Law 32: Hate-speech-law countries v. free-speech countries

EN-FR

Hate speech laws in so-called “free-speech” countries

How free speech is contrived to allow governments
to discriminate at will in hate-speech-law countries

Two examples: Sweden and India, with discussion of recent incidents

1/ Quran burning and incitement against religion in Sweden
2/ Saffron bikini and defilement of religion in India

1/ Quran burning and incitement against religion in Sweden

Turkish protesters have expressed outrage in Istanbul after a far-right politician burned a Quran in front of the Turkish embassy in Stockholm.” (Al Jazeera English, YouTube, Jan 22)

As there is no freedom of speech in Europe, the request to ban and punish this kind of act/speech, Quran burning, is a legitimate demand of nondiscrimination. Swedish law criminalizes hate speech out of consideration for communitarian feelings. Therefore, the failure of Swedish authorities to prosecute such acts is contemptuous: not attending to this particular community’s feelings while they claim to attend to communitarian feelings sends the message that this community is not worth attending to, according to Swedish authorities. They simply do not want this community to be protected by Sweden’s hate speech laws, and this is blatant discrimination.

My message to Swedish authorities: You are contemptible. What are your hate speech laws for? Stop discriminating against Muslims and prosecute Quran burning as hate speech.

Where is the Swedish law that bans freedom of speech out of consideration of a religion’s belief?

It is where everybody can find it. “Hets mot folkgrupp blev olagligt 1949. På den tiden var det enbart härstamning och trosbekännelse som var grunder för hets mot folkgrupp. Detta ändrades 1970 till ras, hudfärg, nationellt eller etniskt ursprung eller trosbekännelse. År 2002 tillkom sexuell läggning och år 2019 könsöverskridande identitet eller uttryck.” (Wikipedia: Hets mot folkgrupp) The important word for the asked question is “trosbekännelse,” which means religious belief. Translation: “Incitement against groups became illegal [in Sweden] in 1949. At that time, descent and creed [trosbekännelse = religious belief] were the only grounds for incitement against groups. This was changed in 1970 to race, skin color, national or ethnic origin, or creed [again]. In 2002 sexual orientation was added and in 2019 gender identity or expression.”

Who are you to dictate how I dispose of my property?

You’ll have to ask this question to the Swedish legislator. – The technical answer, however, is that you can’t criminally dispose of your property. If you dispose of your property by making a hate speech of it, you’ll be prosecuted for hate speech by Swedish authorities.

So what forms of disposal are not hate speech? Presumably, burning is ruled out.

All disposal is not in the form of calling people’s attention. – If you ask me how they dispose of their old Quran copies in Muslim countries, I don’t know. All I know is that, if a person disposes of a Quran copy in Sweden and one finds it in his trash can, or if he burns it in his backyard, this is not hate speech. But what happened in front of the embassy is blatant hate speech (against a group based on its members’ creed or religious belief) and the negligence of authorities to act accordingly proves they discriminate against Muslims. It’s not too late.

(ii)

The answer from the Swedish authorities so far has been, to sum it up: “The act was very insensitive, but we are a free-speech country.” This is not true. Sweden is a hate-speech-law country: “Incitement against groups became illegal in 1949. At that time, descent and creed were the only grounds for incitement against groups. This was changed in 1970 to race, skin color, national or ethnic origin, or creed. In 2002 sexual orientation was added and in 2019 gender identity or expression.” The Swedish authorities are bound by their legislation to prosecute the wrongdoer; by their obdurate negligence to do it, they show that, as a principle, they refuse to comply with their hate speech legislation when the targeted group is Muslims. They thus discriminate against Muslims. On the one hand, they tell their national communities, their “groups” (folkgrupp), that Sweden protects them from hate speech by criminalizing hate speech; on the other hand, they claim they guarantee freedom of speech when one of these groups in particular is wronged by hate speech. You don’t need to be a Muslim to feel contempt for such malfeasance.

2/ Saffron bikini and defilement of religion in India

For a better understanding of the following, read “Saffron bikini v. national flag bikini” in Law 29.

