Over the past week in light of recent events in Charlottesville, many have called for the squelching of Neo-Nazi rhetoric or “hate speech.” The people calling for this action have the best of intentions (stopping fascism), but their intentions are logically flawed and ill-conceived.
“Hate Speech” — words are not bombs.
The white supremacist website Daily Stormer, or more specifically their domain name, was shut down by Godaddy and Google earlier this week and later when they registered a different .ru domain name, Cloudflare eventually turned off their DNS service. All of this was under the guise that the website was publishing “hate speech.” In reality, though, there is no such thing as hate speech. What people commonly refer to as hate speech is actually just offensive speech. Speech does not by itself incite violence, violence comes from the individual. As Eminem says about music, “Well, can it load a gun up for you and cock it too?”
If there was such thing as hate speech why then are the same people opposed to this “hate speech” direct quoting it verbatim and rebroadcasting video/audio of it to a broader audience who will receive and hear the same content? I’ve been told the reasoning for this is “context matters.” Meanwhile the content of the speech is allowed to be redistributed as news or critique. But it is the content itself that was labeled ‘hate speech,’ and redistributing it as news or critique means a broader audience is exposed to the ‘hate speech.’ That audience would have never read, heard, nor seen the ‘hate speech’ content if it was not replayed in the news or from the very same people criticising it, and it is the content — not the context — that is being criticised by the same people redistributing that content. It is said that the content itself is harmful, and yet here it is reaching broader audiences while at the same time the people redistributing it are asking for that type of content to be banned. I don’t think they realize a ban would include their own critique, as their critique includes the content itself.
Right to refuse service — no right to provide a platform
Many have pointed out the cries to drop Daily Stormer as a customer is part of a private business’ right to refuse service. Indeed, a business does not have to offer you a ‘platform’ for your content. Consider then, that not that long ago, we made it the law of the land that a bakery must bake a cake for homosexuals as a ‘protected class.’ You can not bake your cake and it eat it too. Either the government CAN force you to contract with private individuals, or they can’t. Personally I lean towards the free market solution, a private business does indeed have the right to refuse service, to any one, for any reason, or no reason at all. Their interaction with a customer is entirely at-will. However, if we’re going to live in a world where the government can force you to interact with a customer because of their protected class and at the same time ban content that it deems harmful, that means private businesses will be forced to police and interpret content.
Private businesses should not be policing or interpreting content. As this entire polarized debate has shown, everyone interprets what they see from their own personal point of view. This means that the content YOU create will only remain in the cloud at the discretion and whim of whatever employee happens to be reviewing it. Some employees may find your point of view ‘harmful’ by their own interpretation of what you said and *poof* you’re no longer a customer. Imagine if you will if your cellphone service was shut off simply because of a text message you sent a friend taken out of context. What would happen if you could no longer receive or make telephone calls or text messages as a result? Businesses should take extra care to defend all content absent some process of legal service or court order where a ostensibly competent judge has ruled the content a clear and present danger.
Constitution, or “Free Speech isn’t absolute”
Some are under the impression that the Constitution grants free speech. Quite to the contrary, free speech is an inalienable, undeniable, right. The right originates from nature — not government. The Constitution is not an exhaustive list of rights(see also Amendment 9: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”). The Constitution is meant to be a restraining document that grants powers to the various branches of the Federal government, and restricts when and how those powers may be used. The First Amendment starts out “Congress shall pass no law” to make clear that the freedom(of speech) already exists, and Congress is not granted the power to restrict that freedom, because it is a right. Rights are not mere privileges. Privileges can be regulated, licensed and taxed. As such the right to express yourself and your opinions, including unpopular and offensive opinions, is absolutely absolute.
Some will continue to turn a blind eye to logic, because nazis. America already had this debate before, because communists. The red scare and McCarthyism not only silenced speech, “many thousands of Americans faced congressional committee hearings, FBI investigations, loyalty tests, and sedition laws; negative judgements in those arenas brought consequences ranging from imprisonment to deportation, loss of passport, or, most commonly, long-term unemployment.”
In Vogel v. County of Los Angeles, 434 P. 2d 961 — Cal: Supreme Court 1967 it’s pointed out that, “The court again pointed out that a law which applies to membership(editor’s note: communist membership)without the specific intent to further the unlawful aims of the organization rests on the doctrine of guilt by association and that the doctrine has “no place here.” (Keyishian v. Board of Regents, supra, 385 U.S. at p. 607 [17 L.Ed.2d at p. 643, 87 S.Ct. 675].)
Are we seriously going to have another scare like this over fake wannabe Neo-Nazis? It’s your call America.
I encourage everyone to read the EFF’s position on this here. The calls to ban speech, ‘because nazis’, is entirely contrary to net neutrality censorship principles. In the end, your services aren’t really needed anyways. The internet now has decentralized domain names, Tor, and end-to-end anonymous encryption for communications. If freedom is to be outlawed, only the outlaws will have and enjoy the freedom, and it is already within their reach.