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These blasphemy laws are spreading because they're popular. In democracies, majority rules. And when the majority doesn't like what the minority has to say, they can use the government to force their way.

It's truly amazing how much the US bill of rights still helps protect individual rights, even in 2017. Truly prescient writing which has impacted both law and culture.

It is disconcerting to me how the cultural element of free speech seems to be missing from the UC Berkeley and similar college populations. I hope that the anti-speech movements we've seen at some liberal colleges is just a sign of students coming of age, and not their general attitude toward unpopular speech.

They can work in reverse too, when the majority is compelled to silence over a few sacred cows.

It's been said that man has a natural desire for freedom, but it certainly isn't the natural state of existence. Despite many warranted criticisms against my country, I'm very grateful to be American.

Nasim taleb wrote a great article in that: https://medium.com/incerto/the-most-intolerant-wins-the-dict...

Yeah the recent anti free speech movement and fall of free speech in Europe has given me a much greater appreciation for America than I used to have.

What fall of free speech in Europe?

By aggregate score about every EU country ranks ahead of the US in the Freedom House Freedom index:


The US comes in at 48th. That's not because it's score is particularly bad, it's because freedom is highly valued and strongly protected in many countries.

The only countries with a perfect score are Finland, Norway and Sweden.

And in the latest press freedom index ranking, 8 out of 10 countries are in Europe. The U.S. is #43. https://rsf.org/en/ranking

Online sources suggest that Finland, Norway, and Sweden all have strong blasphemy and/or hate speech laws (the subject of TFA, you may note). While Norway seems to not enforce their laws, Sweden and especially Finland do.

Not sure about this law but in my experience at least, in Sweden (where I live), talking critical about religion in public conversations is way more the rule than (in my experience) elsewhere (I can compare with Germany and the U.S.). Most Swedes are either not practicing religion or are atheists.

Actual hate speech laws, laws against holocaust denial, getting arrested for saying offensive things on twitter, that kind of thing.

How has free speech in Europe fallen exactly? Things like college non-platforming are happening in the U.S too. It's true that there are some laws regarding things like Nazi propaganda, but there's still very much free speech in most European countries.

No-platform is a policy within certain organizations of refusing to provide a platform to, or share a platform with certain other individuals and groups. It only becomes a freedom of speech issue if the organization adopting the policy is a government or holds a monopoly on a certain kind of platform.

Lobbying universities to not invite, or to rescind invitations from certain people is a bit different. Universities aren't obligated to provide a platform to everyone who might want one. They're educational institutions and probably shouldn't invite speakers whom a majority of their students find offensive unless there's substantial educational value in doing so.

In France an atheist activist has been recently condemned to 3 months of prison for saying 'Islam Kills' in public. And that's just one of the most recent cases.

As always, single cases really don't say anything about how widespread a phenomenon is statistically, and they don't allow for comparisons with other countries.

Conceptually such a thing isn't possible in the US (currently). You would never even be arrested for saying that, let alone sentenced to jail. So the existence of even a single incident in other countries does say something, I would argue. Look at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snyder_v._Phelps - they went to the funeral of a soldier who was killed in Iraq, whose father happened to be gay, and held up "GOD HATES FAGS" signs and proclaimed to the world, at his son's funeral, that he had been killed because the father is gay. Pretty much the most offensive thing imaginable and the supreme court sided with them 8-1 that they couldn't even be sued for intentional infliction of emotional distress.

>As always, single cases really don't say anything about how widespread a phenomenon is statistically,

For every guy you put in prison, a hundred will self-censor.

Yeah it's gross here too but at least all the "hate speech isn't free speech" signs here are wrong from a legal perspective. I also also don't like the nazi exception.

In democracies, majority rules.

One reason why, until fairly recently, western Democracies were usually called Liberal Democracies. It's more than just voting for leaders or public policy, it's voting for public policy in the context of a FREE society where the free exchange of ideas in pursuit of truth is protected for everyone.

Basically all colleges and populations in the US have a strong subset of anti-free speech feeling, with an equal amount between conservatives and liberals on campus: https://kf-site-production.s3.amazonaws.com/publications/pdf...

Some questions the poll asked and the responses Do you think colleges should or should not be able to establish policies that restrict each of the following types of speech or expression on campus? How about ... ? Expressing political views that are upsetting or offensive to certain groups

Results: % Should be able to restrict: Democrats: 26% Independents: 27% Republicans 25%

% Should not be able to: Democrats: 72% Independents: 73% Republicans 75%

If you had to choose, do you think it is more important for colleges to [ create a positive learning environment for all students by prohibiting certain speech or expression of viewpoints that are offensive or biased against certain groups of people, (or to) create an open learning environment where students are exposed to all types of speech and viewpoints, even if it means allowing speech that is offensive or biased against certain groups of people]?

Results: % Open environment/Allow offensive speech: Democrats: 66% Independents: 70% Republicans 66%

% Positive environment/Prohibit certain speech: Democrats: 30% Independents: 24% Republicans 29%

As you may know, student protesters on some campuses attempted to prevent members of the media from reporting on their protest. Do you think students should or should not be able to prevent reporters from covering protests held on college campuses?

Results: % Yes, should: Democrats: 29% Independents: 29% Republicans 25%

% No, should not: Democrats: 69% Independents: 70% Republicans 74%

Vast majority? Does 1/4 not freak you out? Especially for: Expressing political views that are upsetting or offensive to certain groups Results: % Should be able to restrict: Democrats: 26% Independents: 27% Republicans 25%

That is actually terrifying, since if this rule ever got passed, the US would essentially become a one party state.

It is already a one party state, effectively: the party being the wealthy and connected. "R vs. D" is a distraction.

Which one party? I don't mean that factiously. The fact that the percentage is so similar tells me it's more a human effect than a particular belief system effect, and so the mechanisms that worked in the past to fight it will continue to do so. We still have to do the fighting, but singling out Berkeley is pointless and obscures the issue.

It's frankly just because these kids typically just came from 12 years of schooling where free, open speech is not allowed nor encouraged hardly at all.

Say something smart ass in class, get suspended. The message is pretty clear, get in line or get out. They imprint on that mentality and carry it with them indefinitely. It's a genuine issue I think.

People, in general, don't like to hear/see things that challenge their world view. A good example of this is the LGBT movement. It's opposition is a bunch of, to us, very weird arguments about family but the reality is that some traditional people don't like seeing unusual couples in public (this happened before with inter-racial relationships). On the other hand, the people on college campuses who are inside a decidedly liberal bubble, don't want to see Milo wander by and spew his nonsense, disregarding the fact that it does no harm to them for him to just babble at people.

That's not really a fair characterization, I think. For one thing, I've been lukewarm at best on the "LGBT movement", as you have it, for most of my life - and I really don't think that's because I "don't like seeing unusual couples in public", being as I'm gay myself and have been party to a few "unusual couples" in my own right. None of the conversations I've had, with others who weren't unalloyed supporters of the movement or indeed supporters at all, suggest that their own concerns were so shallowly founded, either.

I don't doubt that there are people who just don't like to see two men, or two women, holding hands. But I find no reason, of my own experience, to suspect they are any less outliers in that regard than some might imagine I myself must be.

What are your reasons for being lukewarm about the movement?

On second thought, you might want to keep those to yourself. I'm not sure how much "non-politically correct" talk is actually allowed here but I know it isn't much.

Political correctness is largely about not being bigoted. It's not strictly un-politically-correct to disagree with something that's a hot topic if your concerns are reasonable and presented politely.

I know I'm generalizing to make a point about ones views and comfort, but I'm curious what you would say your concerns are?

I should mention that by saying "LGBT movement" I'm referring to the overarching acceptance, not a specific or group of specific organizations. I know that these groups have their own issues, as is only human.

I think you are kidding yourself if you think that giving a platform to an opposing point of view can do no harm.

That belief isn't grounded in reality. Now, perhaps you'd like to give them a platform so you can openly disagree and create a dialog. That's a noble pursuit, but it is no guarantee that your side will not lose something in the exchange.

Unfortunately there isn't a balance of power at universities that keeps each side from censoring the other. While conservatives might be as likely to want to censor offending views, they're powerless to censor, and indeed very limited in their ability to protect their own free speech (yes, in theory anyone can file a lawsuit, but it's expensive and time consuming and it could even make you a target for harassment).

Fortunately there are organizations like FIRE and Heterodox Academy which fight for free speech and viewpoint tolerance.

There's a big difference between being anti-free speech and just not wanting someone to speak on your campus.

not really. especially when it's not your campus, and it's just a publicly funded school that you attend, and you express your dislike with violence.

Obviously this is political and so shouldn't be hitting HN, but I'll swing at this pitch. "Violence" is always somehow brought into the mix by conservatives. The whole Berkeley-is-against-free-speech talking point falls apart when you see how quick conservative America was drop Milo like a hot potato once he said something that crossed their lines. Ann Coulter is the same way, and the sheer craziness of saying a woman on the New York Times best seller list, on talk shows everyday, somehow is having her right to free speech stopped by not being able to give a lecture on campus at the most crazy liberal college in the nation.

You believe in free speech, so long as it's your free speech and don't pretend otherwise. I'm not out protesting at Fox news for giving Coulter a talk show, but we've seen how far conservative belief in free speech goes for Colbert this week.

Moderate here. I'm confused about how conservatives are the ones "bringing violence into the mix", given how keen Progressives are of the template, "[your speech] is LITERALLY VIOLENCE!".

Further, I hope you can understand the difference between supporting Milo's right to free speech and supporting the content of Milo's speech.

> Ann Coulter is the same way, and the sheer craziness of saying a woman on the New York Times best seller list, on talk shows everyday, somehow is having her right to free speech stopped by not being able to give a lecture on campus at the most crazy liberal college in the nation.

I don't know anything about this, but based on your description, I'm inclined to agree with Ann Coulter. I can imagine the tantrum that social progressives would throw if the political roles were reversed (though I don't think conservatives would be unwavering in their support for free speech in such a reversal).

> You believe in free speech, so long as it's your free speech and don't pretend otherwise.

This is probably true of most people. 5 years ago, liberals were championing free speech, throwing blasphemy days with the deliberate purpose of provoking religious groups just so they could flex their free speech muscles. The important thing, I think, is that the balance of power is relatively preserved, so each group has a fighting chance at its own free speech.

>"Violence" is always somehow brought into the mix by conservatives.

