they make do with killing their daughters (the so-called honour killings) and leave it to their uncles to rape them."

You can argue that they didn't mean all Muslims if you like, but arguing that only "the most mentally challenged, low IQ individual in society" would interpret Langballe and Hedegaard as claiming these things were prevalent in Muslim society stretches the imagination far beyond snapping point.
posted by Catseye at 6:19 AM on January 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


The Witchcraft Act of 1735 made it illegal to impose on people by pretending to be a witch. I can't find a copy of the original act,

The one on this page maybe? Though it says 1736 -
An Act to repeal the statute made in the first year of the reign of King James the First, intitutled, An Act against conjuration, witchcraft, and dealing with evil and wicked spirits, except so much thereof as repeals an Act of the fifth year of the reign of Queen Elizabeth, Against conjurations, inchantments and witchcrafts, and to repeal, an Act passed in the parliament of Scotland in the ninth parliament of Queen Mary, intituled, Anentis witchcrafts, and for punishing such persons as pretend to exercise or use any kind of witchcraft, sorcery, inchantment, or conjuration.
Be it enacted by the King's most Excellent Majesty, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the Authority of the same, That the Statute made in the First Year of the Reign of King James the First, intituled, An Act against Conjuration, Witchcaft, and dealing with evil and wicked Spirits, shall, from the Twenty-fourth Day of June next, be repealed and utterly void, and of none effect (except so much thereof as repeals the Statute made in the Fifth Year of the Reign of Queen Elizabeth intituled, An Act against Conjurations, Inchantments, and Witchcrafts).

II. And be it further enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That from and after the said Twenty-fourth Day of June, the Act passed in the Parliament of Scotland, in the Ninth Parliament of Queen Mary, intituled, Anentis Witchcrafts, shall be, and is hereby repealed.

III. And be it further enacted, That from and after the said Twenty-fourth Day of June, no Prosecution, Suit, or Proceeding, shall be commenced or carried on against any Person or Persons for Witchcraft, Sorcery, Inchantment, or Conjuration, or for charging another with any such Offence, in any Court whatsoever in Great Britain.

IV. And for the more effectual preventing and punishing of any Pretences to such Arts or Powers as are before mentioned, whereby ignorant Persons are frequently deluded and defrauded; be it further enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That if any Person shall, from and after the said Twenty-fourth Day of June, pretend to exercise or use any kind of Witchcraft, Sorcery, Inchantment, or Conjuration, or undertake to tell Fortunes, or pretend, from his or her Skill or Knowledge in any occult or crafty Science, to discover where or in what manner any Goods or Chattels, supposed to have been stolen or lost, may be found, every Person, so offending, being thereof lawfully convicted on Indictment or Information in that part of Great Britain called England, or on Indictment or Libel in that part of Great Britain called Scotland, shall, for every such Offence, suffer Imprisonment by the Space of one whole Year without Bail or Mainprize, and once in every Quarter of the said Year, in some Market Town of the proper County, upon the Market Day, there stand openly on the Pillory by the Space of One Hour, and also shall (if the Court by which such Judgement shall be given shall think fit) be obliged to give Sureties for his or her good Behaviour, in such Sum, and for such Time, as the said Court shall judge proper according to the Circumstances of the Offence, and in such case shall be further imprisoned until such Sureties be given.
posted by XMLicious at 6:40 AM on January 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


I was pointing out how states without free speech laws also are repressive in other ways as well.

States with free speech laws seem to manage repression quite well too.

Lots of hyperbole in this thread, maybe we should ban that too.
posted by knapah at 7:00 AM on January 15, 2011


The Rwandan Genocide was preceeded by radio broadcasts comparing the Tutsi to "cockroaches" and an infection.

Even before they were in power, the National Socialists used speech to whip up street violence against Jews and Communists.

Speech is a powerful thing -- sticks and stones might break my bones, but words can convince someone else to start a pogrom against me.
posted by jb at 7:00 AM on January 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


This is how "thought police" can manifest in democracies that lack freedom of speech:

In a street demonstration in The Square, in Bournemouth in October 2001, Hammond held up a large double-sided sign bearing the words "Jesus Gives Peace, Jesus is Alive, Stop Immorality, Stop Homosexuality, Stop Lesbianism, Jesus is Lord".[1] The sign provoked anger in some passers-by, who tried to remove the signs; some threw water and soil at Hammond.[2] The police arrested Hammond, and charged him under section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986.[1]

The relevant provisions of the Act state: "(1) A person is guilty of an offence if he ... (b) displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting, within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby …(3) It is a defence for the accused to prove ... (c) that his conduct was reasonable."

In April 2002, a Magistrates court heard that Hammond had travelled by bus to preach with the sign. During the bus journey the defendant covered the sign with a black plastic bin-liner as he believed the sign might cause a fracas if displayed inside the bus, because of reaction he had previously received because of it. The defendant began preaching holding the sign upright so that it was clearly visible to passers-by. A group of 30 to 40 people gathered around, arguing and shouting, some people in the crowd were angry and others distressed. Police officers attended the scene. One of them spoke to the defendant and asked him to take the sign down and leave the area. The defendant refused saying that he was aware that his sign was insulting because he had had a similar reaction before on another occasion, but that he intended to return the following Saturday to preach with the sign again.

Hammond was convicted, fined £300, and ordered to pay costs of £395. The court ordered the destruction of the placards. Shortly after his trial, Hammond died.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Hammond

No freedom of speech, no freedom of belief (accepted beliefs can be expressed, unaccepted ones must be withheld), no freedom of religion. Exchanged for the freedom of the correct from offense.

I don't think it's an irrational concern that the day may come there when the sign that says "Jesus is Lord" and warns of hellfire, or the like, is enough to provoke the state.

Any institution censoring and governing human expression and thought certainly has the strongest potential to be a slippery slope.
posted by knoyers at 7:03 AM on January 15, 2011 [7 favorites]


You can argue that they didn't mean all Muslims if you like, but arguing that only "the most mentally challenged, low IQ individual in society" would interpret Langballe and Hedegaard as claiming these things were prevalent in Muslim society stretches the imagination far beyond snapping point.

I didn't argue that second point, however. Saying something is "prevalent" in a community hardly maligns every member anyway. "Prevalent" is also rather a vague term, does it mean more prevalent than the community at large, or greater than some absolute number or percentage?

Slippery slope arguments are horseshit: Argue what the facts and laws are, not what they are not, what they might (or might, you know, not) become. This delicious rice paper roll in front of me will become shit in about 24 hours, and yet it is not shit now; it is a good and proper thing.

