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Author Topic: Why Offence Is A Valid Reason To Ban Speech!  (Read 4069 times)

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Offline mystictigerTopic starter

Re: Why Offence Is A Valid Reason To Ban Speech!
« Reply #25 on: October 20, 2010, 06:07:30 PM »
Sorry, Noelle & Jude. I didn't see your posts:

I provided the Wiki-links rather than direct links because I wasn't sure that people would be familiar with the NGOs in question. These are the ones I come across in my 'professional' capacity, and thought others might what some context.

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I wouldn't be surprised if there are ways in which European countries tend to be "more free" than America -- especially on issues of economic rights.  The problem is, you haven't proven that, you simply gave Wikipedia links to each of the groups you claim looks at Europe favorably and expected me to do your research for you.  Even if it shows that 3 organizations agree that Europe is fairly free, it's not the same as using scientific statistics to do so because I'm willing to bet none of those organizations are peer reviewed.

Please find a flaw in Freedom House's methodology, or a way to do it better. Besides, it's not a paper, and therefore not something you would peer review. Further, peer review doesn't make something scientific, but rather a proper methodology does. The same goes with the other approaches - what kind of 'scientific study' would you like to use to measure 'freedom'? Further, reading more about the three NGOs will show you that they're really not the friend of any state. Find me a better ruler to measure states with, and I'll gladly use it.

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Does it irritate me?  Yes.  Does it offend me?  Sure.  Do I think I have the right to then tell the speaker of those words, "Say it again and I'm going to report you and have you locked up in jail or seek financial compensation"?  No.  No way.  That is ridiculously immature, childish, and petty, to want to harm someone that way simply for speaking their mind.

That's your point of view, and you are entitled to it. Other people are not so thick skinned.

Quote
As for the Democracy Index, it also shows several European countries falling behind the US, as well, including the good ol' UK. So I'm not entirely sure what you wanted these statistics to say, but I don't know if it was quite the message you were intending.

If the US approach was better, then why is it not at the top? I have a very dim view of the UK's record on privacy, detention without trial. This is why I am working to change it. There will be a glorious day in the future when the UK government will put its money where its mouth is and pay more than lip service to human rights.

What really turned me around from the libertarian-utilitarian I used to be was Popper:

We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal

Offline mystictigerTopic starter

Re: Why Offence Is A Valid Reason To Ban Speech!
« Reply #26 on: October 20, 2010, 06:10:29 PM »
Humor.

I'm serious. I frame my views on interactions with others.

In my line of work I come across a lot of immigrants. Would their lives be better without people insulting them on the street? Yup.

Rather than simply saying that it's dumb to want to protect people, show me where insulting people that are different made the world a better place?

Offline Jude

Re: Why Offence Is A Valid Reason To Ban Speech!
« Reply #27 on: October 20, 2010, 06:11:47 PM »
I'm serious too.  Hate speech is an important part of shock-based humor.  There's your example.

Offline Trieste

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Re: Why Offence Is A Valid Reason To Ban Speech!
« Reply #28 on: October 20, 2010, 06:12:39 PM »
Yes. Here at Part 3A or 4A, or Section 18, or maybe here at section 9.

That doesn't actually define 'indecent' or 'racialist' or the like. It's like telling people they can't run around 'too naked'. How much is too naked? Does it differ for men and for women? Do we ban people above a certain BMI from going around 'too naked'? Under a certain BMI? You've just done the legal equivalent of answering a question with a question. You've been going around in circles, in fact, for most of the thread.

But then in this country we make our important decisions through the legislature rather than let the courts decide them.

If you wanted an example of an ad hominem attack, here you go. I'm not sure if you're just hostile to the American system in general or if you're trying to needle my sense of nationalism or whatever, but going "My way is clearly superior and yours sucks plus you're doing it wrong" is not only irrelevant to the conversation, it's also beneath you.

