Noam Chomsky

Chuck Grimes cgrimes at
Mon Oct 26 13:44:16 PST 1998

I want to put together an argument opposed to Charles Brown's admonition to abolish hate speech, which doesn't rely on the Holmes and Brandis concept of a free market in ideas, which I nevertheless believe in any event.

The tactical problem with banning hate speech is obviously that one group's hate is another's succor. While a liberal legal view prevails, then perhaps overtly racist speech and advocacy are considered hate speech and are therefore to be banned. But writing law is a double edged sword. Today's hate is tomorrow's love of purity. When you set up a legal system to prohibit categories of speech and advocacy, then such a system goes about and interprets what can and can not be advocated in a public forum. While today the nazis are prohibited, believe me, tomorrow we will soon join them at least under such prohibitions.

Racist and genocidal motivations are of no use, since I could confess a racist and genocidal motivation to exterminate the rich. Well, if racism is a social construction, what isn't racist about wanting to kill the rich? It is for sure, we don't like each other and have no interest is working out our inabilities to communicate. They do look different and smell funny, not like other people. I would certainly rest easier at night knowing they were locked away safely in their graves. Wouldn't you?

But there is a further aspect which is related to the problem of writing law. Laws setting out punishment for various acts on the basis of a definition of criminality, obviously do not prevent these actions, but merely proscribe punishments after the fact. So too with the legality of speech. Certainly laws would have no impact on the speech of neo-nazis or other militant racist groups. If anything, they would become ironically victimized as an authentic disenfranchised and dissent group--even a racial minority! I can just hear their rhetorical moaning now--we are persecuted by the evil government for just wanting to speak our minds. Stand up and be counted. Our message can not be suppressed. The laws against us are laws against the American race--or what's left of it, after the kikes, n-words, spics, queers, and commies have taken over--and so on.

Well, absurd or not, banning their speech and then having to listen to their civil rights moaning, also trivializes the concept of civil rights in its moral configuration, by handing that ground over to a corrosive inversion, a mirror of farce whereby the nazis lay claim to their civil rights as a currently discriminated against group on the basis of race! (Ah, the master race that is).

Chuck Grimes

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