Anti-free speech arguments are themselves based on slippery-slope arguments: the idea that tolerating insults against an identifiable group in society will lead to worse and worse demonisation then eventually violence and possibly even genocide. Going by your logic we shouldn't worry about that, we should just worry about the current situation that is in front of us.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 7:06 AM on January 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


b1tr0t, you're kidding, right?

I wish, sadly I misread "Danish" as "Dutch."

I'll change my vacation plans from travel to Europe to remedial reading.
posted by b1tr0t at 7:26 AM on January 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I didn't argue that second point, however.

You argued that "he didn't say or imply that all or even most Muslims are rapists and murderers by any reasonable interpretation of his words".

Hedegaard claimed that rape, including of family members, was intrinsic to Muslim society; that "There is nothing wrong in it, viewed from an islamic perspective. This is your right, you are even obliged to do that." When the interviewer asked how anyone could make ethical sense out of knowing children were being raped and doing nothing about it, he replied "But they rape their own children! You hear all the time that girls in Muslim families are raped by their uncles or their cousins or fathers."

Langballe said that the point about girls in Muslim families being raped by their fathers was wrong, since "the truth appears to be that they make do with killing their daughters (the so-called honour killings) and leave it to their uncles to rape them."

What do you think they're implying?
posted by Catseye at 7:28 AM on January 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


Let these bigots speak so that there is no doubt as to the odious nature of their opinions and how wrong they are. I've heard the phrase "Sunshine is the best disinfectant" mentioned in a few political threads before. I would suggest this is a very good example.

THIS THIS THIS. A big sub-set of Nice Liberals are all rah rah about freedom of expression until they come to something that might offend someone or something not of the Dominant Paradigm. Then it's a tedious, condescending lecture (almost always delivered with that infuriating rising inflection) about responsibility? And hate speech? And hurt feelings and privilege? Because I think you're a really groovy guy, but it's really not cool what you said? In essence, life is to be lived as an endless stream of apologies.
posted by Scoo at 7:43 AM on January 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


"Some people could say that Jews don't kill children to use their blood for ritual purposes."
That really, really did not work in Europe.

The Weimar Republic had laws they could have used against the Nazis, like those against the incitement of violence. Those laws either didn't work or they weren't enforced, probably because the Nazis were too popular. Apartheid Africa tried unsuccessfully to censor the ANC. Tsarist Russia censored right up until it got replaced by the USSR. The far-left party that Pol Pot eventually led was highly censored and repressed until it overthrew the Cambodian government and took control.

Is there any evidence that when an idea is attractive to a large number of people in a country, that mere speech laws stop it? Is there any evidence that any significant hate movement, ever, has been neutralized because of hate speech laws? I'm really curious to know. There is an abundance of examples of governments abusing their censorship powers.

Also, I wonder, would it be ok if hate speech laws applied to views which, for example, supposedly unfairly disparaged Israel? You can bet some people in the US would claim such speech was anti-semitic and offensive.
posted by shivohum at 8:05 AM on January 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


All that is needed for a conviction is that somebody feels offended.

I'm afraid it goes a bit deeper. What is really being defended here is cultural relativism itself, which is a pious attitude of sorts. Cultural relativism can be regarded as a secularized religious concept imported into academia by the religious left, to hold hands with the tired blank slate theory and other failed beliefs about humans. These were very important ideas to the once proud notion of world harmony, as long as people ignored or denied the fact that religions preach their own superiority and the downfall of the rest. But what else could most do but deny it? Communism was threatening and it was easier to hold onto the old feudal religions as social failure insurance.

What is interesting is that when the idea comes up that religions are imported political technology, and are not organic to geography, it's proponents overtly cling to religion as basically a race based thing and still cry racism, almost always getting a free pass from their blatantly assumed racism. And while these criticisms have long been kicked around, they don't give people the false hope they want and therefore are disregarded even if true.
posted by Brian B. at 8:23 AM on January 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


In essence, life is to be lived as an endless stream of apologies.

I'm not sure I understand what you mean by that. Could you explain?

From here, it looks like you're dividing the debate up into two camps: the believers in free speech, who don't agree with hate speech legislation, and the 'Nice Liberals' who claim to believe in free speech but actually want anything resulting in 'hurt feelings' to be outlawed.

But, as ever, it's a bit more complicated than that. Sometimes there's more than 'hurt feelings' at stake. The blood libel against European Jews wasn't just a bad thing because it hurt their feelings, but because it led to violence against them; the radio broadcasts preceding the Rwandan genocide weren't just objectionable because they said mean things about the Tutsis, but because they incited the genocide that followed. In a perfect world, such speech could always be countered by other speech pointing out where it was going wrong, and the truth would win out before anyone raised a weapon or got a mob together. But that doesn't always work - if it did, none of those bloodsheds would have occurred.

There exists a third camp, made up of people who are fine with 'hurt feelings' but not fine with the kind of hate speech that has, historically and often, lead to violence. That doesn't mean they don't value free speech, any more than your position means you're cool with incitement to violence; it just means that they've made a different compromise when it comes to weighing the importance of free speech against the importance of preventing violent persecution and genocides.
posted by Catseye at 8:23 AM on January 15, 2011 [18 favorites]


Is there any evidence that when an idea is attractive to a large number of people in a country, that mere speech laws stop it? Is there any evidence that any significant hate movement, ever, has been neutralized because of hate speech laws?

Sure: the existence of hate speech laws in Denmark has prevented widespread violence against Danish Muslims.

Or, okay, maybe it hasn't. But there's no possible to way to know.
posted by Catseye at 8:28 AM on January 15, 2011


There exists a third camp, made up of people who are fine with 'hurt feelings' but not fine with the kind of hate speech that has, historically and often, lead to violence. That doesn't mean they don't value free speech, any more than your position means you're cool with incitement to violence; it just means that they've made a different compromise when it comes to weighing the importance of free speech against the importance of preventing violent persecution and genocides.