It ain't conservatives rioting or assaulting professors.

>Ann Coulter is ... somehow is having her right to free speech stopped by not being able to give a lecture on campus at the most crazy liberal college in the nation.

Your right to speak at a publicly funded institution is not limited by your ability to speak elsewhere.

>we've seen how far conservative belief in free speech goes for Colbert this week.

Was there anybody saying he didn't have a right to say what he did? I'm pretty sure most people were criticizing what he said, not rioting about it or saying he didn't have a right to say it.

Coulter routinely says atrocious things in order to gain attention. I think it's stupid of campus Republicans to invite her to speak. But once that invitation is given, she has every right to speak and they have every right to listen. And the campus left, for their part, has every right to protest. But not to shut the event down, not to riot, and not to assault professors.

So, here's the deal about Colbert.

The left-wing has been attacking the employment and incomes of ideological opponents with impunity for several years now. Sometimes, often even, it's just a hapless nobody and done to make an example out of the target. The left has consistently ignored anyone trying to point this out, and indeed will usually turn on that person and make them the next target.

So, conservatives, young ones mostly, decided to start fighting fire with fire and using their own unorthodox and questionably virtuous tactics to attack their political opponents. It's important to realize, though, that the aims are different. The left has been collecting scalps to intimidate and control. The right is using those same tactics to create chaos and disorder in enemy ranks. It's unlikely that anyone really expects CBS to terminate their contract with Colbert, although I'm sure if that happened they'd find it hilarious and satisfying. But so long as the left-wing media is occupied defending their own (Colbert, in this case) then they'll have less time and energy to spend making life miserable for conservatives. Plus they'll have to make arguments against the very tactics they've been using.

I'm not happy with this particular turn of events. But the media had 8 years of a popular liberal-progressive president to practice tolerance, encourage a diversity of viewpoints, and defend freedom of speech for anyone other than themselves. To take the moral high ground and restore trust across political lines that has been slowly eroding for the last couple of decades. They did not, in fact did the opposite, and so I can't find it in me to condemn the conservatives for something like #FireColbert.

They just convicted a protester from Session's hearing. They just arrested a member of the press because they asked the wrong question of Tom Price.

But one conservative couldn't give a lecture at Berkley and suddenly the same people are concerned about free speech.

Do real people not exist who find both of those illiberal?

It's not us vs them; any attack on free speech is wrong.

> They just convicted a protester from Session's hearing.

"She did not get convicted for laughing. It was her actions as she was being asked to leave," the jury foreperson told the Huffington Post. "Ms. Fairooz's comments as she was being escorted out caused the session to stop. It disrupted the session." [1].

> They just arrested a member of the press because they asked the wrong question of Tom Price.

"Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Trump, was with Mr. Price, and at one point in the recording, a man’s voice is heard saying: “Do not get close to her. Back up.”

"...a criminal complaint said he “tried aggressively to breach the security of the Secret Service” and was “causing a disturbance by yelling questions.”" [2]

1. http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/no-a-woman-wasnt-convicted...

2. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/10/business/media/reporter-a...

Oh no, a disruption? That is absolutely grounds for arrest.

She laughed. Big fucking deal. She could have said "suck a cock you suit wearing cunts." for all I care. That is not grounds for arrest- this isn't 1927. Besides, the hearing was probably hilarious.

Don't get me started on the reporter. A disturbance by yelling questions lol. What the fuck do you think reporters do? Politely whisper questions?

She was convicted by a jury, who presumably heard testimony from multiple witnesses.

Were you there? Do you know what really happened? Do you know how to extract facts from narratives in a news article? Do you even read the news article or just the headline?

Facts with references and citations have no place in this thread. Downvote.

HN political discussion in a nutshell.

> "Violence" is always somehow brought into the mix by conservatives.

Antifa and other leftist extremist groups have attacked people a lot lately...

> ...when you see how quick conservative America was drop Milo like a hot potato once he said something that crossed their lines.

"Conservative America" doesn't care about Milo, and most didn't know who he even was before the election and the left attempting to hold him up as some straw man of right wing thought. Pre-election the only thing people knew that guy for was GamerGate, he's never been taken seriously by the right.

Only one of the replies I'm going to reply to, but wow. Just wow. Making Milo an unperson.

Do you actually know conservatives that you associate frequently with in real life? I really doubt they've ever been interested in what Milo has to say.

Conservatives aren't the one attacking people.

If liberals are upset that we keep bring up the violence, then they should stop assaulting people AND stop defending the violent crazies who do so.

Go read the Berkeley student newspaper online and see what these people ACTUALLY believe. You should be absolutely horrified by how many student writers are defending violence.

Conservatives "dropped" Milo by disinviting him from speaking at private events.

That is absolutely not the same as assaulting people who show up to an event.

If the Berkeley Republicans club wanted to disinvite Milo, they are free to do so.

But Milo, and anyone else, can also just show up at a public park near Berkley, and nobody should be able to stop them.

> "Violence" is always somehow brought into the mix by conservatives.

The problem is that I am not a conservative. I've marched against the Iraq War at Berkeley. I believe in all free speech. It's not a partisan issue that you can shove off on me being some hypocritical conservative just because 'your side' is being forced to confront its own hypocrisy. This sort of intolerance that we're seeing at Berkeley today is not liberalism. It's a new and dangerous brand of fascism.

>Violence" is always somehow brought into the mix by conservatives

It is your contention that the violence at Berkeley was committed by Milo supporters? Do you have evidence for this claim?

Violence" is always somehow brought into the mix by conservatives.

Antifa's aggression is the fault of conservatives? Sounds like victim-blaming to me.

Ann Coulter is the same way, and the sheer craziness of saying a woman on the New York Times best seller list, on talk shows everyday, somehow is having her right to free speech stopped by not being able to give a lecture on campus at the most crazy liberal college in the nation.

The issue isn't Ann Coulter and her right to speak at Berkley. The issue is what it says about Berkeley and leftists in general: Namely, that they have no interest whatsoever in listening to or engaging with ideological opponents, and would rather just shut them up.

If this was an isolated incident, people would not care so much. But it's not.


>The whole Berkeley-is-against-free-speech talking point falls apart when you see how quick conservative America was drop Milo like a hot potato once he said something that crossed their lines.

He made statements endorsing child molestation - are you honestly going to blame us for not being okay with that?

Free speech includes the freedom to take the consequences. Milo said something that crossed CPAC's line. In consequence, they dropped him. Fair enough. I don't like it, but I'm not about to argue there's anything wrong with it.

Endangering someone's physical safety, in order to prevent him from coming to your town to say things with which you disagree, is a whole 'nother thing entirely.

> it's just a publicly funded school that you attend, and you express your dislike with violence

You've got an inaccurate picture of what the average (or even the exceptional) UC Berkeley student is like. When you see a nut standing on something that's on fire wearing a bandana on TV, you probably should just go ahead and assume that's not somebody between classes. Sometimes it is, but that is an open campus right in the middle of Berkeley, right next to Oakland...

you're right that the 95th percentile Berkeley student is likely nonviolent. but my characterization of the student body as a group of entitled people who think that being given the opportunity to consume education at Berkeley somehow endows them with ownership of it is a belief that permeates that whole place.

And there's an even bigger difference between 'just not wanting someone to speak on your campus' and physically obstructing the ability of someone to speak on your campus.

The rise of the latter is why this matters.

There's a distinction between the everyday students, who might not want Coulter on their campus (who would?) but aren't going to do anything about it, and the violent anarchists who come in to cause trouble.

The latter group very much wants Coulter to be there.

If Berkeley police weren't told to stand down some of the violent anarchists would have been arrested and this distinction would have been proven.

It's a big campus. Just because you don't want someone to speak doesn't mean someone else shouldn't (thru threat of violence) exercise their "speech & association" right to invite the speaker & listen.

The funniest part is that Coulter was invited by a group that disagrees with her views.

The UC College Republicans?

"Young America’s Foundation is committed to ensuring that increasing numbers of young Americans understand and are inspired by the ideas of individual freedom, a strong national defense, free enterprise, and traditional values."

Doesn't mean they like Coulter but at least they're not far off.

There's a big difference between being anti-free speech and just not wanting someone to speak on your campus

Technically true. But it's not hard to see that the motivations of the people hostile to these speakers are completely antithetical to free speech. Whether they are conscious of this or not is less clear. In most cases, I suspect it's more a case that their ideology has so dominated their thinking that free speech just isn't something they think about. I will note that I have seen slogans that directly attack free speech, however ("No Free speech for hate speech" or something like that)

ah, the 'in theory'/'in practice' distinction

There's a big difference between just not wanting and threatening violence against.

This is why I correct people to "liberal democracy" when they describe our system of government as "democracy". Better yet, a "liberal, constitutional democratic republic". </pendantry>

Edit: "Liberal" in the "classic liberal" sense. (i.e. the protection of individual liberty)

If we're going to be pedantic, that's not a correction, it's just greater specificity.

The genre of "actually the USA isn't a democracy it's an X" (where X is a subset of democracies) arguments is oddly persistent. I call it the "it's not a fruit it's a banana" argument.

You're right. "Correct" is the wrong word. It just seems best to be as specific as possible in political conversations.

The point I wanted to stress was the "liberal" piece—the constitutional protection against mob rule.

Indeed. The second part of my comment was aimed more at api's comment below.

Protesting hate speech is free speech. You are deliberately conflating protest of free speech with government sanctioned punishment of free speech.

In all honesty I'm don't agree with the violent protests against Ann Coulter and Milo out at Berkeley. But what you are talking about is not blasphemy.

You are wrong: this is the Government-sanctioned prevention of Free Speech.

The problem is not that there were protesters. The problem was the the Government (which the University is an arm of) allowed a mob to shut down speech, thereby making the Government complicit in the censorship, which is a blatant violation of the First Amendment.

Specifically, the errors made by the University include (1) failing to provide adequate security, thereby permitting fascists to shutdown speech and (2) attempting to require provocative speakers to move their speech to a time when students would be less available to actually listen.

A single unexpected incident is not a problem: stuff happens that you don't plan for. The problem came when they failed to accommodate later speakers.

The blasphemy cited in the article specifically focuses on the government prosecuting and imprisoning those who said the wrong thing. Protesting a speech by someone IS NOT EQUAL to the government imprisoning someone.