Film Pathaan, with a saffron bikini dancing scene, was released this month amid protests. I support the protests. As the authorities disregard the outrage over saffron bikini, they should apologize to and compensate all people who have been convicted for tricolor (national flag) bikinis and other tricolor trappings, and I’m told they are not few. You’ll perhaps say in reply that India is a secular country and authorities have a mandate to ensure respect for the tricolor symbol, not for the saffron symbol, which is religious. There exist stringent laws about incitement and respect for community feelings in India: Why the negligence? Does secularism mean that a secular, atheistic elite will be granted the privilege to offend religious feelings, while the people is gagged?

No matter how Hindutva the government is, outrage over saffron bikinis is disregarded, the problem does not exist for them. They will keep focusing on hunting tricolor bikinis and other tricolor trappings. The numerous tricolor precedents, the stringent provisions of incitement laws, constitutional protection of communities’ feelings, are of no avail to a Hindutva government against the privileged few who bought a never-ending license to outrage religious feelings.

What about sadhus who wear a single saffron loincloth?

The comparison is misguided. Although there exist laws against nudity in India, they do not apply to sadhus, because a sadhu’s nudity is not the same as a paid actress’s nudity, the aim of which is to attract or arouse prurient interest. By the same token, a sadhu wearing saffron is not the same as an actress whose body is used as an object for making money through prurient interest, adding an insult to religion through saffron symbolism.

(ii)

The good news is that Bollywood needs to be saved, that is, it is heading toward irreversible collapse. “Can Pathaan save the Bollywood?” (Mirror Now) You’re asking too much of a saffron bikini.

Pathaan 1 – Saffron Brigade 0.” Why the sarcasm? Is it proper of a news media? In a country where tricolor brigades are terrorizing tricolor bikinis and other tricolor trappings, such disregard for religious feelings by the authorities is as offensive as the offense itself. And don’t tell me this is a victory for free speech: the tricolor brigade is watching you.

(iii)

Their apathy will remain a stain on Indian authorities. If you think a tricolor bikini is an insult, and Indian law seems to think it is (see Gehna Vashisht and other cases), then a saffron bikini is blatant hate speech (Sections 153 and 295 of the Indian penal code). Negligence to act accordingly on the part of authorities is discriminatory remiss.

Section 295: “Whoever destroys, damages or defiles any place of worship, or any object held sacred by any class of persons with the intention of thereby insulting the religion of any class of persons or with the knowledge that any class of persons is likely to consider such destruction, damage or defilement as an insult to their religion, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.” (Emphases ours.)

Let us examine what a saffron bikini is, according to the wording of the law. We are talking about defilement, as sacredness is purposefully associated with pruriency in the form of scant clothing and lascivious dancing. The object is not a bikini in itself but a bikini purposefully made saffron. We do not have to prove that the wrongdoing is purposeful, as Hindus’ reverential feelings for saffron are well-known. Rather it is the accused who must prove they did not do the wrongdoing on purpose; they must provide convincing evidence that none of them had realized that the saffron bikini could upset Hindus’ feelings. In the words of the law, they must prove that they had no “knowledge that any class of persons [was] likely to consider such defilement as an insult to their religion,” and good luck with that: were these people brought before a court, I don’t think they could provide the least convincing evidence of ingenuity, unless, perhaps, they wriggled on the ground like worms and cried, because where in the world is saffron known for its religious symbolism if not in India? Think about it: these people, instead of being removed behind bars for two years, are going scot free, protected by a Hindutva BJP-led coalition government.

“A battle for freedom of speech”? I didn’t see journalists battle for free speech when a FIR (first information report by police) was filed against half a dozen people dancing with Aurangzeb’s poster in Maharashtra, a few days ago (see Law 31: Aurangzeb’s Ghost). Sections 95, 153, 295 etc. of the ICP are the law. Journalists do not oppose it, they only oppose its application to defilements of religion by Bollywood.

(iv)

At the same time that the Indian union government refuses to listen to its grassroots militants on Pathaan, and asks them to stop the stir, it bans a BBC documentary about the 2002 Gujarat riots in which hundreds of Muslims were murdered by mobs.

