If We Silence Hate Speech, Will We Silence Resistance?

“Hate” is a dangerously elastic label. And it has long been used to demonize unpopular expression, particularly among people of color.

Comments: 238

  1. I agree this trend is dangerous. Free speech really only matters for speech you don’t like.

  2. @Tam Hunt sorry, there is more going on with Alex Jones' speech than personal taste. There is such a think as fact and accountability.

  3. Some of the examples you discuss here are horrifying, but let’s be clear about Alex Jones. He’s not being silenced by the government in any way. Powerful brands like Facebook and Apple are just choosing to make a statement about the kind of companies they are. That’s their prerogative.

  4. @James
    Yes, just like a baker can choose not to create a cake for someone to make a statement about the kind of baker he is.

  5. @James - Would you support, say, Verizon refusing to provide service to Leftists? Or do you think Verizon should be required to let ANYONE use it? What is the difference between communicating with Verizon and communicating with Twitter or Facebook? You want to censor the viewpoint of Alex Jones but the speech of Antifa, BLM or Leftists who want to literally overthrow our government by violence is okay? Would you favor any public communication service like Twitter if, instead of Alex Jones, they censored the comments of Leftists, or would you support Leftists filing lawsuit after lawsuit to demand that Leftist viewpoints also be heard on such a right-wing forum, on the basis that it discriminates against blacks or the LGBTQRS-Z community, or that such Conservative web sites are "hate speech" and therefore should be shut down entirely?

    How far down the slippery slope of censorship do you want to slide?

  6. @James
    Agree. Facebook, Apple (iTunes), and Spotify are private companies, the same as the Times and the Washington Post. The newspapers are allowed to control or moderate their platforms, so there's no reason why FB and Apple shouldn't be able to as well.
    Alex Jones' rants are not just hate speech. They are more akin to shouting "Fire" in a theater when there is no fire. He promotes dangerous circumstances and situations.

  7. In this era of Trump how hate reigns
    All skins that are not White disdains,
    Dr. Nielsen's advice
    At this time is not wise
    With the alt-right's insidious gains.

  8. This does not need to be an all or nothing proposition. Some European countries have done a better job of moderating hate speech: https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/08/what-europe-can-tea... AND https://www.sfchronicle.com/opinion/openforum/article/Europe-polices-hat... .

    The Heritage Foundation and others have attempted to demonize those attempts, as though the first amendment were somehow so sacrosanct that nothing can be touched. That is not the case, but we cannot do it without more general citizen involvement. No one is saying we should not be careful in the process.

    Looking at our (not so) social media, it is not clear that our free speech laws continue to serve us well. I understand the problems of tinkering with our first amendment, but if we cannot adapt to a changing world the ability to promote more tolerance is likely to continue to suffer.

  9. @JSK I totaly agree "it does not need to be an all or nothing". And though difficult, the change is needed. And there will be always civil disobedience as an option for those who think that something important was lost along the way.

  10. @JSK Britain: THIS WHAT HAPPENS:
    Britain: Nine people a day are being arrested for posting allegedly offensive messages online as police step up their campaign to combat social media hate speech.

    France: French President Emmanuel Macron ordered the arrest of his opponent from the 2017 presidential election, Marine Le Pen. After journalists drew comparisons between Le Pen’s party, the National Front, and ISIS, Le Pen tweeted out pictures of ISIS victims and pointed out how absurd it was to compare a political party in a democracy with a brutal theocracy that kills or enslaves all who disagree with its medieval strictures.

    The Macron government’s response was to order Le Pen’s arrest on March 1. The crime—circulating the images—is punishable by up to three years in prison and a fine of €75,000 euros (about $92,000). That is to say: the president of France wants to jail and fine his political opponent for things she said in public.

    ’ "When you have these laws on the books that are difficult to get your hands around, these are the problems you're going to get," said Roy Gutterman, the director of the Newhouse School's Tully Center for Free Speech at Syracuse University.

    "Are you going to prosecute one, and then let somebody else go? Which racial or religious epithet is worthy of prosecution and which are worthy of letting slide? It's a real slippery slope, even if the stuff is hateful and offensive?”

  11. The only way to guarantee free speech for you or me is to guarantee it for everyone.

  12. @ianwriter You have right to free speech. But not to an audience.

  13. @ianwriter It seems that "hate speech" is becoming anything said by anyone you disagree with.

    Weaponizing words is a sure way to destroy freedom of speech. The social websites don't seem to have a lucid--much less common definition of what does or does not constitute hate speech. Besides, who gave these websites and the people (zillionaires) operating them the right to define hate speech and limit free speech?

  14. @ianwriter, Social media sites are not "free". They are corporate and not governmental so those corporations have the right to set standards and to censor as they see fit just as your post here on the NYT is subject to the oversight of the NYT.

  15. I've never liked the term "hate speech." It's far too vague and subjective. Direct threats -- a cross-burning or a noose targeting an individual or a group -- can be identified. But liberals need to insist on the first amendment, and interpret it as widely as possible. The first amendment protects all of us.

    People who fear "too much" free speech are actually expressing a lack of confidence in democracy itself. Rather than allowing the demos to make its own (sometimes terrible) decisions, these left-wing autocrats would have someone -- a judge, a university committee, a high school principal, Donald Trump, the CEO of Google -- decide who gets to speak. That makes them no better than the right wing, which has never valued freedom.

  16. @Dr. J.--Let's apply your points further to how people get their news. According to the FCC, broadcasters may not intentionally distort the news. The FCC states: "rigging or slanting the news is a most heinous act against the public interest." Because it broadcasts over cable, Fox isn't held to the rules and regulations as legitimate news organizations broadcasting real news over public airwaves. (This could also be said of private companies transmitting over the Internet.) Fox News claims to be an entertainment medium, perhaps to save itself from civil penalties and government purview and liability--but its lies and distortions have had a deleterious and outsized impact on the U.S. and public discourse.

  17. @Dr. J. was totally with you until you felt the need to slander and generalize with your last sentence.

  18. There are plenty of platforms for people to espouse their hatred. This includes standing on a corner yelling their hateful thoughts. Self-publishing hateful books. That said, platforms do not have to protect that type of speech. And that is not censorship.

  19. A majority of what HE spews is hate speech. How can we silence that ??? Here’s a start : VOTE in November. Straight DEM ticket. Seriously.

  20. Canada outlaws hate speech. Google this. Yet Canada is infinitely more welcoming of immigrants, and of people of color, than the US (on average). Look to Canada for the clear answer to your question. Why do so many Americans assume their treatment of "free speech", drafted so long ago, is somehow perfectly articulated?

  21. @JinRavenna
    It figures that you are from Seattle. Read the First Amendment and then try to understand that if powers that are opposed to your viewpoint get a large majority, they can snuff out your right to free speech if we disregard the plain language of the First Amendment. All political speech is protected, not just that of the Left or Right.

  22. New York Senators have the power to control public money, having more of it themselves than student organizations. That is indeed a dangerous slope, as well the rich's self appointed definition of words like hate, conservative, liberal, progressive, radical, "too political".... I prefer the way Ice T put it when someone complained about his TV perp walk - freedom of the press baby!

  23. Of course this is right. As always, we can go back to a statement often attributed to Voltaire (dead white man) but more likely invented by Evelyn Beatrice Hall (dead white woman) -- "I Disapprove of What You Say, But I Will Defend to the Death Your Right to Say It."

    That expresses the basis of "liberal" thought as it originated in the Enlightenment: the ability to see beyond one's own opinions and prejudices to the larger (more abstract) value of competing views. This is what has allowed our civilization to advance in the last 200 years or so. Perhaps we can keep it going. Perhaps not.

  24. Well said and exactly what we were taught in middle and high school in the 80’s. I hope that is still what is taught but I fear it isn’t. The Democratic Party is going to lose if they continue to turn their back on this pillar of free society.

  25. @John G i Like this train of thought ..best to retain the value of competing voices.

    I would like to add that slander and libel should still stand as punishable offenses, but that the generic phrase " hate speech".. is much too vague. Hate speech probably is accompanied by Slander or Libel and thus those portions would be and should be against the law.

  26. A bully only wins when you give up, or in particular when you give them a platform or voice. - the press is especially derelict in doing so each and every day when they elevate the biggest troll of them all: The President of the United States.

    Having said that, free speech has to be free for all, regardless if someone is screaming at the top of their lungs to which you may find abhorrent. That is the deal for freedoms.

    The whole idea is to wear you down (which I will readily admit they have done to a certain degree as more and more people switch off social media altogether) However, you have to understand that there will ALWAYS be more of us than there will be of them,

    Continue on saying what you believe and simply ignore the noise wherever you can. The most powerful idea of free speech comes from voting. You vote everyday when you decide what to say, ignore and where to ply your business. You also vote with actual votes in the ballot box.

    Make it all count. Speak up.

  27. Oh My Goodness.

    A private organization can ALWAYS decide what it hosts.

    If they want to silence ANYONE, guess what? They CAN.

    Otherwise you are saying that all of us need to host hate - or whatever - in our living rooms.

    Apple, Facebook, YouTube, Spotify owe NOTHING to anyone about ANYTHING. If they want you off, you are OFF. End of story. Or propose that the force of LAW require them to post content. Try that. You think it will succeed?

    Public square : private organization - public square : private organization. See the difference?? Why is this so hard for people to grasp?

  28. @Matthew
    That is simplistic and erroneous.

    Private businesses that are determined to be "affected with the public interest" can be subjected to regulation under the police power of the sovereign. The "social media" platforms are analogous to "common carriers" in the transportation business, the only distinction being that words and ideas are on board rather than people or products. A fundamental principle of common carrier regulation is the requirement to accept all cargo tendered without discrimination. If the legislature makes a determination that "social media" are "affected with the public interest" (it is a legal concept, you can look it up), the first regulatory consequence will be the loss by the social media of control over whom it does and does not serve.

  29. @Matthew

  30. @Matthew

    Yet most of the Left is furious with the baker who declined to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple. That bake shop was a private organization surely as much as Facebook is. If Facebook is not in the public square, nothing is.

  31. what do people think will happen when repugnant speech is made criminal. once you set a line it can be moved. best to have no line no?

  32. @DW

    Is anyone proposing that? No.

  33. I wish the term " hate speech" would just be dropped. Whether certain speech is hate speech or not hate speech depends on the opinion of one person or one group. With changing cultures. what is hate speech today may not be hate speech in 20 years and , of course, the opposite is true.

  34. It seems that "hate speech" is becoming anything said by anyone you disagree with.

    Weaponizing words is a sure way to destroy freedom of speech. The social websites don't seem to have a lucid--much less common--definition of what does or does not constitute hate speech. Besides, who gave these websites and the people (zillionaires) operating them the right to define hate speech and limit free speech?

  35. @Mon Ray These *privately owned* sites have every right to define what they find acceptable in their space (even if the owners are 'zillionaires'). The *government* is limited by the 1st amendment and cannot make certain speech illegal.

    Again, these are privately operated web services. They have every right to decide what they will and won't allow. What would violate freedom of speech would be if the government declared some speech illegal.

  36. This is a thought-provoking article, so much so that I began reading feeling fairly sure that I disagreed with the premise, only to find myself having to concede the author's well-made points.

    Yet I cannot concede completely. While it is true that hate speech is too loosely defined in current applications, I cannot imagine a society in which no limits are set on what one person can say to or about another. Words can be very powerful weapons, triggering responses that range from riots to suicides.