A better example of infringement of Freedom of Speech is arresting a reporter that asked a question of the Health and Human Services Secretary. Or prosecuting and convicting someone during Sessions confirmation hearing for laughing out loud.

Just because Ann Coulter couldnt give a speech doesnt mean jack. Isn't it interesting how concerned some people are when one person, who is on the radio and tv and has books published, had trouble giving a speech in Berkeley. However when other people who don't agree with you are actually arrested by the government suddenly free speech doesn't seem so important.

You are assuming a lot of things about me that are simply not based in reality and not based in my comments.

Don't do that. Be better.

Maybe we need to talk about consent here. Should speech where one party doesn't consent to having a conversation at all really be protected? How about disrupting speech between other people who mutually consent to it?

No, we don't need to talk about consent. If both parties had to consent to a conversation, the civil rights movement would have never happened.

I don't know about that. Protests often do involve illegal activity. You have heard of civil disobedience?

No, I've never heard of civil disobedience. Fantastic question.

Sure seems to me like people would have been able to say, "I don't consent to listening to these people ask for equal representation, an aggressive violation of my rights." And then the whole movement gets stopped in its tracks when it ceases to be protected speech.

> In democracies, majority rules. And when the majority doesn't like what the minority has to say, they can use the government to force their way.

It's majority rules, but I don't think you have the right interpretation of why the majority would rule this way.

The majority just wants everyone to be calm and cool, and for religion to be personal, and for ideas to stay just ideas. In the great wide world there are many ideas, and the more diversity of ideas there are, the more diversity of people there are, the more the conflict of ideas becomes a problem. Unless ideas are just toys, then everyone can play with their toys in peace.

And why do most people want ideas to stay ideas? Because we have a real world to worry about! We all got shit to do. We all have expectations of how the world works, the world in which we have to do our shit. Unless our heads are full of ideas and fantasies, we'd rather a stable world order to operate in. So you get a law like this: if you don't have anything nice to say then don't say anything at all.

> if you don't have anything nice to say then don't say anything at all.

While I agree with that statement in general, I don't agree with making laws to use that to infringe on free speech. We've never made a law to prevent assholes from being assholes. I prefer them being exposed anyway. It makes it easier to hire or to decide who to be friends with when they are allowed by society to do as they wish with their free speech.

Apart from that - who decides what's nice? Many things are subjective when it comes to nice. As an example - Is it nice to say that our society is obese and needs to take more accountability? That most people can prevent diabetes? To most people, no that's not a nice thing to say. I wouldn't label it as a malicious thing to say though. It's accurate.

Some discussions aren't going to be nice. You can't talk about anything of substance as a society without some groups getting upset. We should aim for pragmatic discussions though.

Ian! You have too many great libraries to count.

Is the majority really like that? Definitely not in Muslim lands (look at surveys for % who support Sharia law), and when you look at Prop 8 California, maybe not in liberal democracies either.

Not to opine on human nature too much, but people (perhaps not as individuals but as society) generally seem to accept whatever they can get and if that means someone else is disadvantaged, too bad.

It's that whole Madisonian "if people were angels" thing.

Sure. The problem is that many people is not aware that $democracy != $(tyranny of the majority). E.g. people asking for "voting" in order to crush minorities, e.g. "we want to vote", so we can impose you a freak technocracy or ethnocracy (e.g. in the EU we have lots of micro-nationalisms willing to impose their totalitarian ethnocracy, travestying it as "democracy", with excuses based on "tradition", "language", or even genetic supremacist arguments -"we don't have the same DNA as our neighbors, so we deserve being an independent region", yes, that crazy-).

Religion fanaticism, romantic nationalism, and other anti-democratic trends are going to put us again on war.

Edit: s/etnocracy/ethnocracy/g

What about democracy suggests that tyranny of the majority is not a very probable failure mode? It's like a fission reactor with a positive void coefficient - the problem is not that it can't be run safely with sufficiently complex controls, but rather what happens when those complex controls themselves fail.

Well, in the EU we have regions ruled by people that explicitly say they'll go against the rule of law (say, and do, with any available law loopholes, wasting citizens money and time). So go figure the "quality" of the democracy in those regions.

> etnocracy

Do you mean "Ethnocracy", a form of government controlled by a particular ethnic group? I would have assumed this was just a typo, but you wrote it this way twice.

Yes, it was a typo (in my mother tongue it lacks the "h"). BTW, for ethnocracy I mean e.g. regions with 55% of people having language A, 35% people having language B, but because being ruled by people having language B (because in some provinces of that region the vote of one citizen is worth up to 3 times than in other more populated provinces) you have mandatory monolingual school and administration in language B (yes, that crazy -if you ask for bilingual/trilingual schools you're told "fascist" or "against the people"-). Go figure. That's the "democracy" we have in some regions in the European Union. That's why I want the EU becomes one unified country, so civil rights get respected, and totalitarian regional governments get forced to respect the rule of law, so citizen's civil rights get respected.

Which country, if you don't mind my asking?

Not a country, but a region inside a country. Enumerating countries members of the UE having "separatist" regions, you'll find at least 3 similar cases.

> It's truly amazing how much the US bill of rights still helps protect individual rights, even in 2017. Truly prescient writing which has impacted both law and culture.

It's kind of weird that people attribute these superpowers to James Madison when the Bill of Rights was mainly originally intended to be ineffectual but mollify states-righters who opposed the Constitution.

Here's Gordon Wood in Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic:

> In the early fall of 1789 the Congress passed the amendments and sent them to the states for ratification. By then many Federalists had come to see that a bill of rights might be a good thing after all. Not only was it the best way of undercutting the strength of Anti-Federalism in the country, but the Bill of Rights that emerged, as Hamilton pointed out, left “the structure of the government and the mass and distribution of its powers where they were.” Anti-Federalists in the Congress began to realize that Madison’s rights-based amendments weakened the desire for a second convention and thus actually worked against their cause of fundamentally altering the Constitution. Madison’s amendments, as opponents of the Constitution angrily came to realize, were “good for nothing” and were “calculated merely to amuse, or rather to deceive.” They affected “personal liberty alone, leaving the great points of the Judiciary & direct taxation &c. to stand as they are.” Before long the Federalists were expressing surprise that the Anti-Federalists had become such vigorous opponents of amendments, since they were originally their idea.

Why smear the whole school with the actions of activists?

Good point, I should have been more careful characterizing to broadly.

Of course, a counter-protest is just a type of speech that should be protected.

It's tough to say what percent of the counter protestors thought that Milo/Coulter/Murray/etc shouldn't have been allowed on campus, and what percent just wanted to voice their displeasure and disagreement. That said, it does seem like a large number of those in the crowd actually didn't want the speakers to voice their opinions at all.

I wasn't aware the school's president was just an activist.

I wasn't aware that the president of the university was elected by the students and faculty to speak on their behalf.

This logic has never been held to consistently.

Why hold gun-owners responsible for a few nutters?

Why hold police responsible for a few bad apples?


Yes, there are more than 1 human and even 1 human would struggle to be logically consistent.

I think your analogies aren't going to work out very well if you try to carefully articulate them though.

I think it's the latter. I remember being super worried about political correctness when I was in college in the 90s. I thought was terrible and anti-free speech.

Considering we just elected the most politically incorrect presidential candidate in modern history my concerns were likely overblown.

I don't think the college stuff is really about free speech. As far as I know Ann Coulter et al. have the right to speak anywhere that will have them. It's just that a pretty sizable and vocal segment of the Berkeley student body won't have them. Institutions get to choose - if they want to be closed minded that's their fate.

A blasphemy law on the other hand, is a qualitatively different thing. Comparing a college that doesn't want a particular speaker on their campus to a government that literally snatches you up and throws you in prison is a pretty far stretch.

There are at least two basic flavors of a republic:

* one that puts emphasis on democracy, * another that puts emphasis on liberalism.

I forgot the exact terms for them, especially the second one. The basic difference is that the first one says any action is valid as long as it was democratically chosen. The second says freedom of one person ends where freedom of the next person starts. Otherwise, anything goes. The second one has high respect for laws, constitution and institutions, in an attempt to assure the system doesn't degenerate. Ancient Athens were an example of the first, Sparta - regarded as the realized utopia by ancient Greeks - example of the latter.

It is perhaps little known that USA's Founding Fathers had more faith in Sparta's system than the Athenian one. Things we (the western civilization, broadly speaking) owe to Sparta are: strong costitution, president (2 kings in Sparta), ministers (ephors), senate (Gerusia; council of elders had the strongest power in Sparta), the lower house ouf the parliament (Apella, gathering of all citizens above the age of 30), although you might argue Apella was closer to common voting.

There's a morbidly fascinating series about Spartans by the History channel. I highly recommend it. They had a really unique political system, resembling BOTH fascism and communism.

But I digress. Democracy, without laws and institutions acting as safeguards, is a cruel system. I remember there were only a couple of years Athenians DIDN'T vote to open a year by starting a war. Without safeguards, if someone is disliked enough, he can be sentenced to death and you don't need a proof. Athenians did that to Socrates, because he was unpleasant to be around due to his biting critique. Athenians also had a system where officials and judges were assigned to their posts literally at random, using a lottery machine with marbles. The same person could be charged in a court and some time later assigned as a judge in his own case. Talk about conflict of interest.

The violent anti-free speech people are not necessarily UC Students. I'd guess they're mostly not. A lot of the action wasn't even on campus.

True, some of them like Eric Clanton are professors from nearby colleges.

I assumed they were assorted anarchists from Oakland.

Exactly how is the culture of free speech missing? Freedom of speech doesn't mean you're guaranteed a venue at which to speak...

Exactly how is the culture of free speech missing? Freedom of speech doesn't mean you're guaranteed a venue at which to speak...

Prevalence of coercive and even violent tactics to shut down speech, using excuses like "Freedom of speech doesn't mean you're guaranteed a venue at which to speak"

Relative paucity of anyone willing to engage with these conservatives honestly in a battle of ideas.

Because people go around saying stuff like "freedom of speech doesn't mean freedom from consequences" and then they smash your head in with a baseball bat as their "consequence".

This is why the US isn't a democracy, and shouldn't be. It's a republic. Democracy is one check in a system of checks and balances.

The USSR was a republic. North Korea is a republic. Cuba is a republic. Russia is a republic.

Australia is not a republic. Canada is not a republic. France is a republic.

A republic is a country that does not have a monarch as a head of state. It has no bearing on how free, or democratic, or representative a country is.

