The Harm in Hate Speech

The Harm in Hate Speech

Number of page: 264
Author: Jeremy Waldron
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Category: Law

Every liberal democracy has laws or codes against hate speech, except the United States. For constitutionalists, regulation of hate speech violates the First Amendment and damages a free society. Against this absolutist view, the author argues that hate speech should be regulated as part of our commitment to human dignity and to inclusion and respect for members of vulnerable minorities. Causing offense, by depicting a religious leader as a terrorist in a newspaper cartoon, for example, is not the same as launching a libelous attack on a group’s dignity, according to the author, and it lies outside the reach of law. But defamation of a minority group, through hate speech, undermines a public good that can and should be protected: the basic assurance of inclusion in society for all members. A social environment polluted by anti-gay leaflets, Nazi banners, and burning crosses sends an implicit message to the targets of such hatred: your security is uncertain and you can expect to face humiliation and discrimination when you leave your home. Free-speech advocates boast of despising what racists say but defending to the death their right to say it. The author finds this emphasis on intellectual resilience misguided and points instead to the threat hate speech poses to the lives, dignity, and reputations of minority members. Finding support for his view among philosophers of the Enlightenment, he asks us to move beyond knee-jerk American exceptionalism in our debates over the serious consequences of hateful speech.

About The Author

Jeremy Waldron is University Professor, New York University School of Law, and Chichele Professor of Social and Political Theory, All Souls College, University of Oxford.


  •  Jane Doe Jane Doe
    THE HARM IN HATE SPEECH A vigorously argued, intelligent challenge to the “liberal bravado” of U.S. First Amendment scholars.In an eloquent reply to free-speech advocates, Waldron (New York University School of Law; Torture