Green Room

Hey, let’s ban hate speech on Twitter

posted at 12:13 pm on January 2, 2013 by

A New Year’s reminder that terrible ideas never really go away, they just go in and out of vogue. Old authoritarian wine in new digital bottles:

Here, we’re taught from an early age to be absolutist in our defense of free speech. But increasingly, the first amendment of the US constitution is looking a lot like the second amendment: an American exception so broad and so holy that it prevents us even from thinking about how to prevent harm.

The EU, Canada, Australia, and almost every other mature democracy recognize that words can be a weapon. But we don’t regulate weapons of any variety in this country, and our kneejerk response to even the slightest intimation of limits to speech is a Voltaire-style refusal even to consider them. A few years ago, the late Christopher Hitchens melodramatically shouted “Fire!” in none-too-crowded theater, to demonstrate that even those few exceptions Americans admit to freedom of expression can be done away with.

If only this were still the 18th century! We can’t delude ourselves any longer that free speech is the privilege of pure citizens in some perfect Enlightenment salon, where all sides of an argument are heard and the most noble view will naturally rise to the top. Speech now takes place in a digital mixing chamber, in which the most outrageous messages are instantly amplified, with sometimes violent effects…

Digital speech is new territory, and it calls for fresh thinking, not the mindless reapplication of centuries-out-of-date principles that equate a smartphone to a Gutenberg press.

And so the race for the worst op-ed of 2013 is off with a bang. Exit question: “We don’t regulate weapons of any variety in this country”? What?

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The EU, Canada, Australia, and almost every other mature democracy recognize that words can be a weapon.

Yeah, ask Misters Levant and Steyn about that Canada thing.

apostic on January 2, 2013 at 12:20 PM

Speech now takes place in a digital mixing chamber, in which the most outrageous messages are instantly amplified, with sometimes violent effects…

Speech which incites violence is already restricted moron. But it has to be an actual call to violence, not just offend someone enough to make them violent.

Rocks on January 2, 2013 at 12:20 PM

Apparently the goofball who wrote this tripe has never heard of Twitter Gulag. Short version – if you don’t have enough stroke as a non-liberal and the liberals notice you, you get banned via liberal abuse of Twitter’s spam-block feature.

Steve Eggleston on January 2, 2013 at 12:25 PM

What we face are two different and equally important questions. First, should hate speech be prosecuted when it appears online? And second, should Twitter filter access to that speech if it’s already been deemed illegal?

I’d answer the first question in the affirmative. The second question is much more hazardous, and I don’t pretend it’s easy to answer.

The first question is your whole problem. Why the heck should “Hate Speech” be any different then any other speech in protection? It’s not illegal to hate people so why should it be illegal to say you hate people? This sort of thinking is what you get when you believe that stopping people talking one way stops them thinking that way, it doesn’t and only morons and totalitarians believe it does.

Rocks on January 2, 2013 at 12:26 PM

Scratch a Liberal, find a fascist.

ramesees on January 2, 2013 at 12:39 PM

Speech which incites violence is already restricted moron. But it has to be an actual call to violence, not just offend someone enough to make them violent.

Rocks on January 2, 2013 at 12:20 PM

That’s too much nuance for idiots who consider, “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam” to be the inspiring words of a true genius.

Anti-Control on January 2, 2013 at 12:39 PM

And so the race for the worst op-ed of 2013 is off with a bang. Exit question: “We don’t regulate weapons of any variety in this country”? What?

If we’re going to get rid of the first amendment we need to regulate journalists as much as we do guns. In fact they shouldn’t be able to talk about guns or laws affecting any area of life without first being licensed as being competent on the subject.

gwelf on January 2, 2013 at 1:05 PM

Scratch a Liberal, find a fascist.

ramesees on January 2, 2013 at 12:39 PM

That’s too kind. IMHO, scratch a liberal, find a Walter Mitty-grade tyrant with smaller balls than a hamster and less spine than a jellyfish. 99% of liberals, including the resident trolltards, rely totally on others to enforce their petty dreams of statism.

MelonCollie on January 2, 2013 at 1:06 PM

Apparently the goofball who wrote this tripe has never heard of Twitter Gulag.

Steve Eggleston on January 2, 2013 at 12:25 PM

This. Also:

Digital speech is new territory, and it calls for fresh thinking, not the mindless reapplication of centuries-out-of-date principles that equate a smartphone to a Gutenberg press.

Apparently this guy left his irony hat at home: the power of the Gutenberg press was specifically that it allowed for the mass reproduction of the printed word for the first time in history. Back then, it was exactly the “new territory” of mass speech that would have prompted this kind of discussion from people of this mindset.

The Schaef on January 2, 2013 at 1:07 PM

Apparently this guy left his irony hat at home: the power of the Gutenberg press was specifically that it allowed for the mass reproduction of the printed word for the first time in history. Back then, it was exactly the “new territory” of mass speech that would have prompted this kind of discussion from people of this mindset.