The United States is an (arguably weak) representative democracy, that happens to be a republic.

That isn't at all what the parent comment meant. Significant writings from the American founding fathers of the United States warn about the perils of democracy.

Of course wealthy landed founded fathers were concerned about non-wealthy, non-landed non-persons having political influence. There are a lot more of the latter, and they have little use for the former.

Realizing that the peasantry needed to be kept away from power was not some enlightened revelation. It's the divine right of kings by another name.

Maybe you should read Federalist Paper #10, #14, and some of Jefferson's letters before resorting to snide cynicism.

If we were to take a more charitable interpretation of them then mine, then I would say that the American experiment failed utterly.

"A number of citizens, whether amounting to a minority or majority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community" is a picture-perfect description of the American political landscape, despite all the hubbub about states rights, direct democracy, and how your representatives know best.

Yep. They wanted to keep the lie of democracy alive because it makes the proles feel empowered.

You wouldn't say the Kim dynasty are de facto monarchs? Here's a fuller definition of "republic": a state in which supreme power is held by the people and their elected representatives, and which has an elected or nominated president rather than a monarch.

Who exactly nominated and elected Kim Jong-Un? "Eternal President of the Republic" doesn't sound much like a representative of the people to me. It sounds like an emperor who's dishonest about his role.

> You wouldn't say the Kim dynasty are de facto monarchs?

As in all communist states, Kim Jong-Un was nominated and elected by representatives of the Worker's Party of Korea. Even by Soviet politburo standards, that wasn't a fair election, but formally, the power of the Party Secretary/Grand Poobah/Whatever, is derived from the party.

Unlike most communist states, though, his position is de-facto hereditary. Either way, a strong argument could be made that while the DPRK is a monarchy, the USSR clearly was not one.

I don't know why you are being down voted. It is true that America is a republic and not a pure democracy. A republic doesn't just mean no monarch. A republic is different from a pure democracy because it explicitly protects the rights of minorities through a constitution. That is why the Supreme Court can rule that state laws banning gay marriage are unconstitutional, and therefore cannot exist.

He's being down-voted because he's wrong; the US is a democracy, and a republic, and it has a constitution. Each of these things means something different but they are all true.

> A republic doesn't just mean no monarch.

Yes it does.

> A republic is different from a pure democracy because it explicitly protects the rights of minorities through a constitution.

Not true; a constitutional system does that, but that has nothing to do with being a republic. Many republics have no such protections. You're conflating a constitutional government with a republic. Republic means nothing more than no monarchy. There are lots of republics in the world, they don't all protect minorities through a constitution or even have a constitution because that's not what the word republic means.

"res publica".

A republic is a society in which the interests of the people are represented by elected or appointed officials who do not inherit their positions.

Yes, that's what it means to say "no monarchy". When positions are inherited that's a royal class.

A republic is really whatever someone feels like it means.

Madison really liked the term as a way of distinguishing Roman democracy from Athenian, but there's no hard definition, or in practice there hasn't been.

Ancient Rome, the UK, Venice, North Korea, the US are all "republics".

Free speech has less to do with it being a republic and more to do with it being a constitutional democracy. The constitution itself was an elitist project conceived by a few rich landowners. Luckily the elites in question mostly had an enlightened liberal ideology, with the big exception that "All men are created equal" applied only to white men.

All men are created equal lay the groundwork for what would come later.

The ideology came from not founding a single country but from negotiating the formation of a federal government around multiple independent states with varying populations. This negotiation forced people to think well beyond simply "majority rules".

> It is disconcerting to me how the cultural element of free speech seems to be missing from the UC Berkeley and similar college populations.

The UC Berkeley controversy is a bad example. It is a manufactured controversy with the intent to paint all colleges as being unwelcome to conservative viewpoints. How receptive would Liberty University be to Planned Parenthood giving a speech to the students? It is a false equivalence and it is another example of manufacturing outrage by shining a light on deep cultural differences.

I don't think Liberty University would riot and literally try to kill the people from Planned Parenthood. They might stand outside with signs and protest. What we are seeing in Berkeley is a much bigger issue. They are literally trying to harm and silence anyone who doesn't get in line or speaks out against their agenda.

I feel the same way about hate speech laws.

Edit: I'm glad this is a popular opinion. 31 upvotes within 12 minutes.

While I struggle to empathize with the sorts of folks negatively impacted by hate speech laws, making speech of any sort illegal seems dangerously close to criminalizing certain ideas or thoughts.

While I'm on the side of allowing hate speech this is clearly a discussion of degrees not an absolute choice.

Besides the obvious "fire in a crowded theatre" there a raft of things you may not say:

• you are not permitted to reveal to people material classified in certain ways

• you are not permitted to broadcast copyrighted material

• you may not make death threats against people even if you can prove that you are not a threat to them

• you may not reveal information about certain companies if you are in certain positions

These are speech of 'any' sort and I'm comfortable with the penalties (sometimes criminal) for them. I don't think they're dangerously close to criminalising certain ideas and thoughts. In almost every case you're free to think what you want and imagine what you want.

Any opposition to laws that attempt to abridge hate speech cannot derive from a general opposition to abridging freedom of speech unless one also objects to the restrictions I mentioned earlier.

> fire in a crowded theater - threat against life

> classified material - potential threat against life

> copyrighted material - protected by the constitution elsewhere

> death threats - direct threat against life (ability is irrelevant)

> corporate espionage - generally falls under contract law

Any and all of these may be abused regularly, that doesn't mean that any of them are protected under free speech.

It's the consequences of those that you're liable for.

You have rights; you are responsible for the consequences of exercising them.

The caveat to your argument is that the government cannot be responsible for the consequences by a very liberal reading for free speech.

Not sure of the actual legal structure but in terms of "not broadcasting copy written material" it seems that property rights preeminate free speech.

This was the justification for banning so-called trolls from twitter.

They don't need your empathy. They need their rights respected. Society needs their rights respected.

If you don't like their ideas, it's your duty as a member of a free society to engage with with them in meaningful dialog to show them (and everyone else paying attention) what's wrong with those ideas.

Free speech is the mechanism by which people resolve their disagreements without killing each other - Jordan B. Peterson

>> "I struggle to empathize with the sorts of folks negatively impacted by hate speech laws..."

That's only because your pet ideology (whatever it is, I have no idea who you are or what your politics are) hasn't yet been criminalized as hate speech.

Recall that there's no objective definition of "hate speech," and in practice the definition will always be tuned by the loudest faction as a weapon against its enemies.

Are you saying that places that prohibit "hate speech" have only generic laws or that there isn't one definition that is internationally valid?

Because if it's the first, I suggest you look again, and if it's the later, I don't see how it is relevant.

I mean that there exists no classifier which consumes as input arbitrary speech, and emits as output a foolproof classification of "hate" or "not hate."

Therefore humans are required to emulate that classifier. Perhaps we call them "judges" or "arbitration panels" or whatever, the name doesn't matter.

My point is that politics will guide the emulation of the classifier, such that it emits results favorable to the loud faction and unfavorable to that faction's enemies.

> I mean that there exists no classifier which consumes as input arbitrary speech, and emits as output a foolproof classification of "hate" or "not hate."

So, that's like every other criminal law ever created.

I do agree this is something bad (for Law in general). But it does not lead to your point that the definition will increase unexpectedly in scope.

Exactly! Language is power because it allows communication, and controlling language is effectively controlling communication. Persuasion and enlightenment involves taking on all sorts of, err, troublesome concepts.

Hate speech isn't just ideas or thoughts. It's an incitement to violence, it's horrifically bad for the mental health of people subjected to it, and it acts as a form of discrimination against those people.

I don't like the other responses to your comment.

> It's an incitement to violence

No, it's not. Otherwise, wouldn't that imply we should outlaw being mean altogether? Is being mean always an incitement for violence? Yes/No? I think it's clear, it's not.

> it's horrifically bad for the mental health

Citation needed.

> as a form of discrimination against those people

Again, no. Discrimination requires that it be 'unjust or prejudicial treatment', hate speech does not. Hate speech could be as little as explaining factual reasons you don't like another race.

> Hate speech could be as little as explaining factual reasons you don't like another race.

Part of the problem in this discussion seems to be that people have different definitions of 'hate speech'. That definition could be applicable to their country of origin or personal belief but it's pretty clear that definitions aren't even remotely compatible and it makes any sort of level-headed debate very difficult.

The real problem is that the concept of "hate speech" is nonsensical. It is a term created exactly to polarize debates and prevent rational discourse. Calmly explain that to any one that attempts to use the term - or ask them to clarify exactly what they mean. We must reject politically engineered attempts to ruin the public debate.

You're taking your own definition of 'hate speech' which is irrelevant mostly. The important definition if you have an issue with laws limiting speech (through limits on hate speech) is the definition used by those. In most western democracies speech is only limited to prevent, as the parent said, incitement to violence and even then there should be protections in place to prevent abuse of those laws (and there are).

>> No, it's not. Otherwise, wouldn't that imply we should outlaw being mean altogether?

I don't understand what you're trying to imply here, it doesn't seem to make sense. Being mean could be telling someone they look ugly in those clothes. No incitement to violence. "All minority are evil, kill all *minority" would be an incitement to violence. Pretty clear cut. Being 'mean' has nothing to do with it.

>> Hate speech could be as little as explaining factual reasons you don't like another race.

Citation needed. Where is this law or definition of hate speech?

If someone is yelling "Kill all $racialslur" are they practicing hate speech yet? They are most certainly openly advocating violence against a specific group not just "being mean" Hate speech can indeed be quantified. Though definitions will vary (as with anything.)

Incitement to violence, specifically saying stuff like "kill all X, tomorrow, and at this location" should and IS already illegal.

We don't need hate speech to cover that. That's just called incitement to violence.

Incitement to violence requires intent for the violence to actually occur. I believe this distinction is why you get things like pastors of megachurches who advocate for the idea that all gay people deserve to be killed, but they're not actually intending for any specific act to be carried out and therefore aren't technically inciting violence.

So if a University Professor said, "$race people may need to die to achieve $goal" would that be free speech or hate speech?

The problem is who do you trust enough to endow them with authority to decide whether something is hate or free speech?

I'd probably draw the line at a limit number of items (e.g. 5 or 10 or 100 specifically named items, I believe similar to Germany). If the government decides something new is important enough to be regulated, they must decide whether it's important enough to replace one of the previous items.

