Sunday, June 03, 2012

New book by Jeremy Waldron on Hate Speech

The Harm in Hate Speech

by Jeremy Waldron

(Harvard University Press, 2012)

204 pages


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, Jeremy Waldron argues powerfully 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 Waldron, 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. Waldron 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, Waldron asks us to move beyond knee-jerk American exceptionalism in our debates over the serious consequences of hateful speech.

Contents [preview]

1. Approaching Hate Speech
2. Anthony Lewis’s Freedom for the Thought That We Hate 
3. Why Call Hate Speech Group Libel?
4. The Appearance of Hate
5. Protecting Dignity or Protection from Offense?
6. C. Edwin Baker and the Autonomy Argument
7. Ronald Dworkin and the Legitimacy Argument
8. Toleration and Calumny [pdf]

Jemery Waldron's book is based on his three 2009 Oliver Wendell Holmes Lectures. They were published in 2010 in "Harvard Law Review" [pdf] and are also available as podcasts (see here).

Jeremy Waldron is University Professor at New York University School of Law.

Reviews of Jeremy Waldron's book:

* John Paul Stevens - "Should Hate Speech Be Outlawed?"
(New York Times Review of Books, June 7, 2012)

* Katharine Gelber - "The Harm in Hate Speech"
(Times Higher Education, May 31, 2012)

* David Gordon - "The Harm in Hate-Speech Laws"
(Mises Daily, May 30, 2012)

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