    However, the primary problem is not hate speech but hate itself. And, sadly, we cannot stop hate by legislative or private industry bans. Hence, I believe our primary focus needs to be on cultivating love and compassion. Although this may appear to be no solution at all, there is a far greater power at work in acts of love and compassion than in aggressive protest.

    Martin Luther King, Jr. Gandhi. The Dalai Lama. Mother Teresa. These are names we know. How many more there are that most of us will never encounter as they quietly go about the business of changing the world.

  37. @drmaryb Gandhi was an anti-Semite. He also believed in a racial hierarchy in which Africans were inferior to Indians and other "Aryan" peoples. I suspect that some of the people calling for bans on "hate speech" would regard Gandhi's statements about Africans as examples of the kind of speech they'd like to ban.

  38. Perhaps freedom of speech should be clarified to mean freedom to speak one's opinions. What is at issue here is not opinion, it is leveling of baseless and malicious accusations, false assertions of fact, something that could properly be regarded as libel or slander. Perhaps our concept of rights of the accused should be coupled with the idea of responsibilities of the accuser. Saying or passing along a baseless accusation could indeed be a crime.

  39. Public censorship of speech has a very predictable outcome. The speech is never silenced.

    History repeats itself time and time again. Just look at the last major effort of censorship of "inappropriate speech" - the USSR. Despite spending measurable quantities of their GDP to silence "hate" speech the exact opposite happened.

  40. Commercial companies are not providers of 'public square' service no matter how much people wish or think they are.

    But because Facebook, Google and the like are so powerful and necessary, they are viewed and expected to act as a public service. Paradoxically, they start to act as a government agency with political motivation that may even hurt their bottom line.

    If people don't like large companies deciding their rights, costs, or content without representation then they should demand a tight government control or company break up.

    Regardless of who contols it, free speech is not a free-for-all. Limits must be imposed to avoid hurting innocent people. This is especially true when society is unstable since free speech turns desperate impressionable individuals into a mob or terrorists.

  41. @redpill

    You write for limits on free speech, justified as follows: “This is especially true when society is unstable since free speech turns desperate impressionable individuals into a mob or terrorists.”

    Yet who decides why and when society is unstable? Is this not the justification used during WW II for America’s interment of Japanese-Americans? Aren’t many Americans now in a dither about President Trump, making wild assertions and accusations, rightly and wrongly, to assuage the sting that America is not what they imagined in their bi-coastal bubble world existence.

    Freedom isn’t free. It means allowing people the right to express themselves, no matter how odious their opinions. Yet it also means having sufficiently robust community and government standards to separate the legitimate grievances from the rants so real redress can be taken. Without that, you’re either on the path to anarchy or fascism.

  42. For hate speech to be criminalized it needs to be defined. The fact that someone might try to characterize speech that he doesn't like or finds hurtful as hate speech even though it doesn't fit within whatever the legal definition is (calling for a boycott is not hate speech under any plausible definition, and shame on the New York Legislature for even attempting to suggest that it is) does not mean we should abandon the concept. Battery is a crime, but not all unwelcome touching (e.g., accidental jostling on the subway) is battery. The fact that the First Amendment protects religious liberty does not (or at least should not) give anyone the right to use their religion to deny others their rights. Hate speech is hurtful, and has no place in the political discourse the First Amendment is supposed to protect.

  43. Isn't there a key difference between the response of YouTube, Facebook, and Apple to Alex Jones' content, and the response of the government (especially the FBI's response) to the Black Lives Matter movement?

    In the one case, it is private companies enforcing out a poorly articulated policy, whereas on the other, it is the government dubiously carrying out action to block what is protected speech, not so?

    In the case of Alex Jones isn't it also arguable that he has engaged in behaviour with precise legal definitions like slander, libel, defamation, and incitement to violence? If he did, those companies would have been irresponsible not to ban his content on their sites.

  44. The author overlooks a key fact, which compromises the analysis:

    “Hate speech” only means speech with which I disagree. Speech with which I do agree is commendably passionate expression that is obviously protected by the 1st Amendment.

    That’s just common sense, people.

  45. '“Hate speech” only means speech with which I disagree.'

    You can define "hate speech" any way you want, but that won't accomplish anything except to cause confusion.

    Here is a more thoughtful definition:

    "hate speech: Abusive or threatening speech or writing that expresses prejudice against a particular group, especially on the basis of race, religion, or sexual orientation." (Oxford online dictionary)

  46. All very true. But the ready counter-argument is that it is a risk worth taking. We are confronting not just an American mobilization of the authoritarian right but a global mobilization. To pretend otherwise, that these are normal times for generous, principled, equal give and take in some free marketplace of ideas, is to have one's head in the sand. A classic liberal democratic mistake when confronted by off-the-scale, truly venomous, unscrupulous forces. Today, we are fighting not different ideas, not even different coherent ideologies, but cynically wielded and profitably self-sustaining propaganda - deliberate lies and disinformation. There may be some collateral damage in taking it down, but so be it. There will be time to repair that later.

  47. @RRI

    Authoritarian right???

    How about authoritarian left?!?!?!

  48. @RRI Would you also favor a "temporary ban"on free speech by a government designed to combat "deliberate lies and disinformation"?

  49. RRI,
    Well said.

  50. I strongly support the right to hate speech and the right to support BDS. But I support in much stronger terms taking away public funds from groups/people who engage in them. Plus I reserve my right to hate them.

  51. @PaulNO
    Public funds are exactly the funds that it would be ILLEGAL to withdraw in order to suppress hate speech, based on the Constitution's guarantee that the government will not use its power - including power of the purse - to suppress the freedom of speech. Private funds, on the other hand, can be freely withdrawn, as that would also represent freedom of speech.

  52. No one things Alex Jones is just expressing an opinion. He is offering unsubstantiated theories that are not supported by any evidence simply to cause fear and spread hatred. I know that Trump being in office makes it seem like no facts matter anymore, but they really do. We have to be able to take action against real hate-speech without wringing our hands and pretending that actual critical opinions are in danger.

  53. @J Udall Jones is doing it to make money. He could care less about the rubes who follow him.

  54. @J Udall - And how do we determine what is "Real hate-speech?

  55. “Hate” is the wrong adjective for this kind of speech. It is extremely vague. And polarizing. As if only the low income, low info deplorables were the only ones who hated. It would be more accurate (and hopefully shaming) to refer to bigoted speech as either bigotry itself or just plain old “stupid” speech.

  56. What the author fails to understand is that incendiary speech from the "left" polarizes as much as it does from the "right". She takes the position that hate speech from the "left" should be accepted because it is consistent with views she holds. Other people have different views. Turn the volume down and maybe we can talk to each other.

  57. @Jim Larson City people like the author ignore poverty and step over or around homeless - ignore someone broke down on the highway - are rude drivers - have filthy mouths - are mostly democrat socialists - live in egg cartons built on rivers of sewage - breath filthy air every day. And they want decent hardworking rural Christian families to vote for their left wing dictator wannabes. Any one listening?

  58. So, what Mr. Neilson is saying is that it would be great to silence people he and like-minded people do not like, but they have to be careful b/c it might backfire on them. That's true, no doubt. A great deal of politics is trying to prevent the other side from getting to speak. Both sides do it and it is always repugnant. Alex Jones (who I know next to nothing about) may be hateful, but I have heard hate from BLM groups, regardless of what Mr. Nielson thinks, and I want them both to be able to speak - just not to disrupt others. I have to disagree with him that they are not also a hate group, just one supported by most of the media. I grew up revering MLK, Jr. and his role model, Gandhi, and I appreciate them more and more as the lessons of self-sacrifice, personal morality, responsibility and self-esteem they taught are buried by political correctness, hate speech laws, harassment and like methods. What happened that people have so little self-esteem and are so eager to declare themselves victims that we now live in a world where people literally walk on egg-shells, afraid to speak, afraid to be called a racist (by actual racists), afraid to be sued, so sensitive that I have to doubt that kids are being taught anymore - sticks and stones may break my bones, but names shall never hurt me. It all makes a mockery of all the great strides that have been made in the country of ridding itself of oppression in the most diverse country in the world.

    Everyone should get to speak.

  59. @David H. Eisenberg wrote:

    "So, what Mr. Neilson is saying is that it would be great to silence people he and like-minded people do not like, but they have to be careful b/c it might backfire on them."

    Nope, that's not what Mr. Nelson is saying. Read more carefully.

  60. Hate speech may be like pornography in that, "when you hear it, you know it."
    This well-known aphorism is, while similar to pornography, much different in one crucial respect. The meaning of speech depends on the speaker and the listener. Context, tonal stress, and other factors change the meaning for the speaker and the listener. Just consider spoken speech vs written speech.
    The cure? Open minds and the willingness to dial down our deeply held convictions while truly listening to others. We are not all that different. We just think we are.

  61. The right used to hate free speech because it gave the left the ability to challenge their awful practices and beliefs. Now the left hates free speech because it gives the right the ability to challenge theirs. Seems to me that free speech is doing its job nicely and we should leave it alone.

  62. Another title to this piece might be: Is it possible to ban THEIR hate speech without banning OURS?
    Answer: No

    And the sticky part: Who decides what “hate speech” is or isn’t? There’s the rub.

    Bottom line: Believe in humanity to decide what ideas/values should survive and which should perish. Defend free speech, including ugly and hateful speech. History has shown that the alternative is much worse.

  63. @Luke,

    Believe in humanity to decide what ideas/values should survive and which should perish. Defend free speech, except for hateful speech.

    Then there is no need for the alternative.

  64. @Luke, you are free to hate anyone that you choose but you are not free to spread lies and to slander another especially when you do so to incite violence. Civil society require standards that is what makes it civil. Want to speed in your car go ahead just recognize that you may get a speeding ticket or at the worst kill someone. We have rules of the road for a reason.

  65. @Luke
    It takes a lot more than "theirs and ours" labeling to create moral equivalence. Knowingly false speech cynically propagated to sell advertising is not just someone's differing opinion.

  66. Slippery slope this - trying to define 'hate speech'. I'd rather people be able to say what they want in observance of the First Amendment. Leave it to the People to decide what to shun.

  67. Free Speech is cherished because the truth is best revealed when everyone has a voice and everyone is heard. This is made impossible by people who call for a group to be excluded or silenced, be it people from a colour, race or anyone else. The voices of those who would exclude them should be shut down, because what they advocate opposes Free Speech. On the other hand, people who are calling for a seat at the table, no matter how loud or fierce: these people should be heard and their voice protected because they may hold a part of the truth that everyone ought to hear.

  68. It's amusingly entertaing that alot of people opposed to the administration are in favor of, wait for it, handing that administration the power to silence them.

    Give them the power to silence the gad fly, and they most certainly will. Its been repeated countless times, why repeat the same action and expect a different result, its madness.

  69. No worries, Mr. Nelson. The social justice warriors already have this issue covered. They claim that a person of color cannot be guilty of hate speech because they lack the status of a dominant position in society. So they can’t “hate,” they can only speak “the truth of their own feelings.”

  70. @Jose Pieste I would point out that a sense of being a victim or being oppressed is not limited to "a person of color." That's what fuels what is commonly called the Republican base.

  71. Many good points. But is making the police a protected class in regards to hate crimes really a bad idea?

  72. @Bruce Thomson:


  73. @Bruce Thomson

    No, but it's unnecessary. Crimes against police are already capital offenses.