We trust the same people we trust with everything else, judges. The legal system is a nuanced mess and the reason we have judges is while some of it is black and white some of it is in a sort of gray area. We would give them guidelines and through an analysis of the language of the law and current precedent they would make a ruling. It's not a perfect system but often it's better to have an imperfect system than none at all.

What you just said hurts my feelings and makes me want to be violent. The greatest freedom is the freedom to be personally responsible. Laws that curtail speech generally are orthogonal to that freedom. Think about it.

Says the person who's probably never been on the receiving end of hate speech.

Direct and credible threats are the only exception to the first amendment's free speech clause that I'm aware of.

So those are already covered.

Actual calls to violence are also covered. So "all liquor stores deserve to be burned!" is protected speech, but "let's go burn that liquor store now!" is not.

Thanks. IANAL, which I probably should've said up top.

How does that argument not also apply to blasphemy laws?

Blasphemy laws regard a victim that is not real.

Blasphemy laws often frame the deed as (a) hurting the feelings of believers and/or (b) causing social unrest and/or (c) disturbing public order.

You certainly can consider a very large set of potential victims - there are a lot of real people who get gravely offended by cases of blasphemy.

Your statement that God isn't real is, in the eyes of such court, saying something clearly untrue that offends others and harms the social order. The existence and reality of God is an undisputed axiom in many legal systems - the court will rule that God is real, the legal acts will explicitly state that God is real, and it might even be enshrined in their constitution as a fact above all law. It's even plausible that the holy text e.g. Quran is the basis of all law there; there may be additional regulations but the core of law comes from God.

There's no "god" in the constitution.

What states like Saudi Arabia or Iran do in their law should simply not be accepted.

Even Turkey was officially secular until at least recently.

Which constitution? There's no "the" constitution, it's just as valid to say that there's no free speech in the constitution because, frankly, having free speech in constitution in just as rare as having god in constitution.

I'd agree that it would be nice that if it was differently, but saying "shouldn't be accepted" is just like wishing for a pony, it has no connection to reality - we simply don't get a say in such matters, and I'd bet dollars to pennies that a magical totally fair democratic vote in those countries would prove that the average voter there definitely supports prohibiting blasphemy and restricting speech to do so.

It's ridiculous to simply unilaterally declare that your moral system is more valid than someone else's, and forcing your constitution on some other place is just as reasonable as someone else wanting to replace your constitution with theirs.

"It's ridiculous to simply unilaterally declare that your moral system is more valid than someone else's".

Well my moral system is that I can do exactly that.

If morality is relative, then your opinion that I shouldn't do this isn't any better than my opinion that I should do this.

So I am just going to go ahead and do that.

What, are you going to call me immoral? YOU are the one who believes in moral relativism.

I agree with that. Once we accept the false premise that "all are the same" we'll let the most intolerant and the most backward win. And accepting the complaints of those "offended" is giving up to the real and destructive backwardness.

Too many people take our current state for granted. It is actually the result of the centuries of the fight against the backwardness (especially religious). If we give up we'll lose what we've already and with a lot of fight achieved.

We have to offend the superstitious and those that want to protect the backwardness, otherwise we're doing it wrong, and we'll lose so much we can't even imagine.

We have what we have today in spite of the religious texts not because of tbem. Otherwise there would still be more burnings at the stake and beheadings. Not to mention the treatment of the women.

We should never forget that, and we should act. It's getting critical again.

That being said, what about North Korea?

If literal concentration camps or starving literal millions of people to death aren't sufficient to bring real action, is it realistic to believe that free speech of all things will be the reason because of which we will start to topple regimes that we consider immoral?

If we can achieve a consensus sufficient for action on regimes who kill and torture people just because, then it might be appropriate to consider stopping (as opposed to just criticizing) regimes that simply repress people not following an arbitrary social code of conduct.

North Korea SHOULD be toppled, in an ideal world.

The problem, though, is that when you go around toppling regimes, millions end up dead, when before only 10s of thousands were being killed by the secret police.

So yes, if I could wave a magic wand and give human rights to the entire North Korean population, with no negative side effects, I'd do it.

But we don't have that magic wand, and we have to balance the good that we'd be doing by fixing North Korea, with the bad that'd be done through the millions that would end up dead.

North Korea offered peace many times. It's the U.S that doesn't want to accept it. See my other post. The U.S. goal simply isn't to reduce the chance of a war and it's even less to improve the state of the people there (or anywhere actually). "Bringing democracy" when the U.S. politicians say it always mean something else as it would be naively expected. Best observed on recent Iraq and Syria examples.

The U.S has a huge history of the direct organization of toppling the regimes only on the principle "they don't do what we want them to do." Therefore, Saudi Arabia, one of the most intolerant places on the Earth "are the friends" and the dictators are somewhere else. And these "friends" thanks to that "friendly" support magnificently exported their mind-boggling intolerance all around the world. And some circles bend over backwards to teach us that "it's good so."

I don't care if NK has offered peace or not. I care that they send their own people to death camps.

If I could topple NK overnight and get rid of the death camps I would do so.

My opinion on Saudi Arabia is the same. That dictatorship should be toppled as well, hopefully by their own population.

North Korea is the biggest straw-man imaginable(1). We should worry what is happening in our own lands. North Koreanism is spreading nowhere, the intolerance "as written" in the "holly" books (yes in all of them believed by the superstitious as such) is, through the world, as we speak.

Historically, most of the thinking world already once managed to see the mentioned books as the stories which aren't to be taken seriously. The superstition is fighting back now thanks significantly to our forgetting what is it actually about. Not caring for the intolerant being "offended" is our moral duty.

1) http://www.reuters.com/article/us-northkorea-nuclear-idUSKCN...

North Korea "has long sought a peace treaty with the United States and other parties in the 1950-53 Korean War, as well as an end to military exercises by South Korea and the United States, which has about 28,500 troops based in South Korea." The U.S. rejects the peace talks every time.

Blasphemy is not hate speech. It doesn't incite to violence, it's not bad for mental health, and it doesn't discriminate. It doesn't actually harm people, it merely offends them.

> It doesn't incite to violence

Charlie Hebdo

> it's not bad for mental health

Causing someone to doubt and/or lose their religion is extremely damaging. It can lead to depression, anxiety, and other mental health crisis.

> it doesn't discriminate

Islam gets a lot more flak, than, say, Buddhists.

> It doesn't actually harm people, it merely offends them.

Speech is a weapon and can be very harmful. That's one of the major reasons totalitarian governments are terrified of free speech. In the West we've largely decided that the benefits of free speech outweigh the costs.

> Charlie Hebdo

That's not even remotely what "incitement to violence" means.

> Causing someone to doubt and/or lose their religion is extremely damaging.

People blaspheming is not generally believed to cause religious adherents to lose faith. And even if it did, losing faith is not generally considered to be harmful either.

> It can lead to depression, anxiety, and other mental health crisis.

Citation please. I've never heard this argument before. And since you brought it up, I could just as easily say that losing religion can help cure mental issues. A classic example would be a gay person who has been brought up to believe that they're going to hell for being gay. Losing religion is probably the best thing that could happen to their mental health.

> Islam gets a lot more flak, than, say, Buddhists.

"it doesn't discriminate" doesn't mean all religions are equally blasphemed, and I can't imagine what sort of confusion would lead you to think that made any sense.

> Speech is a weapon and can be very harmful. That's one of the major reasons totalitarian governments are terrified of free speech.

Wrong type of harm. You're talking about spreading ideas that people don't like. I'm talking about the very words themselves harming the victims.

Hate speech is a broader category than incitement to violence.

It's clear from the responses here and the downvotes that I'm receiving that a lot of you have never actually witnessed real hate speech, never seen what it does to people, never seen people killed by people who were inspired by hate speech.

The right to free speech wasn't intended to protect "love speech". Popular speech doesn't need protecting; unpopular (often rhetorically construed as "hate") speech does.

Hate speech has a pretty strict definition that goes far beyond "unpopular".

> unpopular (often rhetorically construed as "hate") speech does.


Why only protect popular speech? The whole point of "right to free speech" is that one may earnestly believe something that another may earnestly take offense to; the state shouldn't be able to punish someone for saying something another simply doesn't like (say, "abortion is murder" which may understandably offend someone who had an abortion and be construe the comment as "hate speech").

Most of us have never been on the receiving end of mass hatred, though. Those laws came on the heels of WWII which was, to put it mildly, terrible to a certain hated group of people.

The law of the land in the US is that the only speech that can be restricted is speech that poses an "imminent danger". You are allowed to communicate the most vile bigoted ideas as long as you are not inciting people to commit violence.

Where do we draw the line? When the Westboro Church protests funerals, we allow it, even though it dramatically upsets the mourners.

We don't draw the line. Anything goes, as long as you're only speaking or writing. It's called "free speech" because anyone is free to say anything.

There are absolutely lines to draw between exercising your right to free speech and yelling "FIRE!" in a crowded theater.

The line is at "will someone die in the next 5 minutes directly because of my speech".

Anything else is allowed.

I agree with you. Keep in mind that the U.S. is on an extreme end of the free-speech spectrum. (This may spring from, in part, our sense of individuality [1].)

[1] http://www.theoccidentalobserver.net/articles/Individualism-...

How do you define "extreme end"?

The US isn't doing great in the Press Freedom Index[0]. Norway, or my home country the Netherlands, would IMO be much better examples of "extreme freedom of speech". I'd say the US is strong on this point, but not at the extremes.

[0]: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Press_Freedom_Index

Is The Netherlands the same country who put a top national candidate on trial for politically incorrect views? https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2016/10/14...

I guess I'd define "extreme end" as a country that doesn't threaten jail time for wrongthink.

The Press Freedom Index is complete bullshit. A bunch of made-up formulas like this one: https://rsf.org/sites/default/files/formule1_1.png

In the Netherlands you prosecuted Geert Wilders!!! Some press outfits from the U.S.A. would be prosecuted left and right.

Do you have a good alternative to the Freedom of Press Index?

On the Geert Wilders issue: it is a lot more nuanced than how you present it. The quote Geert Wilders prosecuted for (translation mine):

"In this city and the Netherlands, do you want more or fewer Moroccans?"

the crowd starts chanting 'fewer'

"Then we're going to take care of that!"