Edit: Too many 'but's.
« Last Edit: October 20, 2010, 06:15:50 PM by Trieste »

Offline mystictigerTopic starter

Re: Why Offence Is A Valid Reason To Ban Speech!
« Reply #29 on: October 20, 2010, 06:20:16 PM »
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If you wanted an example of an ad hominem attack, here you go. I'm not sure if you're just hostile to the American system in general or if you're trying to needle my sense of nationalism or whatever, but going "My way is clearly superior and yours sucks plus you're doing it wrong" is not only irrelevant to the conversation, it's also beneath you.

You're right. That was rather too snide. After being told how worthless and backwards my continent is, and how my ideas are garbage, I think I'm allowed to get a little snide though. I apologise.

Offline Noelle

Re: Why Offence Is A Valid Reason To Ban Speech!
« Reply #30 on: October 20, 2010, 06:21:40 PM »
Nobody is arguing that the US's approach is better. I've admitted several times that there are varying policies and ideas prevalent in most European countries I'd be happy to adopt (psst, I've lived in Europe for a good amount of time before, I'm not just speaking from no experience), but this isn't one of them. In fact, forcing the US to adopt European policies -- even free speech ones -- is a terrible idea. The cultures aren't the same. They haven't developed the same, we're not dealing with the same history or demographic, so just suggesting that the US needs to do like Europe alone is not a sufficient enough reason to do it. Maybe this whole discussion is a cultural gap, but those kinds of laws would not work in the US, as shown by the fact that our courts are struggling with this at all. As we've found with trying to spread American democracy around the world, it often gets rejected because it is not made compatible for the people it affects, they don't want it, and/or it just isn't acceptable to them as a culture.

Making offensive speech akin to murder is ridiculous. We already have a sue-happy culture full of people who will sue anything from teachers not informing them that electricity can kill you all the way to people suing playground monitors for allowing their children to jump from the swings and then get hurt. The very last thing we need is people suing because someone flipped them off in the street, because somebody told them to fuck off, because someone said that Democrats are fag-enabling tree-hugging socialists, because someone with any little irritation towards any other person said something out of anger that the other person simply couldn't deal with. We'd be breeding a culture of crybaby whistleblowers who have no real ability to maturely encounter and deal with things they don't like. That's a problem. If this isn't what you're saying, then it comes back to the question -- how much offense is enough? Or can we get up in arms and ban and sue the hell out of anything that even remotely makes us feel uncomfortable?

You're right. You don't have to tolerate intolerance. They have the right to speak their mind and so do you. You can actively protest them back, you can tell them you disagree, you can draw a political cartoon or hire a skywriter...You seem to forget that you are just as free to make your own ideas be known as they are. In the case of WBC, that's exactly what's happening -- both their ideas AND everyone else's have been allowed to be heard, and the 'better' ideas that point out their actions are shameful have largely won out. The marketplace of ideas at its finest.

Besides, as I pointed out, the Privacy Index is based on...Privacy. I'm not seeing what that is supposed to say about America's direct policies on free speech?

Offline Trieste

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Re: Why Offence Is A Valid Reason To Ban Speech!
« Reply #31 on: October 20, 2010, 06:40:42 PM »
You're right. That was rather too snide. After being told how worthless and backwards my continent is, and how my ideas are garbage, I think I'm allowed to get a little snide though. I apologise.

I don't think anyone has tried to paint Europe (I don't recall exactly where you're from, but most of the conversation has been re: EU and various parts thereof compared to U.S., so I'm assuming you're European) as being worthless and backwards. It's difficult to apply anything more than very basic laws to both sides of the Atlantic, because whether we share roots or not, the two cultures have become quite different.

Additionally, some of the policies of European countries really are bass ackwards. One example that has been mentioned was France's treatment of Muslims. That is not an example of positive human rights! However, it's also well known that in the U.S., we struggle with religion in other ways, and that as much as we try to have 'separation of church and state', the goal causes us no small amount of strife. There are bass ackwards policies on both sides. You acknowledge that when you say you're trying to fix it.