  74. Fundamentally, the concept of hate speech is something that has migrated from the EU to the US, particularly to college campuses. Here, he draw the line at speech that may incite imminent violence. In the EU, people can be tried and convicted for speech (including Facebook posts) that "incites hate" without anyone getting anything other than their feelings hurt.

    "Hate speech" as a concept really has as much place as laws against blasphemy here in the US.

  75. @Middleman MD
    The same can be done in our neighbor to the north, Canada, as well. In South America you are likely to be shot and dismembered for "offensive" speech.

  76. THIS RIGHT HERE. The reason why our founding fathers saw the need for completely free speech (less speech which immediately results in physical damage to others) was that the speech most worthy of protection was that which caused offense or discomfort to others. The media companies in question have already shown their hands that they are picking and choosing which "speech" should pass it's filter based on partisan political stands and not a consistent and reasonable standard that applies the same to everyone. Orwell warned us of this. I'm confident though that people will seek out sources of information that don't censor speech it doesn't like, and allows for an intellectually honest debate that reveals ideas for all they are worth - not protect us from the ones they think are scary.

  77. @Khopp. Where do you get the idea that the Founders believed in absolute freedom of speech? Would you suggest that George Washington wasn’t in favor of forbidding incitements to violence? Speech that causes discomfort is one thing. Speech that gets people to make violent threats and then execute them is another. If you don’t want to make that distinction, fine. But be aware that there are consequences and one of them is the loss of freedom of speech by those who get killed. One of these days after somebody gets killed their relatives are going to sue Twitter for providing a forum for hate speech. God willing a jury holds them responsible. We’ll find out shortly when we see if Alex Jones gets away with risking peoples lives with incendiary speech. If he does get away with it we’re all finished anyway. In the meantime, let’s not lose the distinctions. Sometimes the filter is necessary to save lives. And by the way, Orwell didn’t make grand statements about freedom of speech. But he did make grand statements about the power and abuse of language and he would’ve been the first to say that if your speech incites others to kill people, you should be on trial that afternoon. That’s not suppressing speech. That’s protecting us from people who want us dead. That was the per curiam decision in Brandenburg v Ohio in 1969 and it’s as good today as it was then.

  78. @Kknopp
    Problem is, to Democrats, Orwell was a manual for good governance, not a warning.

  79. The First Amendment reads: "Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press . . . . "

    Apple, YouTube, Spotify and Facebook are business corporations, they are not the government. The Constitution prevents the government from interfering with free speech, but business corporations are free to allow or disallow whoever and whatever they choose. That these businesses chose to refuse to give Alex Jones a further platform to spread his hate and misinformation does NOT give the government the right to censor, to ban books or to abridge free speech.

    Why is it that when a company decides to do the responsible thing and not to allow the democratic processes to be tainted by hatred and misinformation, men get apoplectic and argue for corporations being forced to provide a platform for right-wing hatred, racism and misinformation??

    The First Amendment, again, applies to governmental bodies, not to business or nonprofit corporations.

  80. @Earthling

    You are 100%, from a purely legal perspective.

    But the First Amendment, while applicable only to government, codifies a value that is vital to the American Experiment. I personally think that free speech should be honored in any publicly accessible space (by which I mean to make exceptions for private groups; I don't care if, in their worship services, the Nation of Islam calls me a 'white devil', because they're engaged in a private activity with the expectations that only members are in attendance).

    And now, with these media companies controlling the conversation of possibly a majority of Americans, it is a great loss if one or more of them seeks to stifle a viewpoint. And indeed, if they continue to do so, I would expect to see an effort to define them as a public utility, with government controls directly applied to them.

  81. @Earthling Who gets to define "hate and misinformation" ? Virtually every political ad in every campaign contains some distortion. The opponent would designate it as "misinformation". Should all ads be banned. I suspect that you would prefer to have them submitted to the approval of a left leaning board of people with the 'correct' point of view.

  82. @Earthling So they why must a bakery be forced to service patrons they chose not to do business with? Would the argument not be the same? Shouldn't the so called "discriminated party" be made to simply find another bakery?

  83. In a place where free speech is valued, this is a slippery slope. The advent of social media, has taken this idea to places, that our founding fathers, never could have imagined.

    This is a wonderful article, on a very tough subject, in an even tougher point in American history.

    Presented in this context, it makes sense to be on guard, especially considering the fact the Russians invaded our sovereignty. Like everything else, that has to do with humans, a little regulation doesn’t hurt.

    With that being said, it is incumbent on all Americans to be open to, and involved in their communities and government.

    Something, I might add, President Obama forewarned the American people, before leaving office.

    Prophetic words from an honorable man.

  84. Dr. Nielson only gets halfway there. He gives no full-throated defense of the First Amendment or the concept of freedom of speech. He is only concerned that it may impact a narrow faction that he supports. He should be concerned about everybody's right to free speech. I want to hear all sides, no matter how much I disagree. I give him a D for his effort.

  85. @S. Pennington You grade too generously. An "F" is his grade.

  86. @S. Pennington Well said, but go even further; rest assured the Left's real intention is to silence the Right, whatever it takes. They started that process years ago. They will also fail, at their pwn peril.

  87. This is NOT a First Amendment issue. The government is not silencing him. Rather, a private corporation is not allowing him to use their platform. Don't conflate the two.

    If I do something that violates Apple's EULA, then Apple is completely within their rights to throw me out.

  88. I do not believe that the mind of a person expressing ill will towards others is free. They are imprisoned by the hate they feel and are unable to think clearly or rationally or with good will towards others.

    Free speech is only possible when the people speaking have mutual respect and speak with the intention to understand each other. Hate speech is a violation of human decency and places all in hearing range in danger of violent thought and violent action.

  89. @Ineffable

    So who defines "hate speech"? Some on the Right would say that Antifa, by calling mainstream conservatives "fascists", is a hate group. Antifa labels these conservatives as purveyors of hate speech.

    Who decides? And if you think it's "obvious", then you don't understand the parameters of this problem.

  90. @Ineffable The concept of a "free mind" is less actionable than "hate". People must be able to say what they believe to be true. This does not protect them from the consequences of their speech.

  91. @Ineffable Speech is protected by the Constitution. PERIOD. Incitement to violence is not allowed and neither is libel. But all other forms of speech is and should be protected. Freedom of Speech protects speech you find reprehensible NOT speech you agree with. Dont agree woth someone? Destroy their argument with your own speech. Someone says something that offends you? Walk away or, better yet, dont let it affect you. But jailing people fo speech is an awfully dangerous idea. Because eventually it could be your speech that someone deems offensive. Or it could be your criticism of the government that lands you in jail. Its a slippery slope.

  92. So if I understand this article correctly, the left is against hate speech, but their dilemma is that their efforts to end it might be successful and then they’ll be unable to use hate speech against Donald Trump and his supporters. Yikes....

  93. Free speech in all forms, including offensive or what some may deal hateful,should be protected from prohibition by any government agency or dependent (ie colleges or businesses,etc receiving federal funds) it is always better that the light of day be shone upon the extremist fringes, less they fester in the shadows without scrutiny.

  94. If we seek to protect education, health care. the environment, pay attention to climate change, and have responsible immigration we will help silence hate speech, and we will get rid of Trump as well, in the process. That will certainly help silence hate speech.

  95. @joyce Problem for you is that liberty loving people are armed and willing to water the tree of liberty with your blood when you try to silence us.

  96. So, your six-year-old child and his or her classmates and teachers are slaughtered leaving behind a scene of vomit-inducing carnage. For the remainder of your life, you feel that searing cry of grief, which time never washes away or heals. The deranged monster pulling the trigger has imprisoned surviving parents and siblings with that grief.

    Along comes another deranged monster, a garbage-mouth blowhard such as Alex Jones. He riles up like-minded people who then threaten you, publicly confront you, ambush you with their fear-inducing behavior- also known in law as simple assault. And now we’re making an argument that, “Oh my goodness, democracy will be undermined unless we let someone such as Mr. Jones imprison those irretrievably grief-stricken parents with his mentally deranged garbage that incites others of similar mind set to act out his verbal assaults and imprison those parents in fear.” Really?

    Have you ever heard of Thomas Hobbes, the founder of modern political philosophy and his statement that without civil controls we’ll return to the state of nature and live a short and brutal existence?

    Ask the tens of millions of mothers who, each day, rein in this verbal garbage as they work to raise their children to value behavior that creates a decent life of co-existence. Ask them how they feel about those such as Mr. Jones who encourage language and deranged fantasies that incite violence.

    The 21st Century doesn't outlaw applying common sense to find middle ground.

  97. @Liam Jumper Yes really. The First Amendment is worth Alex Jones, just like the Second Amendment is worth Sandy Hook.

    When I hear "Freedom isn't free." I no longer assume it's the military that pays the tab out there somewhere. The alternative is that somebody you don't get to pick tells you what you're allowed to say and what the correct conclusions to draw are.

  98. @Liam Jumper

    Interesting that you should use Hobbes to support your views. Yes, I most certainly have studied Hobbes, and are you aware that what he meant by what you call "civil controls" was a government run by a monarch with absolute power? NOT a figurehead monarch like in Britain, but a Saudi-style monarch with absolutely no checks.

    You speak of the harms that the Alex Joneses can cause by riling up others. The Supreme Court has addressed this quite clearly. If and when Alex Jones and his ilk employ speech that causes a clear and present danger to public safety, he can be silenced. But the hypothetical danger (as that to which you allude) is not enough (for government) to silence him, because in doing so, we draw lines that begin to blur upon close examination, and we risk the dangers pointed out in this very article.

  99. @Liam Jumper
    Sorry to see two "recommends" already.

    Speech that poses an immediate threat of violence or danger is not protected but everything else is. People have the right to express their opinions even if they are mistaken.

  100. I agree with the column author on this, even though I disagree with him about rap music.

    I think singing out threats and violent ideas encourages people to think that is acceptable. They hear it. It is alright for the person singing it out, who is well paid for that and admired for it. So why shouldn't they?

    But I would not want to try to censor the author, or the artists either. Let them be accountable, but not silenced.

    Silencing them, as he says, leaves us with gatekeepers to what we can hear, who have their own motives.

    Who is in power now? Whose motives would control? Well, Trump and his guys are in power, and if they could, they would.

    Think about that before empowering censorship.

  101. @Mark Thomason In reference to rap musicians, Tupac and many others are artists and poets express themselves with there music. I am curious as to why you oppose free expression of rap while other mediums of expression you call for personal accountability? Books, like rap music, are just words expressing a point of view and many are banned because government believes the content encourages violence and threatening behavior. This is the problem: individuals subjectively label content as threatening through the prism of their own unconscious bias. Free speech for all, no matter what.

  102. It seems to me that people are all for freedom of speech until someone, in exercising that freedom, says something with which they take offence. Anyhow, the best part of free speech is that it allows us to identity the truly reprehensible.

  103. The political left is drifting dangerously close to outright hostility towards freedom of speech. Bolstered by social media, it is now much easier to group shame someone for a point of view deemed by self-appointed thought leaders to be “out of line.” In an era where rage can be tweeted out in the blink of an eye, including accusations of bigotry or racism, it is growing increasingly difficult to discuss issues of race, culture, criminal justice, or immigration in a constructive way across ideological and political lines. That is dangerous and will only lead to further polarization and extremism in our political discourse.

