Pandaemonium

WHY HATE SPEECH SHOULD NOT BE BANNED

I gave an interview last year to Peter Molnar for a book on the regulation of hate speech that he was editing with Michael Herz. The book comes out of a series of conferences and seminars organised by New York’s Cardozo School of Law and the Central European University in Budapest. (I presented a paper at a seminar in Budapest). Other contributors include Jeremy Waldron, Ronald Dworkin,  Kwame Anthony Appiah, Nadine Strossen and Bhikhu Parekh. The book is finally published this month under the pithy title of The Content and Context of Hate Speech: Rethinking Regulation and Responses . And here is the interview.


Peter Molnar: Would you characterize some speech as ‘hate speech’, and do you think that it is possible to provide a reliable legal definition of ‘hate speech’?

Kenan Malik: I am not sure that ‘hate speech’ is a particularly useful concept. Much is said and written, of course, that is designed to promote hatred. But it makes little sense to lump it all together in a single category, especially when hatred is such a contested concept.

In a sense, hate speech restriction has become a means not of addressing specific issues about intimidation or incitement, but of enforcing general social regulation. This is why if you look at hate speech laws across the world, there is no consistency about what constitutes hate speech. Britain bans abusive, insulting, and threatening speech. Denmark and Canada ban speech that is insulting and degrading. India and Israel ban speech that hurts religious feelings and incites racial and religious hatred. In Holland, it is a criminal offense deliberately to insult a particular group. Australia prohibits speech that offends, insults, humiliates, or intimidates individuals or groups. Germany bans speech that violates the dignity of, or maliciously degrades or defames, a group. And so on. In each case, the law defines hate speech in a different way.

One response might be to say: Let us define hate speech much more tightly. I think, however, that the problem runs much deeper. Hate speech restriction is a means not of tackling bigotry but of rebranding certain, often obnoxious, ideas or arguments as immoral. It is a way of making certain ideas illegitimate without bothering politically to challenge them. And that is dangerous.

PM: Setting aside legal restrictions, would you differentiate between claims (that target certain groups) that should be challenged in political debate and claims (that also target certain groups) that should be simply rejected as so immoral that they don’t deserve an answer other than the strongest rejection and moral condemnation?

KM: There are certainly claims that are so outrageous that one would not wish to waste one’s time refuting them. If someone were to suggest that all Muslims should be tortured because they are potential terrorists, or that rape is acceptable, then clearly no rational argument will ever change their mind, or that of anyone who accepts such claims.

Much of what we call hate speech consists, however, of claims that may be contemptible but yet are accepted by many as morally defensible. Hence I am wary of the argument that some sentiments are so immoral they can simply be condemned without being contested. First, such blanket condemnations are often a cover for the inability or unwillingness politically to challenge obnoxious sentiments. Second, in challenging obnoxious sentiments, we are not simply challenging those who spout such views; we are also challenging the potential audience for such views. Dismissing obnoxious or hateful views as not worthy of response may not be the best way of engaging with such an audience. Whether or not an obnoxious claim requires a reply depends, therefore, not simply on the nature of the claim itself, but also on the potential audience for that claim.

PM: What do you think about proposals for restricting defamation of religion?

KM: It is as idiotic to imagine that one could defame religion as it is to imagine that one could defame politics or literature. Or that the Bible or the Qur’an should not be criticized or ridiculed in the same way as one might criticize or ridicule The Communist Manifesto or On the Origin of Species or Dante’s Inferno.

A religion is, in part, a set of beliefs – about the world, its origins, and humanity’s place in it – and a set of values that supposedly derive from those beliefs. Those beliefs and values should be treated no differently to any other sets of beliefs, and values that derive from them. I can be hateful of conservatism or communism. It should be open to me to be equally hateful of Islam and Christianity.

Proponents of religious defamation laws suggest that religion is not just a set of beliefs but an identity, and an exceptionally deeply felt one at that. It is true that religions often form deep-seated identities. But, then, so do many other beliefs. Communists were often wedded to their ideas even unto death. Many racists have an almost visceral attachment to their beliefs. Should I indulge them because their views are so deeply held? And while I do not see my humanism as an identity with a big ‘I’, I would challenge any Christian or Muslim to demonstrate that my beliefs are less deeply held than theirs.

Freedom of worship – including the freedom of believers to believe as they wish and to preach as they wish – should be protected. Beyond that, religion should have no privileges. Freedom of worship is, in a sense, another form of freedom of expression – the freedom to believe as one likes about the divine and to assemble and enact rituals with respect to those beliefs. You cannot protect freedom of worship, in other words, without protecting freedom of expression. Take, for instance, Geert Wilders’ attempt to outlaw the Qur’an in Holland because it ‘promotes hatred’. Or the investigation by the British police a few years ago of Iqbal Sacranie, former head of the Muslim Council of Britain, for derogatory comments he made about homosexuality. Both are examples of the way that defense of freedom of religion is inextricably linked with defense of freedom of speech. Or, to put it another way, in both cases, had the authorities been allowed to restrict freedom of expression, it would have had a devastating impact on freedom of worship. That is why the attempt to restrict defamation of religion is, ironically, an attack not just on freedom of speech but on freedom of worship too – and not least because one religion necessarily defames another. Islam denies the divinity of Christ, Christianity refuses to accept the Qur’an as the word of God. Each Holy Book blasphemes against the others.

One of the ironies of the current Muslim campaign for a law against religious defamation is that had such a law existed in the seventh century, Islam itself would never have been born. The creation of the faith was shocking and offensive to the adherents of the pagan religions out of which it grew, and equally so to the two other monotheistic religions of the age, Judaism and Christianity. Had seventh-century versions of today’s religious censors had their way, the twenty-first-century versions may still have been fulminating against offensive speech, but it certainly would not have been Islam that was being offended.

At the heart of the debate about defamation of religion are actually not questions of faith or hatred, but of political power. Demanding that certain things cannot be said, whether in the name of respecting faith or of not offending cultures, is a means of defending the power of those who claim legitimacy in the name of that faith or that culture. It is a means of suppressing dissent, not from outside, but from within. What is often called offense to a community or a faith is actually a debate within that community or faith. In accepting that certain things cannot be said because they are offensive or hateful, those who wish to restrict free speech are simply siding with one side in such debates – and usually the more conservative, reactionary side.

PM: Do you support content-based bans of ‘hate speech’ through the criminal law, or do you instead agree with the American and Hungarian approach, which permits prohibition only of speech that creates imminent danger?

