Thursday, June 9, 2016

Love-Hate Speech

A good friend of mine loves to argue. He may not even believe the issue at hand – instead he loves to have a spirited discussion. Those who are unfamiliar with his process often get wound up. It’s an interesting (and often amusing) tactic to see how well people can articulate what they believe in. More often than not the debate turns to the petty and names are called, assumptions made and broad swaths of insults are strewn about. It’s not the prettiest thing to see, but it’s part and parcel of a society committed to free speech. But are we?

In December 2015 I wrote about the Word Wars going on at the college level. In July 2014 I wrote about how Europe allows people and companies to petition Google and other search engines to have negative information about themselves removed from results.

Europeans are now taking the next step at restricting speech. Techcrunch reports: “Facebook, Twitter, Google’s YouTube, Microsoft as well as the European Commission unveiled a new code of conduct to remove hate speech according to community guidelines in less than 24 hours across these social media platforms.”

“’The recent terror attacks have reminded us of the urgent need to address illegal online hate speech,’ Vĕra Jourová, EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, wrote in the European Commission press release. ‘Social media is unfortunately one of the tools that terrorist groups use to radicalise young people and racist use to spread violence and hatred.’”

The slippery slope that I wrote about and fretted about in 2014 and 2015 is coming true in 2016. One person’s hate speech is another person’s advocacy.

George Washington was a colonel in the British Army from 1752-58 before changing allegiance to the colonies and leading the revolution against the British. His efforts earned him the role as the number one foe of the United Kingdom awarded in 2012 by the National Army Museum. His efforts towards independence likely had quite a bit of talk that was treasonous and hateful and designed to convert people to the colonists perspective. [I'm not equating ISIS with Washington - rather pointing out that some could.]

We cannot all agree. We can’t pave over fundamental disagreements over issues of policy, religion and beliefs to just get along. Eliminating speech from the discourse is incredibly perilous. Hate can only be distinguished as hate when it’s public. Donald Trump may be rallying some with his talk, but I am glad that his bloviating, spewing and ignorance is front and center for all to see. What are the Europeans going to do? Delete The Donald’s tweets? That is what their new code of conduct requires.

The danger is in restricting speech – especially nasty, horrible and uninformed speech. Count me as one who doesn’t like the content of what’s said but loves hate speech as it’s a sign of freedom.

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