  104. @Jon Come on Jon! The "political left" is nowhere to be found in this discussion - or do you mean Facebook, Twitter and Youtube? What elected offices do they hold? What position in the Democratic party do they have? I suspect the real bottom line for these companies is that they don't want to get sued when some Alex Jones lunatics start shooting at parents of kids killed at Sandyhook (can you blame them?) As for being group shamed - perhaps if one is worried about that, maybe they should stop shouting hateful nonsense from every rooftop!

  105. @Jon "The political left is drifting dangerously close to outright hostility towards freedom of speech."

    The left might be drifting, but the Trump and the right have been there for a while.

  106. @Jon Why is this being portrayed as a symptom of the "the political left"? Everything you say has been a fixture of the political right for years, which is eager to portray any opposing view as unAmerican, unpatriotric or simply "liberal." Where have you been all these years?

  107. Fortunately for Americans who go about our lives without indulging our worst instincts and resorting to "hating" others as a means of coping with a complex world, the law is on the side of the innocent. That means that the Alex Jones' of the world are held accountable for the harm they perpetrate, and that is just as it should be.
    In allowing Jones and others of his ilk to exploit their platforms social media has, for years, been a detrimental influence within our nation and throughout the world.
    Twitter and other platforms should be shunned for refusing to reign in Jones and others like him. There are many positive ways to communicate and effect positive change and we can do it without hating and patronizing those who engage in it and sponsor it.

  108. @Alabama

    Exactly who has been harmed by an Alex Jones opinion??? Opinions don't harm anyone. Policies do.

  109. @Alabama You claim Alex Jones' views are unworthy of protection because they are "detrimental to our nation and the world" (your words).

    There are many conservatives you believe the NY Times is "detrimental to our nation"; the president is convinced CNN is "an enemy of the people." If we take your word against Alex Jones, must we take their word against the NY Times or CNN?

    I hope you can see that this doesn't work. A better solution is that which Thomas Jefferson believed: "In a free society, I must grant my neighbor the right to be wrong."

    That's called freedom of speech. It's messy. It's sometimes ugly. But it's better than any other option.

  110. @Alabama Then shun them if you disagree, that’s you exorcising right to free expression. ‘Detrimental influence within our society’ according your subjective opinion. As to ‘harm they perpetuate,’ did Alex Jones call for harm against people or was he expressing free speech and people took offense and felt victimized by said speech? Who should determine what speech is or is not detrimental to society and therefore, should be banned ?

  111. The most important part of the message here is that “hate speech” is an ambiguous term that can be applied to almost anything controversial. If we condemn some forms of speech because we find them hateful then we could be subject to the same condemnation for our own expressions. It’s a mistake therefor to try to silence speech (except for slander and incitement to violence, which have long been illegal). Instead we should condemn and argue against those statements which we find objectionable. Trying to draw a line between hate speech and legal protest will always fail.

  112. Precisely. It becomes a slippery slope. The definition of hate speech is controlled by those in power. It will never be even-handed.

    The US radical commitment to free speech is a shining beacon. It contrasts us with Europe, where they are tying themselves in knots trying to control speech.

    If you let people talk, you will know what they think.

  113. Thank you. Apparently too many Americans have had free speech for so long that they now take it for granted and think it will magically always be there for them when they need it, even if they start taking it away from fellow citizens they find disagreeable and scary.

    That's simply not how we've managed to keep the First Amendment and our democracy alive for more than two centuries. It's always been a struggle and now is no time to give up.

  114. @Guy Baehr 40% of millennials support government restriction of speech...I find this alarming.

  115. "If We Silence Hate Speech, Will We Silence Resistance?"

    First, there is no such thing as hate speech. There is only speech.

    And speech, cannot constitute discrimination.

    Discrimination is an - act - that deprives someone of their civil rights. No one has a civil right that protects them from hearing an opinion with which they disagree.

    "Hate speech" is an invention of the left wing Progressives, a term used to deflect attention away from substantive deficiencies in left wing philosophy.

    It is used in exactly the same way that the body snatching Pod People shrieked - to rally crowd and attack anyone who is not a Pod Person.

    Justice Holmes himself expressed regret at the misapplication of the "shouting fire in a theater" phrase from Shenck v. United States that is so often taken out of context.

    In context, it is bound to other text in the decision:

    "The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive [actual] evils that Congress has a right to prevent."

    Only speech that is expressed with the INTENT to create such a situation is not protected.

    All other speech, is protected.


    So, if "we" silence hate speech, "we" are enemies of the Constitution of the United States.

  116. @Objectivist Nonsense, incitement to riot and incitement to murder are both speech and are criminal acts not protected by the First Amendment. Nor is slander. The problem with "hate speech" rules lie with defining it, not with their existence.

  117. @Objectivist Facebook is a social club website where members share their opinions and views on many subjects. It is not a newspaper or news network. facebook does not have the same responsibilities as a news website. They can deny anyone membership that they want. As for your All free speech is allowed, Alex Jones promulgates wildly false views and opinions on many subjects, the most well known is his crackpot theory of the massacre at Sandy Hook elementary school. The problem is not his opinions and lies, it is his urging action by his followers to take action based on his lies. Pizzagate is a good example. One of his followers tried to self-investigate that one and got arrested for shooting the rifle he brought along in the restaurant. Urging naive followers to take violent action based on his opinions breaks through free speech to incitement.

  118. @Objectivist
    I would be more confident that your (correct) words would be heeded if we didn't have the evidence of 20 years of hate crime laws on the books, enforced and upheld by all of the courts in the land. If we can punish hate crimes, we can outlaw hate speech, however the powers that be define hate. Judges won't defend the constitution if there is sufficient public support to subvert it; hate crime laws are exhibit #1 as evidence. And just as black identity politics led to white identity politics, censorship of hate speech against black people will lead to censorship of hate speech against white people, with the white people getting to decide what constitutes hate.

  119. This op-ed piece is misconstruing the issue. The issue is not about free speed at all but rather free enterprise.

    Nobody is preventing Alex Jones from exercising his right to free speech. He still has that. The idea that such speech must be supported (ie paid for through bandwidth and technology development costs) by private companies is absurd.

    Mr. Jones is free to continue to broadcast as much as he wants. Spotify, Apple et al simply no longer need to act as his accomplice in doing so.

  120. @Stuart M - Nice try. Sort of like telling people before they broke up Rockefeller Trust that they can just make their own railroad and dig their own oil. The Supreme Court already covered this though. They voted 9-0 against Stuart M. They said the internet is now the town square and the right to free speech means the right to access the internet.

  121. @Stuart M
    Is it really? Which pages have the left deleted or removed of their own hate speakers?
    I haven't seen one yet. Farrakhans Facebook page for example is still up and running.

  122. @Stuart M

    Public networks, almost by definition, must have a monopoly. So invoking "free enterprise" does not work in the case of public networks. Twitter and facebook for example are public networks and if they enforce censorship, their monopoly powers allow them to shut off free speech.

  123. Hate speech is whatever the press says it is. That's the working definition today. Tomorrow their definition may be different.

  124. @mannyv Exactly. This is why Roasanne Barr can be immediately fired for her racist tweet (singular) and Sarah Jeong’s many racist tweets are brushed off with an excuse flimsier than a wet strand of spaghetti. Not only is Sarah not fired, she’s awarded with a job at the, I’m assuming, once-great NYT. And not a whisper from about the flagrant double standard.

  125. Everyone has a right to freedom of speech. Every one else has a right not to listen and not to financially underwrite the speech of others. They government has the obligation not to interfere with the proper exercise of either one of those rights.

    The author is correct when he says the the words "hate speech" may be used, by some, including government, to demonize the proper exercise of a First Amendment right. The solution is to use all proper means to prevent the Government from prosecuting or harassing those who simply wish to lawfully express their opinion.

  126. @HJB something tells me you didn’t take this stance with the NFL barring players from kneeling.

  127. As a person of faith, I'm very concerned that policing hate speech could very well infringe on other First Amendment Rights. For example, my church still supports a traditional view of marriage (man+woman). Are they engaged in hate speech? If at work I say I believe marriage should be between a man and a woman--which I do--should I be fired for my hateful conduct?

    With the 1st Amendment it really is a slippery slope, and I'm glad the author recognizes that.

  128. @Colin It's not hate speech to say what you believe. It is when you denigrate or advocate discrimination against a class of people whose marriage (or other lawful action) you want to prevent. Your beliefs are valid for you, but not for everyone else, and you have no right to abridge the rights of others by force.

    Remember too that your coworkers have the first amendment right to disagree with your beliefs, and it does not constitute persecution.

  129. I agree with you that your beliefs are your own, and your right to believe what you want to cannot be infringed.

    It's when you tell others what they should believe, and you do so based on your beliefs that I think you are infringing on the faith of those others.

    And if they believe that marriage is a private matter, not addressed in the Constitution, are you willing to accept that others have the same right to believe as they like?

  130. Another thing it'd do: it'd give whoever resists the speech in question nothing to resist. Imagine a debate with two sides. Some debate rule says that Side A cannot speak, but Side B can. Side B showed up to the debate so they could, well, debate. While Side B is guaranteed to win the debate by default, why did B even bother to show up? What victory is it if it is handed to one on a plate?

    One reason why the re-implementation of Capitalism in the old USSR went so badly after the wall fell was no one in the USSR had been taught exactly what Capitalism, or I should say, regulated Capitalism, was. They just read about how bad it was. The supposedly wondrous virtues of Communism however were extolled despite that system's limited ability to produce what people in general wanted or needed. So Russians knew they wanted Communism to end and wanted this thing called Capitalism to rise in its place because like westerners, they wanted things like toothbrushes and toothpaste in great enough supply so that they could brush their teeth all month rather than just two weeks of every month. By not knowing what regulated Capitalism actually looked like systemically, their implementation of it looks a lot more like oligarchic Cronyism, which is a lot less efficient than regulated market Capitalism.

    Eliminating entire categories of ideas, be they wrong or right, limits the intellectual tools people have. This tends to produce sub-optimal results. America's no different.

  131. @Matt A Lithuanian cousin told me this: "With capitalism, if you don't work you don't get anything. However, with communism if you work and work, you don't get anything."

  132. Matt,
    Side tangent...

    You might also mention that communism as espoused by Marx wasn't what was implemented. Soviets only claimed to follow Marxist thought, and in fact practiced policies very different from Marx’s idea of a communist state.

    When Stalin expelled Trotsky from the Communist Party and took complete control. Establishing himself as the new totalitarian dictator of the Soviet Union, completely disregarding Marxist thought for his own greed and desire for power.

    Even though we associate Marxism with the Soviet Union and communism, it is important to recognize that mostly Marxism was not practiced during the USSR’s 69 year reign. Dictators ruled the country rather than the proletarian collective, and workers, especially during Stalin’s rule. They were often put down rather than elevated. It is important to realize the difference between the ideal of communism and communism as practiced in countries such as the Soviet Union, NK 'n Cuba.

    Note also Marx predicted that the development of Capitalism Uber Alles, would lead inexorably to the concentration of capital, an immense accumulation of wealth on the one hand, and an equal accumulation of poverty, misery and unbearable toil at the other end of the social spectrum. America's end game?

  133. Other societies manage this. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights says that "any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law". These are - in the main - gentler societies than ours, where free discourse is every bit as well protected as ours is. Perhaps we should step away from our exceptionalism - the only nation that need guns more than health care - and learn from others for a change?

