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The Big Answer


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HATE: Why We Should Resist it with Free Speech, Not Censorship

a book by Nadine Strossen

(our site's book review)

The Government Used to Censor Disfavored Speech—Liberals Want Them to Do It Again

The Amazon blurb says that HATE: Why We Should Resist it with Free Speech, Not Censorship dispels misunderstandings plaguing our perennial debates about "hate speech vs. free speech," showing that the First Amendment approach promotes free speech and democracy, equality, and societal harmony. We hear too many incorrect assertions that "hate speech" -- which has no generally accepted definition -- is either absolutely unprotected or absolutely protected from censorship.

Rather, U.S. law allows government to punish hateful or discriminatory speech in specific contexts when it directly causes imminent serious harm. Yet, government may not punish such speech solely because its message is disfavored, disturbing, or vaguely feared to possibly contribute to some future harm. When U.S. officials formerly wielded such broad censorship power, they suppressed dissident speech, including equal rights advocacy. Likewise, current politicians have attacked Black Lives Matter protests as "hate speech." [But they have a good point since these radicals have been caught doing exactly that—racist hate speech against whites.]

Current rightwing politicians have attacked Black Lives Matter protests as 'hate speech' and they have a good point since these radicals have been caught doing exactly that—racist hate speech against whites—at their rallies
Current rightwing politicians have attacked Black Lives Matter protests as 'hate speech' and they have a good point since these radicals have been caught doing exactly that—racist hate speech against whites—at their rallies

"Hate speech" censorship proponents stress the potential harms such speech might further: discrimination, violence, and psychic injuries. However, there has been little analysis of whether censorship effectively counters the feared injuries. Citing evidence from many countries, this book shows that "hate speech" laws are at best ineffective and at worst counterproductive. Their inevitably vague terms invest enforcing officials with broad discretion, and predictably, regular targets are minority views and speakers. Therefore, prominent social justice advocates in the U.S. and beyond maintain that the best way to resist hate and promote equality is not censorship, but rather, vigorous "counterspeech" and activism.

The Left's campaign to silence ideas that are disfavored, disturbing, or feared not only undermines liberty and democracy, but it leads to violence such as this pie in face assault
The Left's campaign to silence ideas that are disfavored, disturbing, or feared not only undermines liberty and democracy, but it leads to violence such as this pie in face assault

Strossen Says Hate Speech Should Be Resisted with More Speech, Not Censorship

As Strossen says, "Even worse than speech's potential power to harm individuals and society is government's potential power to do likewise, by enforcing 'hate speech' laws. Predictably, this elastic power will be used to silence dissenting ideas, unpopular speakers, and disempowered groups. To avert this danger, the Supreme Court steadily has reduced government's power to punish speech solely because its message is disfavored, disturbing, or feared. Instead, government may punish speech that relates to public issues, including 'hate speech,' only when it directly causes a specific, imminent, serious harm, such as inciting imminent violent or illegal conduct. These requirements curb government's censorial power, reducing the risk that it will be wielded only or primarily to suppress unpopular ideas. Unleashing government's power to silence ideas that are disfavored, disturbing, or feared not only undermines liberty and democracy; it also subverts the equality goals that animate 'hate speech.'"

A Conservative Plan to Weaponize the Federal Courts, by Linda Greenhouse outlines the Right's plans to have our courts slant Right, which one cannot blame them for doing after all the Obama administration's Leftward pushing of courts, justice, and media, as well as the Left's current push of misguided speech censoring laws.


Strossen Says Speech Is a Lot Freer Than It Used to Be, and She Wants This to Continue

The Wilson Administration’s unprecedented 1917+ pro-war domestic propaganda campaign used posters, speechs, newspapers and silent newsreels in theaters (no sound until 1927), but not radio—that arrived around 1922-1923
The Wilson Administration’s unprecedented 1917+ pro-war domestic propaganda campaign used posters, speechs, newspapers and silent newsreels in theaters (no sound until 1927), but not radio—that arrived around 1922-1923

". . . by the 1970s the “core” political protections of the First Amendment had become fully active, achieving more or less the basic structure we see today. Left out of this well-known story is a detail quite important for our purposes. The Court’s scrutiny extended only to part of the government’s speech control program: its censorship and punishment of dissidents. Left untouched and unquestioned was the Wilson Administration’s unprecedented domestic propaganda campaign. This was not a deliberate choice, so far as I can tell (although it does seem surprising, in retrospect, that there was no serious challenge brought contesting the President’s power to create a major propaganda agency on the basis of a single executive order). Yet as a practical matter, it was probably the propaganda campaign that had the greater influence over wartime speech, and almost certainly a stronger limiting effect on the freedom of the mainstream press. . . . " [See Freedom of the Press—an American Delusion.]