The ban is either legal or illegal. If it is illegal, there is no question of opportunity. If it is legal, there is no question of opportunity either, because the executive power is not allowed to pick up laws it will carry out from laws it will not carry out. The government must execute the whole legislation (hence its name: executive). Those who discuss the ban from the opportunity angle are wrong. If they disagree with the ban, they should, assuming the ban is lawful or constitutional, voice criticism against the law that allows such a ban, that is, they should ask to remove legislation that allows the authorities to ban this kind of speech. Let me know if they do. I assume they all discuss the opportunity and not the legality issue, because they are the opposition that wants to be the majority, and as the new majority they will want: 1) discretionary, not just executive power, 2) to ban criticism. They are all of a kind and form the political cartel.

I disagree with the idea that the executive should be granted even a minimal discretionary power: all decisions based on opportunity are discriminatory, by preventing expected benefits or sanctions of the law. Even though the idea is as commonplace as the practice, neither the idea nor the practice are constitutional, and they cannot be, as this would mean actual suspension of the separation of powers, and of checks and balances.

Concluding remarks

Despite their commonalities, both cases illustrate two different situations. In the Swedish case, one religious minority is discriminated against by the authorities. In the Indian case, the Hindu majority’s right to be protected by the law is disregarded by the authorities, which shield one sector of the society, namely Bollywood, from the legislation; in other words, against the religious majority, the Indian authorities discriminate in favor of this sector by elevating it above hate speech laws. Both actions are extralegal, namely, given the constitutional characterization of the executive power, illegal and unconstitutional. Through the practice, the will of the legislator is overlooked and the role of the judiciary undermined. The practice is defended on the ground that this overlook is needed and will occur only in situations where the generality of the law presents flaws that put the state at risk. The only possible arbitrator for this is the people and that supposes, therefore, that the people has an effective right to insurrection, which, absent a constitutional right to bear arms, is nonexistent. Otherwise, the practice should be set guidelines in the form of constitutional measures about the state of emergency. In the two cases we have discussed, the authorities are abusing their discretionary power without redeeming circumstances.

*

“[Female ex-BJP leader] Gets Gun License Citing ‘Life Threats’ Over Prophet Remarks.” (India Today, YouTube)

How long does it take to get a license? The authorities must verify the claim and that surely takes time. She seems to have had her license in no time, but is it the case for all Indian citizens? One day, you’ll hear that a man applied for a license because he was threatened, the claim was investigated by authorities, with a lot of red tape, and meantime the man was killed. Mark my words, you’ll hear about something like that, or I don’t know bureaucracy. An unconditional right to carry guns is the only correct alternative to a ban.

*

About current massive layoffs in big tech companies (Google, Meta, Twitter…). The revenue of a good deal of these so-called big tech companies is from advertising. Massive layoffs in big tech tell you manufacturing companies cut down their advertising spending because they are in poor condition. Badly impacted manufacturing and other companies first respond by cutting down on advertising. Big tech companies then have no other choice than cutting down on their workforce, because advertising is their main revenue. What massive layoffs in big tech tell you is the incoming massive layoffs in all other sectors, as advertising revenue dependent big tech companies are the first to cut down on the workforce.

*

10 Palestinians Killed In ‘Deadliest’ Israel Raids in Years.” (NDTV, YouTube, Jan 27)

This headline is foolish. The raid is “deadliest in years” because of 10 casualties and one month ago 8, two months ago 9, three months ago 9 again, four months ago 6, and so on; something like that. About 200 Palestinians were killed in Israeli raids in 2022 alone. (212 according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.)

*

Iranian drones program’s success and what are the lessons for India.” (The Print, YouTube, Jan 27)

Given the scathing indictment regarding Indian national production (“promising the moon and failing to deliver,” etc.), one should not disregard the possibility of corruption of national authorities by foreign suppliers. If decision-makers are biased toward foreign supply through corruption money, India will never develop serious programs of her own. At this stage, you may well ask the question.