Nicely put. This is why I'm skeptical of most "slippery slope" arguments. Not because I doubt them but because where there's public discourse, there are slippery slopes, particularly when it comes to certain subjects. Hell, this applies to most family dinners. Am I free to to tear a strip off the Pope at my mom's Christmas dinner? Yes, but I generally choose not to. Does this make me less free? Arguably. Or maybe I'm just being polite.
posted by philip-random at 9:34 AM on January 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


You have to really go out of your way to find out about The Turner Diaries, and you have to go to some sketchy people to locate a copy.

a simple web search will give you a pdf link
posted by pyramid termite at 9:39 AM on January 15, 2011


You don't have to look too far to find examples of Christian honour killings. In reality, religion has nothing to do with atrocities like this. In the case of Islam, however, religion seems to have become a useful qualifier to explain horrific behaviour to the satisfaction of the West, many of whom still apparently believe (and feel perfectly justified in doing so) that all Muslims are barbaric terrorists. There is no defense for Langeballe's choice of words, and I am shocked that so many are eager to defend him.
posted by Go Banana at 10:02 AM on January 15, 2011


In a way, I think the case here isn't really what some think it is. Langballe was ordered to pay a tiny fine for some really extreme writing. That was all. Remember, the cartoonist depicting Mohammad could not be judged by this law. No slippery slopes here. (And please: if you don't read Danish, don't try to guess what was written and said from Langballe's self-account on his web-site. There is no doubt this man believes and frequently says that all Muslim men suppress all Muslim women).
Generally, Denmark is a very permissive country, this was the first country to allow pornography. Blasphemy is still regulated, but here too, the framework is so narrow there hasn't been a ruling using this law since 1971.
A famous writer wrote a short story about having sex with the queen already ages ago. An elderly artist seems to specialize in naked Christs.
That said: free speech, in my view (and many Danes' view), is mainly the freedom to speak against power. Hate speech towards other ethnic or religious groups is disgusting to ordinary people here, as in most other places. In a country like Denmark, where you can say almost everything, people like Hedegaard and Langballe try to invoke the notion of "speaking to power" by describing Muslims as a huge, terrorizing force about to take over the country. I think they believe this, but I also think they are demagogues, spreading fear for the purpose of personal gain. They are both semi-famous men who were becoming sidelined by the changes in society after the end of the cold war, until they found the anti-islamic movement.
In reality, Muslims are a small minority in Denmark.
posted by mumimor at 10:17 AM on January 15, 2011 [15 favorites]


Went looking for information on Hindu honor killings, which I didn't realize was a big problem:

Phylis Chesler: Are Honor Killings Simply Domestic Violence? :: Middle East Quarterly
According to my new study in Middle East Quarterly, such classic killings have accelerated significantly over the last twenty years. The study examined the fate of 230 victims on five continents. I found that Muslims committed 96% of these murders in Europe, 84% in North America, and 91% worldwide. Sikhs and Hindus committed the rest. There may be a more significant Hindu involvement in honor killings where caste has been violated but such killings take place mainly in India, and not in the West ... In Europe, 68% of such killings were torturous, agonizing. Girls and women were stabbed 20-40 times, raped and set on fire, bludgeoned to death, beheaded, beaten, stoned. These women were tempted by Western freedoms. They did not want to wear religious clothing, they wanted to go to school, have careers, wear western clothing, have non-Muslim friends, and marry for love.
posted by psyche7 at 11:56 AM on January 15, 2011


Also living in a country with hate speech laws, and I can honestly attest that there is indeed a very heated but (largely) substantial debate about Islam in our tiny Scandinavian island. People discuss the cultural ramifications, immigration law in general, ways in which we can better understand each other and such. Some people are very multicultural, others are very opposed to a growing Islamic population. And then there's everyone in between.

What our hate speech law says is this: "Anyone who in a ridiculing, slanderous, insulting, threatening or any other manner publicly abuses a person or a group of people on the basis of their nationality, skin colour, race, religion or sexual orientation, shall be fined or jailed for up to two years."*

The point is, ~*~somehow~*~ our hate speech laws do not prevent people from being able to have a reasoned and thoroughly fleshed-out dialog on matters of race or religion, nor do they stand in the way of people having incredibly intolerant opinions of other races and religions. Yes, you can actually express yourself without threatening other people with violence or slandering them. So whenever I read all these ridiculous slippery-slope hyperboles about hate speech laws I just sorta chuckle and shrug.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:26 PM on January 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


After September 11, people in the US feared a spike in prejudice, reprisals, and even violence against Muslims. A few incidents and assholes aside, the fears weren't realized. We are doing better on this front than some of these countries. And without their stupid hate speech laws.

eugenen, are you serious? Or did you miss the part about the war in Afghanistan and the invasion of Iraq?
posted by jokeefe at 1:03 PM on January 15, 2011 [13 favorites]


In essence, life is to be lived as an endless stream of apologies.

I'm not sure I understand what you mean by that. Could you explain?

From here, it looks like you're dividing the debate up into two camps: the believers in free speech, who don't agree with hate speech legislation, and the 'Nice Liberals' who claim to believe in free speech but actually want anything resulting in 'hurt feelings' to be outlawed.


Some Nice Liberals, not all of them. The subset I'm referring to is the type that reflexively trash Western Civilization and White Straight Males in general whenever possible. Every misdeed in history can be laid at the feet of The Hetero White Male Christian Oppressor, and if you're one of them you'd better act contrite about it. If you object, it's "Oh, you poor oppressed white guy, you have it so rough".

Not that they don't have a point, they're just utterly dreary to be cornered by at a party. Or, as The Dude put it: "You're not wrong Walter. You're just an asshole."
posted by Scoo at 2:40 PM on January 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


eugenen, are you serious? Or did you miss the part about the war in Afghanistan and the invasion of Iraq?

Come on. Neither of these was an expression of popular anti-Muslim prejudice, and neither has anything to do with what we're discussing. The former was inevitable after the attack -- and justified, if also botched. The latter was a neocon power play orchestrated by a small group of people in a corrupt administration.
posted by eugenen at 3:00 PM on January 15, 2011


eugenen: Come on. Neither of these was an expression of popular anti-Muslim prejudice, and neither has anything to do with what we're discussing. The former was inevitable after the attack -- and justified, if also botched. The latter was a neocon power play orchestrated by a small group of people in a corrupt administration.

Bull-fucking-shit they weren't "an expression of popular anti-Muslim prejudice." An absolutely gut-wrenching number of people signed up to go to Afghanistan (and later Iraq) for the sole purpose of killing brown Muslims, and a frankly frightening number of them are perfectly happy to admit exactly that.
posted by paisley henosis at 3:14 PM on January 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


The former was inevitable after the attack -- and justified, if also botched.

“You know what I say to people who write anti-war books?”
“No, what do you say ?”
“I say, ‘Why don’t you write an anti-glacier book instead?’”
posted by girih knot at 3:15 PM on January 15, 2011


girih knot: “I say, ‘Why don’t you write an anti-glacier book instead?’

