gay bashing and laws

Wed Oct 21 20:42:54 PDT 1998

Chris supports banning speech he dislikes, in his case, right-wing or fascist speech. This line of argument has become popular among certain post-left circles in America: Catherine MacKinnon has argues that pornography should be subject to civil lawsuits as violence against women, Richard Delgado and some critical race theorists have argued that racial hate speech ought to be proscriobable. Formerly the left in America was libertarian about speech. Thes truggles of the IWW, the Socialists, and even the CPUSA helped win us the extensive free speech protections--from the government--that this country has. Although I don't endorse all of the Supreme Court's First Amendment jurisprudencxe, I think that banning speech which has a bad tendendancy is a very bad idea. And yes, ia ma great fan of bourgeois legality, the rule of law, and other boring ideas.

One problem with the idea that the government should ban ideas that have a bad tendency and might lead to bad things is that the left doesn't control the government in capitalist society, so left ideas get banned. When the "left' does control the government and bans ideas it doesn't like, we get effects we've noted too well in the former and remaining Communist countries. This should be elementary.

Now no one things that freedom pf speech means that no speech can be regulated. In America we've establsiheda number of broad categories of regulable speech, including incitement to immanent illegal action--the state can ban speech that objectively is immediately likely to result in breaking the law ("Get that fag!"). This iis how the Clear & Present Danger Test is understood after Brandenburg v. Ohio (a Klan speech case). If the illegality is not immanent or the speech is not objectively likely to have this effect, it's protected. There are problems with this approach, but it's better than a Bad Tendency test.


I find this an odd argument. This placard sounds about as acceptable as one

that might say "Jews make good lampshades". It is a flagrant psychological

attack that legitimises humiliating an enemy even to the point of joking

about his death.

So if I say, I would applaud to see the last capitalist strangled in the guts of the last commisar, this is unacceptable because I am legitimating humiliating my enemies and koking about their death?

It is an invitation to physical assault, and with ideas

like this in circulation 1 in 500 hundred confrontations will lead to


You ahve evidence for this? "Fighting words" is another exception to US First Amendment free speech protections, but it has little currency today.

The massacre of millions of Jews is presaged a few years earlier by their

public humiliation making them clean streets with toothbrushes on their


There's a difference between vile jokes and physically coercing people to do humiliating things by threatening them with assualt ot worse. That's not protected speech in anyone's book.

The use of bourgeois laws is of course bourgeois.

Of course? So we don't need an argument for this startling proposition?

But Joseph Noonan seems

to show a false radicalism in arguing that such provocative and offensive

verbal attacks should not be made illegal. This seems to make a fetish out

of bourgeois democratic rights.

Sign me upa s false radical who makes a fetsh of bourgeois democratic rights.

But the right to make physically

inflammatory remarks about a minority means there is no right for that

minority to be free of inflammatory taunts.

Quite right. There is no such right. It's a diverse societry, live with it.

The argument that follows misses the point. I am arguing not for a law to

make killing of a gay person a super crime, worse than killing of a black.

This is about a law that consciously restricts the right to completely

abstract equal free speech.

Wha? Where's the equality compentent in the free speech doctrrine you are discussing?

An equal bourgeois right typically isolated

from the context is unequal because people are in unequal situations.

Joseph's defense of homophobic provocative language is unequal because

there is no concrete situation in which heterosexual are taunted with

insults and threatened with attack.

So like Delgado, you'd allow the government to ban speech that is provocative and offensive to historically disfavored minorities and presumably women.

That is not so. A platform should be denied to homophobia as it should be

to racism. I have no doubt it is denied on this list.

Differentw hen the government says, Do that and you go to jail.

What is this intense radical libertarianism that regards bourgeois

democratic rights as some abstract higher value, that should prevail over

the concrete social situation?

How about, the result of several thousand years of experience with intolerance and suppression?



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