Ironically, an excuse from the Indian side is that, in Iran, things are under control of the Guardians of the Revolution: “It is easier there because everything comes under the control of the Islamic revolutionary guard corps,” says a “source in Indian defense establishment.” Well, yes, the Guardians probably better enforce the country’s own anti-corruption laws, so the excuse almost sounds like an admission, or veiled whistleblowing.

*

FR

La guerre par procuration expliquée par la France

Le texte suivant complète notre essai « Casus belli : Réflexions sur la guerre en Ukraine » de mai 2022 (ici).

Un article en ligne du 5 mars 2022 du Club des juristes, « La fourniture d’armes à l’Ukraine : quel cadre en droit international ? » (ici, auteur : E. Castellarin), présente le dispositif juridique utilisé par les nations de l’OTAN pour légitimer leur action de fourniture d’armes à l’Ukraine contre la Russie. Cet article appelle plusieurs remarques.

La première est que ce cadre est purement multilatéral et que le raisonnement bilatéral que j’emploie dans mon essai semble désormais exclu du champ de la pensée ; à savoir, les accords préventifs bilatéraux de défense, dont l’idée brille par son absence dans cet article, n’entrent apparemment plus dans le raisonnement des États européens, de sorte que mon argument selon lequel les États d’Europe de l’Ouest auraient pu offrir à l’Ukraine la garantie d’une intervention armée en cas d’agression russe, doit passer pour une bizarrerie désuète aux yeux des juristes avertis. Cela les regarde. Mais quid des États-Unis ? Ces derniers n’offrent-ils pas leur bouclier militaire à plusieurs pays, dont l’Arabie Saoudite ? Qu’est-ce qui les empêchait alors d’offrir le même bouclier à l’Ukraine, par exemple après l’annexion de la Crimée par la Russie ? Il semblerait que ce puisse être en partie les dispositions du droit international elles-mêmes, dans la mesure où celles-ci peuvent désormais permettre à des États de conduire une « guerre par procuration » (proxy war) sans se voir pour autant qualifiés ipso facto de parties au conflit. Examinons les différents dispositifs juridiques présentés par l’article.

« Dans l’affaire relative aux activités militaires et paramilitaires au Nicaragua, la Cour internationale de justice a été confrontée à la fourniture d’armes par les États-Unis aux contras, un groupe rebelle actif au Nicaragua. Elle a exclu que la fourniture d’armes puisse être qualifiée d’agression armée, mais elle a affirmé qu’on peut y voir une menace ou un emploi de la force (§ 195). » Ça ne commence pas très bien pour l’OTAN, du côté de la CIJ. Le § 195 de la décision de la Cour, de 1986, pourrait en effet servir à la Russie de fondement juridique à l’invocation d’un casus belli : « menace ou emploi de la force ». (Le terme même de casus belli est sans doute devenu tout aussi désuet que les contrats bilatéraux de défense territoriale évoqués dans notre précédent paragraphe, vu que cette notion simple est à présent décomposée en agression armée, d’une part, et menace ou emploi de la force, d’autre part.)

Notre juriste considère cependant que la décision de la CIJ est inapplicable au cas de l’Ukraine : « En réalité, l’analyse de la CIJ n’est pas applicable au conflit armé international en cours en Ukraine. L’armée ukrainienne a le plein contrôle, ponctuel et global, de ses actions, si bien qu’on ne peut pas analyser la fourniture d’armes un emploi indirect de la force par les États occidentaux contre la Russie. » Voire ! Il faudrait tout d’abord s’assurer que la CIJ a bel et bien prétendu que « le plein contrôle, ponctuel et global, de ses actions » par une armée excluait a priori un emploi indirect de la force par ceux qui lui fournissent des armes. Certes, l’armée ukrainienne est différente d’une organisation comme celle des contras au Nicaragua, et le conflit lui-même est différent. Mais nous ne voyons pas ce que veut dire cette réserve émise par l’auteur : en quoi les contras n’avaient-ils pas eux aussi « le plein contrôle, ponctuel et global, de [leurs] actions » ? Que signifie cette formule alambiquée ? Un tel embrouillamini peut-il se trouver dans une décision de justice internationale ? Nous en doutons. Nous mènerons cette recherche et y reviendrons. Pour le moment, nous considérons que c’est là une simple pirouette, une argutie sans queue ni tête. L’armée ukrainienne ne se distingue pas des contras sous l’angle obscur ici présenté, et, à défaut de plus ample explication, nous considérons donc que la décision de la CIJ s’applique au présent conflit. Poursuivons.

