The problem with hate speech is that the people using it don’t care about free speech at all as long as it protects their own right to express their hatred. They wouldn’t mind suppressing contrary opinions by shouting down the opposition or continuously repeating their own lies even after they have been answered and proven wrong. It becomes a matter of who has the means (money and media platform) to be the loudest and most repetitious that counts. Calling the opposition emotionally charged names as communists, socialists, fascists, etc. effectively suppresses serious discussion and debate. They use double-speak, hiding behind the flag and jingoism to get attention and raise emotions against the opposition.
I would like to see some libel law strongly applied to “political” speech, when outright lies and character assassination are becoming the norm in our political environment. We are not talking about a little truth stretching. With unlimited money floating around, with undisclosed groups and persons heavily inserted and invested into the process, we are not talking about informing but rather totally misinforming, “bamboozling” the voting public.
I think the real slippery slope is allowing it to continue, because in watching the public discourse over the past 10 years or so, it has only gotten worse as right-wing media has been allowed to proliferate without any real countervailing voices. The lies, half truths, and real motivations go unchallenged–and that is how propaganda takes hold. The problem with all of this freedom of speech is to give lies a value that no lie should ever have and the sheer number of people ignorant enough to believe everything they hear as gospel truth. Free Speech without a mature conscience is an abomination. It should never be a license to do harm. When people abuse it they do so at their own risk because it is a pendulum and it will swing back.
The concept of hate-speech is a close cousin to sexual harassment, in that it often resides in the eye (or ear) of the beholder, is subjective, and can easily be manipulated by anyone (or group) to further their personal agenda by stifling opinion(s) in opposition… and by inspiring fear that one will be tagged with a label, i.e. tribalist, bigot, or one of a myriad of “phobe” labels. The fatal flaw with hate speech laws is that those who claim offense get to define hate speech. There is no objective truth or even a shadow of an objective truth.
Legislation will never work: those championing it appear to their quarry as hate-mongers, thus further polarizing cultural classes. Again, such hypocrisy is tacitly excused on the basis that the opinion of those in need of correction carries no weight, or if it does, the cost is clearly less than the benefits that will supposedly flow to society.
Even if a prohibition could be enacted that would distinguish “hate speech” without redeeming social value from criticism and satire, it would only be enforced against unpopular hate speech. But if hate speech takes an unpopular point of view, it will be ignored, and won’t actually incite hatred or violence. Why bother to prohibit it?
There is no problem at all with complete freedom of speech as long as that speech can be proven as truth by facts, not by considerations or feelings or suspicions. The real danger is that those who are offended or wish to silence criticism will call it hate speech, and use the prohibition to censor it. This is the case in some quarters, where broad swaths of speech are banned because someone wishes to suppress criticism. The speech most likely to be banned is that which makes telling criticism than cannot be rebutted because it is valid.
There should be at least a week of media blackout of political campaigning before and including Election Day to allow for an emotional cool down period and for thoughtful and reasonable reflection before voting. Our very low voters’ turnout is not worthy of a civilized, democratic country. This is how a democracy morphs into a plutocracy… But I am hoping that there will be some clarion call, some bridge too far, where people decide that they’ve had enough. And for them, the voting booth will be a good first step.