Sadly, they've written a ton of those lately. (also also also also also)
posted by paisley henosis at 3:23 PM on January 15, 2011


Heh! And what seemed like a derail turned nicely into a transition of comparisons. Here's another group of people that go "You can't tell us what to do! If Islamophobia is real, why is it so hot out?"
posted by girih knot at 3:35 PM on January 15, 2011


hot
cold.

posted by girih knot at 3:35 PM on January 15, 2011


Bull-fucking-shit they weren't "an expression of popular anti-Muslim prejudice." An absolutely gut-wrenching number of people signed up to go to Afghanistan (and later Iraq) for the sole purpose of killing brown Muslims, and a frankly frightening number of them are perfectly happy to admit exactly that.

First of all: cite? I'm not exactly sure what you're referring to, but I suspect that "for the sole purpose of killing brown Muslims" is an awfully fucking tendentious and uncharitable way of referring to it.

Second: if people joining the military is the worst you've got, I'd say we did okay.
posted by eugenen at 3:38 PM on January 15, 2011


'Langballe' means 'Long buttock'. S'true!
posted by Catfry at 4:05 PM on January 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


if people joining the military is the worst you've got, I'd say we did okay.

Like most Americans you have no fucking clue of how terrible war is and would do best to keep your mouth shut about things you haven't any understanding of.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:16 PM on January 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


The subset I'm referring to is the type that reflexively trash Western Civilization and White Straight Males in general whenever possible. Every misdeed in history can be laid at the feet of The Hetero White Male Christian Oppressor, and if you're one of them you'd better act contrite about it. If you object, it's "Oh, you poor oppressed white guy, you have it so rough".

And who are these people you are referring to, this "type"? Specifics help your argument; saying "you know, those guys over there!" does not. I've been hanging around the socialist left for thirty years and I honestly have never heard, once, anybody blame every misdeed in history on white guys.
posted by jokeefe at 4:38 PM on January 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


eugenen: First of all: cite? I'm not exactly sure what you're referring to, but I suspect that "for the sole purpose of killing brown Muslims" is an awfully fucking tendentious and uncharitable way of referring to it.

How about idiots I have met and spoken to who told me that they loved going to Afghanistan and shooting brown Muslims? Or how about all the well documented Aryan Nations graffiti US soldiers sprayed all over Afghanistan and Iraq? Or how about you just say some more uninformed ignorant bull shit because your right to run your mouth is sacrosanct even if you have no fucking clue what the fuck you are talking about.
posted by paisley henosis at 4:44 PM on January 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


What is really being defended here is cultural relativism itself, which is a pious attitude of sorts. Cultural relativism can be regarded as a secularized religious concept imported into academia by the religious left, to hold hands with the tired blank slate theory and other failed beliefs about humans.

"Can be regarded"? Well, I suppose I could regard my cat as a bull moose but it doesn't make it so. This comment doesn't even make sense, and I've genuinely tried to parse it. The "religious left"? Do you mean a couple of Episcopal churches in the Northeast?
posted by jokeefe at 5:04 PM on January 15, 2011


And, if what is commonly defined as hate speech had been bundled in with the speech we disallow, Martin Luther King would still have been able to make his "I have a dream" speech, legislation still would have passed, and the March to Montgomery would still have happened.

What do you think would have happened to Malcom X?
posted by layceepee at 5:17 PM on January 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Malcolm X? Maybe he would have been charged with hate speech; maybe not. If he'd had a trial, however, and the debate about his language had taken place in that forum, perhaps he wouldn't have instead died in a hail of bullets. Just speculation.
posted by jokeefe at 6:11 PM on January 15, 2011


How about idiots I have met and spoken to who told me that they loved going to Afghanistan and shooting brown Muslims?

Where did you meet them?

This is a nasty negative stereotype of American servicemen and women (not very different from an ethnic stereotype, ironically) that, if anything, is based on a small minority. The military itself is extremely diverse. Overtly racist behavior can frequently lead to dishonorable discharge. Unlike you, I haven't met or spoken with any veteran or anyone in the military who had that type of motivation at all. Some of them, you would think that they were joining the Peace Corps.

Or how about all the well documented Aryan Nations graffiti US soldiers sprayed all over Afghanistan and Iraq?

I went to some fine schools, but you couldn't guess it from the bathroom graffiti, if that was all one saw.

Or how about you just say some more uninformed ignorant bull shit because your right to run your mouth is sacrosanct even if you have no fucking clue what the fuck you are talking about.
posted by paisley henosis at 4:44 PM on January 15


Though my right to run my mouth in fact happens to be sacrosanct, why the vicious attitude?
posted by knoyers at 6:16 PM on January 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


The subset I'm referring to is the type that reflexively trash Western Civilization and White Straight Males in general whenever possible.

So the group you just made up? Can we discuss real people, instead of some manufactured lefty bugaboo?
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:39 PM on January 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


IMO, it boils down to this:

Should a government be allowed to engage in hate speech and calls to violence against its own citizens? Obviously not. The government has the power to cause genocidal outcomes. It always ends poorly.

The mass media also has that power. By allowing them to tell lies we allow them to create politically-advantageous politics: we let them load the dice. We will inevitably lose.

I am perfectly happy to disallow profitable mass broadcasting of hate speech and incitement to violence. It is a conflict of interest.

There is one helluva gap between "you can't commercially broadcast that hate speech" and "you can't say that hate speech."

That gap is between a society that can work, and one in which billionaires manipulate the common citizen's political will to their own ends, and do it profitably.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:44 PM on January 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


I am from the Boston area. I attended Mass Art's SIM program. I send my kids to Montessori and Quaker schools. I know TONS of ultra liberal/progressive people, and the sub trope of the annoying bossy left-wing know-it-all may not sit well with this crowd, but don't tell me there's no such thing.
posted by Scoo at 6:51 PM on January 15, 2011


The "annoying bossy left-wing know-it-all" stereotype is not the same, or even close to, the "reflexively hating Western Civilization and everything that has gone wrong in history is the fault of white men" stereotype. I know bossy know-it-all people, and their politics vary. I am not going to believe in either stereotype, just as I don't want to believe that everyone in the South is a racist gun nut. Both are equally insulting, lazy, and counter-productive.
posted by jokeefe at 7:21 PM on January 15, 2011


I went to some fine schools, but you couldn't guess it from the bathroom graffiti, if that was all one saw.

