Hate speech laws are an unnecessary attack on free speech
Anti-hate laws across the world and in Australia are being used to restrict free speech. In Australia, LibertyWorks recently reported members of the United Patriots Front are facing charges under Victoria’s Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001. Spiked-Online has reported that the European Union has unveiled a code of conduct for online platforms. Around the world contentious ideas are being driven underground right at the time when these issues need to be discussed the most.
In Britain, anti-hate group, ‘HOPE not hate’ is raising funds to sue Nigel Farage after he accused the widower of Jo Cox of having links with extremism because of his support of HOPE not hate. Now on their website HOPE not hate is requesting donations from its supporters saying, “Yesterday morning, on LBC radio, former UKIP leader Nigel Farage launched an outrageous attack on us, on Brendan Cox, husband of murdered MP Jo Cox, and by association on everyone who believes in HOPE not hate. Our lawyer has just sent Farage a letter demanding he retracts and publicly apologises or we will begin legal proceedings against him.”
The dispute between Nigel Farage started when Farage tweeted after the terrorist attack in Berlin, “Terrible news from Berlin but no surprise. Events like these will be the Merkel legacy.” Brendan Cox replied tweeting, “@Nigel_Farage blaming politicians for the actions of extremists? That’s a slippery slope Nigel”. Farage was then asked about the dispute on LBC radio and replied, “Well, of course, he would know more about extremists than me, Mr Cox, he backs organisations like HOPE not hate, who masquerade as being lovely and peaceful but actually pursue violent and very undemocratic means.” Farage has previously claimed that the group has used violence to disrupt his rallies.
Further down on HOPE not hate’s fundraising page they also say, “If we manage to settle this dispute out of court, we will use all funds raised to continue our campaign against extremism and hatred of all kinds.” It’s hard to know if they are genuine or whether this ‘case’ is a blatant fundraising exercise targeting gullible idiots who ironically hate Farage. This case while being laughable, really shows what so called anti-hate activists are really about. Their worldview can be summed up as, “everything I don’t like is ‘hate speech’.”
Anti-hate groups such as HOPE not hate and their Australian equivalent the Online Hate Prevention Institute campaign against free speech rights and advocate for anti-hate speech laws. Such groups regularly claim that removing anti-hate laws will open the floodgates of racism. This implies a deep distrust of their fellow man and despite all their talk of community and society, it shows that they have no faith in civil society to self regulate. Instead, they opt for the heavy hand of the State. They ignore the fact that the United States, the world’s largest and most successful multi ethnic country, doesn’t have any anti-hate speech legislation due to the First Amendment. Yet, the United States is most likely the world’s least racist country. In the United States the community has set the standard and over time that standard has become extremely intolerant of any kind of racism.
Throughout the campaign to repeal 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act many have asked campaigners, ‘what are you so desperate to say that you can’t say under existing law?’ Well, actually a lot of things. Many people want to be able criticise the policies of Israel. Many other people want to question whether Islam is compatible with Western values. Other people want to raise uncomfortable questions about remote Aboriginal communities as Bill Leak did in his cartoon. There are many controversial ideas people want to discuss in a free society, it’s not for judges and Human Rights Commissions to decide which of these ideas are valid. The general community is perfectly capable of assessing the merits of ideas raised.
Anti-hate campaigners want us to only say nice things about each other, but, we aren’t children. Sometimes harsh and difficult things need to be said. In a free society people should be able to say whatever they like without fear of state sanction. By allowing the state to regulate what speech is and isn’t allowed it reduces the ability of society to have robust discussions that set the community standard.