  134. @Tansu Otunbayeva USA is exceptional because of its contains large populations of people from different races, religions and historical experience. ‘Gentler societies’ are not nearly as racially diverse as the USA, this diversity of experience and expression hardly even exists as those populations have similar identity, history and experience. What countries do you believe could teach a nation of immigrants from every corner of the world lessons? Also, no country comes close to USA with respect to free of speech and assembly. Please cite a nation that protects free speech comparable to the USA.

  135. This may not be relevant.
    I was a freshman at a SUNY [NYS public college] college in fall 1960.
    A campus group invited a real live member, Herbert Aptheker, of the Communist Party to speak on campus.
    The local community was outraged.
    How dare a Communist be allowed to speak at a place supported by taxpayer money.
    The college president backed the campus group.
    Aptheker spoke.
    The world did not end.
    During the question and answer session at the end of Aptheker's talk, American Legionaires in the audience did not distinguish themselves with their questions. Aptheker made fools of them.
    One member of the faculty who was known to be a socialist then in his remarks and question totally refuted the hypothesis that Aptheker was promulgating.
    Although what Aptheker was saying was wrong I wouldn't call it "hate" speech.
    But I think Aptheker's hypothesis was more thoroughly discredited and refuted by the socialist professor's comments than if Aptheker had been prevented from speaking.

  136. @david
    Really? Try inviting a GOP member to speak at a college campus today, any college campus, and see what happens.

  137. "Freedom of Speech" limits the government from censoring people from speaking. Private organizations may limit the speech of employees or contractors by hiring decisions, firing, or canceling a contract. You have a "right" to speak your opinion in public. You don't have a right to give a speech at Carnegie Hall unless you contract with them and they may ask to see your speech in advance. If you change the speech they can legally pull the plug. Public - private, very different.

  138. @Tom W. You are right and you are wrong. I believe firmly in free speech on your own time and own dime. Hijacking an event should be shut down, eg taking a knee at NFL games or Academy award acceptance speeches.

    But free speech should be supported by private organizations, particularly when attacked. No doubt speakers at Harvard slide left as a general rule, but an attack on a planned speaker should be strongly resisted.

  139. Oh, sure, anything can be abused. Some people think that even the First Amendment can be abused. But some countries seem to have banned hate speech successfully, by defining it narrowly. Let's not knock this until we try it.

  140. @polymath No one ‘tries’ banning hate speech. It is the first step into the abyss where there is no turning back. It sickens me knowing so many Americans support banning speech. Who do these people seek to ‘narrowly define’ what is or is not hate speech? Will it be applied equally amongst individuals of all races/religions/politics? How long will prison sentences be?

  141. Freedom to hate the people who hate me.

    The ultimate circle.

  142. The concept of free speech comes in two forms.

    The first form is the prohibition on government abridging free speech, or abridging the use of resources to publish that speech (freedom of the press). Public schools, as government entities are subject to the first amendment. This included content neutral rules on speech and publishing views.

    The second form, is for a civil society norm where non government organizations and individuals do not block those with opposing views from expressing those views. As non government entities they have the right not to provide a forum for opposing views.

  143. A reticence to act is a well known liberal malady. The fear of brushing against the rights of others has never been a problem for the right, which allows them to win most battles. An easy example was stealing the Supreme Court seat. Stopping even the discussion of Obama’s choice is how the right deals with speech. Once the right wins the levers of power, they, of course, move to limit any speech with which they don’t agree. Democracy can end when one side refuses to understand how the game is played.

  144. @DO5 You do realize you just described leftists to a T, right?

  145. @DO5 This is an insane and ignorant comment. Most of the censorship right now is coming from the left. 90% of the political violence in America is coming from the left. What I really despise is the unwillingness for most progressives to speak factually and based on evidence. This shows that the left is in some kind of fantasy world. I tend to appreciate progressive values in some areas, such as the protection of the environment. But sticking your liberal head in the sand will never solve anything. Exageratting and holding to false inflammatory views of the right will not solve anything.

  146. @DO5
    "Elections have consequences" per President Obama during the healthcare "debate".

  147. A new "language" will evolve. It will be ambiguous , but the ambiguity will have meaning.

  148. No worries. As long as the left owns the big social media firms, hate speech will always be defined as speech coming from the right. Not even necessarily the far right.
    The left nowadays controls the language. This is George Orwell's 1984, but this time for real. To the left, his novel was simply a manual for governance...

  149. @Jerry

    So that was your conclusion from reading 1984, that the liberals had taken over?

    They must have school kids read a different version of it over there in Russia.

  150. @Jerry Right we control everything.....I have to go now the nightly Trump rally is on TV.

  151. @Jerry Why do you think the left owns the big social media firms. Could you provide a link to that info?

  152. Hate speech is a relatively easy target to destroy by argument for more speech, in defense of the First Amendment.

    Hate crime is not. Hate crimes are a category that has been clearly defined and too often unreported.

    Hate speech, narrowly defined, would include anti-Semitism, racism, gender debasement, and anti-religious bias.

    It is possible to maintain a narrow definition under the Constitutional exception of "crying Fire! in a crowded theatre."

    Some discipline should be imposed on hate speech narrowly defined.

  153. @HLR

    I am not sure where people get this false notion that you cannot yell fire in a crowded theatre. The 1st amendment permits it, laws in nearly every place in the US permits it, including Michigan where this saying came from in 1913.

    From a social and moral standpoint one should not shout fire, gunman, or other words to invite panic when there is no threat. There ARE laws on the books to deal with people who do cause a needless panic where people and property are hurt.

  154. Americans don't trust their institutions to make rational decisions based on their interests, although, in fact, our institutions do a very good job. The problem is always "who will decide?". In societies based on a social an cultural consensus, this is less of a problem. In the debate over "hate speech" we should speak of "Volksverhetzung" (inciting people to hate i.e. violence against particular groups) based on lies and propaganda. Why should we allow our public airways, for example, to be open to groups whose goal is to incite violence against others? This could apply to groups on the left or right, of course. But this is not the political correctness and speech censorship you see on college campuses, but rather it is like crying "fire" in a movie theatre. Words and symbols matter and free speech, which is a bedrock of our democracy, is not an absolute, as laws against liable and defamation of character show.

  155. @MGP: There you go again with the college campuses shiny object. College campuses are controlled by forces that monetize every possible aspect of the "college experience," and degrade not only the concept of education but even reduce the graduation process to a grotesque and vacuous certification ritual.

  156. Those who seek to defeat Mr. Nielson’s bulletproof argument by pointing out the difference between public speech and private organization miss the point entirely.

    First, private organizations may have the right to censor users, but unless that censorship is applied equally across the board, based on a standard set of rules, the practice is discriminatory.

    Second, social media platforms have become more than just a place to post cat videos, many people get their news through feeds on these platforms, and those feeds are being filtered and curated by the proprietors’ algorithms. If they are permitted to omit opinions it’s no different than your newspaper delivery service cutting out the articles they don’t like before you can read them. You may be ok with that when it comes to Alex Jones, but sooner or later the algorithm is gonna get ya.

    And finally, while The First Amendment is still intact from a legal standpoint, its spirit is no longer a guiding principle in our society. Laws are made by people, and people are getting far too comfortable, of late, with the notion that words and opinions they find offensive can simply be banished. If they're willing to accept censorship as customers, they’ll be willing to accept it as constituents. The precedents being set by private industry, if left unchecked, will become policy, and policy left unchallenged will eventually become law.

  157. @Gary Taustine
    Very well stated. Too many colleges (Yale are you listening) seem to believe that free speech is not something that binds them, as they are private organizations. They also sanction the heckler's veto.

    Your last paragraph identifies the issue exactly.

  158. @Gary Taustine
    And you don't think FOX "cuts out articles they don't like?" On any given day that Trump says something absolutely horrid or sucks up to a tyrant like Putin do you think FOX will broadcast that? Never in a million years. So private platforms on all sides have the ability and willingness to determine what the public will and will not see and hear.

  159. @Gary Taustine Not sure what country you live in, but newspapers censor the news everyday by choosing what to print, depending not only on their specific points of view, but also the fact that they are capitalist organizations financially and hence politically. So do universities in their choice of faculty and who gets tenure, and even in the choice of courses and what can be taught in the classroom.

    And what exactly is wrong with political discrimination, i.e., not giving Neo-Nazis, the KKK and other fascists a platform? The government discriminates all the time in how they treat protestors and strikers, protecting fascists with big police lines, while herding liberals and leftists into fenced pens and prosecuting those who aren’t so subservient under anti-terrorism laws.

  160. You might love it today, but what if tomorrow brings a change in who controls the mighty sword of censorship? As Evelyn Beatrice Hall (Voltaire's biographer) said, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it"

  161. @Capt Al: So shut up today in case you're an even bigger victim tomorrow?

  162. It's not just about speech to me but about the actions they lead to. Now yes, you can argue if/ how strong the link might be but besides just loudly ranting this views, Alex Jones' words incite threats of violence to be done to the families involved. There has to be some limit on what people can say when their words can (or does) result in damage - not just physical but financial, reputational, etc. to others.

  163. @ms - There you go again. The charge of inciting violence and the "damage" it has caused once again leveled without any evidence. The Big Lie Theory at work.

    Can the left survive without lying? Their effort against freedom of speech is evidence that they cannot.

  164. This article concentrates on the dangers of using "hate speech" clauses instead of, say, focusing on libel and slander to clear the air of Alex Jones-style pollution. More importantly, it also serves as a reminder of the "principle" of free speech that so many of us are willing to sacrifice for short-term political gain.
    In many comments (and in other op-ed pieces), free speech is seen as opening the door to abusive practices that contradict the spirit of the law. While the argument that free speech is being subverted is undoubtedly true, should the right to express your opinion be contingent upon which opinion you hold? What happens after the "principle" behind this liberty has been eviscerated, even if the "right opinion" prevails?
    Indeed, politics is only a fair-weather friend to rights, and, as Dr Nielson noted of the "hate speech" strategy, "It can devolve into the politics of choosing sides, and that is usually bad news for people who lack political clout to begin with." Let's not shoot ourselves - and our descendants - in the foot.
    This leaves the question of social networks. If the media platforms on which we express ourselves want to claim Fourth Estate advantages, they are then equally subject to First Amendment laws and guidelines. In what way is Twitter or FB a fully private organization?

  165. @Andrew

    Yes social media is a private organization in the sense that all users voluntarily access the platform and agree to all of the terms in the user agreement. Non-users are not compelled, coerced, or threatened by the company or others to join and participate. Because Facebook is a publicly traded company, they do have to answer to shareholders who may or may not care what Jane and John Q Public think on Main St.

  166. In general, I believe limits to free speech are bad. For example, I think it is wrong to shout down speakers whose ideas we find repugnant. A comment about students who shouted down Ann Coulter (whom I personally find repulsive, but whose right to free speech I support under no uncertain terms) at a school rally - "What are you afraid of - her ideas?" sums up my view. If you do not like someone's ideas, take them on with facts, not with prohibition.
    However, publishing the name and address of parents whose child was killed in a school massacre and telling your followers to go after them goes beyond "free speech", as it violates the parents' right to privacy and their right to security - this needs to be prosecuted, and we all need to be protected from it. Spreading known lies and saying it is legal because it is merely an "opinion" is wrong and should be subject to prosecution as libel. Speech that endangers others, like shouting "fire" in a crowded theater or calling on others to harm people, cannot be tolerated in a democratic society.