So in response to hearing about occupying soldiers from Western countries in an Asian one tagging white supremacist crap all over said Asian country, you're comparing that to otherwise fine students in a school scribbling their sister's phone number in the boy's room stall? This sounds incredibly dismissive and, yeah, not at all the same thing in terms of degree at all.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:43 PM on January 15, 2011


But, as ever, it's a bit more complicated than that. Sometimes there's more than 'hurt feelings' at stake. The blood libel against European Jews wasn't just a bad thing because it hurt their feelings, but because it led to violence against them; the radio broadcasts preceding the Rwandan genocide weren't just objectionable because they said mean things about the Tutsis, but because they incited the genocide that followed. In a perfect world, such speech could always be countered by other speech pointing out where it was going wrong, and the truth would win out before anyone raised a weapon or got a mob together. But that doesn't always work - if it did, none of those bloodsheds would have occurred.
No one is saying that it's not complicated. And laws in other countries that ban hate speech don't bother me that much. On a personal level I really enjoy seeing bigots punished and I enjoy the fact that this hatemonger got fined, OK?

But the problem I see with bans on speech is if we (in the US) got rid of the first amendment, there's no telling what would happen. This is the same country that just elected the teabaggers to congress, what guarantee is there that they wouldn't get to write the speech codes? Someone brought up Apartheid South Africa, which I wasn't aware of: but in that case you had racists trying to ban arguments against Apartheid. The confederacy is another example: They made it illegal constitutionally illegal to advocate for abolition of slavery.

If the first amendment were wiped away tomorrow in America do you really, honestly believe that you would like the laws that were passed? (Btw, what do you think would happen to the Internet?)

It's a "slippery slope" argument, but as someone pointed out, the slippery slope goes both ways: To hate-speech incited orgies of bloodshed on one side to totalitarian thought police on the other. Both things have happened in the real world but right now far more people live under totalitarian speech codes (i.e. China, North Korea, tons and tons of other countries) then are experiencing genocide.

This is the key point: You won't be the one who gets to pick which speech is OK and which isn't.
Come on. Neither of these was an expression of popular anti-Muslim prejudice,
A large part of the cultural support for them was.
IMO, it boils down to this:

Should a government be allowed to engage in hate speech and calls to violence against its own citizens? Obviously not. The government has the power to cause genocidal outcomes. It always ends poorly.

The mass media also has that power. By allowing them to tell lies we allow them to create politically-advantageous politics: we let them load the dice. We will inevitably lose.,
-- five fresh fish
First of all, no one can stop the government from saying anything. That much should be obvious. Second of all, who exactly are you talking about doing the 'allowing' here? It isn't clear at all. Because it won't be you.

This is the central problem with the censor brigade. They don't consider the actual details of enforcement. It's not going to be done by god; it's going to be done by the government, controlled by whoever they allow to vote.
posted by delmoi at 10:01 PM on January 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


So Massachusetts liberals are to blame for Danish law? Did I get that right? It's all those Massachusetts liberals who think that "life is to be lived as an endless stream of apologies" who made a 1939 Danish law against hate speech?
posted by creasy boy at 10:37 PM on January 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


There are plenty of books that are functionally, if not legally, banned in this country. You have to really go out of your way to find out about The Turner Diaries, and you have to go to some sketchy people to locate a copy.

(You know you can get via Amazon marketplace and can be downloaded as a PDF, right? It's hard to functionally ban books these days.)
posted by desuetude at 11:33 PM on January 15, 2011


The countries you mention with totalitarian speech codes didn't adopt them as a consequence of hate speech legislation, so I still don't see how the slippery slope argument applies. Likewise, I can't find any causal link between British defamation law and British hate speech law.

Nobody here has suggested that we here in the U.S. repeal the First Amendment. In fact, most Western countries have codified similar (but not identical) protections on freedom of speech either through the European Convention on Human Rights, or through their own constitutions, at least in the countries that have written constitutions.

Speaking of which, two of the countries that don't have written constitutions, the U.K. and New Zealand, give their parliaments absolute sovereignty, meaning that their judiciaries cannot overrule laws. When I look at things like bans on same-sex marriage in state constitutions, and how difficult it's going to be to reverse them even if state legislatures want to, it makes me wonder if that's not a better, more democratic system.

I'm not convinced that it is, but I'm not convinced that it isn't, either. There are a lot of ways to make a democracy work. I object to the idea that any country that doesn't do things exactly like we do them is on a slippery slope to tyranny.
posted by neal at 11:58 PM on January 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


I think it's swell that I get told to shut the fuck up because I have no idea how terrible war is -- though I am not the person in the thread who just called a "gut-wrenching number" of military servicemen murderous racists.

Whatever.
posted by eugenen at 12:02 AM on January 16, 2011


If the first amendment were wiped away tomorrow in America do you really, honestly believe that you would like the laws that were passed? (Btw, what do you think would happen to the Internet?)

I'm not in America; I'm in a country that already has laws against hate speech, laws which I like well enough. We also have the right to freedom of expression. We haven't descended into a totalitarian regime, and our part of the Internet doesn't seem to be suffering. So while I can't answer your hypothetical question about what could happen in America tomorrow, I can tell you that we're doing pretty well over here today.

(Also, while I'm far from an expert on the US constitution, it's my impression that the First Amendment contains rules about several things - freedom of the press, separation of church and state - that don't seem really relevant to this kind of issue.) 
posted by Catseye at 2:07 AM on January 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


My problem with these kind of laws is that they tend to drift from prosecuting hate speech against people to prosecuting hate speech against ideas, because religious ideas are so often associated with certain ethnic groups. Anyone want to defend that?
posted by Summer at 8:49 AM on January 16, 2011


Anyone want to defend that?

Again, as has been said by myself and others who live in countries with hate speech laws, it is entirely possible to criticise a religion without resorting to threats of violence, inciting violence or outright slander. That's what the laws here are designed to frown upon. The building of a mosque in the capital city has sparked a huge and very heated debate from all sides and surprise, no one has been sent to the re-education camps.

That's what I mean between the difference between the hypothetical, hyperbolic "what ifs" and the reality.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:53 AM on January 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


I guess in some people's eyes, the US is incapable of accomplishing the things its peers have done.

(wrt balancing free speech against sane limitations on hate speech)
posted by five fresh fish at 10:17 AM on January 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


My problem with these kind of laws is that they tend to drift from prosecuting hate speech against people to prosecuting hate speech against ideas, because religious ideas are so often associated with certain ethnic groups. Anyone want to defend that?

