I probably shouldn’t take the proposed federal legislation known as the Hate Crime Reporting Act of 2014 too seriously. After all, it has a 1% chance of being passed, according to govtrack.us. The bill has been proposed in response to a recent shooting in Kansas by a white supremacist.
On the other hand, one day legislation like this will be passed and enforced in America, unless things change quickly.
So where does libertarianism stand on hate speech?
Well, it really depends on the definition of hate speech. Merely asking the question involves pointing out the fact that most don’t know what it is and whoever is in charge – i.e. has the gun and badge – gets to decide what constitutes hate speech.
Libertarianism adheres to the Non-Aggression Principle, which prohibits the initiation of violence or coercion against innocent people and their property.
The way hate speech could violate it is by making credible threats to use violence and coercion against an innocent person and their property, such as calling for the theft or destruction of a person’s car or for violence to be carried out against other people.
But is that what they mean by hate speech? Again, it all depends on who you ask. And therein lies the problem. If you don’t know, how can you be sure the law will be enforced properly?
More often than not, hate speech is an Orwellian term to describe free speech that people do not want to tolerate and so they call it by another name to infer it is not protected by the First Amendment. To them, free speech and hate speech are not the same, and only they get to decide what constitutes hate speech.
I also have a huge issue with the use of the word “hate.” Again, it’s like Vizzini from Princess Bride using the word “inconceivable.” It do not think it means what he thinks it means.
Hate is an emotion. Hate is found in the heart. You can hate someone your whole life and still adhere to the NAP. You can hate a man and yet not steal his property or kill him. To call something hate speech infers that only those who harbor hatred in their hearts could utter such a statement. It also infers that people have a right to not be hated by other people.
If that is the case, libertarians are among the biggest victims of hate speech and civil rights violations.
Notice, if you will, how Sen. Harry Reid was able to get away with calling a group of peaceful demonstrators “domestic terrorists” for – gasp – having the audacity to carry guns, just like the federal snipers and mercenaries sent out to harass a man for having cows on public land no one else was using. I’m sure they had no reason whatsoever to think the federal agents might shoot at them and their women without any provocation. I highly doubt he or anyone else in his camp would qualify that as “hate speech.”
As Ron Paul has pointed out, the First Amendment isn’t there so we can talk about the weather or who our favorite actor is. It’s so that we can discuss very controversial issues without fear of being arrested or imprisoned. Once you begin banning certain speech, however repugnant it is, you paralyze thinking, and people self-censor themselves out of fear of violence. Thus, it is inevitable that such fear is exploited by those who act as though their statements could never qualify as hate speech.
Obviously, I don’t condone hatred or speech that is derived from hatred. But the term “hate speech” allows people to excuse themselves from having to tolerate people they don’t like, a standard they demand of everyone else. When you meet someone who says something you don’t agree with, you have a three choices. You can either A) try to persuade them to think differently B) accept it for what it is or C) use violence and coercion against them in an attempt to force them to change their thoughts and attitudes.
In this case, hate speech is a passive aggression version of the third option, as it allows them to arrange a third party to inflict the violence and coercion on those who think differently.
If you really want to know where this kind of thinking leads, check out the laws in countries like Canada and England that ban “hate speech.” Then see how it is actually enforced, and you will notice it always inevitably involves persecuting people who hold unpopular views – notice “hate speech” never involves someone expressing a popularly accepted belief that espouses just as much hatred.