KM: I believe that no speech should be banned solely because of its content; I would distinguish ‘content-based’ regulation from ‘effects-based’ regulation and permit the prohibition only of speech that creates imminent danger. I oppose content-based bans both as a matter of principle and with a mind to the practical impact of such bans. Such laws are wrong in principle because free speech for everyone except bigots is not free speech at all. It is meaningless to defend the right of free expression for people with whose views we agree. The right to free speech only has political bite when we are forced to defend the rights of people with whose views we profoundly disagree.

And in practice, you cannot reduce or eliminate bigotry simply by banning it. You simply let the sentiments fester underground. As Milton once put it, to keep out ‘evil doctrine’ by licensing is ‘like the exploit of that gallant man who thought to pound up the crows by shutting his Park-gate’.

Take Britain. In 1965, Britain prohibited incitement to racial hatred as part of its Race Relations Act. The following decade was probably the most racist in British history. It was the decade of ‘Paki-bashing’, when racist thugs would seek out Asians to beat up. It was a decade of firebombings, stabbings, and murders. In the early 1980s, I was organizing street patrols in East London to protect Asian families from racist attacks.

Nor were thugs the only problem. Racism was woven into the fabric of public institutions. The police, immigration officials – all were openly racist. In the twenty years between 1969 and 1989, no fewer than thirty-seven blacks and Asians were killed in police custody – almost one every six months. The same number again died in prisons or in hospital custody. When in 1982, cadets at the national police academy were asked to write essays about immigrants, one wrote, ‘Wogs, nignogs and Pakis come into Britain take up our homes, our jobs and our resources and contribute relatively less to our once glorious country. They are, by nature, unintelligent. And can’t at all be educated sufficiently to live in a civilised society of the Western world’. Another wrote that ‘all blacks are pains and should be ejected from society’. So much for incitement laws helping create a more tolerant society.

Today, Britain is a very different place. Racism has not disappeared, nor have racist attacks, but the open, vicious, visceral bigotry that disfigured the Britain when I was growing up has largely ebbed away. It has done so not because of laws banning racial hatred but because of broader social changes and because minorities themselves stood up to the bigotry and fought back.

Of course, as the British experience shows, hatred exists not just in speech but also has physical consequences. Is it not important, critics of my view ask, to limit the fomenting of hatred to protect the lives of those who may be attacked? In asking this very question, they are revealing the distinction between speech and action. Saying something is not the same as doing it. But, in these post-ideological, postmodern times, it has become very unfashionable to insist on such a distinction.

In blurring the distinction between speech and action, what is really being blurred is the idea of human agency and of moral responsibility. Because lurking underneath the argument is the idea that people respond like automata to words or images. But people are not like robots. They think and reason and act on their thoughts and reasoning. Words certainly have an impact on the real world, but that impact is mediated through human agency.

Racists are, of course, influenced by racist talk. It is they, however, who bear responsibility for translating racist talk into racist action. Ironically, for all the talk of using free speech responsibly, the real consequence of the demand for censorship is to moderate the responsibility of individuals for their actions.

Having said that, there are clearly circumstances in which there is a direct connection between speech and action, where someone’s words have directly led to someone else taking action. Such incitement should be illegal, but it has to be tightly defined. There has to be both a direct link between speech and action and intent on the part of the speaker for that particular act of violence to be carried out. Incitement to violence in the context of hate speech should be as tightly defined as in ordinary criminal cases. In ordinary criminal cases, incitement is, rightly, difficult legally to prove. The threshold for liability should not be lowered just because hate speech is involved.

PM: How tightly should we define the connection between incitement and the imminent danger of action? What about racist slogans in a soccer stadium, and imminent danger of violence on the crowded streets after the end of the game?

KM: Racist slogans, like any racist speech, should be a moral issue, not a legal one. If supporters are clearly set to attack others, or are directly inciting others to do so, then, of course, it becomes a matter for the law.

PM: What about this example: At the gay pride parade in Budapest, peaceful marchers were attacked. Some onlookers merely shouted homophobic statements; others, no doubt encouraged by the taunting, threw eggs and rocks at the marchers. If the hecklers later stated that they had not intended to incite violence, should they be subject to punishment or liability?

KM: Such questions cannot be answered in the abstract; it depends on the context. I would need to know more factual details than you have provided. If the two groups you mention were independent of each other and happened to turn up at the gay march at the same time, and if the perpetrators of violence would have attacked the marchers anyway, then I don’t see that the non-violent homophobes have a legal case to answer. The non-violent homophobes are no more responsible for the violence of the violent homophobes in those circumstances than peaceful anti-globalization protestors are responsible for the actions of fellow-protestors who trash Starbucks or set cars alight.

If, on the other hand, there was a relationship between the two groups, or if the one was clearly egging on the other, and if without such encouragement the violent protestors would not have been violent, then, yes, there may well be a case to answer.

PM: What if the two groups of anti-globalization protestors are not independent from each other, if they belong to the same group, just some/most of them are peacefully shouting slogans, while others are acting violently? Would you draw a line between slogans – uttered without violence – that are hateful and slogans that might be angry but do not incite hatred?

KM: People should have the legal right to shout slogans, even hateful ones, and even though we might morally despise them for doing so. The law should deal with people acting violently, or those that directly incite others to violence. To ‘incite hatred’, as you put it, should not, of itself, be a criminal offence; the distinction is again between a particular attitude and a particular action.

PM: In that case, suppose the action is not violence but discrimination. That is, should it be only the imminent danger of violence that can justify restriction to speech, or does the imminent danger of discrimination suffice?

KM: I support laws against discrimination in the public sphere. But I absolutely oppose laws against the advocacy of discrimination. Equality is a political concept, and one to which I subscribe. But many people don’t. It is clearly a highly contested concept. Should there be continued Muslim immigration into Europe? Should indigenous workers get priority in social housing? Should gays be allowed to adopt? These are all questions being keenly debated at the moment. I have strong views on all these issues, based on my belief in equality. But it would be absurd to suggest that only people who hold my kind of views should be able to advocate them. I find arguments against Muslim immigration, against equal access to housing, against gay adoptions unpalatable. But I accept that these are legitimate political arguments. A society that outlawed such arguments would, in my mind, be as reactionary as one that banned Muslim immigration or denied gays rights.

PM: But what about advocacy of discrimination that creates imminent danger of discrimination? For example, when members of a minority group would like to enter a restaurant or a bar and someone vehemently tells the security guard at the door that those people should not be allowed in.

KM: An individual who advocates such discrimination may be morally despicable but should not be held to have committed a legal offense. The security guard, however, and the establishment that so discriminates should be answerable to the law.