But for all our similarities, I really don't think that banning something due to it being offensive or improper or hateful or indecent would be appropriate for the U.S. Maybe it would be appropriate for European populations. Maybe their ears are more sensitive than ours. Maybe they are overall more thin-skinned. I think this is a case where the obnoxious, overbearing stereotype that Americans have developed globally might, in fact, have some underlying truth. We're a culture of strongly held convictions, and the individualistic culture you mentioned previously does not lend itself to anti-offense legislation.

So while many of the things you've listed already might be an appropriate 'why' for Europeans, it's sadly lacking by American standards. Not because of any lack on your part, but because of differences on Americans' part.

Edit: Ugh, the typos.
« Last Edit: October 20, 2010, 06:42:42 PM by Trieste »

Offline DarklingAlice

Re: Why Offence Is A Valid Reason To Ban Speech!
« Reply #32 on: October 20, 2010, 06:43:03 PM »
This has become increasingly futile. There is a difference between opinion and an argument. And I was hoping to see an actual rationale for the restriction of free speech proceeding logically from discrete principles. Instead there is just a whole lot of opinion and no "why" or rationale behind it.

The idea that just because nothing good ever came from something, is no sane reason to ban it without a demonstration that harm comes from it. It's like banning the color blue because it never did anything for anyone. Now if you could show that the color blue caused grievous injury, that would be a different story...

I am willing to consider the idea that certain forms of speech can be harmful, but there needs to be an argument, rationale and evidence behind that stance. Since that hasn't been provided, I don't see a compelling reason to do so.

So ima tag out now, but before I go, I will let a more eloquent voice than mine talk about why we should be concerned re: restrictions of freedom of speech and expression:
Quote
The Law is a huge blunt weapon that does not and will not make distinctions between what you find acceptable and what you don't. This is how the Law is made.
-Neil Gaiman
Why defend freedom of icky speech?

and

Margaret Howard Memorial Lecture 2005

Offline OldSchoolGamer

Re: Why Offence Is A Valid Reason To Ban Speech!
« Reply #33 on: October 20, 2010, 10:55:57 PM »
Then please explain why EU countries score equal to or better than the US on every single objective and non-anecdotal system of freedom? I pointed you towards Freedom House, Privacy International and so on. I could get Amnesty International reports if you'd like as well?Ah yes, that monolithic and culturally homogenous polity of Europe.

And how would outlawing speech that offends people address this issue and move America up the list?

Offline Brandon

Re: Why Offence Is A Valid Reason To Ban Speech!
« Reply #34 on: October 21, 2010, 02:35:11 AM »
Im not sure I understand why speech of any kind should be regulated. To answer that question people will likely point to hate crimes but IMO they only serve to further segregate our society rather then making us 1 people with equal rights. If I understand the idea presented in the thread  correctly its because certain speech can mentally harm people, which is true. I lived my entire childhood and teenage life with that as part of my daily experiences in life. Problem is this is such a wide and thus vague topic that it makes legislation (something that needs to be as specific as it can) incrediby difficult. Then theres the other problem of peoples tolerance to this kind of thing varying from person to person

I know it was said earlier that bringing in a decade of peace by eliminating name calling and such would be worth it but that seems at best like a short sighted idea. Come to think of it havnt we seen something similar in history where the removal of basic rights created regime's that oppressed their people into poverty and near slave labor? That is an extreme example but when one considers an action like this I figure its best to look at the absolute worst outcome first

Offline LaCroix

Re: Why Offence Is A Valid Reason To Ban Speech!
« Reply #35 on: October 21, 2010, 06:14:17 AM »
I don't think that speech should be regulated, myself, but then my old forum avatar and quotes from George Carlin in my profile are clear signals of that opinion. I'm of the mind that as long as the person exercising his free speech isn't standing outside of your home blasting it over loud speakers or beaming it directly into your brain where you can't make the choice to ignore it then they are well within their right to say whatever they want, about whoever they want, because given the choice you can make the choice not to listen to whatever it is that happens to be offending you.

