Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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August 8, 2005
By: Kevin Drum

HATE SPEECH vs. DEATH SPEECH....This is an open thread. Mark Kleiman asks the following question today:

In a world of political violence, what's the right line to draw between protected speech and incitement? Is Tony Blair right to tell the extremist Islamic preaches in London to cool it or face deportation? Should Israel do the same with the rabbis who are openly calling for Sharon's death, as they called for Rabin's? No doubt Pat Robertson will pretend to be shocked and dismayed if anyone acts on Robertson's suggestion that some additional vacancies on the Supreme Court would be pleasing to God by taking out Justice Ginsburg, but his shock and dismay wouldn't bring her back.

I tend to believe that generic "hate speech" laws are a bad idea, but that incitement to violence against named or clearly identifiable persons (such as repeating the fatwa calling for Salman Rushdie's death, or calling for the deaths of doctors who perform abortions) ought to be criminal even if the incitement is general as to who is to carry it out and when.

I am deeply unsure about whether and to what extent I think Mark is correct, although my initial instinct is to disagree with him pretty strongly unless the incitement is quite clear and specific. Mostly, though, this is because I'm not convinced that content-based speech restrictions can be defined in a broad enough way to make them workable but in a narrow enough way to keep them from being dangerous. Comments are open.

Kevin Drum 1:33 AM Permalink | Trackbacks

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