PM: Do you think that we can find a universal approach to criminal law restriction to incitement to hatred? Or should the regulation depend on the cultural context, and if so, in what way regulation could be different?

KM: I believe that free speech is a universal good and that all human societies best flourish with the greatest extension of free speech. It is often said, for example, even by free-speech advocates, that there is a case for Germany banning Holocaust denial. I don’t accept that. Even in Germany – especially in Germany – what is needed is an open and robust debate on this issue.

PM: Would you suggest the same for Rwanda?

KM: Yes I would. What Rwanda requires is not the suppression of the deep-seated animosities but the ability of people openly to debate their differences. It’s worth adding, given the argument for state regulation of hate speech, that in Rwanda it was the state that promoted the hatred that led to such devastating consequences.

PM: What would imminent danger caused by incitement to hatred mean in such an environment? In other words: Do you think that the legal concept of this imminence of danger can be contextual?

KM: The meaning of ‘imminent danger’ clearly depends upon circumstances. What constitutes imminent danger in, say, London or New York, where there exists a relatively stable, relatively liberal society, and a fairly robust framework of law and order, may be different from what constitutes imminent danger in Kigali or even in Moscow. And the meaning of imminent danger for a Jew in Berlin in 1936 was clearly different from that for a Jew – or a Muslim – in Berlin 2011. At the same time, in those times and in those societies in which particular groups are being made targets of intense hostility, this debate becomes almost irrelevant. In a climate of extreme hatred, as in Rwanda in 1994, or in Germany in the 1930s, it may be easier to incite people into harming others. But in such a climate, the niceties of what legally constitutes “imminent harm” would, and should, be the least of our worries. What would matter would be to confront such hatred and prejudice head on, both politically and physically.

What I am wary of is that in accepting the commonsense view that what constitutes danger is dependent on circumstances, we should not make the concept so elastic as to render it meaningless. Whether in London, New York, Berlin, or Kigali, speech should only be curtailed if such speech directly incites an act that causes or could cause physical harm to others and if individuals are in imminent danger of such harm because of those words. What is contextual is that in different circumstances, different kinds of speech could potentially place individuals in the way of such harm.

PM: Do you think that violent acts committed by hateful motivation deserve stricter punishments?

KM: I accept that intentions are not just morally but also legally relevant, and that different intentions can result in the imposition of different sentences. But when we make a distinction between, say, murder and manslaughter, we are making a distinction based on the kind or degree of harm the perpetrator intended. When it is suggested, however, that a racist murderer should receive a greater punishment than a non-racist murderer, a different kind of distinction is being drawn. The distinction here is not between the degrees of harm intended – in both cases the killer intended to kill – but between the thoughts that were in the minds of the respective killers. The distinction is between someone who might be thinking, ‘I am going to kill you because I hate you because you looked at me the wrong way’ and someone who might be thinking ‘I am going to kill you because I hate you because you are black’. What is being criminalized here is simply a thought. And I am opposed to the category of thought crimes. Racist thoughts are morally offensive. But they should not be made a criminal offense.

Proponents argue that raising the punishment for hate crimes will (1) protect those who are abused or attacked simply because they belong to a particular group, and (2) send a message about the kind of society we wish to promote. But that is not fundamentally different from the argument for the criminalization of hate speech. And I am opposed to it for the same reason that I am opposed to the criminalization of hate speech.

PM: But does it not make a substantial difference that one might be able to avoid being attacked by not looking at her/his potential attackers the wrong way, while one cannot change her/his skin color?

KM: To the victim, such a distinction is, of course, of little comfort. There is also an implication here that some victims cannot help being victims, while others could, by having behaved differently, have avoided their misfortune. While this is not the same as suggesting that some victims ask to be victims, it is moving in that direction, and we should be careful about how far down this road we go.

The real issue remains the same: Should murderers with racist intent be punished to a greater degree than those with other kinds of malicious intent? I accept that racism is a pernicious social evil that needs specifically to be combated. But I reject the idea that we can, and should, combat racism by outlawing racist thoughts. If you accept, as I do, that thoughts in themselves – even racist thoughts – should not be legally prohibited, then you have to accept that a racist thought that leads to murder should not be seen as legally different from a nonracist thought that leads to murder.

PM: How, in your view, could we improve the social (non-legal) responses to ‘hate speech’?

KM: The whole point of free speech is to create the conditions for robust debate, to be able to challenge obnoxious views. To argue for free speech but not to utilize it to challenge obnoxious, odious, and hateful views seems to me immoral. It is morally incumbent on those who argue for free speech to stand up to racism and bigotry.

At the same time, however, we should be clear that what often legitimizes bigotry are the arguments not of the bigots but of mainstream politicians and intellectuals who denounce bigotry and yet accept bigoted claims. Throughout Europe, mainstream politicians have denounced the rise of the far right. And throughout Europe, mainstream politicians have adapted to far-right arguments, clamping down on immigration, pursuing anti-Muslim measures, and so on. They have sometimes even adopted the language. In his first speech at the Labour Party conference after gaining the top office, former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown talked of ensuring ‘British jobs for British workers’, a slogan first popularized by the neofascist National Front. The National Front had twinned it with a second slogan: ‘Three million blacks. Three million unemployed. Kick the blacks out’. Gordon Brown was, of course, not guilty of hate speech. But his use of that phrase probably did far more to promote xenophobic sentiment than any amount of “hate speech” by far-right bigots. Challenging bigotry requires us to challenge the mainstream ideas that give it sustenance, and to campaign against those discriminatory social practices and laws that help make the arguments of the racists, the sexists, and the homophobes more acceptable.

PM: Do you think that banning “hate speech” undermines, or at least weakens, the legitimacy of a democracy?

KM: Free speech and democracy are intimately linked. Without free speech there is no democracy. That is why any restriction on speech must be kept to the absolute minimum.

There are two ways in which banning hate speech undermines democracy. First, democracy can only work if every citizen believes that their voice counts. That however outlandish, outrageous, or obnoxious one’s belief may be, they nevertheless have the right to express it and to try to win support for it. When people feel they no longer possess that right, then democracy itself suffers, as does the legitimacy of those in power.

Not just the banning of hate speech but the very categorization of an argument or a sentiment as ‘hate speech’ can be problematic for the democratic process. I am in no doubt that some speech is designed to promote hatred. And I accept that certain arguments – like the direct incitement of violence – should indeed be unlawful. But the category ‘hate speech’ has come to function quite differently from prohibitions on incitement to violence. It has become a means of rebranding obnoxious political arguments as immoral and so beyond the boundaries of accepted reasonable debate. It makes certain sentiments illegitimate, thereby disenfranchising those who hold such views.