  167. @Sally

    We have elected officials that write and pass the laws that we live by. If you do not like the laws, vote in new representation. Better yet, run for office.

    As for the lies, people need to be seeking the truth and not just believing the statement at face value. We need to follow due process and keep in mind that all parties involved have rights. Part of due process is socially and or criminally punishing confirmed liars who ruin peoples' lives.

  168. While we are at it, can we get rid of hate crime statutes. Such legislation is grounded in the same flawed reasoning. It is the act that is criminal and should be punished - not the attitude.

  169. Perhaps we should just allow full freedom of expression and not try to judge 'hate' which is elastic, often arbitrary and can be turned around to silence legitimate grievances.
    Perhaps we should let people's words stand for themselves. Treat people and their expressions as individuals and stop giving privileges and punishments by group identity.
    We need to get rid of discrimination not redirect it onto another group.

  170. It is reason to be wary that it is during the Trump administration we are seeing this new crack down on hate speech. You can be certain the administration is calculating the ways they can use this to their advantage, and there must be many, because otherwise they’d be waving the constitution around, yelling about the first amendment.

  171. If the government was censoring Alex Jones, I'd be defending his right to speak. But if YouTube wants to ban his videos, that is no more objectionable than their long time ban on pornography, i.e., their platform, their rules. Have these companies opened up a Pandora's box of how to determine what is and isn't acceptable content? Absolutely, but it's on them no one else.

  172. @Tom Just to confirm, if the NFL cuts every player that protests, you wouldn't say a thing, right? (Of course, being a Canuck, you may not care). Hopefully, you say yes, but you have to admit, there's been a whole lot of people claim the opposite and use freedom as speech to justify the players' obnoxious acts.

    I don't care about Jones, but I care about free speech, equal protection, and hypocrisy.

  173. The following obviously may not legally apply to private companies.

    I don't think that speech should be banned because it's hateful. Some sorts of incitement to violence should be banned, though there are lots of hard-to-judge examples out there, too.

    I know little about Alex Jones but I don't think he should be banned for, eg, claiming that Sandy Hook was a hoax or that some groups of people are awful for some reason.

    By the way, *some* of what Farrakhan and Malcolm X said *was* hate speech. Institutionalized racism exists but it doesn't mean that the oppressed side's behavior can't possibly be hateful. But, again, I'm not suggesting that their speech, hateful or otherwise, be banned.

  174. @PaulSFO: I do not believe in any way that Sandy Hook was a hoax, and I think the whole Alex Jones thing is stupid.

    HOWEVER….for many, many years, I have read and watched countless equally bogus "theories" about the JFK assassination and the moon landings and 9/11.

    I've seen real theatrical movies claiming a conspiracy over the JFK assassination and quite a few LIBERALS believe this whole heartedly.

    These are widely available and no end of YouTube videos on various "conspiracies".

    Funny, nobody thought these were hate speech or had to banned UNTIL NOW.

    Also: I read almost daily garbage from liberals about how "there is a pee tape of Trump getting or giving golden showers in Russia" -- or other nuttery -- no proof of any kind --- just rumor and innuendo -- and yet this is absolutely accepted as OK.

    But somehow Alex Jones is the problem? come on! this "problem" is at least 50 years old, probably older. Americans LOVE conspiracy theories!

  175. I absolutely agree with not making it easy for Alex Jones to spew his creepy, hate-filled speech far and wide. However, it really DOES unnerve me that in the very same week, so many multi-national tech giants decided to ban him from their platforms -- ALL AT ONCE.

    I hate to think what that meeting looked like - a group of people sitting around in an elegant meeting room in a multi-national corporation (or on a teleconference line) deciding what was right and what was wrong, all by themselves.

    We live in a democracy. We should have appropriate public institutions taking these sorts of actions, not for-profit enterprises that get to decide who gets to use what freedoms.

  176. Germany has banned hate speech with clear and enforceable rules. We still have free speech. Most arguments here mix apples with oranges, and once again have me concerned about basic understanding of respect for human rights and safety in the US. Hate breeds hate. Hate speech incites, and includes lies for that purpose. How difficult is that? What, in heaven’s name, is to protect about hate aimed at certain persons and populations?
    It is very possible to make a distinction. Work at it. Teach children what hate is. And punish those who practice it.

  177. @Jacalyn Carley-Thank you. Your points make perfect logic and Germany's principled and common sense approach should be studied here and emulated. I fear the U.S. is on a slippery slope with Trump in front unleashing endless lies, making reckless threats, and spouting comments that are both directly and indirectly qualify as "hate speech".

  178. @Jacalyn Carley, the error in your argument is that "hate speech" laws are preemptive measures against threats posed to people due to such speech. But the general understanding of preemptive law is that it is justified only if the threat posed is more immediate, such as yelling "Fire" in a crowded theater. Speech that asserts the inferiority of one race vis-a-vis another race, or asserts negative stereotyping of the members of a certain race, gender, political party, etc., that may incite physical violence in the distant future against them by some idiot--analogical to the butterfly effect--is not a justification for legal prohibition of such speech. If it were, referring you to the "butterfly effect," a justification could be made for banning ALL speech. Who knows what negative consequences for people lurk down the road a thousand years from now because of it? The Czar's government censor banned "The Wealth of Nations" by Adam Smith as dangerous to the public peace of Russia, which indeed it was. So, what? Marx's writings were responsible for creating the most horrific national slaughter houses in history, over 100 million innocents exterminated in the name of Equality, of creating the New Socialist Man. According to your argument we definitely should censor "Das Kapital."

  179. @Jacalyn Carley If only it were that simplistic. You may not get this, and we're not given enough characters to better explain, but...hate will never go away. It will never lessen. Because, hate only exists in our minds, and it will always exist in our minds.

    Absent roses, we would still imagine something smells like one, even if we called it something else. Humans have hated all kinds of things over the years - redheads, left-handed people, albinos, Irish, Chinese, Polish, Muslims, Catholics, fat people, ugly people, and on an on. Even today, many groups face exponentially more discrimination than, say, people of color. Would you rather be fat and ugly or black? Would you rather be stupid or be a woman? Would you rather be shy and unambitious or gay? Disabled or an illegal immigrant?

    Here's the deal: discrimination/hatred is a good thing. If you are married, you discriminated against others to choose the one you wed. If you're a business owner, hopefully you discriminated against incompetent candidates when hiring. Americans discriminated against non-capitalist countries to become great. We discriminated against Japanese after Dec 7, 1941.

    Yes, obvious examples. My point is it never ends. There can be no love without hate, no good without bad, no pretty without ugly. Hating haters makes you a hater, as it should.

  180. The underlying argument is "Oh, this is hard so let's not even try."

    It's the same argument used by those who don't believe we should do anything to combat climate change, racism, sexism, inequality, unequal access to education and a whole host of other problems. As long as people can be convinced that it is "too hard," then they'll just give up.

  181. We would progress markedly towards a healthier society by promoting free speech without needless categories like “hate speech”. As long as speech stops short of inciting violence, a free society should welcome dissent. Censorship merely creates smoldering resentment. Better to vent emotions and express controversial ideas; to do otherwise breeds anger that can lead to all manner of unintended consequences.

  182. The hate is not new. The arguments on both sides are not new. What has changed is the ability for people to make their words or their events known to millions of people with the click of a mouse. The internet is a game changer that we still don’t know how to control. I don’t agree with all of the writer’s statements but he certainly laid bare a very complex issues. Good read.

  183. I assume the author thinks that hate speech is coming from the Right, and "If we will silence Right Speech, would we silence the Right?"

    What you will silence is free speech. Eventually you will silence the Right, but that won't make you happy because then you would realize that "yes, we silenced them, but we did not change their mind." Now you would need to send all dissenters for reeducation and to set their minds right. So you see, banning speech is not the answer, but it is the most attractive short-sighted answer.

    The problem with term "hate speech" is that it is being used to silence political speech or any kind of differing view. If you don't like someone's political views just call it hate speech, and it is enough to brand them a hater. The tech companies that are overzealous to stop hate speech right now just ban people with no due process what-so-ever. They believe that they occupy a high moral ground decide what it hate and what isn't. Even our political system gives everybody due process if they are accused of being hateful. Our political system has far more respect for free speech and our Constitution than our privately held high-tech monopolies. Our monopolies are getting away with things our government will never get away with. They are leading the ultimate assault on free speech. They are banning people based on how many people are offended by someones views. It's a mob rule.

  184. @bgbs: "The tech companies that are overzealous to stop hate speech right now just ban people with no due process what-so-ever."

    The tech companies are COMPANIES (not government entities) which can establish whatever rules they want. And if they decide that Alex Jones is a troublemaker whom they don't want in their establishment stirring things up, then they can boot him--there is no "due process." Jones can go start up his own social media site--and people are free to go listen. (Or NOT.)

  185. People who understand the law know that there is "true speech" and there is "false speech". It is the "false speech" that lands people like Jones in trouble.
    Hate speech is false speech that unlawfully targets individuals and groups for profit and politics.
    Due to the entertainment industry's exploitation of false speech and the media's 24/7 coverage of false speakers, we have become desensitized to it, however, decades ago false speech would be considered shocking to civilized society with the perpetrators of false speech being roundly shunned.
    I believe we must keep our sense of outrage and disgust and reject and shun false speech it at every turn.

  186. This is an incredibly important article for me, because it terrifies me that powerful words like 'racism' and 'hate speech' are being thrown around in the public discourse without anyone ever bothering to establish one constant, working definition of either phrase. Major corporations like Apple and Spotify, and even the federal government are making decisions to silence certain provocative individuals, citing 'preventing the spread of hate speech' or 'protecting the disenfranchised from hate speech' as their motives, but never bothering to define what they believe 'hate speech' is. In addition to the fear this puts in me, it also makes me rather angry, because I believe the unwillingness to define these terms comes from laziness. Don't believe me? Next time you're talking to someone about hate speech, ask them to define 'hate speech' for the sake of your conversation. Then, just to play devil's advocate, try to poke holes in their definition. In my experience, people won't want to keep talking to you. It's just so much easier to throw a vauge, yet seriously negative, label at something that perturbs or offends you, instead of trying to combat that rhetoric with intelligent debate. In an age when being accused of 'hate speech' or 'racism' is like being accused of yelling 'bomb' in an airport in the sense that your right to freedom of speech is suspended, we need to be clear on what constitutes 'hate speech' and be very careful before we accuse somebody of it.

  187. @David Gambee This is all part of a UN agenda. Every Western country has adopted the hate speech laws that fall under the UN Charter. Europe has done it outright whereas the U.S. because of the Constitution can't. So they are just getting around it by censoring through the Tech companies and social media. And firing people unless of course, they are Marxist spewing hate.

  188. @David Gambee You've hit on a major point - the definition of words is being distorted; but, I don't agree that it's due to laziness. It is intentional, the better to tar more and more people.

    For example, without meaning to open this can of words, I've asked dozens of people online to cite examples of Trump saying something racist. I've had plenty of examples provided, but none are racist. Most concern nationalities or religions. Others lack the critical component of superiority/inferiority.

    To a person, none of those people would accept or admit that their examples did not fit the definition of racism. Why, I would ask, are you not content to insult him as a nationalist or an anti-Muslim? They typically insulted me at that point and disappeared.

    The answer, of course, is that those insults don't stigmatize. So, they lie instead. But, it's not laziness.