That thing you linked to? It was about anti-Catholic cartoons left around in an airport in Liverpool, just a ferry 'cross the Mersey from you-know-where. There is every reason to get freaked out about it, as it could effectively incite a new rash of "unattended bags." Not that it's likely to actually do that, of course, but it is likely to cause people who remember IRA bombings to freak the fuck out. That's the 'alarm and distress' the guy was charged with inciting.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:25 AM on January 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


A lot of apparently anti-religious invective is in fact racist; if you need examples of that, look at pretty much anything said about Muslims by right-wingers in the last several years, i.e. the argument that people who "look Muslim" should be subject to screening at airports.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:58 AM on January 16, 2011


Hmm...just a ferry 'cross the Mersey, a quick drive along the A55, and then another ferry 'cross the Irish Sea. But still!
posted by Sys Rq at 11:40 AM on January 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well, Pope Guilty, that's not really a great argument for criminalising some forms of speech. Some may be racist and some may not. Let's not forget that this was the very argument that Pakistan used to try and get the UN to pass a defamation of religion resolution.

I'd rather err on the side of freedom and let a few racist idiots say silly things so I can protect my right to (verbally) attack whatever religion, belief system, state or other community-related set of ideas I choose. There are laws against harassment, there are laws against libel and slander and there are laws against violence. There don't need to be laws against 'hate speech'.

On this issue the US is completely right.
posted by Summer at 11:46 AM on January 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


Well I guess that's settled then.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:52 AM on January 16, 2011


You're welcome.
posted by Summer at 12:04 PM on January 16, 2011


Wasn't thanking you so much as recognizing that your position on hate speech laws seems to be set in stone despite any real-life evidence that challenges pre-conceived notions.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:14 PM on January 16, 2011


Langballe and Hedegaard are both despicable and contemptible demagogues. I'm only disappointed that there were enough voters to elect this scum in Denmark. It is entirely clear that they are fomenting race hatred and no amount of arguing can obscure their very obvious anti-Muslim rabble-rousing.

That said, I don't believe in hate-speech laws (though I do in hate crimes!). Speech is a special category, and maximum practical freedom should be preserved. Apart from marketplace of ideas etc., sunshine, laws of unintended consequences and other arguments made often (so no need to repeat) quite simply, who gets to decide what is hate speech? Because if there's one thing that enrages me, is the utter hypocrisy of it all. You want to ban hate speech? Start with banning the bible and a ton of religious expression. The bible encourages and illustrates hate. And I'm not talking about the usual (homosexuality etc.). I'm talking about the very premise of claiming that unless people of other religions or the irreligious convert to your religion they are eternally damned, condemned to eternal never ending non-stop torture. When you see others as "dirty", "condemned" and so forth, you are engaging in incitement to hatred and violence. We have seen the consequence of religious hatred in the crimes of anti-Semitism - because for hundreds and hundreds of years, the hatred against Jews in Europe was not so much based on race, as on religion. Religion is an malign influence here. Examine the bible and you'll see plenty of incitement to genocide. So ban that book of hate?

So unless you are going to ban all that, you are picking and choosing. And FUCK THAT. I find myself in the unusual position of defending religion(!) - let religious bigotry be expressed unhindered by law. Only free speech allows for that. Hate speech laws are counterproductive. They hurt everyone and are an insult to the intellect. They should have no place in a world of free inquiry. Of course, I also believe in not imposing our political views on others - so I'm not joining any marches against the Danish law. Let Denmark govern itself as they see fit. And getting back to the two bozos - these guys are so pathetic, it's amazing that anyone takes them seriously enough to actually vote for them. I'd sooner protest that - the fact that Europe can elect such merchants of hate, given the history of what happened on that continent, not just in the past to Jews, but in the very recent times TO MUSLIMS - and I mean the Balkan atrocities.
posted by VikingSword at 12:59 PM on January 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oops, I posted before I finished. My point being, that rather than ban the speech, I'd sooner like to see such people banned from office. In other words, I'd rather let them speak, but the consequence be that they can't draw up or pass laws affecting others.
posted by VikingSword at 1:05 PM on January 16, 2011


Wasn't thanking you so much as recognizing that your position on hate speech laws seems to be set in stone despite any real-life evidence that challenges pre-conceived notions.

Yeah I got that.
posted by Summer at 1:15 PM on January 16, 2011


Isn't that interfering in democracy though, VikingSword? I'm not sure it's a good idea to tell people who they can and can't vote for, if the party hasn't broken any law.
posted by Summer at 1:37 PM on January 16, 2011


Isn't that interfering in democracy though, VikingSword?

We already do. People and parties have to pass all sorts of criteria to be eligible to run and or to govern. This is just another one. There isn't a democracy on earth, nor has there ever been one, where there weren't all sorts of restrictions and exceptions and so forth. The U.S. constitution famously imposes limits on our democracy. Of course, I don't think my proposal is great by any means. It's a lesser evil. If *forced* to choose between banning speech and banning someone from political positions, I'd choose the latter. Ideally, I wouldn't do either, but I recognize that there may be exceptional situations - for example, a country that has a history of a certain kind of genocidal conflict (say, Rwanda), it may make sense to restrict certain aspects of democracy that wouldn't make sense to do in Finland. In other words, politics - like religion - is not divorced from the cultural/social/economic environment. Ultimately, I'm a pragmatist. I think it's dangerous to stick to abstract ideological positions with the kind of rigidity that can result in a great deal of destruction - that's how civilizations fail. The demagogues we are discussing in this FPP are a danger to society. The question is what to do with them. I have my ideas and I respectfully listen and contemplate the views of others.
posted by VikingSword at 1:52 PM on January 16, 2011


VikingSword: your proposal is inherently contradictory because, on the one hand, you don't want to ban certain types of speech; on the other hand, you want to penalise people who engage in it. These are effectively the same thing and have the same problems with identifying hate speech, thresholds, and so forth.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:51 PM on January 16, 2011


I don't think that's necessarily true. It's not really a question of "is it hate speech" so much as "what do we do about it". I'm not saying that there aren't some difficulties in identifying all cases, but for example in the case we are discussing here, there really isn't much dispute about whether it's hate speech or not (and I too think it's clear that it is hate speech). But I don't agree that it should be consequence free on some level - because that's trivially true anyhow... after all, today, you are free to scream racial insults in a town square, and then walk into a minority shop, but when you are refused service, there is a consequence; your speech has not been abridged, but the state is not obligated from shielding your from the (legal) consequences of such speech. This avoids the problem of prohibiting speech, and so for example ideas not getting a hearing, which is something a government could abuse by classifying something as hate speech. The speech/ideas can still get the hearing, but the consequences would be political. For example, if you advocate the forcible overthrow of the government as a political position, you are not eligible for office today. This is merely another restriction - if you engage in hate speech, you are not eligible to hold office. The result is that you preserve freedom of speech. A guy who spouts hate against an ethnic group is just another loudmouth. I don't fear him/her. When he gains political power, is when I become disturbed. I don't fear Hitler at a beer hall. I fear him with levers of power. To wit:

France's National Front picks Marine Le Pen as new head

"Although Mr Le Pen's five presidential bids have failed, the FN has steadily grown under his leadership.