And this brings me to the second point as to why the banning of hate speech undermines democracy. Branding an opinion as ‘hate speech’ does not simply disenfranchise those holding such a view; it also absolves the rest of us of the responsibility of politically challenging it. Where once we might have challenged obnoxious or hateful sentiments politically, today we are more likely simply to seek to outlaw them.

In 2007, James Watson, the codiscoverer of the structure of DNA, claimed of Africans that their ‘intelligence is not the same as ours’ and that blacks are genetically intellectually inferior. He was rightly condemned for his arguments. But most of those who condemned him did not bother challenging the arguments, empirically or politically. They simply insisted that it is morally unacceptable to imagine that blacks are intellectually inferior. Britain’s Equality and Human Rights Commission studied the remarks to see if it could bring any legal action. London’s Science Museum, at which Watson was to have delivered a lecture, canceled his appearance, claiming that the Nobel Laureate had ‘gone beyond the point of acceptable debate.’ New York’s Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, of which Watson was director, not only disowned Watson’s remarks but forced him eventually to resign.

I fundamentally disagree with Watson. Indeed I have written more than one book challenging such ideas, and have many times publicly debated their supporters. But I also think that it was as legitimate for Watson to have expressed his opinion as it is for me to express mine, even if I believe his assertion was factually wrong, morally suspect, and politically offensive. Simply to dismiss Watson’s claim as beyond the bounds of reasonable debate is to refuse to confront the actual arguments, to decline to engage with an idea that clearly has considerable purchase, and therefore to do disservice to democracy.

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32 comments

  1. bobbie

    Your arguements are critically flawed and similar words come from the mouth of many individuals full of hate.

    Firstly,

    “It is a way of making certain ideas illegitimate without bothering politically to challenge them”.

    “Hence I am wary of the argument that some sentiments are so immoral they can simply be condemned without being contested.”

    I agree, but i would say that only you have not thought nor contetested their morality. It is supremely arrogant to think that in past history no one has thought of the morality of hate speech and freedom of speech. Do you think that these laws have just come about out of no where and with no thought? You fail to realise, or choose not to realise that these laws are a consequence of thousands of years of actions and introspection into the cause of conflict, yet you use examples of history to justify their absence. These laws are not here to remove your freedom of speech but rather to keep the status quo of a civilised society and protect your freedoms.

    You may be short sighted enough to believe that these laws are uncontested and have come about as if sprouted from the ground with just the addition of a little bit of water. It is convenient to forget the seed beneath the ground, how it was placed there and how the soil has come to contain nutrients to see the plant grow.

    People who are capable of hind sight are capable of seeing the consequences of hate speech and the violence it leads to. Why does it lead to violence? It’s human nature, a concept freedom of speech does not take into account.

    There cannot be true freedom with out restrictions. Allowing freedom to verbally and categorically discriminate in terms of hate leads people to question the value of freedom.

    I know people like you, you argue that freedom of speech should be unrestricted or at the very least have limited restriction without giving thought to the violence that arises from it. Oh yes, i can hear the cogs in your mind ticking over, click, click, click but violence is a step too far you say!. Yet do you come up with a solution to prevent the violence that will result? No, you give no thought to that, you only give thought to how you can shoot your mouth off and insult others then ask for the very law that did not protect them to protect you from violence. Violence that you more than happily project on others. It is, and i apolgise for saying so, cowardly.

    How would you prevent, as seen in instances where you described to prevent hatred from infecting society and seeping into the public sector and people using it to discriminate? Are you so naive to think that it will not happen? or, this is what i think is more likely, you simply do not care as long as you have your “freedom of speech”. Why do i think that? because you do not put forward any arguments that will prevent this from happening.

    These laws are in place to prevent violence, yet you advocate an ideology that will result in violence. You ignore human nature so you can speak with out consequence.

    “Whether in London, New York, Berlin, or Kigali, speech should only be curtailed if such speech directly incites an act that causes or could cause physical harm to others and if individuals are in imminent danger of such harm because of those words”

    What is to prevent hate speech from turning into discrimination? you are happy to allow this? Why is your right to free speech more important than my right to live free of libel and defamation? If i were to suffer damage in terms of job satisfaction because a person was spewing forth racial hatred and lies in the work place, this would be acceptable to you? Would the boss allow this?? no of course not, the boss would fire the perpetrator immedietly, why? to promote harmony and allow for growth of the company. I correlate this to a national government who would want it citizens to live harmoniously.

    The quote above sounds like a poor disclaimer, hate speech according to your definition should be allowed yet you are against speech that may puts anyone in harm? Please, tell me. What hate speech does not lead to violence?? Also wouldn’t the legal definition of what constitutes speech that lead to violence be just a vague concept as what you claim hate speech to be? What is acceptable? Would all speech be acceptable until some one acts violently on it? Should it get to that stage? Would any threat be acceptable if no violence or intention of violence was carried out? Would thirty skinheads following a black man down the street yelling, n****r! n****r! white power! be acceptable as long as they do not make any actual threats of violence? Would that be considered a form of intimidation? is intimidation illegal?? how would you legally separate the defintion of hate speech and intimidation, when the two are inextricably linked? Why is the freedom of the person to speak hatred more so than the individual not to be intimidated?

    Can messages be brought about and heard with out resulting to hate speech?? What political message was breivik putting forward when he said that he wants to cleanse europe of muslims, how is one to tell with out a full psychiatric assesment the difference betweem him jesting and him following through on his threats??. Tell me how his hate speech did not turn to violence?? Did he have no other choice?? Were people taking away his voice?? Could he have not created a political party with an anti immigration message? Tell me that his freedom to spew forth hatred is greater than the lives of 77 innocent individuals. How thin is the line between hate speech which causes imminent danger and regular hate speech?

    “That however outlandish, outrageous, or obnoxious one’s belief may be, they nevertheless have the right to express it and to try to win support for it.”
    No, no nation has unrestricted free speech, you have the right to start a political party with certain policies. Neither the UK nor Australia have a definite right to free speech, it is only implied, even then with restrictions.

    “Without free speech there is no democracy.” This is absurd, democracy existed before these laws, and democracy still exists after these laws. Its funny that the Freedom of speechers put forward a version of democracy which allows them more freedom of than others. Democracy is having the vote for a political party. Removal of that is the death of democracy, not some person not being allowed to shout profanities in the street. Democracy and the current laws allow for the equal (as close as we can get) right for people to worship and practice belief as they wish. So, saying that. You have the right to say what you want in the privacy of your own home. You DO NOT have the right to spew forth hate speech on others. See the difference?? You have the freedom to practice and say what you wish within the confines of your own personal space. You do not have the right to invade the personal space of others. That is where the clear difference lays. That is where your intentions lay, that is why your agenda to allow the subjugation of others becomes apparent. We live in a democracy, where people are free to live as they wish without persecution, intimidation and fear of discrimination.