It was probably Wilson's propaganda campaign that had the greater influence over wartime speech, and almost certainly a stronger limiting effect on the freedom of the mainstream press
It was probably Wilson's propaganda campaign that had the greater influence over wartime speech, and almost certainly a stronger limiting effect on the freedom of the mainstream press

"Using blogs, micro-blogs, or platforms like Twitter or Facebook, just about anyone, potentially, can disseminate speech into the digital public sphere. . . . Cheap speech also makes it easier for mobs to harass or abuse other speakers with whom they disagree. . . . Over the last two years, the basic elements of the Russian approach have spread to the United States. As in Russia, journalists of all stripes have been targeted by virtual mobs when they criticize the American President or his policies. While some of the attacks appear to have originated from independent actors who borrowed Russian techniques, others have come from the (paid) Russian force itself . . ." (Source: Is the First Amendment Obsolete?, Tim Wu)

Neither fake news nor propaganda, government sponsored or not, have been thought of as governed by constitutional law. Journalistic ethics or foreign policy is counted on as the guiding hand. Under current law, there is little to prevent a full-blown campaign designed to manipulate the political speech environment to the advantage of current officeholders, which happened in 2016. See Fake News: How Propaganda Influenced the 2016 Election, A Historical Comparison to 1930's Germany.

The 2016 presidential election was a clown show of fake news, lies, pretenses, accusations, gotchas, exaggerations, propaganda, and Russian interference
The 2016 presidential election was a clown show of fake news, lies, pretenses, accusations, gotchas, exaggerations, propaganda, and Russian interference

Censorship of Hate Speech Has Been Shown to Do More Harm Than Good

"The most effective way to counter the potential negative effects of hate speech — which conveys discriminatory or hateful views on the basis of race, religion, gender, and so forth — is not through censorship, but rather through more speech. And that censorship of hate speech, no matter how well-intended, has been shown around the world and throughout history to do more harm than good in actually promoting equality, dignity, inclusivity, diversity, and societal harmony." (Source: Free Speech vs. Hate Speech, Sam Sanders, NPR)

"These are perilous times for free speech on college campuses. So many invited speakers are being 'uninvited' because of their disfavored views that the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) maintains a database of 'Disinvitation Attempts.' Students have faced expulsion and faculty members have faced punishment, including dismissal, for talks, online posts, or otherwise expressing disfavored views.

College newspapers have been forced to apologize for stories or advertisements labeled as offensive 'hate speech.' Some have experienced the theft of newspapers from their racks. And college media advisers are increasingly fearful for their own jobs and the very existence of their media outlets due to their publication of content that might be perceived as unpopular or unwelcome. . . . Enter Nadine Strossen at precisely the right time . . . she vehemently argues that the remedy for speech that might seem harmful to some eyes is more, not less, speech." (Source: Review: Hate: Why We Should Resist It With Free Speech, Not Censorship, Carolyn Schurr Levin, College Media Review)

Strossen's book makes a compelling, evidence-rich case that the 'more speech' approach is more effective than censorship in countering the harms that 'hate speech' is feared to cause: discrimination, violence, and psychic injuries
Strossen makes a compelling, evidence-rich case that the “more speech” approach is more effective than censorship in countering the harms that “hate speech” is feared to cause: discrimination, violence, and psychic injuries

Should Strossen’s Book Have Dealt with Issues Beyond Hate Speech Legislation?

"Strossen convincingly demonstrates that hate speech laws tend to backfire, turning against the very liberals who supported them. After all, the KKK is unarguably a hate group, but the same moniker has been levelled against Black Lives Matter. There is already damning evidence of white supremacists in law enforcement; do we really want to give these people power over the legality of speech?

Enforcing hate speech laws may even help spread hateful ideas—in Weimar Germany, notes Strossen, prosecuting Nazis for violating anti-hate-speech laws gave them notoriety and an air of martyrdom. The problem is that Strossen only addresses hate speech legislation. While that narrow focus is appropriate to her expertise and keeps HATE: Why We Should Resist it with Free Speech, Not Censorship at a lean 186 pages, it leaves quite a bit to the side. For instance, Strossen barely touches on free speech as it relates to social media, even though that is a major point of contention in the cultural debate." (Source: Convincing Despite Its Flaws: A Review of Nadine Strossen’s HATE: Why We Should Resist It with Free Speech, Not Censorship, Alex Falck, The Office for Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association)

The KKK is unarguably a hate group, but the same moniker has been levelled against Black Lives Matter
The KKK is unarguably a hate group, but the same moniker has been levelled against Black Lives Matter

The review by Falck is fair but insufficient. "Strossen only addresses hate speech legislation" is true but is used as a deficit pronouncement. Strossen sets out to sum up current hate speech legislation and her book does a fine job as Strossen is an expert. Falck concedes Strossen's narrow focus is appropriate to her expertise, but finds that to be a defect. Strossen does us the favor of communicating only about the area few people on earth know well beside herself, so we know we are getting top notch knowledge. She doesn't stray into areas she has mere ideas about—which millions of online bloggers and writers do daily. Unlike Falck, we find Strossen's restraint wise. After all, there are plenty of authors dealing with other aspects of the hate speech issue.

For example, The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure is a marvelous book dealing with the safetyism aspect of free speech, hate speech, and censorship.