As long as you have that choice and are not being forced to stand there and listen, then your right to be offended does not outweigh their right to express an opinion, no matter what that opinion might be and I stand firm and resolute in that belief. Even if I do not personally agree with or validate that opinion, even if it offends me to the very core of my being as long as it is not being forced upon me unjustly then I can simply change the channel, flip the radio dial, or walk away from whatever it is that is being said.

Offline mystictigerTopic starter

Re: Why Offence Is A Valid Reason To Ban Speech!
« Reply #36 on: October 21, 2010, 06:33:43 AM »
This is the irritating thing about studying, teaching, and 'doing' human rights. There is no way to discuss them because two falacies are always encountered - the popular falacy and the emotional falacy. Human rights are either grounded in natural law (these truths are self-evident) or emotion driven logic. This extent, any human rights law is either falling prety to the emotional fallacy (if we base human rights on a perceived desire to limit suffering) or on a populist fallacy (if we base human rights on a law). As a legal positivist, I'm with Hume here - all natural law is 'nonsense upon stilts'. Which leaves us with the tyranny of the majority. And then people tend to get sniffy for me for not being rational. I cannot be rational as there is no rational basis that doesn't fall foul of one of the 'classic' fallacies.

With regard to this, human rights are essentialy statements about how a state ought to be organised, and this differs from one culture to the next, and one time to the next, and is conditioned by the needs of the polity at any given time. The US constitution, for example, was drafted at a time when there was no standing army, meaning that - in the interests of survival - the militia system was a good idea. The Irish constitution was drafted at a time when Northern Ireland was regarded as being rightlfully part of Eire irrepsective of the wishes of the majority. And documents like the European Convention were drafted in the aftermath of WW2. It is hard to understate the impact that WW2 has had on European culture and history.

Human rights are an arbitrary thing. You cannot force a willing slave to be free. You cannot force a free person to be a slave by virtue of them.

Me? I tend to go with human rights as just mere laws. There is no special status about them in the same way that there is no special status about a tax code or parking laws. They are all statements about how our legistlative and our executive would like us to behave.

I don't see freedom of speech in the same stark terms as others do (which is probably obvious). In the purely pragmatic role of any good legal positivist, I saw the ill that needs to be cured - that of hate speech. As a lawyer, I see the cure in the form of societal change. How to best effect societal change? Through law. In fact, one of the things we have learned through the economic analysis of law is that the best way to change a person's heart is through their wallet. If societal ills are given pecuniary cost, they are far more deterant than prison terms or social advocacy and so on. I would site the study but I've leant my EOtL collection to someone else.

Show me a better way to cure this ill, and I'll gladly do it.

Offline Trieste

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Re: Why Offence Is A Valid Reason To Ban Speech!
« Reply #37 on: October 21, 2010, 10:21:06 AM »
You're speaking of human rights, but the right not to be offended or discomfited is not a human right. It is not a fundamental right, which is why it shouldn't be in legislature.

Outlawing objectionable speech does nothing but force the attitudes to simmer. You could stop the use of the word 'kike' in public venues if you wanted, but that's not where those who use it in earnest first learn the word, or the attitude behind it. Outlawing such speech in public does nothing to change the attitudes; it makes them harder to track and gauge. I'm not even going to address the idea of outlawing such speech in private and public - the government has no right to tell you what you can and cannot say inside your own home, unless you're leaning out a window and yelling it at passersby. Not to mention the unenforcability of such a law.