    As for the comments on Watson.
    “But most of those who condemned him did not bother challenging the arguments, empirically or politically.”
    Most people would people scoff at rediculous arguments when its obvious that the statement is based in prejudice. If someone calls me a dickhead, i am not going to take pictures of my forehead to emperically deny that i have a penis on my head. Its scoffed at with suitable response. Most people are smart enough to see a rediculous statement and not feel the need to spend day and hour trying to refute an idea that is undeniably wrong, to paint this as ignorance on behalf of the respondants is disingenuous.

    “Simply to dismiss Watson’s claim as beyond the bounds of reasonable debate is to refuse to confront the actual arguments, to decline to engage with an idea that clearly has considerable purchase, and therefore to do disservice to democracy”

    Once again, do i need to send you a picture of my face to prove to you that there is indeed no penis attached to it? Will my forehead be the saviour of democracy?

    Its stunning, if you were not to ignore history you would see that hate speech is only used to control others,intimidate and to take away their freedom. Hate speech has no place in a civilised society and will only lead to the downfall of democracy, as seen in EVERY example of its use through out history, it serves no purpose other than the exhalation of air.

    • Thanks for your rant. I will attempt, in the spirit of free speech, to respond to it, though had it been less of a rant, and more of a coherent argument, I might have better understood your complaints apart from the fact that you think legal restrictions on hate speech are good and that I am a nasty, wicked person who does not think about what happens to anyone else.

      ‘You fail to realise, or choose not to realise that these laws are a consequence of thousands of years of actions and introspection into the cause of conflict, yet you use examples of history to justify their absence.’

      Had you read any of my work, or even some of the other posts on this blog, you might have recognized that not only am I aware of the history of the debate about free speech, but I have written much about that history. As it happens modern hate speech laws are not the consequence of ‘thousands of years of actions and introspection’ but of recent political necessities. Be that as it may, the fact that a particular law derives from thousands of years of thought does not make it a good law. Those who promote laws to ban homosexuality can say, with more substance, that such laws are the products of ‘thousands of years of actions and introspection’. Does that mean that we should respect all that thinking and accept such laws?

      Nor have ‘thousands of years of actions and introspection’ made the concept of ‘hate speech’ any more coherent. Many Muslims believe that The Satanic Verses constitutes hate speech (a belief that they would insist derives from ‘thousands of years of actions and introspection’). Should it be banned (as it is in countries such as India)? Should the Qur’an be banned because Geert Wilders and others think it constitutes hate speech? Or what about the satirical cover of the Economist that the SNP’s Martin Hannan wants prosecuted as hate speech?

      ‘Why does it lead to violence? It’s human nature, a concept freedom of speech does not take into account.’

      ‘It’s human nature’ is not an argument. It’s a means of closing down argument.

      ‘Yet do you come up with a solution to prevent the violence that will result? No, you give no thought to that, you only give thought to how you can shoot your mouth off and insult others then ask for the very law that did not protect them to protect you from violence.’

      First this assumes that hate speech laws ‘protect you from violence’. As I showed with the example of Britain’s Race Relations Act, this is unlikely to be the case. As for preventing violence, having spent much of my youth organizing physical protection against racists, I don’t need any lessons on this.

      ‘Violence that you more than happily project on others. It is, and i apolgise for saying so, cowardly.’

      Whether I am cowardly or not I will leave others to decide. But such ad hominem attacks are always a disguise for a lack of coherent argument.

      ‘How would you prevent, as seen in instances where you described to prevent hatred from infecting society and seeping into the public sector and people using it to discriminate? Are you so naive to think that it will not happen? or, this is what i think is more likely, you simply do not care as long as you have your “freedom of speech”. Why do i think that? because you do not put forward any arguments that will prevent this from happening.’

      I am not sure I fathom the logic of this paragraph. Why (apart from the fact that you assert that it does) should opposing laws on hate speech lead to greater discrimination in the public sphere? There are specific laws that deal with the question of such discrimination, laws that operate independently of laws about hate speech. And as I observed in my interview I support such laws – which, if you think about it, might undermine your claim that I ‘simply do not care’ about such discrimination. Whether or not you believe in free speech, it pays to read that which you wish to argue against.

      ‘Would thirty skinheads following a black man down the street yelling, n****r! n****r! white power! be acceptable as long as they do not make any actual threats of violence?’

      That depends on the context. If it was a case of racists marching or demonstrating, I would defend their right to do so. If they were attempting to intimidate or harass a particular individual, it may well be a case for the law.

      ‘What political message was breivik putting forward when he said that he wants to cleanse europe of muslims, how is one to tell with out a full psychiatric assesment the difference betweem him jesting and him following through on his threats??. Tell me how his hate speech did not turn to violence??’

      In the case of Breivik, it’s worth pointing out first that Norway has tight hate speech laws. They did not stop Breivik’s monstrous violence. And as I have observed before, while few but the most psychopathic have any sympathy for Breivik’s homicidal frenzy, the ideas of the ‘clash of civilizations’, of a ‘Christian Europe’ under threat, of Muslim immigration as undermining the foundations of ‘European values’, of the creation of ‘Eurabia’, etc, all find widespread hearing. Would you want to ban everyone who has influenced Breivik or who promotes such ideas, from Mark Steyn to Melanie Phillips, from Christopher Caldwell to Martin Amis? Or is it better to allow these voices to be heard and to openly and robustly challenge them?

      At the heart of your argument seems to be belief that if you oppose speech hate laws, you must take hate speech to be in some way a good. That is absurd. The debate is not about whether hate speech should be combated, but how. My view is that censorship does little to eradicate such views, nor to deal with their consequences. Moreover it relieves people of their responsibility to challenge them. To imagine that censorship is the only way of challenging hate is to reveal a paucity of political imagination.

      • ‘That depends on the context. If it was a case of racists marching or demonstrating, I would defend their right to do so. If they were attempting to intimidate or harass a particular individual, it may well be a case for the law.’

        But doesn’t Britain have a history of bluring the two cases? I remember news reports from the 90′s of a town where white supremacists chose have noisy marches residential areas with large asian populations.

        I chanting racist slogans outside someone’s front door a demonstration? Or is it intimidation? By what principle do you distinguish the two.

