Christopher Hitchens arguing in favour of free speech (video)

Jul 7, 2018
Going back about 12 years or so, I used to be in favour of limits on speech when it came to things like "hate speech". This was a position I'd held for a long time, but, in hindsight, it's a position I'd never really properly challenged myself on. The catalyst for me starting to change my mind was a discussion I took part in on a forum, where someone from the religious right in America (I'm a Labour voter from the UK) asked me who I would put in charge of deciding what I was allowed to read or watch; which politician I would trust to decide that for me. Even though I'd considered that before, the way this particular person phrased it clearly had an effect on me, as I pretty quickly changed my mind, and with it, my stance, and I doubt I will ever change it again.

Anyway, I think this is one of the best arguments I've seen in favour of free speech: -

I live in a country where free speech rights are not enshrined in a constitution or bill or rights, and where people are routinely arrested, investigated, charged, and sometimes imprisoned or fined for things they've said, even if they are not calls for violence that are likely to lead to imminent lawlessness. In fact, some of the police forces in England are specifically calling for people to report "non-crime hate incidents", for example: -

I'm not posting this as a "preaching to the choir" kind of thing, but I wonder what people who are in favour of "hate speech" laws or other laws restricting speech make of Hitchens's argument, and whether they have any decent rebuttals to it.
Dec 3, 2013
Dived into the video and got just a bit past halfway where he posed that question to the audience of, "Who would decide for you on what you can/can't read or say/or can't say, can you name anyone?" (paraphrasing), and that is honestly a really good question for individuals to absorb. I would hope it helps break down that cognitive dissonance that were conditioned/programmed into us. Nobody in the audience could raise their hand.

It is kind of scary when you really think about it. How it is accepted, yet not a single person is confident in naming who will ever decide that.
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Mar 6, 2018
I've asked people who support hate speech laws to define hate speech a few times now, and so far no one has taken me up on the offer. This was my argument, and I'd be happy to hear anyone who cares to respond:

If you feel hate speech should be illegal, I'd like to ask you to define hate speech.

Donald Trump: "When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. They're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime, they're rapists, and some I suppose are good people."
First, decide if that quote is either racist or hate speech. If it isn't, what would need to change about the wording to make it hate speech? If it is hate speech, what would need to change about the wording to make it not hate speech?

Is it hate speech because it speaks negatively of a minority group? Is it hate speech because of the word choice? Is it hate speech because of a poor use of indefinite or definite modifiers?

If what Trump said was hate speech, what about what the huffington post said?

According to a stunning Fusion investigation, 80 percent of women and girls crossing into the U.S. by way of Mexico are raped during their journey. That’s up from a previous estimate of 60 percent, according to an Amnesty International report.

Rape can be perpetrated by anyone along the way, including guides, fellow migrants, bandits or government officials, according to Fusion. Sometimes sex is used as a form of payment, when women and girls don’t have money to pay bribes.
Is that hate speech? If not, what is the smallest change that could be made in tone that would make it hate speech?

Is it possible that part of this is deciding something is hate speech because of who said it? Ever watch those you tube videos where they attribute Obama campaign promises or speech excerpts to Trump, and speak to liberal voters who are outraged by the hatred and horrible polices? And that definitely can go the other way as well. Tell Trump voters about Obama polices and some cherry-picked quotes, while attributing them to Trump, and I'm sure they'd be super supportive of our former president. It's very easy to demonstrate people accept things from a member of their in-group, that they would be repulsed by from a member of an out-group.

Because of this, I feel objectively defining hate speech is an impossible task. If you feel otherwise, I'd be interested to hear your responses to the underlined questions above.

And just to clarify, I do disagree with what Trump said and how he said it. People shouldn't be generalized.
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