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Angry Dan's Column

Free Speech

by Daniel Strohl


Limiting distasteful speech (read hate speech) only increases racism, sexism, homophobia and all other forms fo bigotry.

To visualize this statement, let us take a couple examples and analyze them. You are the decision maker for a well-off publishing group. You tell the company whose books to publish, how many to print, where to market them, etc. One day a book crosses your desk flat-out denying that 6 million Jews died during the Holocaust.

Or say you are in a sociology seminar. You're studying crime. A fellow student or even the professor states that high crime rates among blacks are an inherent trait among the race.

Distasteful? Yes. Are these statements typical of hate crime? That's one possible interpretation. But should these statements be banned or denied voicing? Should you not publish the Holocaust denier's book just because you think (I assume) that your beliefs are correct and his wrong? Should your fellow student be forced to keep her views to herself just because someone in that class objects to or is offended by those views?

Let's play devil's advocate and say yes, they should. Those holding the reigning, non-offensive views (the Holocaust did happen, crime is not a black trait) can sit back smug in their chairs and their beliefs. Justice has been upheld another day.

However, limiting the expression of those views does nothing to decrease the amount of unpopular and distasteful views around you. Those abhorred views continue, in one form or another; the problem has just been swept under the rug.

I go so far as to argue that limiting this expression increases the amount of distasteful views by refusing to meet those views head-on and argue against them. Views unopposed are much more likely to thrive and prosper than views opposed. The author of the Holocaust book, his ideas refuted without analysis or argument, will take his views to college newspapers and hope to spread them there. Had he been published, his arguments would have met sound criticism, discussion and debate in a much broader forum. Same goes for your classmate. If her views are forbidden, they have the potential to draw others in because they are forbidden, because they are a dissent to the popular views. However, when her arguments are given voice, the myriad difficulties in presenting them becomes evident.

Therefore, we need to air those distasteful views. We need to publish that Holocaust book and allow our classmate to speak her mind. Then, right after that, we need to rip their arguments to shreds.

Has Dan made you angry?


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