In recent elections the party has been able to garner about 15% of the vote.

In 2002 he came a shock second in the first round of presidential elections, but lost the second round to then-incumbent Jacques Chirac.

A recent poll suggested the party could come third in presidential elections to be held in 2012.
"

I think it would be a mistake to prevent Le Pen from airing his views. But I'd be open to preventing him from organizing a political party and running for government. Let him rave on street corners - at that point he's just another blowhard. But let him organize politically - and look at the consequences... 15% of the vote!

I'm very, very disappointed to see such bigotry - the French of all people should know better, what with the clear consensus that Vichy was a disgrace - and Le Pen is an anti-Semite! I'm pretty horrified by that number. They should deal with it before it gets out of hand.
posted by VikingSword at 5:38 PM on January 16, 2011


The countries you mention with totalitarian speech codes didn't adopt them as a consequence of hate speech legislation, so I still don't see how the slippery slope argument applies. Likewise, I can't find any causal link between British defamation law and British hate speech law.
Well, if you don't think the slippery slope applies here, why does it apply in the "hate speech = genocide" argument? One or the other. The point I am making is that if hate speech were banned, then other groups would demand the right to ban stuff they find harmful. Just look at Australia's ban on violent video games or regulation of pornography.

Also, everyone who brought up Britain ignored my example of the national security restrictions on newspapers - which was used for things like covering up the fact that bush telling Blair he wanted to bomb Al Jazeera
I guess in some people's eyes, the US is incapable of accomplishing the things its peers have done.
Incapable, no. I don't know that it's really possible without also ending up with a slew of other speech restrictions. The point I was making by bringing up the UK and Australia was that those countries also have other restrictions on speech as well as hate speech that aren't as reasonable.

And anyway, I find the idea that the government should be able to control what things are OK to say and what things are not disgusting.
posted by delmoi at 7:35 AM on January 17, 2011


Or I should say what ideas can and can't be expressed.
posted by delmoi at 7:37 AM on January 17, 2011


Well, if you don't think the slippery slope applies here, why does it apply in the "hate speech = genocide" argument? One or the other.

It's not necessarily one or the other. If hate speech laws don't lead to other speech restrictions, and hate speech can or does lead to genocide, then the slippery slope argument applies in the latter case but not in the former.

Personally, I'm not convinced that hate speech does lead to genocide, but considering the amount of hate speech that has immediately preceded violence or genocide, there's a plausible argument to be made. Clearly, if you wanted to nudge people towards violence or genocide, saying hateful things about a group would be a good start.

The point I am making is that if hate speech were banned, then other groups would demand the right to ban stuff they find harmful. Just look at Australia's ban on violent video games or regulation of pornography.

But this can happen without hate speech laws too. We ban child pornography in the U.S., for example. And considering what happened over Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, you can't say we haven't had cases of de facto video game censorship.

Even if censorship in Australia is particularly egregious, that still doesn't make a case against hate speech laws. That argument amounts to pointing out the worst speech restrictions in countries that also happen to have hate speech laws, and using them to argue against hate speech laws without any evidence that they're related.

And anyway, I find the idea that the government should be able to control what things are OK to say and what things are not disgusting.

By this standard, every country in the world is guilty. At some point, if the people have more rights than just freedom of speech, those rights can come into conflict. Defamation laws, prohibitions on child pornography, and yes, bans on certain kinds of hate speech are all attempts to balance different people's interests.

Will some countries will go too far? Sure, and that can cause real harm. On the other hand, not going far enough can cause real harm too. As I see it, neither case calls into question the fundamental legitimacy of what they're trying to do.
posted by neal at 11:50 AM on January 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Even if censorship in Australia is particularly egregious, that still doesn't make a case against hate speech laws.
No, but the hypothetical case for hate speech laws is irrelevant. What matters is what would happen in the real world if we got rid of the first amendment protection for political speech. Child pornography laws don't inhibit the expression of ideas, just images that result from the harm of children.

With regards to video games, there is some self-censorship with the ERSB ratings, but the problem was they had a certain rating on the game, which wasn't compatible with the scene (and people didn't understand you had to mod the game to see it). Indy game companies can put out whatever content they want.

The question (at least in the US) is not whether or not hate speech laws are good ideas or not -- but rather what changes would have to be made to the constitution to make them constitutional (which the supreme court has always said they've been) -- and what would the consequences of such a change be.

This is still a country where republicans control ~50% of the government, pass laws that make affirmative action illegal (maybe they would make it illegal to call anyone a "racist" as they probably consider that hate speech) and so on.
posted by delmoi at 1:05 PM on January 17, 2011


I think changing the First Amendment would be a bad idea for the very same reasons you mention.

But this isn't about the First Amendment. This is about hate speech laws in Denmark, and by extension, in other democratic countries that already have hate speech restrictions.

What do the hypothetical consequences of trying to amend or repeal the First Amendment have to do with hate speech laws in other countries?
posted by neal at 1:28 PM on January 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just look at Australia's ban on violent video games or regulation of pornography.

lol Delmoi, I thought you would have learnt last time not to spout off about a country you only know from BoingBoing posts.

a) I still fail to see video game ratings and pornography have to do with hate speech - in addition to witchcraft. The connections you're drawing are arbitrary and absurd. If you can't argue against vilification laws, it's no substitute just to bring up a whole lot of other shit you disagree with, then act like they're the same.

b) The reason we didn't have an R18+ rating for games is not because of hate speech, but because our westminster governmental system requires the agreement of every attorney-general of Australia's states for changing this kind of legislation. If you knew anything about Australia beyond its apparently rapacious police state and excellence as a rhetorical device in bad arguments, you would also know that the federal government here - despite having no intention of dismantling racial vilification laws - has actually been advocating for an R18+ rating for games, one attorney-general in particular has been an opponent of this.

c) Pornography restriction in Australia doesn't seem so very bad to me, at least hardly noteworthy compared to dozens of other countries.