« Du point de vue du droit coutumier des conflits armés, la fourniture d’armes est incompatible avec le statut de neutralité » Cela ne continue guère mieux pour l’OTAN, du point de vue du droit international coutumier. Les États fournissant des armes à l’Ukraine ne sont pas neutres. Mais sont-ils pour autant, comme un raisonnement fondé sur le principe logique du tiers exclu pourrait le laisser penser, des parties au conflit ? La réponse du droit international est, selon notre juriste, négative : « Cependant, cela signifie simplement que les États qui fournissent des armes ne peuvent pas se prévaloir des droits des États neutres, par exemple celui d’obtenir la réparation d’éventuels dommages collatéraux subis en raison d’un bombardement sur le territoire d’un État partie au conflit. En revanche, la perte du statut d’États neutres au conflit en Ukraine ne signifie pas que ces États sont devenus parties au conflit. »

Notre juriste croit donc qu’il existe, relativement « au conflit en Ukraine », des États ni neutres ni parties au conflit. « Cette situation, » de partie au conflit, « qui impliquerait notamment le droit de la Russie de cibler les forces armées de ces États, ne se produirait que si celles-ci prenaient directement part aux hostilités ». Les États de l’OTAN sont donc sortis de leur neutralité mais, comme ils ne prennent pas directement part aux hostilités, ils ne sont pas non plus des parties au conflit. Cela confirme l’analyse russe de la « guerre par procuration » menée par ces États. En effet, si ces États ne faisaient pas la guerre, ils seraient neutres, or ils ne sont pas neutres, et s’ils prenaient directement part aux opérations, ils seraient parties au conflit, or ils ne le sont pas non plus : ils font donc la guerre par procuration (proxy war). L’analyse russe est entièrement conforme à ces éléments juridiques.

La suite de l’article tend à montrer que ce comportement est « internationalement licite ». Tout d’abord, le Traité sur le commerce des armes n’est prétendument pas violé, car les États n’ont pas connaissance, au moment de fournir ses armes, qu’elles « pourraient servir à commettre » un génocide, des crimes contre l’humanité ou des crimes de guerre. Cette clause du traité est cependant suffisamment générale pour que des livraisons d’armes lors d’un conflit en cours soient susceptibles de servir à commettre de tels actes. L’article ne dit pas en effet que les fournisseurs n’ont pas connaissance que leurs armes « serviront à commettre » des crimes, une formule qui serait moins contraignante pour les fournitures d’armes. On rétorquera peut-être que, de la façon dont je l’entends, peu de fournitures d’armes resteraient licites, mais n’est-ce pas précisément l’intention des concepteurs et signataires du traité que de lutter contre la prolifération ? En l’occurrence, exclure que des crimes de guerre puissent être commis par l’une des parties lors d’un conflit en cours est ou bien de l’angélisme ou bien un parti pris belliqueux qui ne peut être conforme à l’esprit du traité.

Cependant, l’UE a souhaité se garantir à ce sujet, en introduisant une clause suspensive en cas de violation du droit international par l’Ukraine, ce qui est interprété par notre juriste comme une preuve de respect formel du traité par l’UE. Voire ! Cette clause montre au contraire, selon nous, que l’UE se doute que ces armes « pourraient » servir à commettre des crimes de guerre etc., et qu’elle n’a donc formellement pas le droit de fournir ces armes. En prétendant prévenir les crimes de guerre etc., elle avoue être consciente que de tels crimes pourraient être commis, et c’est précisément cette prise de conscience qui devrait l’empêcher de livrer des armes.

