Life at № 42 by E.M. Coutinho
After a discussion this week with an American blogger regarding free speech, I decided to do a little research. Apparently the US is the only developed nation which does not have laws protecting its citizens or groups of citizens from hate speech. To me, it’s a mystifying notion.
If you want to leave a comment on the internet on any French site, you get a little warning. Here’s Yahoo’s:
Meaning: Any comment contrary to current regulations (notably all comments of racist, anti semitic or defamatory character) may lead to your account being terminated.
When appropriate, certain comments you post may also result in judicial prosecution.
The American model of absolute free speech is incredibly outdated- not to mention irresponsible. A civilized society is one in which our freedoms are balanced with those of our fellow citizens. To be allowed to say anything, no matter its veracity, is incredibly dangerous and only actually benefits people who want to defame, and who know they’re slandering.
If you look up cases of people tried in Europe for hate speech, there’s a very clear pattern. And the names are no surprise. Dieudonné, Le Pen, the Imam who advocated wife-beating, Christine Boutin, the deranged twitter troll who advocated killing Jews, Muslims, Christians, Prostitutes and just about anyone who crossed his path. The pattern is, of course, that all of these people are using their speech to advocate (in one form or another) the restriction of rights of fellow citizens. That is in essence taking away another person’s citizenship.
They’re using othering, almost universally based in slander, to propose sociocultural groups which hold different views be punished and/or excluded from society. In the context of the anti-lgbt debate, and hiding behind free speech, various American groups have taken defamation to extraordinary heights.
Because they’ve always known that saying that homosexuality is a “sin” according to their particular religion would have very little impact on society considering the many different views and sects within religion- they’ve felt and feel the need to appeal to a whole range of other tactics to further their political goal: power attained by othering. If you look under the hood, what you’ll find is really quite disturbing. The association of LGBT individuals to pedophilia and child abuse, calling homosexuality an illness that can and should be treated- and claims as wild as (the) “Nazi Party recruited gay men because of their inherent savagery and that gay men largely orchestrated the Holocaust.” That was by Scott Lively, the man largely behind Uganda’s Kill the Gays bill. Needless to say that all these claims are demonstrably false.
And my question is, how can any civilized society put the right to slander above another citizen’s right to dignity? Dignity being one of the core principles of the Enlightenment and human rights as we know them today.
So the next time you hear someone making a free speech complaint, consider this:
It’s never in the context of compassion, empathy, respect or dignity.