      • Yes, political protests can often seem intimidating, and are often designed to intimidate. But however blurred the lines may seem, I would not, especially at a time when the state increasingly seeks to police and to neuter protests, support greater interference on the part of the police, politicians, etc, in banning protests on the grounds that they can intimidate.

  2. northstar

    Bobbie, I think we will be needing to review a picture of your forehead, for democracy’s sake.
    As always Kenan, an excellent and insightful post.

    • bobbieshaban

      Kenan where has my second comment gone? I saw it there this morning after i posted it.

      You wouldnt have removed it would you? I mean someone promoting free speech then removing a post in a debate? that would be diabolical.

      • No, I neither censor nor remove comments. Though if you start throwing around silly accusations, I might have to change attitude to moderation…

  3. bobbieshaban

    My apologies i was experience odd technical difficulties.

    I appreciate your good nature northstar.

  4. bobbieshaban

    Haha,

    The person against censorship is considering censorship! That would be considered in the eyes of intellectuals, hypocritical.

    Go on, Ban me, end debate!. Go against everything you believe in and ban me!, And this isn’t even hate speech!

    • This happens to be my personal blog, not a public platform for your every wittering. As a courtesy I open it up for you and for everybody else to debate the issues, because I think such debate is good. But the fact that I believe in free speech does not mean that I am compelled to provide a space on my personal blog for all your idiocies. All it means is that I support your right to express your idiocies, in a public space or in a space that you have created. So, go get yourself that space, set up a blog and say what you wish. As it happens, I have not, as you must be aware, despite your insinuations to the contrary, either censored you or banned you. All your comments and criticisms have been published in full, and I have responded to them in good faith. Indeed I have never censored or banned anybody on this blog. I have no wish to. If you want to have a debate, debate. But if you want simply to troll, that is a different matter.

      • bobbieshaban

        “if you want simply to troll, that is a different matter”

        Why should it be? Why should you have the right to say what you want on a blog? yet i should be moderated?

        Why should you have the right to demonise my beliefs and yet have the right to moderate what i say??

        My initial comment on your character was correct. Cowardly. It’s not a silly accusation, its the truth, you are hiding behind the same principle that you wish to be removed from the law, you want to allow people to spew forth hatred yet hide behind the ability to monitor and moderate who you want. Prove to me otherwise, remove the moderation.

        Now your true colors are showing, allow yourself the privilege to say what you want, but when you hear something you dont like, the threats of censorship, extra exceptions (this being a public blog) and name calling present themselves. You call me a troll, how about debating my silly accusations??? why do you not debate my silly accusations?? Why do you not debate them? You complain that people dismissed watson without debating his position and that they just dismissed his comments, How is that any different to what you have done? Maybe i was right, maybe people do not feel the need to constantly debate ridiculous statements and dismiss them as such immediately. But no, instead of sticking to your code, you call me a troll to shut down debate, maybe my analogy of the penis on the head was correct?.

        Further more instead of debating my argument on human nature, you simply dismiss me as trying to shut down debate! oh the hypocrisy!

        “‘It’s human nature’ is not an argument. It’s a means of closing down argument.” How is that statement not a statement of closing debate?

        I said the following,

        “‘Why does it lead to violence? It’s human nature, a concept freedom of speech does not take into account.’”

        Essentially meaning that freedom of speech doesnt take into account human natures tendency to promote violence when given the opportunity, and you consider this an attempt to shut down debate??

        If i were to say that one of communism’s failings is that it doesnt cater for the human desire/nature to be competitive and achieve higher than ones standing, you would consider me to be shutting down debate??

        You accuse me of making personal attacks, You have no right to think that, i am making observations, isnt that the premise of your argument, that people do not have the right to think that you criticising their god is a personal attack?? Why is it not considered a personal attack if you insult someones god, yet pointing out the failures of your argument and making observations about your character is considered out of order?.

        You call me a troll, say that i have not read your article, claim i have no position, that i am incoherent, i am ranting and yet you do not debate me! you just call for my moderation! A quote comes to mind.

        “such blanket condemnations are often a cover for the inability or unwillingness politically to challenge obnoxious sentiments. Second, in challenging obnoxious sentiments”

        If you want hate speech laws removed which will allow people make baseless accusations against peoples gods, allow me the right to make allegations against your character. Unless i intimidate, or make threats, neither of which i have done, you have to allow me to say what i want about you, whether based in reality or not so you will know how it feels to have someone spew forth racial hatred in your face.

        I do not understand, in this world you have the right to speak truth, you do not have the right to spread lies, defamation and untruths, what possible service to democracy can being allowed to spread untruths achieve?

        Now for my description of you, lets see if you will allow me my version of what type of human being you are. Lets see if you stick to you principles and allow this through. I am not being nasty here, this is my honest assessment of you. Just remember, “You do not have the right to be offended”.

        You sir are a hypocritical, self absorbed, pseudo intellectual coward, who spews forth hatred and hides behind the very concepts that you wish to eradicate, you have no idea of the human condition yet claim to possess an idea and promote the idea as such which will fix a system of social government which is not broken. You have no ability to comprehend an argument outside your own. You only preach to your supporters, you claim to be the victim and accuse people of trying to stifle debate, yet you call them trolls, say that they are incapable of understanding your point, and that they must be incoherent and ranting, I am surprised that you havn’t told me to go learn english proper!. Democracy is about giving equal platform for all, yet you deride democracy and propose a system which will create inequality. You contradict yourself. You have a condescending elitist attitude forwarding a dehumanising agenda. You are not of the human race, your agenda is the subjugation of the weak and illiterate.

        Done, That was fun, is this what its going to be like when hate speech is removed? was i allowed to criticise your race? i didnt, but if i am please allow me to return, i have some choice things to say.

        In the interests of not stifling debate, please allow me to say, I am looking forward to hearing your counter arguments to my post, please do not stifle debate by calling me a troll, or saying i misunderstand your post or by not responding. I am a loud mouth obnoxious idiot and i deserve to be heard and be responded to.

        Thank you for your time.

        P.s. I am not trolling, i just really do not like the way you think.

      • So let me get this right. You are yet again commenting on my blog to complain that I don’t allow you to comment on my blog? That’s about as bizarre as it gets.

        Why should you have the right to say what you want on a blog? yet i should be moderated?

        As it happens, and as you must be well aware, I haven’t moderated you or censored you, but rather let you vent your incoherent spleen in full, and more than once. What you don’t seem to grasp, however, is that this is not simply ‘a’ blog, it’s my personal blog. The fact that I believe in free speech compels me to defend your right to say what you wish on your blog or in a public space. It does not necessarily compel me to turn my blog into an open platform for you, or for anyone else, to spout any nonsense you wish to.