The best way is through education, and it's a slow change that doesn't see immediate results like a law would give. However, it gives more permanent and complete change. There will always be havens of hate, as there are always people that have an enduring need to feel better than their fellow man. However, we can do our best to make sure that children are socialized, and that they are socialized in a manner that encourages tolerance and discourages hate speech. We already do this, to an extent, with schools. You'll notice that most of the die-hards (such as these girls) are homeschooled, to avoid 'tainting' them with pesky doubts and questions. Considering the best way to break hatred is to humanize the target, the last thing close-minded parents want their kids doing is making friends with the black kid, or the gay kid. It's really hard to hate all gays when your best friend Jerry likes boys.

I cannot be rational as there is no rational basis that doesn't fall foul of one of the 'classic' fallacies.

This is frustrating. We allow the Politics and Religion board on here because a) it's relevant and involves issues that people care about and want to discuss, and b) some people really do enjoy debating. However, the tradeoff to allowing these touchy subjects on what is otherwise a roleplay board is that we expect people to heed those classical fallacies and treat the threads in here like debates. Some sarcasm is allowed (duh) but if it gets too pointed, or if the thread in general gets too scrappy, we lock it. It's not perfect, not even close, but you're getting the reaction that you've gotten because the expectation - complete with sticky at the top of the board - is that you will at least try to base your points in logic and fact. Otherwise, you get one hugenormous appeal to emotion that really boils down to "Your way is awful and mine is better". This is why you have so many people demanding a 'why' to your statements - because otherwise you're really just soapboxing.

Offline Jude

Re: Why Offence Is A Valid Reason To Ban Speech!
« Reply #38 on: October 21, 2010, 11:59:21 AM »
Hate speech is an ill that cannot be cured because it stems from fundamental human faults.  We're programmed on a very basic level to engage in tribe behavior.  We associate that which is like us with virtue naturally and that which is different from us with vice.  This is why people so strongly identify with groups that have similar traits to their own even if the group has nothing to do with anything even remotely moral, political, of philosophical in nature.  Groups can even form around things like hobbies which are totally neutral, then that group begins to act like a unit of social cohesion which often discriminates against other organizations that are distinct from them.  It's so silly that even people who enjoy interactive entertainment have a divide between "hardcore" and "casual" to the point of antipathy and stereotyping.

Racial, ethnic, political, economic, and social divides will always inspire a certain degree of discomfort.  Sure, we've come a long way since back in the day when we as a species gladly embraced these prejudices, but it wasn't law that made this progress, it was recognition that this prejudice exists.  Critical thinking and awareness of our own faults as a species is the only antidote to the systemic failures of the human condition.  It's taken a long time for the more evolved cultures on earth to begin to judge individuals on the content of their character and not arbitrary designations, you can't simply force that by banning the communication of such ideas.

As for how much damage hate speech does?  Very little if any lasting damage at all.  Take the example of the gay teen that commits suicide:  this doesn't happen overnight because one person calls him a "fag."  It's systematic cultural disdain of homosexuality, taunting by peers, and a pattern of harassment and shame that takes hold within his mind over the course of many years.  Giving society a surface-level makeover isn't gonna fix the problems, in many ways we need cultural renovation on a grand scale if we want to make being certain things more acceptable.

Like Trieste said, banning hate speech doesn't ban hate, intolerance, or bigotry.  It simply causes it go underground and manifest itself in other ways.  For example, racism is considered utterly intolerable in America, but that doesn't mean by any stretch of the imagination that it's gone.  Instead of admitting that their actions are motivated by racism, we now have people who do prejudicial things and claim other justifications.  When people are free to be honest about their intentions it's a lot easier to actually observe their behavior for what it is, if anything banning hate speech will give the illusion of progress while simply driving hatred further underground where it's more difficult to expunge.

EDIT:  This proposition kind of reminds me of the town that tried to redefine pi as 3.1 so it would be easier for students to understand in math class.  Yes, that would seem on the base level to be a fix to all of their problems, but then everyone would be asking why all of the buildings in town are crooked.