But most importantly these things have nothing to do with vilification law.

You might have missed it the first time, so I repost: Racial Vilification Laws in Australia.

At least, if you're gonna argue against it, argue against the actual issues and how the are executed, not this other nonsense. It's like me saying the many many problems of the United States all come down to gun control. There's an argument to be made about gun control, but it can hardly be blamed for every problem in the US, which is what you're doing in regards to our vilification laws. It's more than a little hyperbolic.
posted by smoke at 2:12 PM on January 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


But this isn't about the First Amendment. This is about hate speech laws in Denmark, and by extension, in other democratic countries that already have hate speech restrictions.
Well, that's a good point.
There's an argument to be made about gun control, but it can hardly be blamed for every problem in the US, which is what you're doing in regards to our vilification laws. It's more than a little hyperbolic.
That's not the point I'm trying to make. Instead the point is that if you allow one kind of speech restriction, you're going to end up with others as well. Maybe you could say that being a democracy is enough to prevent any really bad speech laws from being created, and I hope that's true! (Although Singapore might be a counterexample, where the party in power uses libel laws to shut down any criticism of it). However, I think it's a bad idea.

I didn't mean to make this all about the U.S, but other posters in this thread were talking about it as well (such as FFF saying: "I guess in some people's eyes, the US is incapable of accomplishing the things its peers have done.").

I can see hate speech laws being a good idea after something like major racial/ethnic strife - like in Rwanda or Europe after the holocaust. How long after those events should the restrictions stay in place?
posted by delmoi at 9:39 PM on January 17, 2011


Instead the point is that if you allow one kind of speech restriction, you're going to end up with others as well.

I don't think that point can be made - least of all from the examples you have cited. The relationships are way more complex and inter-related than that. There may very well be a link between censorship and vilification - but that link exists between a hundred other things as well, alongside a hundred other links of more of less importance. You are creating a false continuum, and it's essentially unprovable - which is why I've been trying to ground the conversation in provable things, i.e. how vilification legislation is practiced in countries that have it, rather than what might happen in some countries with hypothetical legislation etc.

If you want to believe in that continuum, that's a fine enough belief to have, but your examples have largely been wrong or out-of-context, and they have undermined your case, rather than supported it.
posted by smoke at 9:57 PM on January 17, 2011


Indeed, using your Australian examples again to refute this - all of those Australian examples you have cited were in place before vilification laws were ever instituted in Australia, and in fact since the laws have been in place, those examples have either been removed, or campaigned against. So, if we were gonna make it cause-and-effect like that, you could make the case that vilification laws have actually made Australia more free in regards to speech.

Of course, that's complete nonsense, the vilification laws haven't had anything to do with that other legislation, and I think that's where I really disagree with your argument; I feel like you're positing speech as an encompassing category - a thing - whereas I and some other mefites view speech in a much more atomised way. Which is why prosecuting for vilification (or for harrassment/bullying, or discrimination, or fraud, or the myriad other ways in which speech is legislated and controlled to reduce harm), doesn't bother us. To pursue my gun control simile a little further, it's like me saying I'm okay with BB guns, but not semi-automatics, whereas as you're for/against guns of all types.
posted by smoke at 10:05 PM on January 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not saying that hate speech laws cause other speech restrictions to be put in place, but rather that whatever causes hate speech laws will also result in other speech restrictions, thus they will be correlated.

That's why I was talking about removing the first amendment. Removing or amending the first amendment would be the fundamental cause of the restrictions, but it could also lead to other restrictions as well.
it's like me saying I'm okay with BB guns, but not semi-automatics, whereas as you're for/against guns of all types.
Sticks and stones... I'm not saying speech can't be harmful, but in aggregate.
posted by delmoi at 12:59 AM on January 18, 2011


I'm afraid I still don't understand: the damage caused by hate speech is the cause for laws against it. I don't see how racial vilification could result in other restrictions on speech, and indeed, all the thread is full of examples where it hasn't.

I confess, I am very ignorant when it comes to US constitutional law or legislative process - but in Australia for example, our vilification laws required no change to the constitution (which can only happen with a referendum).
posted by smoke at 1:33 AM on January 18, 2011


Smoke: there are in fact lots of practical problems with racial vilification laws. One is that many racists are nasty, obsessive people who will do everything they can to j-u-u-s-t scrape past the "racial vilification laws. That way they either look like heroes to their mates, or victims of a heavy-handed authority. Another problem is that public debate suffers under these laws. Here's a link to the story of a blogger, Ezra Levant, who was prosecuted by the Canadian Human Rights Commission for republishing the notorious Mohammed cartoons. Yet another problem is that racial vilification procedures seem to be vulnerable to manipulation by people who "know the system". Here's a link about Richard Warman, a former CHRC staffer who at one stage had lodged more than 50% of all complaints that had been brought before the CHRC. Finally, racial vilification laws never seem to be effective against the most egregious cases - the nutters who go on and on about (e.g.) how Jews are impoverishing the world by manipulating the price of gold. Nutters have immense time and patience, and they can play the system for years before they're forced to do comply with any tribunal order.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:50 AM on January 18, 2011


I don't see how racial vilification could result in other restrictions on speech, and indeed, all the thread is full of examples where it hasn't.
Are you talking about In the U.S? It seems to me that it would require either repealing or "reinterpreting" the First Amendment in order to pass them. Once you do that, the door would then by open to other groups who want to suppress speech. Off the top of my head I can think of the insanity over Wikileaks, the drive to suppress all video games (not ones that voluntarily comply with the ERSB) and the insanity on the right in the early bush years against anyone who dared criticize Bush. All those groups had a lot of political power at various times.

So the argument isn't that vilification laws would cause other speech, but that by creating a mechanism, you cause other restrictions. It is the mechanism not the product that results in other problems.
One is that many racists are nasty, obsessive people who will do everything they can to j-u-u-s-t scrape past the "racial vilification laws. That way they either look like heroes to their mates, or victims of a heavy-handed authority
This is a good point, in the U.S. racist like Rush Limbaugh go out of their way to make lots of "ambiguous" statements. Not because being an outright racist is illegal, but because while being an obvious racist is socially unacceptable if you can make these ambiguous statements people will rush to your defense.

And actually the situation in the U.S: where there's a significant social sanction on people who express unacceptable opinions shows that the problems can be controlled without laws.
posted by delmoi at 10:10 AM on January 18, 2011


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