        I am a loud mouth obnoxious idiot

        I am glad you wrote that. Perhaps we should leave this ‘debate’ on a rare point of agreement.

  5. northstar

    Dear Mr. Malik (or is it Dr.? May I just call you Kenan? All right then…) Kenan, you have written extensively on the regulation of free speech, identity politics, and seem to support the idea that multiculturalism is a faliure on both sides of the atlantic. As a Canadian, multiculturalism is a major weave in the fabric of my society, and one that I struggle to support. Is it indeed your contention that multiculturalism is a failure, or have I understood you incorrectly? Further, as nation states evolve in an increasingly open world, and begin to harbour peoples with many disparate ideals and cultural practices, how ought states regulate the interactions between its citizens? Should a shared national identity or sense of civic involvement be strongly encouraged, even if this means certain transmitted cultural beliefs would be pushed to the fringes? Thank you for the insightful blog posts, by the way. I eagerly await the completion of your newest book, and by all means return to Canada someday soon!

  6. Serge

    Hi, Kenan.

    As a staunch supporter of the free speech I am just wondering whether you think that Breivik trial should be televised? Do you think that he should be given a platform to express his ideas?

    Serge.

    • Justice is best when it is open, so I’m happy to see the broadcast of Breivik’s trial. I also think that the best way to deal with obnoxious, hateful ideas, especially when those ideas may have a social resonance, is by allowing them to be aired and openly and robustly challenging them. Censorship will do nothing to undermine such ideas. The fear of ‘giving Breivik a platform’ is the fear that his ideas may strike a chord. It is precisely in those circumstances that they need openly airing and challenging, rather being suppressed and everyone pretending that they do not exist.

      • bobbieshaban

        It’s odd,

        I do not think that anybody is going to say that those thoughts do not exist. They should be heard openly challenged. But the details of a court case should not. I can not believe no body wants to mention the elephant in the room. What happens if the details of the trials are heard and if it affects the out come of the trial??

        The problem of freedom to speechers is that they hold this freedom above the freedom of all others, tell me, how can you hold your freedom to speech above the freedom to have a fair and unbiased trial? One of the critical tenants of a democracy.

        Even breivik as deplorable as he is deserves a fair trial and the airing of criminal details will affect the outcome. Its a simple concept, one which hopefully people can educate me as to its defects, yet people wish to use this to score political points. Its deplorable.

        There are already plenty of avenues to discuss breiviks ideas why does it need to be done in the court of law?

      • I’m afraid I find this comment as bizarre and illogical as most of your previous ones. Unless you believe in closed court cases (which I don’t) ‘details of a court case’ will inevitably be in the public domain, and that is all for the good. Justice needs to be open and public. I cannot see in what way this is to ‘hold your freedom to speech above the freedom to have a fair and unbiased trial’. It is the very basis of a fair and unbiased trial. You seem to be suggesting that allowing Breivik to have his say deprives him of a fair trial. That is as about as Alice-though-the-looking-glass as it gets.

  7. “what possible service to democracy can being allowed to spread untruths achieve?” But from my perspective – that could be an argument for banning religion – or proselytising in any case.

    I completely agree that it’s better to air ideas, including unwelcome ones, openly – if they are suppressed they often become more potent and start to *drive* extremism and hate.

    I’m interested in the last two commenters’ questions – I don’t like the attention Breivik is getting personally – though like Kenan Malik I certainly wouldn’t want any censorship of the ideas/bloggers associated with his views, loathesome though some of them are.

    I’d be interested to hear what Kenan thinks of the Lars Hedegaard case.

  8. Miro

    Bobbie,

    <<>>

    Obvious that it’s based on prejudice?!!! This can only be hate speech. Hate for poor Watson who was a leftist non-racist all his life and now at old age had to concede that he was wrong. Bobbie should not be allowed to speak! He has too much hate.

    Problem is… the argument is neither ridiculous nor prejudiced. That Africans are generally less intelligent has been widely proven. It’s just one of those nasty facts that leftists have to accept one day and forcefully curtailing this argument will not serve the purpose they intend.

    <<>>

    LOL. Comparing a figure of speech with a scientific conclusion is laughable. The difference (do I have to…) is that Watson was right and only blind or rosy specced libs don’t see it.

    W.r.t. the rest…. if this was my blog I wouldn’t allow trolls like bobbie in here.

    • Watson was certainly not right (see also my more recent post on the issue of race). The idea that because of their ‘race’ or genetic endowment ‘Africans are generally less intelligent’, far from having ‘been widely proven’ is mere prejudice. But he, like you, also has every right to express his opinion, even if that opinion is factually wrong, morally suspect and politically offensive.

      • Miro

        I take exception to “is mere prejudice”. I haven’t read your other article yet but I see you have a family tree there (opened it in another page and scrolled through it). I hope you’re not going to say that race is a mere social construct but will comment in that page if I must. Here I will just say that I liked your article very much but you are wrong to say that ” far from having ‘been widely proven’ is mere prejudice”, specially the “is mere prejudice” part. I believe that separate evolution during millenia made us different but still part of the same species. This is not due to prejudice. I don’t know why you would think I’m prejudiced. Maybe I’m too much of a layman to understand the full concept, but what about Watson? He’s a scientist co-discoverer of DNA with a track record of being a leftist. If you think that he was being prejudiced, I don’t see why. Just because you disagree with him? Nature is unfair, not that we must be unfair to each others but only that nature is not politically correct. Also, the consensus seems to be shifting away from the 80′s ideas towards more acceptance of racial differences. Of course some racists will take advantage of that, but like you say, let them talk, let’s prove them wrong. Ultimately, with globalization, they will be left behind. I believe that as the global village gets smaller, race will become less of an issue as it gets more diluted and people will choose partners more for their qualities, mix race couples becoming more widespread and acceptable, humans will become more miscegenated, but what if we’re wrong? What if the racists turn out to be right? Maybe preserving some pure breed specimens is not necessarily a bad thing :-) Will we develop a human culture? Globalization only started recently and where will it take us? Will humans split into two species as some computer model reported by the BBC a few years ago showed?…

        Technical glitches on my previous post, sorry, I was trying to emphasize quotes but it didn’t work. It seems the “” are taken as some html tag. Hopefully it’s understood from the context. The second quote was Bobbie’s ridiculous comparison of proving he’s a dickhead with proving racial differences.