Enfin, la résolution ES-11/1 de l’Assemblée générale des Nations Unies ayant qualifié l’opération russe d’agression, l’Ukraine est « indéniablement » en légitime défense. L’auteur précise certes que la résolution onusienne est « dépourvue d’effet obligatoire et silencieuse sur la fourniture d’armes » (ce qui est un peu regrettable en termes de droit positif) mais affirme que c’est une « interprétation authentique de la Charte, objectivement valable pour tous les membres ». Ce qui est objectivement valable et en même temps dépourvu d’effet obligatoire, est surtout dépourvu d’effet obligatoire, en droit. Autrement dit, la question de l’agression et de la légitime défense reste ouverte. Le traitement des minorités nationales en Ukraine invoqué par la Russie est en débat. Or c’est la légitime défense qui est le principal élément de justification des nations de l’OTAN. En légitime défense, « [l]’emploi de la force de sa part [l’Ukraine] est licite (art. 51 de la Charte des Nations Unies) et ne peut pas engager sa responsabilité (art. 21 des articles de la Commission du droit international sur la responsabilité de l’État pour fait internationalement illicite), ni celle des États qui l’aident et l’assistent. » La légitime défense est plus qu’une légitimation, selon cette présentation, c’est un véritable blanc-seing (et la présentation est donc douteuse : certaines violations du droit naturel ne peuvent recevoir aucune justification et engagent toujours la responsabilité). Mais c’est aussi un point contestable, l’Ukraine ayant peut-être conduit sur son territoire une politique contraire au droit humanitaire envers la minorité russophone, et contraire également aux intérêts fondamentaux de son voisin, comme le prétend la Russie s’agissant des régions frontalières du Donbass et autre, dont la situation extrêmement troublée avant l’intervention russe n’a échappé à personne.

6 comments

  1. florentboucharel

    La guerre par procuration expliquée par la France (Complément)

    “Biden admin warns China against arming Russian troops in Ukraine” (Hindustan Times, YouTube, Feb 19, 2023)

    Arming Russia amidst an ongoing conflict will not make China a belligerent party, as per NATO’s reasoning. Therefore, warning of “serious consequences” cannot mean warlike retaliations, as per NATO’s reasoning again. By “consequences,” the U.S. probably means something like: “If you send weapons to Russia (cause), Russia will use them (consequence).” 😉

    A nonbelligerent party cannot warn another nonbelligerent party of consequences of arming a belligerent party in an ongoing conflict, other than natural consequences, such as: “Imagine you send weapons with a plane, a storm hits the plane and the plane falls in the sea.” 😉

    • florentboucharel

      La guerre par procuration expliquée par la France : Annexe

      “Will Russia try to invade Mali next?” (Times Radio, YouTube)

      Two days ago, Feb 23, 2023, Mali voted against the UN resolution calling for Russia to leave Ukraine, with six other countries, namely Belarus, North Korea, Eritrea, Nicaragua, Russia, and Syria, while 32 other countries abstained, including China, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Algeria, Bolivia… Mali and Russia are pals.

      What is common between invading a country deemed, rightly or not, hostile and opposed to one’s national interests, and making friends with a country? How can the invasion of Ukraine, after years of inimical tensions between the two countries, serve to make predictions for the future of a friendly relationship? It cannot, and the question of Russia invading Mali is therefore completely unspecific and without foundation in the facts of the Russian relationship with Mali; it simply conveys the author’s notion that Russia could invade any country of this planet. Not so fine an analysis of the specific situation, therefore, as the same question could be asked by the same journalist, just as relevantly or irrelevantly, with any country besides Mali.

  2. florentboucharel

    “Malaysia Bans Children’s Books. LGBTQ Ideas Hurt Its Morals.” (Firstpost, YouTube, Feb 2023)

    In Europe, opposing such material will get you tried for hate speech. – It is tried for hate speech despite constitutional protection of freedom of speech because, as the “reasoning” goes, “hate speech is not speech.” If speech is not speech, then hate is not hate. If hate speech is not speech, by the same token hate speech is not hate. Contemptible.

    • florentboucharel

      One word on the so-called “paradox” of tolerating or not the intolerant. If there is a paradox at all, there can be no logical solution, so the policy can be either one or the other, from the logical point of view it makes no difference. But there is no paradox, and I don’t know why some people keep talking about it as if they had a point. What point can there be in a paradox? – There can be no hate speech legislation in a free state.