  189. I am tired of conservatives complaining about limits on hate speech. As I recall, this is the third recent op-ed piece in the Times, and the second in two days, that takes this position. This article even acknowledges that the concept has already been used against people of color and left groups. However, somehow, now that the concept is being used against conservatives, it is not OK. How disingenuous. We should limit any speech which will incite people to violence, and Alex Jones' program clearly does that.

  190. @NeilG1217 To make sure everyone is on the same page, we need to agree on what would incite people to violence.

  191. Hate Speech Laws are nothing but the "establishment" regardless of what it is at the time attempting to make illegal the opinions of those it seeks to suppress. Hate Speech is by definition a capricious method to define some group's opinion as illegal. Deliberate acts of violence are clearly wrong. It is not right but is not and should not be illegal to limit opinions we don't like. Now to actually hurt people is and should be illegal.

    Now yelling attack or kill or trying to raise a mob against someone is clearly wrong. Attempting to define expression of distaste or opinions we don't like as illegal is a violation of free speech.

  192. Opinions, you know, are like that thing that everyone has. There is no shortage of speech - hate or otherwise. I'm not sure it accomplishes much. Money talks. That's the only voice anyone pays attention to in the good ol' US of A.

    If I walk into a restaurant and start yelling awful things at people around me, do we really expect that I will be allowed to stay? Having me removed from the premises is not censorship. Perhaps rather than expecting these platforms to react to hate speech, the rest of us should just quit them. Why give them hearing at all?

  193. I agree with your basic premise. I disagree that black nationalism is any more justified than white nationalism. We need to stop classifying and justifying (or condemning) the actions of people because of the color of their skin. What we should be supporting or opposing are the merits of the substance and content of their beliefs and conduct.

  194. @John Q. Public Amen. I can still say 'Amen', right?

  195. "There’s no question that black nationalists often argue for racial separation or that many have engaged in bigotry. But it’s false equivalence to label black nationalists and white supremacists alike as hate groups." --> Agreed. I also agree silencing hate speech could generate backlash--and consequences. But never forget any backlash to silencing Alex Jones-types will necessarily be predicated on false equivalence. This false equivalence should be fought against, not taken as a reason to limit what its critics ought to say or do.

  196. We would not have this issue if Hillary had won. Players would be standing for the National Anthem and hate speech would go unnoticed as it did during the Obama years. It is all about politics, nothing more. It goes away once the Democrats are back in power.

  197. @Jimmy You scare me Jimmy, but I support your right to state ur views

  198. @Jimmy
    Did you forget to hit the sarc button?

  199. "...mounting pressure from the political left to censor hateful speech may have unintended consequences..." Darn right. The Left is not going to like the new rules when those rules are applied to their pet causes.
    The First Amendment prohibits the Congress from making any laws abridging the freedom of speech, so the Left needs to go at this honestly - campaign to repeal the First Amendment, I dare you. You will be in the political wilderness for the remainder of time.

  200. @David Ricardo

    Just give me one, just one, "pet cause."

    Just one. Just name one.

  201. "Take, as one example, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement, a Palestinian-led initiative that endorses a series of nonviolent measures to end Israel’s systematic oppression of the Palestinians."

    One can argue about systematic "oppression of Palestinians" as rockets fall on Israel but BDS also denies the legitimacy of the State of Israel and essentially calls for the destruction of the State of Israel. If Mr. Mr. Nielson thinks that this movement is "resistance" then he should not be surprised that people resist back in non-violent ways through the legislatures and courts, which have decided that BDS falls within the purview of a hate movement.

    Intersectionality combines BDS with other non-related movements. There will be attendant damage in the response.

    For my purposes Prof. Nielson, hate away. Far be it from me to limit the right of haters to hate. Bring it all out. I agree. But I will use my right to resist and I prefer to push back and resist the haters using the legal tools that are available.

  202. Hate speech -- speech that threatens, encourages or incites to violence by promoting hatred -- should not be tolerated, whether it comes from racists and fascists, or from people resisting injustice.

    This is not silencing resistance. It is silencing an unacceptable form of resistance.

  203. Taking action against one patently libelous and slanderous individual like Alex Jones, will not sink our ship. He will lose against those parents suing him for the particularly contemptuous behavior against Sandy Hook families. It should not be that hard to find legitimate criminal charges against him. If Jones was using the very same methods to argue for a flat earth, then he wouldn't be actually hurting anyone just by spewing that ludicrous view. But if he organized people to harass scientists and their families, then it would be a fair comparison. As it is, Jones is running an exquisitely insane and pernicious campaign against Sandy Hook families, one that is difficult to defend against. And it is traumatizing! The point has been made, too, that a private social media platform can have relevant policies and remedies that the government might not have. It only adds to the insanity to fret about 1st Amendment rights vis-a-vis Jones' deliberately malicious behavior. And, it does not matter if he's really just a man with a galloping mental illness/personality disorder.

  204. Info Wars' rhetoric is more than hate speech. It's incitement to violence. There's a difference, according to the Supreme Court.

  205. @katherinekovach BLM is also incitement to violence, yet their speech is not banned.

  206. Thank you. For liberals so fast to dump on this bandwagon, there's very little thought to where this will land when taken to its most logical conclusion. It's like when the Democrats/Harry Reid went changed the threshold of votes for the Supreme Court...look who's laughing now. Also, here writing is an example of a present liberal veering toward being a former liberal because of things like this. And I am not alone. I would never vote Trump but if the left continues on this path, I will be a moderate Republican in 5 years.

  207. I really don't care what the arguments are for the other side. No one needs to hear the vicious lies of Alex Jones. Like every other right in the Constitution, the right of free speech is not unlimited. The argument being made here is the same one that the pro gun community is making against establishing any limits at all on gun ownership. Can't we temper these principles with a bit of common sense? No, you aren't free to concoct a fake story about a horrible tragedy and disseminate it in a manner which brings emotional harm and the threat of physical harm to those who were directly involved in the tragedy. No! That is not and should not be protected speech. And you have a problem with this because it means that you aren't free to do the same thing? Well, guess what? You're right, you aren't free to do the same thing. And if you feel that somehow deprives you of some sort of expression you think you are entitled to, too bad.

  208. @David, I am no Alex Jones fan, but would be happy to apply your post against you. I do not like what you said and how you said it, so you should be silenced. If you don’tlike It, “too bad”. You probably have principles I don’t share, so you should have none of the rights I enjoy. That would certainly make my world pure, and me more righteous.
    Again, I am not an Alex Jones fan. I can block or ignore his posts, I am not obligated to listen or watch his programs, anymore than I am obligated to read your posts.

    Alex may have given as much thought in his statements as you do in yours. It does not mean it is coherent.

    Reply if you wish. I have already dismissed your viewpoint.

    And no, I do not believe a word I said. You are entitled to your view and to be heard should someone choose to listen.

  209. @David: There is no first Amendment right to tell lies intended to defame persons, nor is there a first Amendment right to engage in verbal harassment. Alex Jones can lawfully be held to account for slander and harassment when his lies target the parents of children gunned down in a school massacre. I would think that social media platforms are also within their rights to deny him airtime, not because they judge his comments to be hateful but because he intentionally lies in order to do injury to others. Genuinely harmful speech is not protected by the first Amendment. The author of the opinion piece raises serious concerns about the use of the "hate speech" label to shut down expression we find personally or politically offensive. The distinction between speech that offends and speech that injures is often subtle, but it remains important nonetheless. Alex Jones deserves censure and the loss of his social media bullhorn not because we find him hateful and offensive, but because he uses speech as a weapon to inflict real injury, telling defamatory lies and verbally harassing his victims.

  210. @David I did not know that every right in the Constitution
    is limited.
    Where do you get that stuff.
    I can understand that you believe Jones shouldn't have a right to fabricate a story.
    That's why it has to be in the Constitution.
    Because of people like you who feel they have the right to censor other people.
    I am not going to argue about the facts of the case.
    It's not relevant.
    If you can censor him then anyone can be censored if someone can claim the story being told was being fabricated.
    Since we have no way to know who is fabricating and who isn't, it is very dangerous to make a exemption to the rule because that can lead to censoring people who are not fabricating.
    We don't want that so all speech has to be protected.
    This doesn't mean Jones can not be sued.
    It just means he can't be arrested because he made those statements.
    Someone can still claim that they have been harmed and therefore can sue him for damages.

  211. Yes. On the one hand I could not help but cheer the efforts to marginalize Alex Jones. On the other hand, the actions made me a bit queasy. It has long been said about the famously hard to define 'pornography,' that "I know it when I see it." To some extent the same is true with hate speech. What is some people's hate speech is others' plainly spoken "truth."

    We could claim a general societal opinion for what is truly hate speech, but that is a trap. Just because lots of people believe something does not make it true or right or just. Consider Nazi Germany where many citizens bought the notion of "Aryan" superiority hook, line, and sinker or the pre-Civil War south where Christians were convinced that slavery was God's will for dark-skinned peoples.

    I don't have a clear answer, but believe that we must proceed with extreme caution when shutting down one person's or group's speech because we find it repugnant. The slippery slope is always waiting.

  212. Facebook and others make money in closing their eyes to what their platforms broadcast.

    They should be held legally accountable for their contents and manage their products accordingly.

  213. Isn't easier to just let people say whatever they want (apart from yelling "fire" in a crowded theater)? When did the thought police arrive to determine intent or meaning of speech? Where is the ACLU?

  214. I like the "Blue Lives Matter" one. To protect those the "accidentally" on purpose kill other people from being hated? That's a hard one to fathom

    Hate like love has a way of spreading its self in many creative ways. The only way to diminish either is to use one or the other against the other.

    Anyway, well written Erik. So true.

  215. No one likes a nitpicker, Not least when your- I mean, you’re the one under scrutiny. But who among us has never indulged in being someone else’s critic? Where and how do we draw the line between ‘hate speech’ and freedom of expression, as this article raises?

    Because it’s never that black-and white. Conflict arises even in the best of times, and when both sides already have a bloody heritage of opposition, even oppression, already-sensitive issues seem poised to detonate. Naturally, this isn’t just about the blacks and whites in America, war and injustice having pervaded pretty much all peoples throughout history. My own nation has a plentitude of these issues, being a (much-touted) multiracial, multireligous society. We are far too conservative to let this opposition ruin our harmony. But I do sometimes wonder at what cost this tremulous peace comes, what rises to the surface when ‘hate speech’, and the concerns they raise, whether legitimate or not, are stifled.

    I am in no way condoning ethnocentric trampling of someone else‘s race, skin colour or culture. But a teacher of mine once expressed the idea that ‘the day we know we’re truly diverse is when they stop shoving it in our face.’ Pride in identity is one thing, and laws to prevent abuse certainly welcome, but does it suggest when they become necessary? What are we so afraid of? Because haters gotta hate, but what awaits us when the accumulation of ‘hate’ we can smother erupts may be a violence we cannot put out.