This was not just a casual remark, as the judge determined that it was a scripted section of a speech meant to evoke that particular reaction from the crowd. The charges were "inciting hate", "inciting discrimination" and "criminal insult of and inciting discrimination of a group", the group being the Moroccan race (race as defined by Dutch law)[0].

The first charge was dismissed, but he was convicted of the latter; the judge decided to give no penalty because he considered the public conviction enough in the case of a public figure. The maximum penalty he could have received was two years in jail, though that would have been highly irregular; a fine is generally used.

Personally, I think Geert Wilders adds little of value. He consequently refuses to set (literally) any concrete goals for his party and only runs on populism.

The context matters, too. The Dutch legal system works very differently from the American system. Jurisprudence and the letter of the law are used, but the principle of arriving at a reasonable, proportional and good faith judgement is weighed very heavily when compared to the American system.

Our prison situation is that prisons are closing. We have 9,145[2] prisoners as of September 2016, out of a population of 16,979,120[3].

[0]: https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tweede_zaak-Geert_Wilders [1]: https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Redelijkheid_en_billijkheid [2]: http://statline.cbs.nl/StatWeb/publication/?VW=T&DM=SLNL&PA=... [3]: http://statline.cbs.nl/Statweb/publication/?DM=SLNL&PA=37296...

So he was literally prosecuted for causing people to think the wrong things.

> Do you have a good alternative to the Freedom of Press Index?

Yeah, we call it the First Amendment.

> The US isn't doing great in the Press Freedom Index...

"... which asks questions about pluralism, media independence, environment and self-censorship, legislative framework, transparency, and infrastructure"

that's not the same thing as speech, in the US at least.

Why wouldn't independence and self-censorship apply? Free press as a concept is irrelevant if you never say anything controversial or are a de-facto arm of the government.

Freedom of the Press and Freedom of Speech are enumerated separately by the First Amendment.

Freedom of speech and freedom of the press are tangentially related but very different from each other. It's very possible to have a free press but without freedom of speech (e.g. journalists can report on anything they wish, corruption, government misdeeds, culture but pornography or a specific book like say Mein Kampf is illegal, or libel/slander laws are broad enough to allow the wealthy to use the court system to punish people for speaking)

Similarly it's possible to have freedom of speech but no free press, e.g. anyone can say whatever they wish on the street and out loud but all major media organizations systematically overwhelm or crush journalistic dissent and control the media narrative as dictated by a tiny oligarchy of wealthy elites which is in some large part the case in the U.S. or by the government directly as in many other more traditional repressive countries.

I know it's not what you said, but as it's a common misconception, I'd just like to mention that Mein Kampf is not illegal in Germany but publication is (or was, might have expired by now) forbidden thanks to copyright.

Isn't free speech by its definition binary?

The minute the threat of state sponsored violence and kidnapping for "bad free speech" is there we don't have free speech. We have permitted and unpermited speech.

That graph seems to be individualism vs. a specific gene. How does that relate here?

Also, any idea how they quantified individualism? There isn't any sort of unit.

We're also on the extreme end of individual wealth!

Sometimes the extreme ain't a bad place to be.

Are there many places in the US with hate speech laws?

They're unconstitutional.

There are some exceptions. EX: If your inciting violence then that's not protected speech.

We're talking about hate speech laws.

Hate speech can, in many circumstances, have the potential to incite violence.

All squares are rectangles, not all rectangles are squares.

I don't know about any US place with real hate-speech laws. In fact, in a lot of places it even seems to be legal to run around in Nazi uniforms (complete with Hakenkreuz and everything).

Meanwhile, Facebook and TV stations censor nipples and four-letter words. Can someone explain this double morals to me?

Facebook & TV are private endeavors in which participation on the part of both parties is voluntary: they provide a service because they choose to and people consume that service because they choose to. Either party may opt out and seek alternative means of accomplishing their relative goals... right or wrong. If Facebook's community doesn't suit me I can find one that does. If Facebook doesn't like the service they're offering, they can change it.

Hate speech laws would be involuntary. You could not opt out and there would be a threat of force if you should fail to behave as demanded. Worse still... who gets to define what "hate speech" is and when the use of force gets called in?

There's no double morality - the balance of "who decides what can be said" is mostly taken away from government and given to the people.

It's legal for Facebook to say what it wants, and it's legal for Facebook to never say anything that it doesn't want to be said.

It's legal to make your own Facebook with nipples, four-letter words, blackjack and hookers; and it's legal for Facebook to forbid any posts containing letter x if they so choose.

> It's legal to make your own Facebook with nipples, four-letter words, blackjack and hookers;

AFAIK it's not - youth protection regulation gone wild is enshrined in law at least for TV stations and I'm sure that if FB wouldn't fear angry mothers with "uuuuuh buuuh my 16-year-old-boy saw a naked boob on FB" they wouldn't give a damn about boobs.

It seems simple enough -- you don't have the right to say whatever you want on someone else's platform.

Censoring is quite a bit different from being jailed or fined.

AFAIK about the US, no. The UK though is an example.

also Canada, which soon will also consider mis gendering as hate speech.

>soon will also consider mis gendering as hate speech.

I think it should be up to the individual case; deliberate misgendering can cause significant psychological trauma and distress, especially if in multiple occurrence.

If they could only do the same to weasel-wording and stating falsehoods on the internet...

Too bad they, uh, aren't. [1]

[1] http://sds.utoronto.ca/blog/bill-c-16-no-its-not-about-crimi...

Did you read your own article?

"Non-discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression may very well be interpreted by the courts in the future to include the right to be identified by a person’s self identified pronoun. The Ontario Human Rights Commission, for example, in their Policy on Preventing Discrimination Because of Gender Identity and Expression states that gender harassment should include “ Refusing to refer to a person by their self-identified name and proper personal pronoun”. In other words, pronoun misuse may become actionable, though the Human Rights Tribunals and courts. And the remedies? Monetary damages, non-financial remedies (for example, ceasing the discriminatory practice or reinstatement to job) and public interest remedies (for example, changing hiring practices or developing non-discriminatory policies and procedures)."

Yes, I did. And I understand it in the context of two things - discrimination and hate crimes.

Deliberately, consistently, and maliciously misgendering someone is discrimination.

Doing so while punching them in the face, or calling for the death of all trans-gender people is a hate crime.

The fact that this was added to both discrimination, and hate crime statues is a non-brainer.

>If they could only do the same to weasel-wording and stating falsehoods on the internet...

and thank god they can't, at least not for now. i can still say any bullshit i want on the internet, as is my right.

from your own article:

>Non-discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression may very well be interpreted by the courts in the future to include the right to be identified by a person’s self identified pronoun

nice precedent

>Policy on Preventing Discrimination Because of Gender Identity and Expression states that gender harassment should include “ Refusing to refer to a person by their self-identified name and proper personal pronoun”. In other words, pronoun misuse may become actionable, though the Human Rights Tribunals and courts. And the remedies? Monetary damages, non-financial remedies (for example, ceasing the discriminatory practice or reinstatement to job) and public interest remedies (for example, changing hiring practices or developing non-discriminatory policies and procedures). Jail time is not one of them.

oh ok, no jail time, but i'm forced to hire someone that identifies as an attack helicopter, great!

>So what does this mean for pronoun misuse? Well, refusing to use a person’s self identified pronoun is not going to be considered advocating genocide – unless the refusal to use the pronouns was accompanied by actually advocating genocide against trans and gender non-binary folks.

so its fine unless i promote genocide, kinda makes sense but its still a slippery slope imo

>Similarly, it’s hard to see the refusal to use the appropriate pronoun –without something else – rising to the threshold of hate speech. Hate speech laws in Canada have only been used- and only can be used – against extreme forms of speech – explicitly and extreme forms of homophobic, anti-Semitic or racist speech.

so pronoun misuse is still legal, unless it gets to "extreme", whatever that means. and who decides what "extreme" is?

>Moreover, prosecution needs the approval of the Attorney General.

so in the end the attorney general decides..

Making it illegal to say something that's false is ridiculous.

That is a very, very bad idea.

A disjointed approximate is "fighting words doctrine". Assuming you survive punching someone for clearly being threatening, a prosecutor is unlikely to charge you with assault, i.e. the loud mouth had it coming.

The fighting words doctrine has been repeatedly weakened by the Supreme Court and doesn't really work anymore: https://www.thefire.org/misconceptions-about-the-fighting-wo...

The original case that created it, Chaplinsky v. State of New Hampshire, would seem outrageous if it were upheld today.


Tell it to Germany population.

It's crazy how much censorship is assumed to be normal and commonly accepted in here.

"Hate speech" is basically a remixed word for blasphemy anyway.

I feel hate speech is an offense against free speech, but I still don't think it should be allowed. Honestly, things like being racist to someone on the street shouldn't be allowed in any country.

I guess it just comes down to the lesser of two evils.

My problem with hate speech bans always comes down to two things:

1. Who decides what is hate speech?

2. In 1800, would describing all slaveowners as "immoral, godless abominations" and calling for the destruction of their property and livelihoods have been hate speech? If not, why?

>Who decides

In the context of a country, a judge or the people elected to represent the people do. This is often touted as some kind of immense showstopper to restricting speech, when really, it's not. The same people who decide what rights you have also decide what things you can say in public.

>In 1800, would describing all slaveowners as "immoral, godless abominations" and calling for the destruction of their property and livelihoods have been hate speech?

Perhaps, I don't know the law of the time. Were there hate speech laws at the time? If so, then it probably qualified as hate speech, if those laws included such statements.

Restricting speech is not necessarily a slippery slope (though it has potential to be one); the old argument of "who decides what is hate speech?" is a tired one with a relatively simple answer.

But what does it look like in practice? All the sudden you have a cudgel to shut down all sorts of controversial statements by relating them to hate speech. I doubt the UN had jailing an Indonesian politician for claiming the Koran doesn't forbid voting for a non-Muslim in mind when it passed its resolution, and yet that's how it was used.

How is it defined? Who defines it? You? Your friends? Your political opponents? The government? Corporations?

Speech is not violence or actions. They should not be conflated. Incitement of violence should be treated as such.

"Hate" speech can never be well defined. I can hate things. I can hate ideas. And the when I speak about them, you can tar me with hate speech to shut me down.

This is antithetical to a free society, the foundation of what the United States was built upon, and generally the modern "western" philosophy.

People should be free to speak their mind. If others disagree, or find what they're saying offensive, then they can choose to not associate with these people.