College students are increasingly demanding protection from words and ideas they don’t like, wrongly believing that they are so fragile that hearing the wrong words or concepts will shatter them
College students are increasingly demanding protection from words and ideas they don’t like, wrongly believing that they are so fragile that hearing the wrong words or concepts will shatter them

The Coddling of the American Mind deserves to be the go-to book for all safetyism and speech-related issues, because their insight about safetyism's major cognitive distortions is so profound, helpful, and insightful it should be the basis of the book's being awarded a Nobel Prize in Literature. See Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy for actual help in dealing with cognitive distortions. College students believing words will "shatter" then need to get this book quickly—it has some very good news for them.

See also Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment and Multiculturalism and the Politics of Guilt: Toward a Secular Theocracy for wisdom on the political correctness aspect of free speech, hate speech, and censorship.

Objectionable words and ideas, as defined by self-appointed guardians on university campuses, are often treated like violence from sticks and stones. Many students cringe at robust debate; maintaining their ideas of good and evil requires no less than the silencing of disagreeable speakers
Objectionable words and ideas, as defined by self-appointed guardians on university campuses, are often treated like violence from sticks and stones. Many students cringe at robust debate; maintaining their ideas of good and evil requires no less than the silencing of disagreeable speakers


The Unexpected Results of "Jail the People Who Used Speech That Made Others Uncomfortable" Laws

Below are some of the predictable results of 'jail the people who used speech that made others uncomfortable' laws, so as you can imagine, such 'hate speech' laws are not just tragically stupid, naive, and misguided, they burn our Constitution
Below are some of the predictable results of 'jail the people who used speech that made others uncomfortable' laws, so as you can imagine, such 'hate speech' laws are not just tragically stupid, naive, and misguided, they burn our Constitution

HATE: Why We Should Resist it with Free Speech, Not Censorship serves as an excellent reminder of why we need the First Amendment and why we need to continue to defend it. If the leftist radicals had their way and people who used speech that made others uncomfortable were subject to harsh penalties and/or prison, the result would be surprising to the left, since punishment laws must apply to the Left as well as the Right. Here are some of the predictable results of such "jail the people who used speech that made others uncomfortable" laws, so as you can imagine, such laws are not just tragically stupid, naive, and misguided, they burn our Constiution:

Hillary in jail
Hillary in jail


Trump in jail
Trump in jail


Dubya and Obozo in jail
Dubya and Obozo in jail

Get the idea? And guess who else would have been rotting in jail if we had passed "jail the people who used speech that made others uncomfortable" laws when we were merely 13 colonies? Washington, Madison, and Jefferson.

Washington in jail
Washington in jail


Madison in jail
Madison in jail


Jefferson in jail
Jefferson in jail

So if the leftist radicals had their way and people who used speech that made others uncomfortable were subject to harsh penalties and/or prison, the result would be even more surprising to the Left, since if the Founders had been allowed to rot in prison for using speech that made others uncomfortable, there would be no Constitution and no United States of America! Instead, we'd all be under the British Empire's flag with a decendent of King George running the show!

Jailed Founders would mean no United States of America!
Jailed Founders would mean no United States of America!


Flag of the United Kingdom
Flag of the United Kingdom


Allan Ramsay - King George III in coronation robes - Google Art Project
King George III would have a decendant in 2019

Educational Strategies Are More Promising Than Censorship for Altering Hateful Views

As Strossen tells us, "Someone who negligently conveys stereotyped views is likely to respond more positively to constructive educational outreach than to accusations of and punishment for 'hate speech.' Indeed, . . . even for people who consciously harbor and express hateful views, educational strategies are more promising than censorship for altering such views and curbing their influence."

If Trump had his way, we'd all be bowing to King Trump, because he finds democracy a pain in the butt but is quite impressed by authoritarian strongmen like Putin and demagogues in general and even just Fox News conspiracy theorist celebrities like Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson. Trump has excelled at hate speech against women, Muslims, and illegal aliens in general. But he has failed to be a man who listens to others, learns new things, reads books, or even eats a decent diet. So he seems to be the exception to having the potential to respond more positively to constructive educational outreach than to accusations of and punishment for 'hate speech.' Trump neither learns nor avoids hate speech, bigotry, misogyny, and xenophobia.

If Trump had his way, we'd all be bowing to King Trump
If Trump had his way, we'd all be bowing to King Trump


Trump making his nightly call to Sean Hannity
Trump making his nightly call to Sean Hannity

Predictably, hate speech laws will be used to silence dissent, unpopular ideas, disempowered groups and controversial speakers. So such laws should not be given the power to do any of these things. Instead, they should censor terrorism promotion, violence inciting, and actually harmful speech. The author provides numerous examples of hate speech suppression gone awry.

Hate speech laws should not be given the power to do any freedom smothering things; instead, they should censor terrorism promotion, violence inciting, and actually harmful speech
Hate speech laws should not be given the power to do any freedom smothering things; instead, they should censor terrorism promotion, violence inciting, and actually harmful speech