August 14, 2018

There Is No 'Hate Speech' Exception to the First Amendment

"'Hate speech' is a phrase with no settled or determinate meaning," writes Princeton professor Robert George.
Although certain forms of expression (defamation, obscenity, threats, false advertising, etc.) are unprotected under the First Amendment, there is no "hate speech" exception to the Amendment. ...

I encourage students to defend any view they hold, so long as they are prepared to do business in the proper currency of intellectual discourse—a currency consisting of evidence, reasons, and arguments. My Princeton colleague Peter Singer defends the morality not only of abortion but even of infanticide—the deliberate killing of newborn babies. I find his position appalling and even scandalous. But because he is ready, willing, and able to make his case by adducing evidence, providing reasons, and making arguments, I believe he has a right to make it and, indeed, should be encouraged to do so. That I am unpersuaded (and appalled and even scandalized) by such advocacy is neither here nor there; nor does it diminish his right. ...

Of course, someone could say: “Professor Singer is advocating the license to kill an entire class of human beings. That is hate speech. It should not be allowed. His tenure at Princeton should be revoked. He should be fired.” But such a person would receive no support from me. On the contrary, I would insist that Professor Singer’s right to state and defend his views—with evidence, reasons, and arguments—must be strictly respected and protected.

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