The Schaef on January 2, 2013 at 1:07 PM

That part is merely the usual liberal mindset (dumber than a fencepost) making itself apparent in the author’s work. What’s truly frightening is his pretty direct implication that the idea of free speech is a “centuries-out-of-date principle”.

MelonCollie on January 2, 2013 at 1:12 PM

So he uses an analogy of Hitchens shouting fire, to show that there doesn’t need to be any limitation on speech, as an example of limiting speech????

Not exactly first string debater I would suggest…

right2bright on January 2, 2013 at 1:18 PM

This guys post offended me…remove him…

right2bright on January 2, 2013 at 1:19 PM

consider my pearles clutched.

eh on January 2, 2013 at 1:36 PM

Another day, another assault on constitutional rights from the left.

Kataklysmic on January 2, 2013 at 1:37 PM

oops. meant that for the “go f**k yourself” thread.

eh on January 2, 2013 at 1:37 PM

We don’t regulate weapons of any variety in this country

Good to know, as I am recently in the market for a few Minutemen missiles in the 100 kT range.

(BTW, DHS and other humorless government agencies, that is a joke..)

JohnGalt23 on January 2, 2013 at 1:44 PM

There was a hung jury on the guy who ripped pages out of his own koran and threw them on the ground in front of some muzzies. I don’t know if they will retry him.

Then there was the poor sap who posted on his own fb page that he is against SSM. A co worker saw it and he was significantly demoted. He sued in court and was reinstated but still…

I watch a lot of brit tv and it really sucks. They insist on so much pc crap that it is totally unrealistic. Even their period dramas have gone pc and are ridiculous.

Blake on January 2, 2013 at 1:45 PM

oops. meant that for the “go f**k yourself” thread.

eh on January 2, 2013 at 1:37 PM

It works here too.

kim roy on January 2, 2013 at 2:23 PM

What would be glorious to happen next time some ‘tard like Hitchens yells “fire” in a movie theater would be for said miscreant to be hit by rounds from several different customers responding to the perceived threat.

babylonandon on January 2, 2013 at 2:34 PM

Why do I have a feeling that this guy would be the first one to complain if he found out some hate tweets about christians or conservatives were censored by twitter?

The Notorious G.O.P on January 2, 2013 at 2:49 PM

What we face are two different and equally important questions. First, should hate speech be prosecuted when it appears online? And second, should Twitter filter access to that speech if it’s already been deemed illegal?

I’d answer the first question in the affirmative. The second question is much more hazardous, and I don’t pretend it’s easy to answer.

You have it exactly backwards, clown. Twitter can filter access to any speech that appears on it’s service. That’s not hazardous and is so unexceptional in First Amendment jurisprudence that I wonder why you don’t have a clear understanding. And based upon your article, it appears “hate speech” merely means “speech Jason Farago doesn’t like”. Now that is quite hazardous if you set yourself up as arbiter of what is and isn’t covered.

JeffWeimer on January 2, 2013 at 3:11 PM

I was going to sub-head this one “In Which An American Writer for the Guardian Comes Out as Pro-Fascist” but then I realized “writer for the Guardian” pretty much seals the deal on its own.

Dirt McGirt on January 2, 2013 at 3:38 PM

Digital speech is new territory

No, it isn’t. No more than the printing press was.

GWB on January 2, 2013 at 5:50 PM

If only this were still the 18th century! We can’t delude ourselves any longer that free speech is the privilege of pure citizens in some perfect Enlightenment salon, where all sides of an argument are heard and the most noble view will naturally rise to the top.

What does this author think the 18th century was like anyway? What, the Wild West was filled with saloons where everyone politely waited until you’d made your case before replying? Seriously?

People are so stupid about the past sometimes.

Esthier on January 2, 2013 at 5:57 PM

The subtitle from the flaming bag:

The US has made a fetish of first amendment rights. We should follow France’s example . . .

All done. :)

Axe on January 2, 2013 at 7:56 PM

If hate speech was banned from Twitter, liberal tweets would all but disappear.

TheLoudTalker on January 2, 2013 at 10:00 PM

Digital speech is new territory, and it calls for fresh thinking, not the mindless reapplication of centuries-out-of-date principles that equate a smartphone to a Gutenberg press.

Really? The Bible came off the Gutenberg press and I would contend it is the most controversial set of words ever put out. As Jesus said, the world will hate Christ and his followers. All other “hate” speech is tame by comparison in their effect.. if they really want to make people think twice about their words then bring back duels where people need to back up their insults.

AH_C on January 3, 2013 at 6:59 AM

Can we just ban Bill Maher, Ed Schulz, Piers Morgan, Tingles, and Cher? That will take care of most of the hate speech.

College Prof on January 3, 2013 at 2:54 PM