      • It is mere prejudice because there is not a shred of evidence that ‘Africans are generally less intelligent’ because of any genetic endowment. As for the idea of race, as the title of my post shows, I disagree with both sides. And I’m afraid phrases such as ‘separate evolution during millenia made us different but still part of the same species’ and ‘preserving some pure breed specimens is not necessarily a bad thing’ do little to convince me that you have even a superficial understanding of human population genetics.

  9. Charlie

    Excellent article Kenan.

    The problem is that democracy requires robust and well mannered debate, which requires emotional maturity. Judgement based on common sense is rare. A parent who is grieving because a teen age son has just been killed in a car accident due to reckless driving, is not going to appreciate someone saying ” I told you that your son was a reckless driver but you did not listen” , even if it is true.

    Where people believe them selves morally and intellectually superior and shut down debate on isssues of race then trouble is brewing.

    If immigration had been better managed, including explaining why it was happening and allowing open debate of the pros and cons, then there would have been less problems.

    If the British like to consider themselves well mannered, then racism is just bad manners .

  10. Yorkshire Miner

    Dear Mr Malik,
    extremely interesting and I am in agreement with virtually every thing that you have said where we don’t agree is more a matter of emphasis. I am against hate speech laws for the simple reason it is impossible to define hate. Hate is an emotion in the same way as love is but it is abstract and being so can not be quantified and it cannot be quantified it cannot be defined it is impossible too have a foot of love or a pound of hate, but we know they exist. Hate and love are words we use to try and define those feeling we have, but as they are ephemeral and not concrete and have no definite boundaries we tend to use lots and lots of different words to define them. Feeling seem to have a continuum going from Zero too infinity and we pop words onto that continuum to describe our emotions at that point, and therefore words like hate can slowly change from hate too profound contempt, contempt down to mild dislike, and that is the problem, my mild dislike can easily be defined as hate from another’s point of view because they are subjective and not objective because we can’t define hate or love f

    Having hate laws on the books, however good the intentions were, has the inevitable consequence, because of impossibility of defining hate of denigrating into political blasphemy laws. If you can get the court to accept your definition of hate, you then have the law on your side to beat your opponent over the head with, this is why they were used quiet explicit against Geert Wilders too try and shut him up. The powers that be wanted a political show trial but because of their blundering and Bram Moszkowicz, Wilders advocate, perhaps the best lawyer in Holland, it turned into a political farce. We have seen the same over the last couple of months with the trial of Lars Hedergaard in Denmark, or the disgusting trial of Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff in Austria, who was accused and convicted of hate speech for saying that Mohamed was married to a 9 year old girl and by definition a pedophile, in a closed lecture she was giving. Our courts then become nothing more than enforcers of the political though police, and not the dispensers of Justice.

    The consequence of this is that truth is not a defense when it comes to hate speech laws, and with that justice goes out of the window. When you give witness in a court of law you swear to tell the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Truth is the bedrock on which our judicial system should be based and when hate speech is given a higher priority than truth, then we are on the very slippery slope to perdition.

    The Behring Breivik case in Norway is one I have been following quiet extensively one because I read Norwegian and two because I know one of the witnesses who has been called.

    The sadness of cause is the death of all those children, but what should have been simple and straightforward, is being turned in to degrading circus. It is understandable that people want to know the reason why he committed such a disgusting crime. The simple reason he is mad a fantasist and a narcissist. You have to be mad to kill children in cold blood. The first two psychologist stated this in there first report on his mental condition, this would of cause meant no show trial and he would quietly have been locked up in a secure institution for the criminally insane. Not wanting this the Powers that be ordered another report that certified he was sane. The political show trial has started by which they will try and prove that reason he committed the crime was because he was influenced by so called right wing writers he mentioned in his so called manifesto who have question the Norwegian Multicultural experiment. Fjordman who I know and a few more Norwegian bloggers will be paraded in the next few weeks and denounced. The trial will last for about six weeks which should be enough to get the idea over that the so called right wing extremists are the reason for Behring Breivik senseless crime, the word hate will be used a lot. The result will be that shortly afterwards new legislation will be enacted to limit even more peoples freedom of expression especially if it is detrimental to community cohesion. Behring Breivik will be put away for life that is a forgone conclusion. They will have proved too there satisfaction that so called right wing fascist were the cause of Behring Breivik behavior forgetting to mention that Churchill and JF Kennedy got honorable mentions in that 1,500 pages of drivel he called a manifesto. They will forget the real reason that Mad people done need a reason they just need an excuse. The other tragedy is that all those people who lost there children because of this mans lunacy will have to relive the horror of leaning how there kids were killed through all the media coverage. Losing your kids, you never get over, It doesn’t just affect the parents it affects the Grandparent as well as brothers and sister. There is going to be a lot of needless mental anguish and pain so that some politicians can score a few brownie points.

    Thank you once again for such a fine and thoughtful blogg. I will be tagging it and coming back many times to read what you have to say

    Regards

    • I agree that the notion of ‘hate speech’ is difficult to define and has steadily expanded in an attempt to shut down all manner of speech. As for Breivik, I have a new post on this.

  11. Barny Boatman

    A very interesting article with which I broadly agree. There is one point though that I think bears more examination. You accept that intention is legally relevant to the severity and punishment of a crime, but you only talk about this in terms of the degree of harm intended.
    The law makes other distinctions around intention. For example, the degree of pre-meditation. I would argue that a person roaming around looking for a person to harm on the grounds that they fit a certain profile is committing a different crime to someone who lashes out in a moment of anger even if the level of harm intended is the same and if the individual is being targeted for the same reason (eg their skin colour.)
    In such a case the person could be taking part in a broader campaign of intimidation and harm which means their actions are liable to have wider harmful repercussions for the group they are targeting. In this case, if what is in their minds when committing the crime can be reliably proven (and of course a high standard of proof would be required) then it could rightly be relevant to the nature and punishment of the offense.

  12. Miro

    Kenan,

    “It is mere prejudice because there is not a shred of evidence …” I still don’t understand why you think i’ts prejudice. How does not having a shred of evidence mean that it must be prejudice? Assuming there’s no shred of evidence (which is arguable), I could simply be mistaken, placing more influence on genetics than what it’s due, or some error, but you insist it’s prejudice… And I think you naive. DNA determines who we are. Genetics is new and there’s already talk of intelligence genes. Take a look at it before dismissing it as prejudice.

    The comment about “preserving some pure breed specimens” was tongue in cheek, hence the smiley. It would be difficult to find a pure breed anyway, unless you go to some deep jungle in the Amazon or Africa… But everyone is free to procreate with who they wish, so if some group decide to form a “pure breed” let them be, as long as they don’t try to tell me who I can mate with.

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