Hate Speech

Topics: Hate speech, Morality, Liberalism Pages: 6 (2166 words) Published: June 12, 2005
This paper will address some of the issues surrounding hate speech and its regulation. I will explain both Andrew Altman and Jonathan Rauch's positions in the first two sections. The third section will be on what Altman might say to Rauch's opposite views. I will then discuss my view that hate speech should never be regulated under any circumstance especially in the name of protecting someone's psychology, feelings, or insecurities like Altman prescribes. In the end, I will conclude that we should not agree with Altman despite his well intentioned moral convictions to push for hate speech regulation. Although hate speech is a horrible act, people must learn to overcome and persevere through difficult situations and not leave it to the law to protect their feelings and insecurities. I.Altman's Position:

Altman is very careful while proscribing a solution to the issues surrounding the regulation hate speech. He maintains that regulations on hate speech must be view point neutral, meaning that no moral, political, or religious convictions be involved in decisions of regulation. Most of the cases of regulation that he examines display what Thomas Grey of Stanford calls "practical neutrality," or an intervention of regulation meant to protect individuals from illocutionary speech acts that can incite violence against them or psychological harm that may be incurred because it is intrinsically the right thing to do (305). This kind of regulation has ties to moral and political values, therefore from a liberal standpoint is unacceptable regulation. Altman agrees that hate speech can cause serious psychological damage to those who are victim to it, but maintains that it is not reason enough to regulate hate speech. Instead, he says that the wrong involved in hate speech is the act of treating another individual as a moral subordinate. The interests of these individuals as well as the value of their life are viewed as being inherently less important than the interests and lives of the reference group. From a liberal standpoint (and the standpoint of many non-liberals as well), it is important that every individual has the right to equal existence amongst their fellow human beings. Therefore, Altman's justification for regulation of hate speech appeals to an intrinsically valuable liberal belief. Altman's prescription not only appeals to the concerns connected to hate speech but also stays within the limits of an important liberal value, that being maintaining a view point neutral position. The rules that Altman proscribes are focused on a narrow class of hate speech. He has drawn out three premises for the regulation of hate speech which are: "(a) employs slurs and epithets conventionally used to subordinate persons on account of their race, gender, religion, ethnicity, or sexual preference, (b) is addressed to particular persons, and (c) is expressed with the intention of degrading such persons on account of their race, gender, religion, ethnicity, or sexual preference" (313). Although he believes that epithets and slurs are "verbal instruments of subordination" he points out that it is very hard to draw a line at what is demeaning and what is merely innocent vocabulary (310). The trans-value of certain epithets by targeted minority groups make it very difficult to regulate such speech. When the word queer was once used to demean homosexuals, it is now a welcomed term used openly by homosexuals and heterosexuals alike. Yet still a controversial term, nigger has become an accepted and commonly used word amongst the African American community. These examples outline why Altman's three premises are important. There must be a malicious intent to demean when these terms are used, otherwise everyone who used these words regardless of their innocent nature would be in violation of hate speech regulation. Altman's prescription for regulation does not disallow hate speech all together. Individuals are welcome to use epithets that...
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