With that attitude, why stop there? Why not just outlaw saying mean things in general? That seems to be where this would be going.

Personally I wouldn't have a problem with criminalizing saying mean things, as long as the penalty was reasonably. Utopia...

People wouldn't be able to vent their emotions. Lots of 'fake happiness'. Sounds like torture to me..

Honestly this would make a great movie - a society where being mean is outlawed.

There's an episode of Black Mirror that protrays something akin to it, season 3 episode 1, somewhat like China's citizenship score.

>With that attitude, why stop there? Why not just outlaw saying mean things in general?

You're making this into a slippery slope when it need not be. The parent commenter didn't say anything about mean things, they were talking about hate speech.

The difference being that the definition of "hate speech" is a slippery slope, closely connected with the euphemism treadmill. The difference being, usually the euphemism treadmill doesn't have any legislative import...

Examples off the top of my head: the demonization of "illegal" when in reference to people who cross the border without the right to do so.

The willful conflation of "Muslim" as a race rather than a religion.

Why exactly is it a slippery slope? I admit that it can be made as such, but why must it necessarily be? A legislature or person can define hate speech in such a way that it is not a slippery slope in my opinion, and I think that's what should be done.

I would take this up a level of abstraction. I don't believe that the law should be considered the ultimate means toward shaping human behavior to the liking of minorities, majorities, interest groups or what have you. That would be oppressive. Rather it should be considered an expedient way of maintaining a minimal standard of order and societal functioning.

> Honestly, things like being racist to someone on the street shouldn't be allowed in any country

Going to point out that your language is ambiguous. What does "being racist" actually mean in the context of what you think should be disallowed?

It's an important question, because odds are very good that if you think through a real example of what you think ought to be criminal, there's a good chance there's already some other law that's already being broken, such as harassment. Of course, one consequence of this is that the censorious types have been diluting the term "harassment" to mean "anything anyone says that makes me feel uncomfortable." (Twitter is rife with this ridiculousness). But I digress. The fact is, harassment laws exist to protect people against the abuse of speech in public places, and there's no need for any particular special groups to have protection.

Here's some sample language:

He or she engages in a course of conduct or repeatedly commits acts which alarm or seriously annoy such other person and which serve no legitimate purpose.


and who says what is or isn't hate speech? cant you see the problem with these laws?

The government, or the state in general decides. Whether the laws are problematic or not depends on someone's personal view. You view them as problematic, the parent commenter probably views them as unproblematic.

>Honestly, things like being racist to someone on the street shouldn't be allowed in any country. >I guess it just comes down to the lesser of two evils.

The greater evil in this case is using the state's monopoly on violence to enforce what should be a norm of civil society.

> I feel hate speech is an offense against free speech, but I still don't think it should be allowed. Honestly, things like being racist to someone on the street shouldn't be allowed in any country.

The problem of racism "on the street" (and most other places, really) is almost always more subtle than blatant hate speech.

Besides violating free speech, hate speech laws don't help with the cultural root causes of racism.

I agree. I just finished reading the book Black Like Me and the author pointed out that a lot of racist people would politely and graciously tell him that no, he could not use that outhouse/fountain/restaurant/ticket counter there.

> But the police had investigated Fry under the law, which, far from being a relic, was enacted in 2009.

Equating Ireland and Indonesia is quite the stretch. The 'law' was enacted in 2009 but here's the full story (yoinked from elsewhere):

Blasphemy is mentioned as an offence in the constitution, and the Defamation Act 1961 declared that the publication of blasphemous material was punishable by up to 2 years in prison.

Nobody was ever charged under that law until 1999 when some prick tried to bring about a private prosecution for blasphemy against a cartoonist. But blasphemy means different things to different people, and the Supreme Court ruled that the wording of the law was too vague and it was struck down. So, much like the issue of abortion following the X case, our laws were out of step with our constitution.

Ideally, we would have removed blasphemy from the constitution at that point, but holding a referendum to remove a crime that nobody had ever been convicted for was deemed to be too wasteful. When the Defamation Act was being updated in 2009, the Minister for Justice (Dermot Ahern) had the tricky decision of what to do with the section about blasphemy. He chose to define the crime of blasphemy in such a narrow way that it would be almost impossible for someone to be convicted for for it.

It's a pointless law that doesn't have any real power and which exists as a technicality to satisfy a requirement in the constitution.

Some context on the law in Ireland, since the article is somewhat hyperbolic about it:

The law was enacted in 2009 to replace blasphemy laws enacted by the pre-independence British state, dating back to 1703, pending a constitutional referendum to have it removed completely. This came about on the back of a paper produced by the law reform commission 1991, so there was quite a bit of foot-dragging. (It was not, as the article implies, newly invented in 2009).

The complaint against Stephen Fry, as mcphage alluded to here, was made not by an offended conservative Christian, but rather somebody attempting to make a point about the now over 8 year delay on holding the referendum to remove the law.

Unrelated aside: the article also says Fry was joking about his belief that a hypothetical Christian god would be “quite clearly a maniac.” I don't believe he was.

>a penalty that shocked many inhabitants of the majority-Muslim country known for its tolerance and pluralism.

This made me laugh out loud. Obviously, some people equate "majority-Muslim" to "tolerance and pluralism," but I find it extremely contradictory.

To me, the sentence is practically satire.

Your reading comprehension fails you. The article refers specifically to Jakarta, which 1) is majority-Muslim and 2) has at least a regional reputation for tolerance and pluralism. It says nothing about Islam itself.

And to be blunt, Hacker News is not the place to discuss your religious opinions. Even if the article said what you thought it did - and it does not - it would be inappropriate to argue that part of it here.

The comment that ate itself. You are aware of views in all majority Muslim cultures or just feel like you know how all Muslims think?

> You are aware of views in all majority Muslim cultures or just feel like you know how all Muslims think?

Dated a Chinese-Indonesian girl, so have a view on this: There is ongoing discrimination against Chinese people who wish to express their culture. Which is an improvement over the race riots of the past.

They are hated as seen as wealthy through deceit and have to deal with crazy crap like people attacking their pig farms. Which I found hilarious until the same people then began attacking Bali.

As for personal freedom: laughing on public transport was enough for us to be accosted by a stranger telling us 'we don't act like that here'. No touching, no kissing, just lame jokes shared by members of the opposite sex.

Like Malaysia's infamous Kelantan region (from where the anti-Thai attacks are hatched), much of rural Indonesia is full of conservative Muslims who must be appeased. This conservatism is always at war with the secular urban populations. Sometimes it wins.

Try living in the shadow of an Islamic society. It's really really not fun.

How can a place be known for pluralism and tolerance if it literally jails people for blasphemy against the majority religion?

I can hardly think of a single Muslim-majority country that doesn't have absurd violations of basic human rights like this one.

Well there has been research done on "how Muslims think" and the views of majority Muslim countries: http://www.pewforum.org/2013/04/30/the-worlds-muslims-religi...

If I'm reading it correctly, it says that in Malaysia, 86% of Muslims believe Sharia should be the law of the land, with 62% of those wanting death for apostates. Overall, the global picture of what "Muslims think" is not pretty.

Most muslim-majority countries are generally oppressive, but are extremely oppressive to non-muslims, ex-muslims, or anti-muslim speech in any form..

They are two different axis. One can imagine intolerant Christian majorities just as much as tolerant Muslim majorities. One described the cultural practices and laws of the county and the other the religion of the majority of the country.

I really had a moral problem with this in Thailand.

It's an amazing country, beautiful, and the people are incredibly friendly, but they also seem pretty tolerant of the government keeping some ridiculous laws on the books and wielding them for obviously political purposes.

To me, doesn't matter if the king's a saint or a devil: let the people freely voice their own opinion.

To be fair, given the neighbours, Thailand seems pretty mild on the issue of "ridiculous laws wielded for obviously political purposes."

Curiously Thailand's monarch himself spoke out against lese-majeste laws.

Oh no, poor monarch, if only he could do something about those laws, for example abolish them. But apparently he is powerless, and can only "speak out" against those laws, right?

I'm not an expert, but I do not think the Thai king can make law by edict any more than the king of the United Kingdom can.

I point it out mostly because I remembered reading an article where he said "people must be able to criticize me" and then days later people were prosecuted for doing just that.

You mean the same king who obtained his political power by directly supporting a coup (in the name of lèse-majesté) against the military government which was sidelining him?

And supported the Thammasat University massacre (also carried out in the name of lèse-majesté)?

I get that he'd spoken out at various times against it. But he also benefited enormously from it and wielded it when it suited his purposes. (Some of which were arguably for the greater good given what was happening in the region)

Hey, I'm not claiming he's an enlightened figure.

This is real, and it's happening. Things are getting dark.

Two months ago, Canada passed M103. A motion that the government investigate hate speech, "Islamophobia", discrimination, racism, and a whole bunch of other similar things.


It's a non-binding motion, and not legislation. At most, it may inspire a Senate committee to blow a few dozen million dollars gazing at their own navels.


Please don't post unsubstantive comments, let alone trollish ones, to HN.

It's kinda ironic that my comment gets down voted, isn't it? Either you agree with the Liberal views on HN or you're a troll.

I assure you the opposite trolls see it the opposite way. It's a cognitive bias. Everyone with strong ideological views sees HN as lined up against them.

Plenty of previous discussion about this at https://hn.algolia.com/?query=by:dang%20cognitive%20bias&sor....



@dang Sorry, but isn't that the whole point of a comment system? Get people to discourse about their POVs and ideas? According to your logic, both sides should refrain from opposing each other.

Within the site mandate, sure. HN's mandate is the gratification of intellectual curiosity. That requires civil, substantive, non-repetitive discussion.



One of most baffling examples is "zdziwiony Jezus" (surprised Jesus).


This picture, used as an illustration for an article in an extreme left Polish newspaper "NIE", caused the editor to be sued for essentially blasphemy. It's called "offense against religious feelings".

It was placed on the front page in september 2012, and the lawsuit is still ongoing. The last update was in 2016.

The newspaper is known, among other things, for harsh language, aversion to religion and often vulgar pictures (shit, sexual organs, copulation etc, other purposedly offensive things, often next to religious symbols other than muslim). The journalists were friends with Charlie Hebdo's. But the picture they were sued for depicts, literally, a surprised Jesus in a prohibition sign. Go figure.

