Hate Speech, Sex Speech, Free Speech

Hate Speech, Sex Speech, Free Speech

Hate Speech, Sex Speech, Free Speech

Hate Speech, Sex Speech, Free Speech

Synopsis

A powerful indictment of contemporary attacks on free speech, this book argues for a vigorous First Amendment jurisprudence protecting even offensive types of speech. In recent years, political activists, academics, and legal specialists have attacked traditional notions of free speech protection as they concern hate speech, obscenity, and pornography. They have called for changes in Supreme Court doctrine in defining the First Amendment and have argued that the traditional view of free speech actually creates and perpetuates a society in which the weak--women, minorities, the poor--have no voice. While recognizing their fears, Nicholas Wolfson argues that it is impossible to separate "bad" speech from "good" speech without fatally compromising the uniquely American concept of free speech, and that efforts to modify our concept of free speech for a greater egalitarian good can only result in undue state influence over private speech. In a keenly argued analysis, he finds that, in the end, the preservation of free and vigorous speech requires a strong First Amendment protection for even the most hateful of speech.

Excerpt

The traditional, liberal, civil rights position on free speech issues is under powerful assault in the academy. Old allies in the liberal alliance have parted company. Feminist and African-American intellectuals, as well as many white male scholars, now question the old notion that strong free-speech protection is not only defensible but offers the best route to a just society. Rather, the new critics of the old liberal verities argue on a number of fronts that the strong version of free speech disenfranchises blacks, women, gays, and lesbians.

Two kinds of speech are singled out. First, there is hate speech. It is difficult to define this category precisely, but it generally includes offensive speech directed at minorities. in its most vulgar form, it includes the racial and sexist epithet, such as "kike" and "fag." At a more subtle level, or so it is argued, it includes books, cinema, and television images that demean a minority. For example, many African-Americans view the American classic The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as an example of hate speech. (Some Jews view portions of the New Testament as hate speech directed at Jews, the alleged killers of God; although no one argues for its censorship, many call for clarification.)

Hate speech is criticized as lacking any of the elements that . . .

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