This paper will address some of the issues surrounding hate speech and its regulation. I will explain both Andrew Altman and Jonathan Rauch’s positions in the first two sections. The third section will be on what Altman might say to Rauch’s opposite views. I will then discuss my view that hate speech should never be regulated under any circumstance especially in the name of protecting someone’s psychology, feelings, or insecurities like Altman prescribes. In the end, I will conclude that we should not agree with Altman despite his well intentioned moral convictions to push for hatespeech regulation. Although hate speech is a horrible act, people must learn to overcome and persevere through difficult situations and not leave it to the law to protect their feelings and insecurities.
I. Altman’s Position:
Altman is very careful while proscribing a solution to the issues surrounding the regulation hate speech. He maintains that regulations on hate speech must be view point neutral, meaning that no moral, political, or religious convictions be involved in decisions of regulation. Most of the cases of regulation that he examines display what Thomas Grey of Stanford calls “practical neutrality,” or an intervention of regulation meant to protect individuals from illocutionary speech acts that can incite violence against them or psychological harm that may be incurred because it is intrinsically the right thing to do (305). This kind of regulation has ties to moral and political values, therefore from a liberal standpoint is unacceptable regulation.
Altman agrees that hate speech can cause serious psychological damage to those who are victim to it, but maintains that it is not reason enough to regulate hate speech. Instead, he says that the wrong involved in hate speech is the act of treating another individual as a moral subordinate. The interests of these individuals as well as the value of their life are viewed as being inherently less important than the interests and lives of the reference group. From a liberal standpoint (and the standpoint of many non-liberals as well), it is important that every individual has the right to equal existence amongst their fellow human beings. Therefore, Altman’s justification for regulation of hate speech appeals to an intrinsically valuable liberal belief. Altman’s prescription not only appeals to the concerns ...
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...ing its targets down, therefore people must learn to successfully overcome the feelings that it intends to induce. Like Rauch says, people must not try to eradicate hate speech, rather criticize and try to correct it. There is no wrong in standing up for yourself but there is an enormous wrong in limiting speech, hateful or not.
If it wasn’t already obvious, I believe that Altman is wrong. I believe that strengthening the proverbial skin of society is more important that pitting it’s individuals against each other on issues of what’s ok and not ok to say. Altman appeals to his own morals in which giving individuals the equality that is due to them and the right to not be treated as a lesser member of society are of ultimate importance. Albeit good morals, I am more inclined to appeal to my own; to fight for yourself, to find strength in discouraging situations, and to reduce the evil of ignorance by rising above and against it. When people can learn to accept that hate is never going to disappear so long as everyone is different then maybe they might stop taking ignorant speech personally. Until then, regulation of hate speech should not be permitted to occur.