The article in question merely discussed the fact churches in Poland are becoming progressively more empty. Nothing particularly offensive.

Exactly, I live in Iran, and you won't believe how much I do hear from people "Even in the west they have rules against bad mouthing god/prophets" (for a smart person this is a very bad sign. Theocrat people using a rule as their defence. Something should have went wrong seriously with these laws in West).

This is fucking barbaric. I say whatever I want and I don't care what your beliefs are. If you don't like it, you can say whatever you want about my beliefs too. This is freedom of speech.

I can only speak for America, but let me put this in concrete terms you can share with your friends:

I am free to say anything I want about any religion, its gods, or its prophets. I can laugh about Jesus, Muhammad, or Buddha. I can draw funny pictures of the pope. I can say mean things about Rama. All of this is perfectly legal and I can do or say those things in any public place, any time I like.

Now, if I make fun of Allah in a mosque, I would expect the other people there to become angry with me. Same with telling Jesus jokes at a 4th of July parade in the American South: this would anger the local residents. But I would not be arrested for it (although I might be yelled at for deliberately angering to many people) and I would expect the police to protect me if the crowds tried to hurt me.

Some parts of the west may have different laws. But in America, it is absolutely true that I can say anything I want about any religion I want in complete freedom. And the opposite is also true: police will do nothing to stop anyone who is insulting my beliefs. They are also free to do that.

Adding another example, just the other day a video blogger in Russia has been convicted for 3 years (suspended sentence) for the "crime" of filming a video of playing Pokemon Go in a church. [1] He spent more than half a year in jail while the case was "investigated". Religion is a vile, vile thing. It's non-believers who need to be protected from the "believers".

[1] https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2017/05/11/russian...

I'm not sure that the Stephen Fry situation in Ireland is the best example; it's not clear if the person who made the complaint was actually trying to get Stephen Fry in trouble, or if they were merely attempting to use it to help get the requirement for a blasphemy law out of the Irish constitution.

My theory is that any sufficiently advanced self-replicating system of memes, will develop an 'immune system' to combat out of control memetic mutation. That's why heretics and blasphemers are burned, and ideological sedition is just as likely to expel one from any secular 'in-group'. If this didn't happen everyone would just go thinking whatever they please and and a memetic-system would die a death of a thousand schisms and cease to be as competitive in the arena of other meme systems.

I was digging into the 2010 United Nations resolution on the defamation of free speech, and I found some kind-of good news?

In 2011 the HRC shifted it's stance to be more specific, mainly focused on negative stereotyping and being respectful of religion. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defamation_of_religion_and_the...

> On March 24, 2011, the UN Human Rights Council in a very significant move shifted from protecting beliefs to the protection of believers with the unanimous adoption without a vote of Resolution 16/18 introduced by Pakistan.

I guess I don't really understand UN resolutions, but I guess that the omission of a defamation clause was significant? The 2011 resolution doesn't say anything about it: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/16sessio... [PDF]

Also just a general reminder that UN resolutions are as toothless as a newborn. They can only "encourage" and "call upon" member states to do things. XD

Let's consider the opposite of blasphemy for a second, which is the vigorous upholding of a religious belief and the preservation of nonoffended sensibilities.

So I am expected to believe that God created thousands of human religions (4,200 according to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_religions_and_spiritua...), and caused us all to get born into one at random, essentially entering us all into a lottery to determine where we end up on the "eternal torture or joy" scale in some hypothetical afterlife?

Do religious people realize that the reason there are 4,200 to begin with, and not like 5 or even 1, is because a charismatic fellow or female can create a new one (or an offshoot) at any time, and there is no rational way to determine which is actually more correct? (We actually already have systems in place to determine which of 2 opposing beliefs about the truth are correct, thus causing them to merge into an objective account of "the truth"- The courts and the science labs use them all the time!)

And people actually kill each other (or merely oppress minority beliefs) over these irreconcilable differences of belief, evidence be damned?

And that these beliefs cannot be criticized or questioned, no matter how many ethically-arguable human rights violations they encode into holy law?

This is an offense on MY sensibilities (again...) and I don't know what to do about it (except occasionally rock the boat). Sorry about the rant, this article made me viscerally angry and I know that's irrational and a nonargument. Religious folks are of course always welcome to chime in, I will be civil, sorry if I offended (truly).

I happen to attend church but will defend anyone's right to be the most belligerent atheist as i consider it a matter of free speech.

I'm reminded of Jordan Prterson's somewhat poetic video about a bill on Canada's anti Islamophobia law: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1VwpwP_fIqY

I'm on Peterson's side for this issue, but isn't it a fallacy to assume that the ban on hate speech is going to result in the destruction of free speech? It's pretty fundamentalist to assume that speech that literally and historically has incited violence against groups such as Blacks is something that must be protected under the veil of free speech.

I am a Canadian, so I have grown up with this law, and I'm wondering why Americans view it as an "unholy offence".

In Canada we do tend to have fairly common sense laws and courts have generally applied them in a common sense kind of way. At least in the past.

While listening to a radio programme on philosophy, I heard something thought-provoking: one of anchors, an atheist, praised Christianity. He said Christianity's greatest achievement is invention of atheism and secular state. "That which is God's, to God; that which is Caesar's, to Caesar." Perhaps there's a grain of truth in that. According to them no other major religion allows it. (I'm an atheist raised in a catholic family, in case you want to accuse me of bias).

There is a theory that the Fry case was brought on by a complaint from someone working with Fry to draw attention to the law. The case was dismissed.

Free speech as a notion comes from the constitution which espoused the idea that government should not make laws limiting the ability of the individual to criticize the state or it's actors or say something unpopular. This was a measure against the possibility of tyranny. If a tyrant wanted to take over the United States, one of the first places he or she would start is by restricting people's ability to speak freely to criticize the ruling regime and its policies.

Free speech was never meant to be unlimited license that 20th century Americans interpret it as. . . It almost seems like modern Americans have mis-interpreted the intention of the drafters when they enshrined the ideal of free speech.

For one, the constitution became effective in 1789, a time when blasphemy laws were widespread in the United States and people were still being convicted under them. Yet blasphemy laws still continued to be enforced well after the constitution became effective and nobody had any problem with this, and none of the drafters spoke out against this or expressed having any kind of problems with this.

The same is true for pornographic speech, as is true in the modern day for defamatory speech, libel, obscenity, false light, false statements of fact, highly offensive speech/fighting words 1.

The United States Constitution and its free speech provisions were intended to protect against tyranny and meant to prevent a tyrant from suppressing speech to gain power. In the case of blasphemy laws, this might apply when there is a state sponsored religion, but that is not possible in the United States because the establishment clause of the constitution prevents that.

Over a century and a half after the Constitution came into effect, in 1952 the United States supreme court struck down blasphemy laws as unconstitutional. However, it struck them down on vagueness of the term "sacrilege" and disliking requiring government permission to show things which might be sacrilegious. It is not really clear whether people can be punished for sacrilegious actions after the fact and I would argue that it is still constitutional to do so in the United States. Several states still have blasphemy laws on the books, albeit wisely unenforced. However states do still prosecute for egregiously offensive conduct as a certain teen discovered when he took pictures of a Jesus statute in a sexual pose and had to do community service 2.

At the same time blasphemy laws in other nations are very different from what existed or currently exist in the United States. That is because many countries, particularly in Asia, have a state sponsored religion, or a popular religion that is closely tied with the ruling party. Blasphemy laws are used in these countries to reinforce the power of the state and push down religious minorities. This isn't just Muslim countries, my own Country Sri Lanka has a ruling party that is based on Buddism and has Buddist monks sitting as MPs. Criticism of religion is severely restricted in this country, for example a British woman was deported for having a Buddha tattoo.

While these laws may look superficially similar to what existed in the United States, it is different because of the state sponsorship and high entanglement with Buddhism. I think so long as there is no such state sponsorship, and that the ruling party prevents only egregiously offensive conduct, and not criticism, and the punishment is relatively light like the kid who did some community service, I don't think it's such a big deal.

I think there is some justification for prohibiting hate speech laws, particularly when religious based hate is becoming more prominent in our society. With the election of Trump, many Muslims have been subjected to hate speech and abuse merely because of their religion. I wouldn't have a problem with sates enacting laws to protect these protect these people from abuse. I think freedom of speech as an ideal is good when it protects against tyranny, but we can take the ideal too far, become rigid and inflexible, unwilling to compromise or see logical exceptions, when we can allow vulnerable people to be subject to abuse and hate in the name of free speech, I don't think that's a positive thing.

The notion of free speech was created to serve America and it's people, to help establish justice and domestic tranquility, to secure a peace, prosperity and general welfare. America and it's people were not created to serve free speech. and when we treat is as an ideal and allow it to threaten or reduce justice, tranquility, peace and prosperity, when we allow individuals to be harmed by it, and when there is no benefit of protecting from tyranny, I think it becomes an empty ideal divorced from its purpose and ultimately harmful.


2. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2014/10/03/teen...

I agree that probably the Founding Fathers did not quite envision the current circumstances when they drafted the Constitution but I don't agree that, therefore, we should abandon the idea. I mean, the Founding Fathers also didn't originally intend that the stuff about not establishing a religion applied to individual states, but I don't think we ought to go back to Massachusetts establishing the Congregational Church, etc.

It is practically a law of nature that any law passed to ban "harmful" speech is soon put to political use.

Without stating a position on this issue, it should be noted that the modern American notion of free speech absolutionism has, because of US cultural influence, become widespread in much of the world.

Is it really though? I read the London Review of Books regularly and I distinctly remember reading an author of an essay blithely assert "nobody really believes there should truly be free speech even in cases like hate speech" and move on without bothering to offer any arguments.

The State of Iowa criminalizes "annoying" speech under Iowa Code 708.7. "Iowa nice" is the law.

Greece has had actual blasphemy laws and quite a few prosecutions and convictions related to them. We also have a complete shit-show of an "antiracist" law but that's another story.

Thanks for whoever pointed this out.


Religious flamewar is particularly unwelcome on Hacker News.

We've banned this account. Breaking the HN guidelines with throwaways will eventually get your main account banned as well, so please don't do it.

Isn't being against blasphemy laws Islamophobic?


They are not mere offenses against free speech. These prosecutions are crimes against humanity perpetrated in all cases by organizations (religions) with long histories of murder, theft, genocide and voluminous deranged acts whose evil is beyond the comprehension of mortals.

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