Debating Hate Speech

Oliver Kamm reacts to Steven Rose’s call to ban hate speech. Over at Crooked Timber, Chris Bertram responds to Oliver Kamm:

Oliver Kamm—“There goes liberty”—attacks Steven Rose for writing that hate speech ought to be banned because it violates the human rights of its victims. There are tricky debates to be had about what counts as a properly human right, but I don’t think there’s much mileage in forensically examining Rose on that point. Kamm’s point is that hate speech—unlike, say, racist violence—doesn’t harm its victims, strictly speaking. That’s a highly dubious proposition: being bombarded with the message that you are of lesser worth than others, are disgusting, repellent, vicious or stupid, may well cause you significant harms (and where genocidal crimes have taken place, it is often against the background of such messages being prevalent). But we can let that go as an instance of Kamm’s lack of imagination. What Kamm really has in his sights are restrictions on speech that are alleged to flow from the idea that we own one another respect, have duties of civility to our fellow citizens, and so forth. He’s surely wrong on this point, and for two reasons: first, in a a democracy of equal citizens it is important to see to it that the conditions are in place for people to participate as equals; second, no-one has any legitimate interest in the protection of hate speech, as such.*