  216. Mr. Nielson: In the title, I take it that by "resistance" you mean resistance against injustice. Yet hate incitement IS injustice, and it can have very injurious consequences on people. Please turn your title around and ask what would happen if there were no controls on broadcasting content in this era of internet. You will quickly get my point if you imagine free broadcasting for pedophiles to advocate child molestation. Verbally speaking, without standards, corporations such as Facebook and Youtube may as well give anyone a gun and let them supply the bullets and pull the trigger. Yes, there are some very dangerous efforts by major hate inciters to blame resisters of hate incitement. BDS and BlackLivesMatter are good examples. Humanity won't ever get away from the tendency of evil doers to project their deeds onto their victims. But this doesn't excuse people from making moral distinctions. Libel laws do identify legally prohibited speech as 1) false, and 2) injurious. These laws are absolutely necessary. But law can never relieve people of the duty of making moral distinctions that go beyond law. When a person is being verbally or physically abused, it is one thing to call the police, but that can't substitute for someone nearby who will intervene and defend the victim. The managers of media outlets are in a position to do that, and their business ought to be making distinctions in the language that they broadcast.

  217. Agreed. This is one of the things the left is not understanding about liberalism and free speech. We don't react to speech we dislike by censoring it. We have the stronger arguments. We have love. They have hate. We have tolerance and acceptance. They do not. Let them speak their hate so we know where it is. Let them speak their hate and we will counter with reason and love. Censorship is a reaction born of fear. We do not need to fear white supremacy, or other failed ideologies. We need to speak back, powerfully, because most reasonable people choose love over hate.

  218. Here's my position: socmed are private entities that are not the State. 1A says congress shall make no law...it doesn't say anything about private interests. Government cannot control speech.

    Public University Campuses are, however, government entities. They have to permit 1A. Private colleges do not.

    This article pretty much hits on what Rule of Ideology would look like. Want to ban "Hate Speech"? Take that to its appointed end, and you'll find that the human condition cannot, regardless of race, be cured....and that we all would belong in jail if the left's metrics were adhered to.

  219. So, our choice is a sea of Alex Jones', or government repression? Either way we lose. And this is how our democracy will die. It will be destroyed by people using it's all encompassing tolerance, to promote intolerance, and the protections of it's own laws, in order to subvert them.

    Right now, as I write this, a relatively small group of people are in the process of actively trying to destroy our 242 year old experiment in the exploration and expansion of basic human equality. Our checks and balances have been rendered useless. Our legal system has been co-opted. Our elections have being rigged. And, to top it off, we have a full-fledged maniac in the White House with a massive entourage of mindless zombies ready to do anything he says.

    If we were a little more civilized we wouldn't have to worry about people like Alex Jones because no one would listen to them in the first place. Now, were faced with our own political extinction as a result of the very tolerance that allowed his intolerance to flourish.

    The only hope our democracy has left is Robert Mueller and/or a sweep in November. If both fail we are doomed - literally and figuratively.

  220. If Spotify decides they don't want certain types of music represented on their network that is their business choice. It is a company not a government. Same with the others who banned AJ. Do you think Mark Zuckerberg should have to tolerate a FaceBook group called Kill MZ? There are usually limits within any company. Don't confuse private businesses with federal government and rights.

  221. The leftists continue to twist themselves into knots. The framers of the Constitution thought free speech was so important that it became part of the First Amendment. There is no such thing as "hate speech", as this is a made-up phrase used to restrict our constitutional rights.

  222. This is your second Op-Ed in a week that attacked the Southern Poverty Law Center's designation of hate groups. The first was by a Christian conservative shocked that his group was included just for saying nasty things about gays.

    I actually agree with the SPLC criticisms of both some black nationalist groups and some Christian conservative groups. They SHOULD be called out for tolerating promotion of hate in their communications. By hate I do not merely mean disrespectful, but language so dehumanizing it could be viewed as incitement to violence. But despite this, I also agree they should not be silenced.

    Malcolm X may be a good example of the dilemma. He clearly was voicing concerns that deserved to be heard, but some of the ways he expressed them did deserve condemnation.

    Hate speech and incitement to violence should always be condemned, but we need to find ways that allow other messages of the speaker to still be heard.

  223. Hate speech is just speech that someone doesnt like. There are already laws against incitements to violence and libel. Without Freedom of Speech we are no longer a free society. Allowing speech that you agree with while banning speech you disagree with is tyranny. We are the only country in the world that allows its citizens to speak their mind. People in England have been arrested for criticizing people of Facebook and Twitter. A man in Canada was jailed for singing 'Kung-Fu Fighting' in a karaoke bar (I wish I was joking). Unless we want this madness here we need to honor our Constitution. Because putting restrictions on Freedom of Speech is a very slippery slope. What if your criticisms are one day labeled "hate speech?" Its a very easy step to outlawing criticism of government if we outlaw criticism of individuals.

  224. The article “If We Silence Hate Speech. Will We Silence Resistance?” by Erik Neilson revolves around the hot topic of whether or not we should limit “hate” speech in American. The term “hate” is a dangerous word used to describe unpopular views on specific things, particularly minority groups. In the article the author explains how today young Americans, particularly Americans of color believe that hate speech should be regulated by congress on college campuses and some believe legal restrictions should be placed on hate speech. Although, the beginning the article seems to support the restriction of hate speech. The author provides a counter argument debating that if hate speech was limited, we would struggle to defend the opionated poets, musicians, filmmakers and other artists whose art contains a majority of “hate” speech. For example, recently Spotify announced that they will not promote artists who engage and use hate speech in their music. Immediatley after the announcement, recording labels like Kendrick Lamar’s expressed their concern with this new policy and it is now under discussion. I personally agree with the counterpart of the article because even though “hate” speech can be extremely violent and hurtful it is a better method than physical violence. If the government limits the people’s right to “hate” speech, than it may result in the use of physical violence in protests to increase. After fighting wars over our freedom of speech why silence Americans?

  225. What Farrakhan and, say, David Duke share is a racist cosmology that has rendered each politically marginal. The author seems to support the rights of the former by imagining--as opposed to arguing--that the latter is a civic force to any meaningful degree. This line of thinking is followed by the author of the LA TIMES article to which he links; that author claims that free speech allows one to shout slurs directly at minorities. Thankfully, per hate crime law, this isn't the case.

    Alex Jones is another marginal quack on his way to obsolescence. A short-cut to said dead-end would involve the recognition of social media platforms as publishing organs beholden to laws prohibiting slander; certain journalistic or scholastic standards must follow.

  226. >
    The paradox of freedom.

    "Freedom is so much the essence of man that even it's opponents actualize it even while combatting its reality"


  227. I don't know what "Hate Speech" is. But I know what hate is. And I know you can verbalize hate. I don't know what "trigger" means. But I know what "fighting words" are. I'm not sure what a "safe space" is. But I know what it's like to be among friends and allies who don't deny your humanity, don't lie to or about you, don't cheat you, won't shoot you for holding a bag of skittles and wearing a hoodie. Some folks like gated communities. Others prefer a safe space.

    I do know that anger and rage isn't the same as hate. I know that fear and race are political instruments to divide and conquer. I know that haters need hate to feel better about themselves. Hate-speakers are fire-bugs, accomplished arsonists. Haters are dry tinder.

    Advertisers who pay millions to run ads on TV can't lie. If any of their ads are deceptive or dishonest, a ton of FTC and FCC penalties get triggered and the market will punish their brand.

    But haters get to roll out ten big lies a day without worry, validated by the medium they use to reach their audiences. So Alex Jones on FaceBook is validated or vouched for by FaceBook making his lies more credible. It's a tacit endorsement. The only issue is why FaceBook took so long.

    Very unclear where the author is trying to go. From a distance it looks like blaming the victim. He seems to be saying "don't outlaw spitting in peoples' faces because then you won't be allowed to spit back in their faces."

    Maybe we should just spit less.

  228. @Yuri Asian Maybe you should understand what category errors are, and the fact that if you take someone's review of a show you've never heard, you don't know what you are talking about.

  229. We do not live in the past but the present, and there are new rules for communication. Hate speech was once the purview of campus meetings, or discussed at book clubs. News reports took time to digest before a decision was made about content. People talked face to face, not through tweets. There was no subversion and intellectual interest was a conscious choice. Mass media is subversive. It effects the subconscious mind in order to sway opinion. Look at how much anger many of these right wing websites incite! That is why Apple, FB, YouTube and others have every right to restrict content from organizations which promote extreme views. They understand their power. That is the new now.

  230. I absolutely agree that the concept of hate speech is dangerous, but when someone calls me a 'devil', why is that not hatred? Today's most-commented article is about Sarah Jeong and her much-tweeted hatred of whites. Just how were Farrakhan and Malcolm X different, except that they explicitly espoused violence? Hatred is hatred. Own it.

  231. There you go again with "people of color." I think we know hate when we see it. And an awful lot of it these days seems to be coming from these people of color we are all supposed to glorify and feel sorry for. Nonsense. This is a time in American history when all people must finally be accountable for their actions, and when bad behavior among people, regardless of their color, is punished and reviled.

  232. If people are going to “finally” be held accountable, there are plenty of them in the queue before we get anywhere near people of color. The aggrieved, injured tone of “supposed to glorify and feel sorry for” is misplaced. At best.

  233. Hate speech is never going away. The issue is not about "government" passing laws restricting speech - it is about social private platforms being the source of "news" for over 60% of the public. The platforms are not regulated by the FCC like ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox news. The private platforms took the action, not our FBI.Don't forget there are limits to free speech that have been set by our Supreme Court's decisions. The private platforms had the legal right to remove "speech" by their own guidelines. What we need to do is have discussions concerning what is a social platform and should it be a source of news, or regulated by the FCC. Alex Jones has his own website (a private platform by the way) and the use of Facebook, etc. to spread his views should be taken into consideration. We are now fully into the digital age and are still learning how it can change our lives and views. Mixing of hate speech and government control of said speech is misleading. I'm a child of the early 50's and the changes and use of language have moved generations in those years. I'm more concerned about confronting racism with truth than restrictions to free speech. Lee Atwater used language to send the same message of racism. MAGA is the same use - it is not coincidence that we have a racist as president after the first election of an African-American to our highest office. An American Dilemma by Gunnar Myrdal rings true to this day as we approach the 75th anniversary of its publication...

  234. @Michael Grove
    I totally agree with your assessment! The ambiguous status of social media platforms presents both a cultural and a legal problem, and it seems as if the comments are leading us to your crystallization of the issues.
    I agree in particular with this remark: "What we need to do is have discussions concerning what is a social platform and should it be a source of news, or regulated by the FCC." Well said!

  235. So is free speech limited if one can be prosecuted for making a threat against a US president or are there limitations placed on what a person can say?

  236. The point being missed is that Jones’s hate speech is NOT being silenced. Jones is still free to speak; the Congress has passed no laws prohibiting his speech. He can get a printing press and print his speech. He is free to construct his own megaphone and stand on the street corner. He can buy a radio station and broadcast; maybe even sign a deal with the EIB network and broadcast from there.

    What has been removed is an amplifier for his speech that is owned by someone else who does not want to be part of amplifying Jones’s hate.

  237. @Kam Dog -- exactly. And this distinction gets lost every time university students ask for a hatemonger to be disinvited from speaking on campus and they, and/or the university, are pilloried for "censorship." The students are not asking for the hatemonger to be jailed or fined. They are merely asking for the university to exercise better judgment and discretion about who it grants a platform and a microphone, and by implication cloaks them in the mantle of rational academic discourse. They are merely asking the university to respect and honor all members of its community rather than giving a mike to those who want to silence, exile, impoverish, criminalize, marginalize, bully, intimidate, and maybe even kill some of the members of that community.

  238. All of the examples the author cited to support her argument seem completely indefensible to me. When it comes to spouting racist nonsense and violence inciting rhetoric it doesn’t matter if it’s coming from the right or left. It’s equally wrong either way.