Thursday, June 13, 2013

On Free Speech, Hate Speech, and Women

I am a Free Speech Absolutist. I believe that no law should ever restrict speech, art, or any other kind of expression based on its content. I believe this because our minds and the multi-faceted ideas that come from them are what makes us human. To understand ourselves and others those ideas need be expressed and discussed, free of restriction or retribution.

I strongly oppose hate speech legislation. I do not support hate speech, but I will defend any person's right to
espouse ideas that I find hateful. To restrict hate speech assumes that someone, somewhere can be a supreme authority on what makes speech "hateful", when in reality each of us has a different definition of the term. It is far too easy for politically unpopular speech to be miscategorized simply so that it can be banned.

I believe that if somebody supports a hateful ideology, it is the responsibility of all thinking people to engage them in the hopes of reaching a mutual understanding. Most ideas categorized as hate speech do not stand up to rational logic. When exposed to the light of open discussion, bad ideas will eventually wither and die. If those ideas become illegal to express, their supporters are emboldened, keep to themselves, and fester, only to emerge later with more intensity.

Lately there have been many stories on the Internet that have upset me involving women. I will not bother to recount them because they all essentially follow the same template.

1) Somewhere, a woman speaks up about how a comment or piece of media is sexist, misogynistic, or problematic in some way.

2) Anti-feminists rise up from all corners of the internet to smack down the original poster, flooding her pages with the most vile, sexist, threatening mouth diarrhea they can come up with.

3) Rational thinking people are very disturbed by this and immediately the story becomes a huge circus.

4) The misogyny of the opposition's comments now flows out in an unbridled torrent of all-caps textwalls and rational discussion becomes impossible.

Frankly it makes me so angry, every time I see it happen, that it's beginning to wear me down. If you really do believe that feminists (people who support equality between the sexes) are too touchy, then just ignore them. Responding with floods of "Tits or GTFO!" or "Get back in the kitchen" doesn't really help your case, does it? Unfailingly I get more upset by the reaction of screaming Men's Rights troglodytes than I am by the original cause of the complaint. They act as though one woman complaining about something is equivalent to the government wanting to make that thing illegal.

But here's the problem: In some parts of the world, primarily in Europe, it is accepted that hate speech should be censored. People actually DO want to make anti-feminist viewpoints illegal. This is a terrible idea. It pumps up the anti-feminists by giving them actual proof that people in the world are trying to ban their ideas. Let the hate speech flow. We're ready for it. Because their ideas are hurtful and wrong, and after enough dialogue I have faith that in the end they'll be the ones left looking stupid. And they will wither.

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