Thursday, 11 April 2019

"Hate speech is whatever I say it is."

"If this thing you call 'hate speech' is banned, and it is you who effectively 

defines what this 'hate speech' is, then you may effectively ban whatever 

sort of speech and speakers you yourself dislike. It's a beautiful thing, 

censorship, when you're the one who's holding the whip."

And they're off, and the battle to be the one who defines so-called hate speech has begun.

If you're a censor, or would-be banner of speech or speakers that you don't like, if you want to instantly criminalise free expression, then the beauty of this anti-concept called 'hate speech' is precisely that it is so ill-defined, and undefinable. So as long as you get this thing into law, and you win the race to be the definer, then you have your whip hand on banning whoever and whatever you like. Or don't like. 

It is an incoherent concept that confuses more than it clarifies -- and of course for those riding this 'hate speech' horse, that is its real beauty. Instead of using the power of persuasion to fight people expressing unpopular ideas, they can use the power of the state's guns.

'Hate speech' will be whatever they say it is. And there's a lot of power-lusters eager to be on board.

So what sort of ideas might be before the state's guns if such a regime were imposed? Just this morning we have three clear examples of what sort of ideas they would like to make unpopular: all of them the sort that would attract a 'pile-on' with the commentariat online, but probably a nod of quiet agreement further out around the traps:
  • Australian rugby star Israel Folau had another religious-inspired online brain fart yesterday, telling his several thousand Instagram followers that gays, fornicators, idolators, and sundry others his Bible doesn't like will all be going to hell unless they repent. Rather than not following his Instagram feed however, thousands of whiners instead passed around his post in order that millions might be offended by it, and now it's gone viral his post is being "investigated" by "the Rugby Australia Integrity Unit" who, says the ARU, are now "engaged on the matter."
    Instead of ridicule of the ridiculous, a rugby player's posts are being "investigated" when of course there is nothing at all to investigate. (What's to investigate? He's just reading the Bible out loud.) But that's not the point: the investigation itself is meant to have a chilling effect upon anyone else expressing anything similarly fatuous. That's the real point of all of these inquisitions. Kneejerk reaction replaces righteous ridicule of his religiosity -- and meanwhile the window of what it's safe to talk about closes further.
  • In the west these days it's still safe to ridicule most religions. The one religion however that may not be ridiculed is Islam. The word now commonly used to to describe opposition to Islamist idiocies is what liberal Muslim Maajid Nawaz calls "the deliberately vague misnomer 'Islamophobia,' Islamists [seizing] the opportunity that [Christchurch] presented to insist that any scrutiny of their reading of Islam, as opposed to hatred of Muslims, is cast as bigotry... They seek nothing but an opportunity to reintroduce a blasphemy taboo through the backdoor." "Neither the word, nor the definition are fit for purpose," says Nawaz. "It is merely a conflation of genuine anti-Muslim bigotry, with an attempt to shoehorn in and institutionalise a protection to shield Islamism and Conservative Islam from criticism."
    Why should they have such a shield, especially when there is so much in the religion to criticise. Or should we close the window even further.
  • There is a local pseudo-religion however that is also already institutionally protected from criticism, which 'hate speech' laws would only make further immune. The story was puffed on Radio New Zealand this morning, who played several clips of people in Pt Chev said to be offended and hurt because they received a leaflet in their letterbox inviting them to consider the idea that colonisation was overall good for Maori, that the idea of a Treaty "partnership" is a fiction, that the Maori seats and Waitangi Tribunal should be abolished, and of course that New Zealand law should be colour blind. The pamphlets are said by the offendees to be "anti-Maori," and the ideas so hurtful and "racist" that they should be banned.
    And, after the banning of Don Brash, can anyone doubt that in any regime of 'hate speech' they would be -- political speech banned by politicians and political activists so that political ideas that are simply arguable (shouldn't we at least talk about those Maori seats?) are instead banned outright.
    The window is soon very firmly shut, and political expression made airtight.
And these are just three things plucked from this morning's news cycle, with (unusually) Golriz Ghahraman not even amongst them. [UPDATE: And right on cue, Ghahraman's mentor, co-leader and partner in 'hate speech' Marama Davidison saying on Twitter that Folau must be added to her list: "Israel Folau's bigoted comments about our rainbow whānau and our transgender community are the opposite of peace-building. Rugby Australia c'mon this is hate speech." She's got a little list.]

It is one thing to ridicule what someone says. It is another thing altogether to criminalise what they say.

The commentariat, the twitterati and the political elite have long had a problem with how the great unwashed talk and think and what they say when their betters aren't around. For that elite, the chilling effect is a feature, not a bug. Perhaps the key feature. Shut down what they can talk about, and (they hope) their thinking will soon follow. (And if a few free-expression martyrs are jailed along the way, then all the better._

It will still probably remain okay even under this regime to criticise old white men, 'one-percenters,' and Israel (both the place, and the person). These things after all are just sport. But after Christchurch, if things were to proceed with the same indecent haste with this as they have with anti-gun laws, then everything else could soon be off limits.

That seems to be the plan, these 'trial balloons' firming up into one all-encompassing fat drone policing what can be thought and said.

Free-speech campaigner Suzanne Nosell distinguishes between "hateful speech" which is a real thing," and so-called 'hate speech' which is just a muddle, this "incoherent concept that confuses more than it clarifies." The package deal of 'hate speech' wraps up three distinct things, she observes:

  1. direct threats and incitements to violence;
  2. garden-variety insults directed at a particular gender, race or religion; and
  3. speech such as Holocaust denial.
If we recognise that in defamation truth is an absolute defence, then we can already see that 
these diverse phenomena cannot all be lumped together and, collectively, either permitted or prohibited. It does not make sense to have a single approach to Donald Trump’s proposals from the presidential campaign podium to discriminate against Muslims, pro-Trump messages written in chalk on university walkways, and the trolling of feminists on social media or anti-immigrant comments by Dutch politicians...
    [The] law has for decades recognised a category of speech – incitement to imminent violence – that is unlawful because of its potential to catalyse crime. But calls and steps to prohibit speech that is merely hateful yet still nonviolent broaden this definition considerably in ways that [the law] has until now consistently rejected.
In many parts of the world not so fortunate as to have inherited (or to have already thrown off) a tradition of speaking freely -- places as otherwise diverse as South Africa, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Canada and Russia -- Nosell observes that "the umbrella term 'hate speech' increasingly criminalises expression." Even in Britain, the former home of free speech.

In the name of all that is good and non-hateful, we should not be so eager ourselves to gag and to criminalise speakers here. If we have differences, isn't it better to just talk?

"In a shrinking world where it is ever more important both to be able to speak freely and to appreciate the subjective impact of speech on others," concludes Nosell, "the concept of hate speech is too malleable to be of help."

Unless of course you want to be in that elect group who want to exploit that malleability. Because it's that very malleability that gives you real power.

1 comment:

  1. Dave Rubin: "Of course the Left is moving to 'speech is incitement.' First they did 'everyone I don’t like is a Nazi,' then it was 'you can punch Nazis,' now it is 'speech is incitement' -- and next it’ll be 'you can jail the Nazis over speech.'


Comments are moderated to encourage honest conversation, and remove persistent trolls.