      • florentboucharel

        A contender opposed me two arguments, which I wish to quote. These quotes are showing us an advocate of hate speech legislation so embarrassed by the very laws he defends that he desperately attempts to present them in a false light.

        1) “If the speech contains only hate, then there is no value to their speech as it only causes harm and restricts other people’s freedoms.”

        From this assertion, one would infer that hate speech laws are specifically aimed at speech that “contains only hate.” However, of all the legislations I studied, I know not one whose scope is thus narrowed to “only” hate. The kind of speech that could be said to “contain only hate” is not immediately clear, to begin with, but the notion would arguably exclude a lot of speech, to the point that only slurs with a single n- or other such word would be prosecutable. On the contrary, all kind of speech from the most various fields are condemned by courts: writers, poets, artists, comedians, journalists and other media personalities, professors, politicians, clergymen and other clerics, all categories of public figures are condemned. For none of these, the nature of their speech, whether it be poetry, literature, art, entertainment, news, research, political communication, and so on, has been found to present a redeeming value for the “hate” it contains and which is not infrequently only one phrase, sometimes one word, of a whole speech. Thus, poetry and literature have no redeeming value, art has no redeeming value, religion has no redeeming value, etc. Although, to be sure, sometimes utterers of one-word expletives are also condemned, the bulk of repression targets the intellectual and creative fields, and among these categories of people, a lot, perhaps most are more knowledgeable and sophisticated than the police who investigate them, the judges who judge them, the organizations that hunt them, and above all the legislators who passed such laws.

        2) “If you want to scream the n-word or any other slurs in a soundproof closet, go ahead. Just have the decency to contain yourself around a public space as you are sharing it with others.”

        This gentleman, a stranger to me, is fond of the imperative mood, although he should know that people don’t take orders from strangers. One has to be extra-cautious not to get carried away by anger with hecklers who act uncivilly, because these hecklers’ aim, when they defend hate speech laws, is to anger one in order to make the unarticulated demonstration that hate and irascibility come together. Were you to answer an unwarranted and uncivil order from a stranger with anger, your anger would be the salient impoliteness in the conversation, concealing its real cause: in this trap, you are a man carried away by hate when you react like a normal individual to a bully.

        Here the bully might think he only reformulates the law in his own language, but he does it in a false light. First, it is not true that, in countries where hate speech is a crime, one may “go ahead” with screaming a racial slur in a soundproof closet, because, albeit these laws make a difference between public and private speech, this is not to exempt the latter from the law, but only to lessen the due penalty. The closet is only soundproof to some extent, but even if it were wholly soundproof, this bizarre (and, due to the imperative mood, anger-rousing) rhetoric is still deceptive. It claims the law leaves you some room, hate speech laws leave you free to make some hate speech; only, it must be speech to yourself. Speech to oneself, however, is not included in the legal definition of speech, so hate speech laws cannot be said to leave some of your speech untouched and free: in reality, any speech with content perceived as hateful is prosecutable.

        Second, the contender claims it is a question of decency. Thus, hate speech is a form of obscenity. Again, this is not true. All countries with hate speech laws do not have speech obscenity laws; obscenity has commonly become free speech. Furthermore, in those countries where something is left of the old obscenity rules, the nature or context of the speech will often provide the redeeming value –for instance, “this is literature”– needed to deflect the action of justice, but we have seen above that hate speech laws do not tolerate the same reasoning: there can be no redeeming value in the speech’s nature as far as hate speech is concerned. Not only does this contender try to sneak hate speech as obscenity at a time when, often, obscenity is not even a crime anymore –so if he were right hate speech laws would be even more unacceptable– but also, he thereby sneaks something thoroughly repressed as something repressed, if at all, much more perfunctorily. This is casting upon harsh laws the deceptive light of benignness.

