Title

Hate Speech as Political Speech

Presenter Information

Alex Butler

Presentation Type

Presentation

Abstract

In the United States the Constitution protects controversial speech such as libel toward public figures, flag burning, and hate speech. A common argument for protecting such speech is that it is political and contributes to the greater public debate. Restricting such speech would be restricting political dissent which could have dangerous effects for our democracy. However, hate speech, I argue, does not always constitute political dissent when it is directed towards private individuals and could thus warrant restriction. For this project I have entered a debate between several notable philosophers to include Ronald Dworkin, James Weinstein, Frederick Schauer, Thomas Scanlon, and Jeremey Waldron who disagree about whether there should be hate speech bans and to what affect they would have on society. Their argument relies on a distinction which I want to call into question: 'downstream' laws are antidiscrimination and violence laws that protect people from ideologies like sexism and racism; 'upstream' laws that the ones that target hate speech and dissent against downstream laws. Opponents of hate speech bans, like Dworkin, are worried that these bans will restrict a person's ability to politically dissent. I argue that this distinction is incorrect and that hate speech bans should also be considered downstream laws that protect people in a similar manner that antidiscrimination laws do. Further, I argue that there is no concern that a person's political speech would be restricted if this distinction can be proven incorrect. Along the way I have examined the various articles and books by the interlocutors, Supreme Court cases, and recent developments in free speech cases. After reading a more recent debate between several philosophers, political scientists, and legal theorist, I feel that I could contribute significantly to what has been said because it would undermine a keep assumption made by all.

Category

Humanities

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Apr 17th, 10:40 AM Apr 17th, 11:00 AM

Hate Speech as Political Speech

UC 331

In the United States the Constitution protects controversial speech such as libel toward public figures, flag burning, and hate speech. A common argument for protecting such speech is that it is political and contributes to the greater public debate. Restricting such speech would be restricting political dissent which could have dangerous effects for our democracy. However, hate speech, I argue, does not always constitute political dissent when it is directed towards private individuals and could thus warrant restriction. For this project I have entered a debate between several notable philosophers to include Ronald Dworkin, James Weinstein, Frederick Schauer, Thomas Scanlon, and Jeremey Waldron who disagree about whether there should be hate speech bans and to what affect they would have on society. Their argument relies on a distinction which I want to call into question: 'downstream' laws are antidiscrimination and violence laws that protect people from ideologies like sexism and racism; 'upstream' laws that the ones that target hate speech and dissent against downstream laws. Opponents of hate speech bans, like Dworkin, are worried that these bans will restrict a person's ability to politically dissent. I argue that this distinction is incorrect and that hate speech bans should also be considered downstream laws that protect people in a similar manner that antidiscrimination laws do. Further, I argue that there is no concern that a person's political speech would be restricted if this distinction can be proven incorrect. Along the way I have examined the various articles and books by the interlocutors, Supreme Court cases, and recent developments in free speech cases. After reading a more recent debate between several philosophers, political scientists, and legal theorist, I feel that I could contribute significantly to what has been said because it would undermine a keep assumption made by all.