You can't legislate a different reality than what already exists.  Law doesn't have that kind of power.
« Last Edit: October 21, 2010, 12:03:09 PM by Jude »

Offline mystictigerTopic starter

Re: Why Offence Is A Valid Reason To Ban Speech!
« Reply #39 on: October 22, 2010, 10:43:32 AM »
Quote
You're speaking of human rights, but the right not to be offended or discomfited is not a human right. It is not a fundamental right, which is why it shouldn't be in legislature.

On what basis do you determine what human rights are, both fundamental and ordinary? Indeed, what is the difference between them? Is it ok to violate a non-fundamental right?

This is another thing that I have issue with - 'official' doctrine is that human rights are universal and indivisible. This means that they apply to all, and all such rights are equal - that one cannot rank or prioritise human rights.

I'm not sure which one I'd put on top of the pile, but it would one of freedom from torture or right to private and family life.

Quote
The best way is through education, and it's a slow change that doesn't see immediate results like a law would give.

I don't necessarily think that it's the best way, but I certainly agree that it is a good way. How, though, do you mandate this program of education? And when you educate someone, you are generally imposing a view on them, and thereby restricting their freedom of speech (I'll come back to this one).

One issue I have real problems coming to an answer on is the teaching of creationism in schools. On the one hand, I think the theory of evolution best describes the mechanism by which we came to be. On the other, I'm aware that I place far more value on certain ideas and modes of thinking than other people might. By only teaching one, I am imposing my world view on others. I think that it should be taught because a person should be free to make up their own mind. If, once exposed to the differeing viewpoints they decide to embrace creationism, then it is their choice to make. I don't think I have a right to impose my views on others.

I know that this runs counter to my general approach to wanting to ban hate speech, but to paraphrase the Shaft theme-song... he's a complicated man and no-one understands him... Mystic!

Education as a restriction on freedom of speech is a particularly tricky one. We teach our children to be tolerant. In doing so, we are denying them the chance to be intolerant. In our societies, tolerance is regarded as a virtue. It hasn't always been the case, and it may not always be so. Especially if people like Sarkozy get their way.

Quote
Racial, ethnic, political, economic, and social divides will always inspire a certain degree of discomfort.  Sure, we've come a long way since back in the day when we as a species gladly embraced these prejudices, but it wasn't law that made this progress, it was recognition that this prejudice exists.

If, as you say, that law isn't what changed these, why have laws about discrimination or harassment at all? Why not just leave it all to development and society?

I think, though, that this exchange has been useful in that my viewpoint is changing.

Offline Jude

Re: Why Offence Is A Valid Reason To Ban Speech!
« Reply #40 on: October 22, 2010, 03:32:35 PM »
Law only mandates changes in action, never in thought.  I can pass a law against drinking on Sunday, but that doesn't mean people aren't going to want to do it.  It can't bring about real change of opinion or culture.

Offline mystictigerTopic starter

Re: Why Offence Is A Valid Reason To Ban Speech!
« Reply #41 on: October 22, 2010, 04:31:54 PM »
Well, I could pass a law outlawing the slave trade, a law that allowed my Navy to board and inspect any ship in the world in order to supress that trade.

I could pass a law to that abolished law and mandated a return to an agricultural economy, resulting in the slaughter of countless millions of my civilians.

The Security Council could pass a law that creates ad hoc tribunals to prosecute grave breaches of the laws and customs of war, and end up prosecuting heads of states.

The entire premise of the criminal justice system is the deterent effect of punishment.

Offline Will

Re: Why Offence Is A Valid Reason To Ban Speech!
« Reply #42 on: October 22, 2010, 04:40:53 PM »
Outlawing hate doesn't compare quite so well with outlawing slavery.  Slavery is an action; hate is an attitude.  You can outlaw certain manifestations of that attitude (in the case of this thread, hateful speech), but there will always be other ways for that hate to manifest itself.  The attitude is the real issue.