        To sum it up, hate speech laws: 1) (as to content scope) do not only repress speech that “contains only hate” but all speech, without possible redeeming value, 2) (as to “container” scope) do not leave some of your speech untouched, and 3) (as to intensity) do not deem hate speech a relatively minor decency, manners, or etiquette issue, but rather a form of enmity to the state by outcasts and pariahs. This, of course, is exactly how their advocates present these laws to the general public, namely, as harsh and thorough, designed to deter some specially repugnant form of evil; it is only when they interact with an opponent to these laws that they try to cast them in a different light, because opponents are showing their public (which is far from being, at this stage, the general public, as only mavericks dare oppose such laws in countries where they exist) that it is about a fatal perversion of the constitutional regime.

  3. florentboucharel

    Let us add a few thoughts on our contender’s digest of hate speech legislation. “If the speech contains only hate, then there is no value to their speech as it only causes harm and restricts other people’s freedoms.”

    We have already seen that the alleged condition for a speech to fall under the purview of the law is that it contains “only hate”, does not exist at all for prosecution, which only looks for hate plain and simple, no matter how small a role it may play in an otherwise abundant speech or philosophy. Note, however, that, for this gentleman, the “only hate” idea is a little more than merely rhetorical. Indeed, he says that a speech containing only hate “only causes harm,” that is, when there is nothing else than hate, the harm caused cannot be balanced by other things that could make the speech acceptable, or force the society to accept it, despite its harm. The fellow knows that law and justice are interests-balancing activities, and that harm by itself thus says nothing about prosecutability, for instance when the harm in question is the lesser of two evils, either one or the other being inescapable. Thus, by defining hate speech law as applicable to speech that contains “only hates,” one can conveniently overlook the questions of how necessary this harm might be, whether one should not look for some redeeming value in speech in general that would make harm caused by it nonetheless necessary, and consequently a hate speech ban detrimental overall, as it would prevent general benefits that cannot occur without an amount of private harm. This is the first point about harm from hate speech.

    The second point is that existing hate speech laws do not care about harm per se, but only about harm to certain defined categories. Therefore, hard as our contender tried to make it granted that harm is always to be opposed by legislation, it turns out impossible: even if you try to narrow the legislation’s scope to “only hate” in order to conceal the balancing of interests, a balancing crops up from the facts of the legislation themselves, as not all harm is opposed by hate speech laws but only harm to some. Private individuals are protected by libel laws, but here it is not about some dichotomy between individuals’ legal protection and groups’ legal protection; this is about some groups remaining outside the purview of the law while others are within. If I collectively insult members of this or that political party, with jibes against the D***s, for instance, hate speech legislation can do nothing for these aggrieved people, however harmful my words could be to them. Their category, based on party membership, is not protected, and this has no relationship with the fact that these people would be immune to jibes, slurs, and other derogatory speech.

    What are the categories protected by hate speech laws? A commonality is impossible to find in the existing laws, and this, per se, makes these categories, or at least some of them, arbitrary, so much so that other groups, left outside, should sue the state for discrimination. Let us be precise. Discrimination between groups can take two forms: either you discriminate a category by not taking it into account, for instance “party members,” or you discriminate a group within the category by not offering it protection owed to it because of its belonging to the category. The former discrimination is legislative discrimination (the legislator fails to include a category within legal purview), the latter is executive discrimination (the administration applies the law discriminatorily). A hypothetical example of the former would be failing to include the group “party members” on the list; and an example of the latter, failing, when party members are on the list, to duly protect R***s from hate speech and only protect D***s by prosecuting those who make hateful speech against those.

    The protected categories include at least two different kinds of groups, the inclusion of which cannot lie on identical grounds. The one group is made of subgroups of people based on a characteristic, such as race or ethnicity, the individuals cannot change, the other of people based on a characteristic associated with freewill, such as religion. We will not discuss the place ascribable to homosexuality or even gender (although our own opinion is that, in 90 per cent of cases, the former is a freewill group and the latter a natural group). As there exists what we call a “freewill group” within the legal categories, the reason why these or this group only, namely membership based on religion, is included and others are excluded has no rational foundation. Party membership, ideology, occupation, all kinds of bonds that may be attacked as such by others, remain unprotected against hate speech, notwithstanding the harm such attacks may cause their members. Advocates of hate speech laws should tell us why it is so important to prevent the harm made by speech for some citizens and not for others. How is it even possible in a constitutional regime?

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