How the Left Are Driving the “Hate Speech” Idea for Partisan Advantage

How the Left Are Driving the “Hate Speech” Idea for Partisan Advantage, by David Cole.

If you go high enough on the American left-wing food chain, high above the BLM and antifa street thugs and the Salon.com screaming meemies, you’ll get to some very shrewd people who understand that there are no death camps or stormtroopers on the horizon.

These liberal elites have seen the effect of anti–“hate speech” laws in Western Europe. Those laws have given establishment liberals a major advantage, because any political party that veers a little too far right finds its leaders put on trial and its websites shuttered.

Two sides in a political debate cannot compete evenly if one side is free to speak honestly and brazenly while the other is forced by law to watch its words and moderate its tone.

German and French left-wing politicians can say, “We want to flood the continent with Muslim refugees and put an end to white hegemony because white is evil and Christian is bad,” but politicians on the right can’t say the converse without running the risk of landing in court. That’s not a fair fight (as I write this, returns from the German federal election indicate a “strong showing”—13 percent—for the nationalist AfD party. Imagine how much stronger a showing the party might have made if it didn’t have to worry about government surveillance because of “hate speech” accusations).

One can’t blame U.S. leftists for trying to re-create that magic here. Of course, they can’t, because of that damned First Amendment. But they can do two very effective things: First, they can expand the definition of “hate speech” to include things that until recently were not considered hate at all (like opposition to gay marriage—a position previously espoused by Barack Obama and Bill and Hillary Clinton).

Next, they can pressure web platforms, content delivery networks (CDNs), internet security services, and online payment transaction services to cease doing business with “hate” sites. If everyone on the right has to learn to “behave” lest they lose their ability to have a voice online, we’ll end up with something similar to the situation in Western Europe, except rather than fearing jail or fines, the right will fear being banned from the internet.

The left will get exactly what it wants: a one-sided “debate” on issues like race, immigration, Islam, etc. Safe, inoffensive conservatism will be allowed (“Darn that deficit!”), but there will be fewer and fewer voices to counter the left’s extreme positions on matters of race, Islam, gender, and other “identity” issues.

If the left can’t control the debate via hate-speech laws, it can pressure private companies into keeping “offending” voices offline. And in today’s world, that’s damn near as bad as being silenced by law. In the past month, dozens of websites have been pulled or hobbled because of political speech. The left has found a strategy that is not only effective, but hard to counter. As my favorite constitutional law expert, UCLA Law School’s Eugene Volokh, explained to me in an email last week, “Generally speaking, most jurisdictions’ statutes don’t ban discrimination in public accommodation based on political ideology. If you’re an auto body shop and you don’t want to repair Communists’ cars, or Nazis’ cars, it just isn’t illegal for you to discriminate that way.” …

Maybe the best way, or the only way, to stop the war of extermination against websites the left has deemed hateful is via the courts. Sue and sue and sue until tech companies are forced to either stop dropping sites (any sites) based on ideology, or until they decide to apply their rules in a fair and consistent manner regardless of race or religion. And since I highly doubt that the latter will ever happen (as if PayPal would ever dare to drop the Nation of Islam website, even though it’s an official, certified “hate site” according to the SPLC), the end result might just be a victory for free speech — for everyone — online.