We must have the freedom to hate

We must have the freedom to hate, by Brendan O’Neill.

‘The internet is a place for free speech, not hate speech.’ [said] EU commissioner Vera Jourová, as she unveiled a new EU code to tackle hatred on the internet.

This is up there with “all animals are equal but the pigs are more equal” from Orwell’s Animal Farm.

Following three or four years of agitation by officials, politicians, hacks and feminists, all of whom insist that hateful ‘trolling’ online is turning the internet into a cesspool of foul ideas and rotten comments, the EU has decided to take action. It has got web giants YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft to sign a promise that they will hunt down and extinguish illegal hateful commentary, especially racist and xenophobic comments.

So why not ban “hate speech”? Well, who gets to define what “hate speech” is? If we leave it to our cultural opponents to define, then we will find ourselves not allowed to say anything of significance — everything except agreeing with them will be banned.

Hate-speech codes are an ideological tool disguised as a force for moral good. …

The category of hate speech is as ridiculous, and abominable, as the idea of thoughtcrime. It represents the criminalisation, not only of racism and xenophobia — which would be bad enough — but of certain ideas, moralities and beliefs. We should bristle and balk as much at the idea of ‘hate speech’ as we do at the idea of thoughtcrime.

The current practices started from some dubious proponents:

After the Second World War, the keenest proponents of controls on ‘hate speech’ were the Soviets. … Eventually, the Soviets won out. In 1965, the UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination was adopted, and it included a proposal to criminalise ‘ideas based on racial superiority’.

The keyword here was ideas. From the outset, treaties and laws against hate speech were about controlling ideas.

Now the floodgates are open:

What’s more, the category of hate speech is an extremely elastic tool for the repression of ideas. It has spread from curtailing ideas of racial superiority to suppressing expressions of religious hatred. Some Scandinavian countries want to outlaw misogynistic speech. On campuses there are clampdowns on transphobic speech. Anyone who says that a person with a penis is a man can now be branded a ‘hate speaker’ and find himself No Platformed. So even saying ‘men are men and women are women’ has been encapsulated in the ideological category of hate speech. Normal, widely held beliefs are casually rebranded ‘hatred’. …

We should feel as angry about state restrictions on hate speech today as we would have done about the Soviet Union’s arrest of political dissidents 40 years ago, because in both cases the same thing is happening: people are punished, not for anything they’ve done, but for what they think.

This can backfire on those using speech bans to suppress opposition. I found myself “beyond the pale” for merely pointing out in 2007 that there is no evidence that increasing carbon dioxide is the main cause of global warming, that the idea was all based on modeling, and the evidence showed that the models completely misunderstood what was going on. I’m never going to be allowed a government research job and many people will reflexively try to ban me — so now I am free to air other non-PC ideas. Enjoy the blog!

We must always remember that one man’s hate speech is another man’s real, genuine moral or religious conviction. What the state or mainstream society or student leaders refer to as ‘hate speech’ is to someone else an acceptable way of thinking. …

It’s time to get serious about freedom of speech. It is unacceptable to repress the expression of ideas. It is unacceptable to repress the expression of hatred. ‘Hate speech is not free speech!’, people say. But it is. By its very definition, free speech must include hate speech. Speech must always be free, for two reasons: everyone must be free to express what they feel, and everyone else must have the right to decide for themselves whether those expressions are good or bad.